Keith MacKenzie 26 letters. A million and more words. No limit to stories.

Spooky’s Funeral

1

Larissa’s eyes welled up with tears as she came into the living room.

He’s dead, Brent.” Her voice sounded like she was recovering from a cold.

Who?” I asked.

Who, Brent?” Larissa’s voice screeched. “Spooky. That’s who.”

Oh.” I was more interested in checking out my friends’ Facebook updates than the death of her pet.

I do have to give that fish some credit, though. Spooky was a real trooper and he lasted far beyond his normal years.

2

Later that day, Larissa had to go to the airport. Some kind of big medical summit going on in Frankfurt. Her hospital was sending her there, to pick up all that knowledge from international medical representatives and bring it back, and educate the others at the hospital.

This is a bad sign, Brent,” she said, sipping her coffee. She was still in her bathrobe.

Hmm?” I looked up from the newspaper.

It’s a bad sign.” Larissa stood up, shaking her head. She went to the washroom for the third time that morning.

Are you packed?” I asked.

What?” Larissa mumbled from the bathroom. She was brushing her teeth.

I said, are you packed?” I felt my stomach tighten.

No, I’m not. Barely there.”

I grumbled. “Larissa, we have three hours before you leave. You said you’d be packed.”

Get off my back.”

3

The kiss I gave Larissa at the airport security gate was awkward. She had leaned in for the kiss, and her mouth bumped against mine hard as I leaned in as well. A nervous giggle, a forced smile.

Brent, be good, OK?” Larissa hugged me. “I’m gonna miss you.”

I held her tight. Her body felt warm, comfortable. I loved that sweater she was wearing right then. Soft, cashmery, just thin enough for me to feel the contours of Larissa’s warm body. “You too.”

Larissa smiled, for real this time. “I’ll see you in two weeks, OK, Brent?”

I grinned. “Indeed.”

I … love you.”

You too.”

Don’t forget to bury Spooky.”

I won’t.”

I watched her walking towards the security gate. Waited for that little glance back at me that told me: Hey, it’s OK. I really do love you, and I really am going to miss you.

She did glance back. But I was still uneasy.

4

I decided to walk home from the airport. Long walk – 10 kilometres. But I didn’t have anything to do anyway. My girlfriend, gone for two weeks. And no plans in place for that Saturday night. Might as well soak it up and enjoy my solitude.

Some stars were visible in the sky but the clouds seemed to be closing in from the west. I shoved my hands into my jacket pockets and shivered, walking down an empty road. The streetlights glittered off the condensation on the asphalt.

I crossed the street to the other side and kept on going.

Music tinkled in my pocket. It was my cellphone. I pulled it out and checked the screen. Larissa.

Hey Larissa,” I said, in a monotone.

Hey,” her voice rattled back.

Aren’t you supposed to be on the flight?”

Yeah, in a few minutes. Just waiting for the call on board.” A pause. “Brent, I wanna ask you about Spooky.”

Yeah?”

What are you going to do with him?”

Larissa, don’t worry about that. I’ll take care of him. You’ve got more important stuff to think about.”

Another pause. The cellphone crackled. “You’re not gonna flush him, are you?”

I laughed. “What? No! I’ll give him a … dignified burial. Larissa, relax. I’ll take care of it.”

I almost could hear her nervous smile over the phone. “OK Brent. Thanks. I guess I’ll see you in two weeks, then.”

Righty-ho,” I said, clenching my teeth.

Brent, don’t forget, I love you,” she forced.

I know. Have a good trip.”

Thanks. I’ll send you an e-mail.”

OK.”

OK.”

I waited for a moment. Then: “Bye.”

She waited for a moment. Then: “Bye, you.”

I waited for the cut-off signal at the other end. It finally came.

With a deep breath of the cold night air, I put the cellphone back in my pocket and kept walking.

5

When I got home, I sat on the couch for two hours, surfing the Internet on my laptop, with some Rush playing on the stereo. Another hour passed, as if it was a minute. Rain tinkled on the windowpanes.

I looked at Spooky’s body, resting on its side in the small glass bowl. Was it going grey already? Bloated, even? Larissa and I often looked at it, floating motionless in the water, wondering if it had died yet, only to see it spark to life and darting around its little home with gusto when we dropped some pellets into the water.

Not now. After years and years of wondering when that day would come, it had come. Spooky was dead.

I exhaled. All right, gotta take care of that fucking fish.

I didn’t want to flush it. It would be undignified. And Larissa wouldn’t be happy. Got to give this little critter a proper burial.

I dug into the kitchen cabinets looking for a throwaway coffin, and found an old plastic yogurt container that would serve just perfectly.

6

I remembered another conversation we had before she left.

Brent, get rid of everything in that bowl. Even the rocks at the bottom, the plastic plant. OK?” Larissa had said.

I had nodded, not even looking up. The Canucks had lost Willie Mitchell for the season and I needed to find out who would replace him.

Brent?” she had said.

Mm-hmm, I will. Don’t worry, Larissa.”

You always say that, ‘Don’t worry’.” Larissa glared at me. “It’s kind of annoying.”

Don’t w… Uh, Larissa, are you finished packing?”

Nearly,” she shot back, disappearing into the bedroom.

I took a deep breath. Just a couple hours left.

7

I carried the glass bowl in one hand, the yogurt container in the other, to the bathroom. How to go about this? Well, it’s dirty water, and it’s not going into the sink, that’s for sure.

Holding the yogurt container carefully over the toilet, I slowly poured the contents of the glass bowl – including the rocks, the plastic plant and Spooky himself – into the container. When the container was full, I dumped the rest of the contents directly into the toilet, and sealed the container. Washed my hands three times. That water had to be toxic – can’t be too careful.

I put the yogurt container in a plastic IGA bag and put it in my backpack – who knows, it might leak – and went into the street, down the steep hill to the river.

It was nearly midnight.

The skies had cleared up some. There was a half moon rising, partly encumbered by some clouds. Stars twinkled.

The streets were deserted. The riverbank – also deserted.

I stood at the river’s edge, peering into the flowing blackness. Wonder how deep it is there? Deep enough, most likely.

I said a small prayer. I wasn’t religious, but it just felt appropriate. Why not say a few words of respect? I did the same for my grandpa when he died. It just felt right.

I looked around to see if anyone was watching. I didn’t think it was legal to dump anything into the river – especially dead bodies. Whoever’s watching could fink on me, and I’d get in trouble.

Trouble, over a fucking fish.

No one was watching. I sighed, and opened the backpack, pulled the yogurt container out of the plastic bag, and lifted the lid. It was too dark to see into there but I could imagine Spooky’s dead body lying at the bottom. The water smelled already.

All right, Spooky. Welcome to your new home,” I said out loud, dumping the contents into the river. It splashed, and then it was silent.

8

I took the long way home, through the town centre and then around the park back up to the apartment building. I thought about what Larissa must be thinking right now. She must be sleeping – it’s been a few hours already and it’s late, after all.

But, I hoped, she’d be proud of me.

My stomach tightened. I was starting to miss her already.

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