Authors: Leonard Kirke
Tags: #alive, #bittersweet, #burger, #burgers, #chemical, #chemicals, #comedy, #dead, #death, #dog, #drama, #fast food, #fox, #funny, #ghosts, #Grim Reaper, #hamburger, #happiness, #humor, #joy, #Kafka, #Kierkegaard, #laugh, #life, #living, #Lynch, #magic, #mystery, #opossum, #philosophy, #possum, #racoon, #sadness, #scare, #scary, #skunk, #spirit, #spirituality, #wonder
They came to a place where the forest receded from the
roadside. In the clearing was a row of houses. The Possum approached the first
one they passed. It was a small, one-story white house with blue doors and
shutters. A light shone through one of the four windows, but aside from that
there appeared to be no activity, at least none that posed any threat to the
A large plate of food sat on the front porch. It appeared to
be some sort of pet food, a type of kibble. Unlike any pet food any of them
recognized, however, this food was glowing light blue, the same color as their
own spectral bodies. After inspecting it for only a moment, the Dog and Skunk
began digging in as if they hadn't eaten in days. The Possum smiled as he
watched them eat.
"See? I told you it was good!" The Possum was
clearly proud of himself, and satisfied that he'd atoned for his pranks
earlier. "There are other houses that do this, too. It's like a ritual or
something around here. They leave out food for ghosts!"
"I wonder why they do that?" the Dog spoke between
mouthfuls, "How do they even know ghosts are around, or that they get
hungry? I've never heard of leaving out food for ghosts before."
"Isn't that a religious practice in Asia
somewhere?" the Skunk wondered aloud, "You know, to honor the spirits
"Hey, yeah, I think I have heard of that." replied
the Dog, "This isn't Asia, though. I don't know why people would do
something like that around here."
"It is odd..." the Skunk mumbled with her mouth
full, "maybe it's an Asian neighborhood."
Suddenly, one of the trashcans near the end of the driveway
toppled over. Garbage spilled out onto the lawn and along with it was a ghostly
"Hey!" shouted the Dog, "What are you doing
here? Were you eavesdropping on us?"
"I'm here for the same reason as you. Food." The
Raccoon seemed rather unconcerned with being found, as he focused nonchalantly
on picking the garbage out of his ethereal fur. "But I'm not going to eat
any of that "ghost food" crap. Look at yourselves. Look at what it
does to you."
The other three animals examined themselves. At first, none
of them seemed to notice any difference. But as they began to compare
themselves with the Raccoon, they did notice something rather different about
him. He was more...opaque.
"I...I thought it was my imagination," the Dog
muttered, "are we...lighter than we were before?"
"You got it, slick," the Raccoon replied
confidently, "that stuff makes you more and more transparent. That's why I
stopped eating it. It turns you into more of a ghost until you're so ghostly
that you don't even exist anymore."
"How do you know that?" the Possum asked,
skeptical of the Raccoon's self-assured manner.
"Logic. Food equals greater transparency. Food plus
more food equals a lot more transparency. Too much transparency equals ceasing
to exist." The Possum's hope to humble the Raccoon didn't work out, as the
Raccoon sounded even more self-assured than before.
"Wait," the Dog interrupted, "even if that's
true, and this stuff does make you more transparent, how do you know it doesn't
just make you invisible?"
"Invisible?!" the Possum said excitedly,
"I've always wanted to be invisible! Give me that!" The Possum
grabbed the plate and began
down more of the
"I know," continued the Raccoon, "because of
logic plus observation. Think for a minute. How do you feel now, after eating
that stuff, compared to a few minutes ago?"
"I feel warm and full..." said the Skunk.
"Yes, but besides that?"
"I guess I kind of feel...I can't put my finger on
it..." the Dog struggled to find the words, "...more tired? It's like
it's harder to focus."
"Trust me," the Raccoon said with unwavering
confidence, "the more you eat that stuff, the more you feel that way. When
I realized what it was doing to me, I swore off of it."
the Skunk whined.
"No argument here," said the Raccoon, "It's
just that I prefer sticking around and staying solid to having even the best
kind of meal...which, by the way, that stuff is not. I found something
"What?!" the Possum asked, excited at the prospect
of more food.
The Raccoon dragged a fast food bag from the garbage can.
Just like the one that cost the Dog his life earlier, this one bore the
distinct logo of "STUBBY'S."
! Alright! I
thought I smelled it around here!" The Dog was absolutely ecstatic.
"I thought my mind was playing tricks on me!"
"It's one hundred percent real," the Raccoon
assured him, "in fact, there was a full, uneaten Stubby Burger in that
"Could I have-"
"And it was delicious."
"Oh." The Dog was crestfallen.
"However!" the Raccoon exclaimed with the
enthusiasm of a carnival barker, "I hear there's a
not far from here! You, too, can be opaque once again, just like me!"
"Hey, yeah! I remember a
said the Skunk.
"Me too!" the Possum chimed in.
"That's it." The Dog spoke as if he'd just solved
a math problem that had been haunting him.
"That's what?" the Skunk asked.
"That's why I was traveling in this direction in the
first place. It was the
. I remember, I used
to eat there all the time. I was going back."
"You used to eat there all the time?" The Raccoon
was incredulous. "Didn't they run you off?"
"Oh, yeah, that did happen, but I'm talking about
earlier, much earlier. I remember eating there before then. I used to go there
on...lunch breaks. I remember paying money, and sitting down at the table in
the front corner next to the right front window. I remember eating Stubby
Burgers, going there was like an oasis every day, a break from...something I
hated. I have to go there again. It's like going back home."
"Are you absolutely sure you know the way?" The
Raccoon was still skeptical of the Dog's sudden dreamy enthusiasm.
"As sure as I've been about anything tonight, though
maybe that's not saying much. Why, would you like to join us?"
"I'm not really a...group guy. You three go on ahead.
I'll just go at my own pace."
"Are you sure?" the Possum asked. "It's awful
lonely out here."
"Yeah," the Skunk said, pointing to the Possum,
"and we really don't want to be left alone with this guy all night!"
"Hey!" said the Possum, offended, "I promised
you I wouldn't pull any more pranks!"
"No, that's fine," said the Raccoon, ignoring
their bickering, "go on without me."
Without another word, the Raccoon scurried off behind the
house, out of sight. The other three animals looked at each other, uncertain of
what would happen next.
"We don't really have anything else to do anymore, do
we?" asked the Dog.
"Nope," answered the Possum,
"this...afterlife, whatever it is, could end at any time for all we know.
We don't really know anything about it."
"Then all we really have is the moment," the Dog
said philosophically and with a mounting enthusiasm, "Carpe diem. Seize
the day! Live in the moment! Eat at
He paused and looked questioningly at the Skunk and the Possum. "
." said the
." said the
"Let's go!" said the Dog.
The three ghostly animals followed the Dog, guided by his
faded memories. They headed off back towards the road and resumed their journey
to the North, seeking the familiar sights and sounds of a half-remembered past.
The three animals had been chatting pleasantly when suddenly
the Dog stopped in his tracks. The Skunk and the Possum, confused for a moment,
followed his gaze, and soon all eyes were fixated on the thing in the road.
It was mangled beyond recognition, a mass of broken bones
and blood and splattered organs and fur. Only one thing identified it, and that
was the striped tail. Somehow, they all instinctively knew that this was the
body (or what was left of it) of the Raccoon they had met.
"Oh man." The Dog's voice was hushed and tinged
with a reverent sadness. "This is sick. Poor dude, he got it worse than
any of us. This is just...just...a bloody mess."
"Do you think we should say few words?" the Skunk
asked in a gentle whisper.
"Yeah," the Dog replied, "I think we should.
What should we say?"
"Why should we say anything?!" The Possum's loud,
boisterous voice broke the solemnity of the moment. "We just met this guy!
"Oh." The Dog sounded as if he didn't quite
believe it. "Oh yeah, I guess I forgot."
"It's just so sad..." the Skunk's voice was still
meek and quiet, "I mean, I know he's like us, and he seems fine and all,
but it's just such a hard way to go. I don't remember what it felt like when it
happened to me."
"You don't?" The Dog hadn't considered this
"No. All I know is that I didn't look this bad
"Come to think of it, I don't quite recall what it felt
like either. It was just like waking up from a nightmare. You know how in a
nightmare, when you fall, you always wake up right when you hit the
"It was the same for me."
Suddenly, once again totally disregarding the solemn tones
of the others, the Possum's voice broke the silence as he began to sing in a
fake Irish accent.
"Ah, such a nice, clean corpse, did you ever
"What's wrong with you?!" the Dog was aghast at
the outburst. "Someone died!"
"Someone sure did. ME." The Possum seemed almost
annoyed. "And you don't see me getting all weepy about it!"
"I'm not getting weepy, I just think that we ought to
have some respect for the dead."
"So you're saying we ought to have self-respect?"
the Possum asked sarcastically.
"No, I mean, well, yes, but...that's
not...what..." the Dog trailed off, confused, and then gave up in
frustration. "Forget it!"
"Lighten up!" the Possum shouted with joyous
exuberance. "We're on the other side! THE other side! The big one! We made
it! We survived death itself! We're going out for some awesome burgers! We
should be CEL-E-BRATING!"
"I know, I'm just finding it hard to get a grip on all
of this," the Dog said with a note of anxiety in his voice. "Really,
is THIS it? You die, and you're exactly where you were before, no Heaven, no
Hell, no reincarnation or anything? You just wander around as aimlessly as
"You're looking at this all wrong, dude. What happened
to carpe diem, and seizing the day, and living in the moment?"
"I know, it's just...this all feels so...anticlimactic.
I'm glad to be alive...or whatever I am. I'm glad I still exist. But at the
same time, though, it just seems so empty. Where is God? Where is
"Life is...or in this case, the afterlife...the
afterlife is...No, let's drop the whole "life" thing for now.
Existence. Existence is what you make it."
"I suppose, I just can't help feeling that -"
Suddenly, the Dog was cut off by the Skunk, who was singing
the same tune, in the same fake Irish brogue, as the Possum had done earlier.
"TIM, AVOURNEEN, WHY DID YOU DIE?!"
...?!" the Dog
was thoroughly perplexed.
"It's the song!" the Skunk replied happily.
"It's "Finnegan's Wake," isn't it?"
"So THAT'S the name of it!" the Possum sounded as
happy as the Skunk. "Bits and pieces of that song have been looping in my
head all night, but I couldn't remember the title! That's how it goes!"
The Possum again assumed the fake Irish accent and began to
sing the old song.
O, dance to your partner! Welt the floor, your trotters
shake! Isn't it the truth, I told you? Lots of fun at Finnegan's Wake!"
"I LOVE that song!" the Skunk squealed. "I
think I used to listen to it all the time when I was little! I never knew what
the lyrics meant. My dad would let me listen but he wouldn't explain any of it
because it was all about getting drunk and dying and stuff."
"You...remember your dad?" the Possum asked,
"Sort of. I remember...a little room with a record
player and all sorts of records...lots of folk music. I think my dad was tall,
and he had a big black beard. I think...I think I miss him. I miss that music
he used to play."
As the Skunk grew silent, lost in thought, the three of them
began once again to gaze at the body of the Raccoon, and for a few moments no
one spoke. Finally, the Dog spoke.
"Let's get moving."
With that, they began walking again, heading for
. After a few quiet moments, the Skunk turned to
"So do you remember anything? I mean besides eating at
"Not really, at least...nothing distinct. I can
remember all these little things, like a kitchen table with light shining onto
it, and green curtains over a sink, and sitting in a movie theater playing a
black and white movie. None of it adds up, though. There's no coherency. I
can't make any sense of it."
"Hold on, now," the Possum interjected,
"since when does anybody live a coherent life? It's like you're trying to
find yourself in some kind of grand, straightforward story, with a beginning,
middle and an end. But I think you're idealizing the past, buddy. What gives
you the idea that life is like that, that it's any more coherent than what
we're experiencing right now?"
"I don't know...everybody lives for something, don't
"You must not get out much, man."
"If I was alive," the Skunk chimed in, "I
would want to help animals."
The Dog and the Possum stared at her in disbelief.
"You ARE an animal!" the Possum exclaimed.
"I know. I think that makes me especially suited to
care for the needs of animals, don't you?"
"I suppose," said the Dog. "Aren't you
assuming that being alive equals being human, though? We weren't human before
tonight. We were already animals, and from
what I can remember, my thoughts didn't run very deep."
"I could still help animals," she insisted,
"I would be altruistic. If you got attacked by a bear or something, I'd
spray my stink at it."
"Gross!" said the Possum.
"That's very nice of you," said the Dog with a
smile, "and if you got attacked by a bear or something, I'd bite it where
the sun don't shine!"
"Disgusting!" said the Possum.
The three of them were so engrossed in their conversation
that they didn't even pay any mind to the sound of a large black van pulling up
alongside the road a short distance behind them.
It stopped next to the mangled corpse of the
Raccoon. As the door of the driver's seat opened, the animals finally took
notice and turned around to get a look at it.
"What's that van doing?" the Skunk asked.
"Meat wagon," the Possum replied matter-of-factly.
"What's a meat wagon?"
The Possum rolled his eyes.
"He means," the Dog said, annoyed at the Possum's
impatience, "that it must be some public worker who picks up
"Oh," said the Skunk, "that'd be a nasty job.
I'm glad I'm a ghost going for fast food and not some guy going around
shoveling dead bodies."
The man who had emerged from the van had taken a shovel from
the compartment on the side of the vehicle and was slowly shoveling the
Raccoon's corpse. The three of them became entranced while watching him work.
He was tall and thin, but draped in a loose black
The hood was up and it totally obscured his face. When they tried to discern
any of his facial features, all that could be seen was solid shadow.
With slow, deliberate movements, he brought the corpse of
the Raccoon to the back of the van, where he opened one of the back doors. When
it opened, the three animals were startled out of their detached observation by
a cacophony of agonized screams. The Dog's eyes widened in fear as he spoke
with sudden urgency.
"Did you hear?!"
The dark figure shut the door and then reopened the
compartment. He placed the shovel back into it, and then retrieved a large
noose-like device. It was the sort of thing used to wrangle wild animals. He
turned towards the three and began walking slowly towards them, his pace
"What's he doing now?" the Skunk wondered.
"I'm...not sure," the Possum said.
"Run." The Dog spoke with his eyes still very wide
and his voice hushed.
"What?" the Possum couldn't hear the Dog's voice.
"Huh?" the Skunk asked, also unable to hear him.
"RUN AWAY NOW!"
The Dog, leading the pack, was off like a jet. The other two
looked back at the man who was walking towards them, except he was no longer
walking towards them. He was running.
Without another moment to lose, the Skunk and the Possum ran
off after the Dog. The hooded figure pursued them with inhuman speed.