Daisy and Iggy
Dawn said it was about confronting death.
“If we talk about it, it can’t hurt as much,” Dawn said.
“But it makes me cry,” Tallie said.
“Death does that,” Emig added.
“Let’s talk about our first brush with death,” Fretwell said.
“Why our first?”
“Look, for some of us, the big death is too much to even talk about. That doesn’t mean it was the first. The first might not be that agonizing. Like the goldfish that died on you,” Fretwell said.
“That messed me up. I loved that little fish,” Dawn said.
“You know what I mean,” Fretwell tried again.
I don’t say much at our lunch meetings, but I see Fretwell was trying.
“He’s right. Confronting the big death might be easier if we review some of the other deaths we’ve encountered that we’ve gotten over,” I said. “I’m not much into talking about my uncle, but I’ll talk about my cat.”
The group remained respectful towards me in ways I didn’t understand. They hushed up and paid attention to my story about Daisy. But there wasn’t much of a story. Daisy lived to an old age, all her important organs shut down, so we put her to sleep.
“That’s awful,” Stoner said.
“As death for a beloved pet goes, it is not awful. Sounds like Daisy had it okay with you guys,” Zognorf said.
“Well, I don’t have a happy ending death of a loved cat. Mine is horrible,” Bayless said.
And it was horrible.
Bayless cried and Kearns stroked her hair.
“There was this guy who used to give me gum at all the games,” Tuttle said.
“That was Candy Joe!” Kenner said.
“We all know Candy Joe,” Gloria said.
“Do you remember his death?” Tuttle asked. “I went to the church. I had never been in a church and I didn’t know what to do, so I did whatever anyone else did.”
“Sounds sensible,” Frank said.
“But then everyone went up to the priest, and I did too. Everyone is mumbling, so I mumble and he puts this thing in my mouth.”
“That’s the body of Christ,” Dawn said.
“And I’m sitting next to Hank Creely and I ask “Hank, what do I do this this?” And Hank grins at me and says “I don’t know but mine’s right here.” And Hank pulls his from his pocket.”
“That is worse than Bayless’s story. You desecrated the messiah,” Dawn said.
“I did not. I swallowed it!” Tuttle said.
“But you weren’t baptized! This is supposed to be serious and you make a joke!” I had not seen Dawn so worked up before.
“Okay, okay, come on Dawn, he didn’t mean to disrespect your religion.”
Dawn scowled, hardly mollified.
“I had an iguana, Iggy. I’d let Iggy run around. It would grab a rug and fly! But once it hit our waxed wooden floors it would lose balance and slip. The cat would try to get it,” Becker said.
“You’re sick,” Dawn said.
Dawn was not handling this exercise in confronting death particularly well.
“The cat didn’t get Iggy.”
“How did Iggy die?”
“I forgot to feed Iggy and he stiffened up like a ruler.”
“You don’t sound broken up.”
“It was just a lizard,” Becker said.
“I don’t sense much seriousness with all of this,” Dawn said.
“Dawn, relax, that’s the point,” Brink said. “We’re supposed to realize that death happens. Accept it.”
“Dawn, did you lose a pet?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Dawn said.
The silence said to Dawn: speak.
“Okay, but you won’t like it.”
Dawn killed a guinea pig, her younger brother’s. She wanted to get back at her older brother, who treated her badly. The younger brother adored the older brother. The older brother needed a great deal of attention, so he enjoyed his younger brother’s adulation. She told her younger brother that his older brother killed the guinea pig. Dawn crushed her younger brother, made him miserable and indifferent to his older brother.
“The plan backfired in too many ways to mention. Needless to say, I suffered too,” Dawn said.
“How did your younger brother make out?”
“He learned Thai kick boxing. I stay away from him.”
“Do you feel better talking about it?”
“No. I feel rotten. I did an awful thing. Half the time I want to die. But right now, I wouldn’t say I feel better, but I’m breathing better and don’t feel the need to rag on what you all are sharing,” Dawn said.
Several members patted Dawn on the back.
“Super! Anyone else?” Fretwell said.
Feene told us about his parakeet. Ed told us about his snake. Falk told us about her turtle. Koptick told us about his white rat. Vermette told us about her lamb (she lives on a farm. It was butchered). Brink, speaking for Carrie, skipped the animals and told us about her mom.
That shut us down.
Such solemnity filled the stage. We listened to each other vigilantly. A force of respect towards each other’s anger and sadness and confusion.
This group of people that make up Club Dead was not reconciled. But I think we were getting there.
Staring into the abyss for too long had no benevolent effects, so I interrupted.
“Joseph Screen wants our help,” I said. “And I think we can be of use.”
I explained the plan. The mood on the stage lightened. Even Carrie looked up with her dark sunglasses. We discussed our roles and how to assemble a flotilla.
“Will there be a vial of ash for every one of us?”
“Screen says he needs a headcount so he can do exactly that,” I said. “Can I see a show of hands for how many of you will be attending the funeral service for Screen’s mom?”
This would be a large flotilla.