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
The bright lights of
shone proudly alongside the highway, signaling the presence of the nation's
favorite fast food. From out of the forest, which bordered the property, the
four ghostly animals emerged. All were now much more transparent than before, a
sign of the time that had passed since they entered the forest. The Dog and the
Raccoon, who'd eaten
food last, were
considerably more solid than the Skunk and the Possum, who showed signs of both
extreme fading and a creeping, unrelenting exhaustion.
"There it is," exclaimed the Dog, "
. It's been such a long time..."
"If that guy in the van could see us," said the
Skunk, "probably anyone could...so how do we get the food without being
The four stared at each other, realizing suddenly that they
hadn't considered this before.
"Simple," the Raccoon said with authority,
"No way," retorted the Dog with finality. "I
didn't come all the way here to eat more discarded food. We're going to get
"And how do you suggest we get them?" the Raccoon
"If we work together..."
"I didn't come all the way here to attract that van guy
and get captured. I'm heading for the back, where the dumpsters are. Who's with
The Skunk and the Possum exchanged worried glances, noticing
that they were both far more faded than either the Dog or Raccoon. Both of them
could feel the steady creep of exhaustion taking hold.
"We probably don't have much time left..." said
the Skunk worriedly. Her voice was quiet and sounded far-away.
"Sorry, man," the Possum spoke apologetically.
"Why can't we eat some leftovers first and then try to get some of the
"It will probably be morning soon..." the Dog said
with a hint of anxiety in his voice, "if we don't get it before long,
they'll stop serving from the dinner menu and start serving from the breakfast
The Possum and the Skunk looked aghast.
"Aw man!" the Possum whined, "
breakfast food sucks! Still...we need to eat something
from here soon, or we're goners..."
The Dog paused thoughtfully for a moment.
"Okay." He seemed to have reached a conclusion.
"You two, go with him around back and see if you can find something to
tide you over until I can get some of the fresh stuff, okay?"
"You're going all by yourself?" the Skunk was even
more worried than before.
"I've got food here countless times before. I can do it
Without further ado, the Dog ran off towards the front door.
The other three watched him go, worry written across their faces.
"Come on," the Raccoon said reassuringly, "we
need to find you something to eat."
The Dog slinked inside the front door, pushing it open with
all his might. The entry bell jingled and the Cashier, half-asleep, was
startled; looking up, however, he saw no one. He shrugged and resumed staring
The Dog was hiding underneath one of the tables, and,
careful not to be seen, he began to study the familiar interior of
. Hard, white metal chairs and light brown-tiled
floors in a perpetual cycle of cleanliness and filth. At present, the floors
had been recently mopped, and underneath the chairs and near the walls he could
see tiny clumps of grime, pushed aside but not removed. The off-white walls and
the huge windows in the front, plastered with ads for various deals and combo
meals, felt like home to him. He knew he had been gone a very long time. Vague
memories of paperwork, stress, and late nights passed before his mind and then
He remembered sitting at that very same table, in a time
long past and forgotten. He could smell the meat, freshly cooked and kept warm
on heating racks. Drool began to drip from his mouth; his slobber dripped to
the floor and then vanished. Patiently, he waited for an opportunity to get to
the burgers, plotting all the while. After a short time had passed, he had seen
no sign of a distraction for the Cashier. Resolving to take the initiative, he
crept over to a trashcan and knocked it over. Just as quickly, he retreated
back under the table where he'd been hiding.
The Cashier was naturally startled and confused. He stared
at the fallen trashcan and then gazed around the room. Seeing nothing, he
shrugged once again, and set the trashcan upright. He began to pick up the
garbage that had spilled out, muttering irritably under his breath as he
worked. While he was distracted, the Dog took his chance and rushed behind the
counter, where he found a wrapped Stubby Burger next to the grill on a heating
rack. Snatching it in his jaws, the Dog hurried back to his hiding spot just as
the Cashier was returning to the counter.
Safely out of sight once again, the Dog gingerly unwrapped
the burger, careful not to let the wrapping make too much crinkling noise that
would attract the Cashier's attention. At last, the Stubby Burger sat before
him, and he couldn't hold back. The Dog devoured it as if he hadn't eaten in
The Cashier then heard some of the Dog's slurping and once
again began looking around. Interrupting the Cashier's survey of the room was
the jingle of the entry bell, as the door opened and an even more tired-looking
young man entered. The Dog stared at the man's shoes from under the table as he
approached the counter.
"Hey." The man, who appeared to be a burned-out
college student, with bloodshot eyes and hair that was nothing but cowlicks,
spoke as if he were talking in his sleep. "I'd like three classic Stubby
Burgers, no cheese, no mayonnaise, no special sauce, but everything else is
good." He stared blankly at the menu for a moment. "Oh, and a small,
unsweetened iced tea with that."
"That'll be five sixty-seven." The Cashier
replied, not much more awake than the customer. "Isn't it kind of late to
be eating this stuff?"
"Yep. But it's been a long night. I deserve it."
"It's your funeral."
The man paid and the Cashier retrieved the food the man had
ordered in no time. The man shuffled over to the table right next to where the
Dog was hiding. He unwrapped the first Stubby Burger and began staring at it.
"Dang it. Forgot the straw."
As the man stood up and sauntered over to the condiment
table to retrieve a straw for his iced tea, the Dog quickly attempted to grab
the tray. He was forced to give up as the man turned around and walked back. As
he sat down again, he stared at the burger once more, before coming to yet
"Oh, crap! Ketchup!"
Once more the man returned to the condiment table. This
time, the Dog was able to steal one burger from the tray. Returning to his
food, the man was confused.
"What?" the Cashier asked, disturbed and a little
"Didn't you give me my full order?"
"Yeah, what's the problem?"
"There's only two burgers here!"
"What?! I KNOW I gave you all three..."
As the Cashier approached the man's table, the Dog, with a
look of triumph on his face and a burger clutched in his jaws, proceeded to
slink from under one table to the next until he made it back to the door. When
the entry bell jingled yet again, the two men looked at it and, seeing nothing,
stared at each other, baffled.
The Skunk, Possum and Raccoon were all chewing on various
bits of discarded food found in the dumpsters and trashcans behind
. The Skunk had a look of disgust on her face, the
Possum was wavering between stoicism and optimism, and the Raccoon looked
"How can you enjoy this?" asked the Skunk,
"It's like anything," the Raccoon answered,
"you just have to develop a taste for it."
"Develop a taste...for garbage." The Skunk's words
dripped with sarcasm.
"Yeah," the Raccoon went on, "I knew this guy
once, I mean not personally, I know OF him. Anyway, I knew about this guy once,
who one day just decided: "I'm going to stop using money." And he
did. He just gave up money for good."
"He gave up MONEY?!" The Possum was incredulous.
"Yep. Just got sick of the system. I don't blame him.
No more BS. Just free
'. No ties, no bonds, no
"So how did he get by?" the Possum asked.
"Same way we get by.
what he could find, dumpster diving and foraging. You know, dumpster diving is
a skill, a science. You have to get a knack for it. See, that's why it's
disappointing for first-timers. You have to get the knack. It's like anything.
You have to get used to it."
"I guess so." The Skunk was still skeptical.
"So I've been thinking," declared the Possum.
"Hmm?" The Raccoon's mouth was full.
The Possum turned to the Skunk.
"You have memories of your dad, right?"
The Possum pointed towards the building.
"And he remembers coming to eat here, paying for food
and all, right?"
"Yeah..." the Raccoon spoke thoughtfully.
"Yet we were all animals when we died. No memory of
being, you know, a talking possum, or dog, or anything."
"I've been wondering about this myself." The Raccoon
spoke dreamily, lost in thought. "He probably had a point, saying we ought
to at least try to figure our situation out. So if we were people, human
beings, presumably we've died before, in order to end up as animals."
"I always thought that when you died you either went to
Heaven or Hell," the Skunk thought out loud. "I never believed in
"Then you must've been religious," the Raccoon
answered, "specifically subscribing to some sort of Judeo-Christian
"You know," said the Possum, "I don't know if
I've ever been very religious one way or another. But when you stop and think
about it, he was right...this whole thing is strangely anticlimactic. I mean,
ceasing to exist is one thing. Heaven, Hell, reincarnation, all of those seem
like appropriately fitting ends, though not all of them are pleasant ones, of
course. Heck, even being a ghost has a sort of mystique to it, at least in
theory. Yet here we are, no different than the hundreds of people who go
through this drive-through every day, going out for burgers. We haven't even
"I thought ghosts only haunted people when they had
unfinished business," the Skunk mused.
"Maybe we have unfinished business?" the Raccoon
"But we can't remember anything!" the Skunk said
with frustration. "How are we supposed to know if we have unfinished
business or not?"
"It is quite the quandary," the Raccoon agreed.
"I don't give a crap about unfinished business,"
the Possum spoke defiantly. "Who wants to be tied to the past? I want to
live in the moment, in the NOW...which, I guess, I am. Still, it'd be nice to
have something else to do after we finish eating."
"This isn't eating," argued the Skunk, "this
is force-feeding ourselves garbage so that we don't cease to exist."
"Exactly," said the Possum, "eating."
At that moment, the Dog appeared from around the corner of
the building, proudly displaying the Stubby Burger clutched in his mouth. The
other three gathered around him excitedly, as he gingerly laid the food down on
the ground and nudged off the wrapping paper with his paws and nose.
"Behold!" declared the Possum. "The
"The what?!" The Skunk was confused.
The Dog spoke, ignoring the Skunk's perplexed expression.
"I think that you two should split it." He pointed
to the Skunk and the Possum.
"What about me?" asked the Raccoon.
"They ate the most of that ghost food," the Dog
explained, "so they need this more than we do, to counter-act the
"But you should have it!" protested the Skunk,
"You worked so hard to get it!"
"I already had one, and besides, I'll go back for
"We'll help next time," the Possum spoke
"Don't worry about it. It's easier if just one of us
sneaks in, anyway." The Dog was quite confident.
"Well then," declared the Raccoon, "since I'm
the only one of us with decent dexterity, I will do the honors of dividing it
for you." Using a nearby tin can lid, the Raccoon cut the burger in half.
"You should have a little piece of it, too," said
The Raccoon looked to the Dog. Both of them then looked to
the Possum, who was busy staring at the burger with a ravenous glare. Finally,
he noticed them, and spoke begrudgingly.
"Oh, go ahead. It's only fair." He paused, before
muttering under his breath, "I guess."
!" exclaimed the Skunk.
The Raccoon tore off a small piece from each half of the
burger and began passing them around, giving the Raccoon and Skunk the larger
"This kind of feels like Holy Communion..." mused
the Skunk, "breaking the bread and everything."
"It's a shame we don't have any wine to go with
it," quipped the Possum.
The Raccoon shuddered at the thought of drinking wine with a
Stubby Burger. Shaking off his disgust, he gave the final bit of the burger to
the Dog, and then held his own piece up high, as if giving a toast.
"To good health," he proclaimed, "in mind and
spirit, if not body!"
"To living it up," the Possum added, "dead or
"To having friends to hang out with!" cheered the
"To shutting up and eating before it gets cold!"
concluded the Dog.
All four of them dug into their food with gusto. The Dog,
Skunk, and Raccoon savored theirs, while the Possum downed his in one gulp,
nearly inhaling it. After they had finished, all four sat back and sighed,
satisfied. All of them had begun to look more solid and opaque again.
"Man," said the Dog, "it doesn't get any
better than that."
"You said it," agreed the Skunk.
"For a night that began with all four of us being
brutally killed in traffic," said the Possum, "it's actually been a
pretty nice evening. Weird, but nice."
"Agreed," said the Dog, "thanks for sticking
with me, guys. I was a little unsure at first, but ya'll are alright."
All of them smiled and continued to rest for a moment more,
watching the stars twinkling above. Finally, the Dog stood up again.
"Okay," he said, "time for the next
"Let us help you this time!" the Skunk protested
"No, trust me, I can get another one easier by myself.
By the time the morning comes, I'll have one whole burger for each of us!"
"Yeah! Right on!" The Possum was drooling at the
"Be back in a few!" The Dog ran off to the front
of the building once again.
"Definitely a good night," said the Possum,
sit back and enjoy it..."