Over, Easy by Shane Anderson
We had a cat, her name was dog. We would take her outside on a leash; she would sit at the corner before the street and would raise a leg to a lamppost. We taught her to shake when we said sick ‘em and she would heel when we said shake, which was intentional. This scared the neighbors, kept them in place, but it wasn’t unusual, for us, this humor. At home, really, we had words for everything. The eggbeater was a snowbroom, the dresser was when I would put on your grandfather’s coat in the winter. Our laughter at these invented interventions grew us together as we got older, the same way ivy seems a part of the tree it’s killing.
There was one other.
Wearing a horse, a soldier, a goose, barnacles or larva mask, he’d roll over in the night, stroke my hair then whisper ‘the Benedict is ready,’ and I’d wake up, terrified, annoyed, confused, spooned. Once, after a long stint of sleeplessness, of being woken up in the night and not being able to fall back asleep, I forked out his face with a penknife, wrecked his clown eyes, crying, why wasn’t he ever there.
“Wearing a horse, a soldier, a goose, barnacles or larva mask, he’d roll over in the night, stroke my hair then whisper ‘the Benedict is ready,’ . . .”
This kept up to the end; even after.
Before that, when we met with our lawyer to talk about the will, he announced he had decided to go in the box as a deer, or was it an elk, the Führer. I said these were impractical, insensitive, indecent. What about a mask of him, his features? A death mask the lawyer reminded him was once a sign of prosperity for foregone posterity. He, my husband, said it’s better to be remembered for what you’re like than for your likeness. In his will he wrote he would be Him, the Lord, or I would suffer financial consequences. I couldn’t help it, and even though the lawyer couldn’t later help me, I chose something more modest. Eternal sleep shouldn’t be allowed to mock the eternal. This is an idea that’s unredeemable.
In the end, I chose a great white.
If I loved him, I should have granted him his last laughter is what everyone said. Someone said, I should have known better: the open sea always made him tremble. Another said: he would have died from this if it weren’t for the cancer. The worst was when someone said he always loved someone else, her, in fact, as she paid her condolences. She shook my hand but said, really, I should be shaking hers, she should be the one with the black kerchief and she said that if I wanted to leave she had one in her purse.
Later, at the reception, we both went for the last deviled egg. I slapped her hand and said I paid for this, his life, now that it’s over. She dropped the egg and I told her, I had always known everything, pleased, finally, to remove the mask I had had on for years.
Shane Anderson lives in Berlin and blogs HERE. Other work can be found in Abjective, Everyday Genius, > kill author, La Granada, On Earth As It Is and the playbill for Matthew Barney’s KHU.
© 2011, Metazen.