Eric cruised along the pavement on his bicycle through his neighborhood. The light feathery feeling of adrenaline that coursed through his veins as wind whooshed through his hair felt amazing. As long as he was on this bike, nothing could disrupt the feeling of ecstasy and absolute freedom.
He was so mesmerized and in his element that he barely registered the heap of gray matter lying directly in his path. However, it came to his attention just in the nick of time before his tires made contact and he screeched to a halt, nearly falling over, the feeling of ecstasy disappated as a new kind of adrenaline hit him for the split second it took to notice the mass and stop himself from running it over.
Taking a second to catch his breath, he slowly slid off the bike, letting it fall against the curb and went to investigate the obstacle. A closer look told him it was a dead animal. His first thought: a squirrel. Then he noticed a distinct white marking on the tip of the bushy, lifeless tail and in an instant he knew what this was. It was his neighbor Mrs. Flynn’s cat!
“Jesus,” he cursed under his breath, his hand instinctively going to his mouth which lay gaped open. What was he going to do? How was he going to tell Mrs. Flynn? She would be absolutely heart broken! The poor elderly woman would surely keel over and die of a heart attack at the tragic news! Henry was her whole world; a widow, he was all she had. Eric didn’t have the heart to tell such a poor old woman such devastating news.
He had to get home and tell his dad first. He would know how to handle the situation. So, he left the dead cat lying there, headed back over to his bike, and pedaled home as fast as he could, the light feathery feeling replaced by an anxious adrenaline.
“Dad!” Eric called out as he opened the door and rushed inside, shutting it behind him. “Dad, I need your help!”
“What is it son?” His dad appeared at the top of the staircase.
“Dad, I found Mrs. Flynn’s cat on the side of the road. He’s dead, Dad. I don’t know what to do! How are we going to tell Mrs. Flynn?”
An expression of shock and sadness crossed Eric’s dad’s face. He sighed.
“Okay Eric,” he said. “First things first we need to bury the body. We can’t have Mrs. Flynn seeing the body. We’ll bury him in her backyard tonight so he’ll have a proper grave in the place he lived but we have to do it discreetly so she doesn’t notice us. Then…” A look of guilt crossed his face. “We have to tell her the news.”
Eric was dreading that but he knew it had to be done. He prayed the woman’s heart could sustain itself amidst the horrific news.
“Okay,” Eric said reluctantly, trying to hold strength in his voice to prepare him for what he had to do.
“Come on,” said his father after grabbing two pairs of rubber gloves and a trash bag. “Show me where the body is. We have to get it out of the road now so we have it before it gets dark. It would be dark in a couple hours. We’ll keep it in the backyard until tonight.
Eric nodded and they headed out the door. They took the car. The body was a few meters away from their house. Eric’s father spotted it before Eric even spoke up. He pulled over in front of it and they got out. Eric’s father instructed him to hold open the bag as he carefully lifted the body and placed it inside. They tied the bag shut and drove off with it, Eric feeling odd having stolen a dead animal off the road and thankful they did not live on a busy street where several people could see what they were doing as they passed and deem them psychos. He just had to remind himself he was a moral person and what he and his father were doing was moral even if all of it, right down to confessing the truth to Mrs. Flynn, felt anything but.
Eric tried to keep his mind off it, distracting himself with other things until the time came.
Before he knew it, night had fallen and his dad called him down to do the good but difficult deed. With rubber gloves on, they headed out to the garage to get the bag and a shovel. An uneasy feeling crossed Eric as he held the bag as they drove to Mrs. Flynn’s house, growing more and more as they got closer to the old woman’s residence.
Within minutes they were there. As Eric climbed out of the car, bag in hand, he tried to slow his heart rate and breathing. He just had to keep telling himself they were doing the right thing. They headed to the backyard by the woods and Eric’s dad got to work shoveling. As Eric stood there mindlessly watching his dad dig up their neighbor’s yard, he began to feel like they were breaking and entering. It was very difficult for him to see what they were doing as respectful, but as he carefully exhumed the body from the bag and gently placed it into the hole his dad had dug, he opened his mind and saw himself paying a respect to Mrs. Flynn and Henry. They had prepared a resting place for him and as long as he was buried here, his spirit would live on with Mrs. Flynn. The thought made him feel much better.
“Okay, good work Eric,” his dad said after they had buried the body entirely. “Let’s go home and get some sleep.”
But they were interrupted by the back porch light turning on. They froze, Eric’s anxiety rising again. He wasn’t ready to tell Mrs. Flynn yet and certainly not directly in front of Henry’s grave. He looked up at his dad who nodded at him with reassurance. They walked up to the porch where Mrs. Flynn was standing, looking sleepy and confused, squinting under the porch light.
“Dan? Eric?” She was clearly confused as to why her two neighbors were standing in her backyard at ten o’clock at night.
“Hi Mrs. Flynn,” Eric’s dad spoke up. “We can explain why we’re here…” Eric could see that his dad, who was normally strong, was having a difficult time trying to get the horrible words out. He decided that he would help him, even though it was just as hard for him.
“Mrs. Flynn,” he said. “This is very hard to tell you…Why don’t we go inside and sit down.” She needed to be sitting down when she heard this.
Mrs. Flynn looked concerned. “Okay, come in.” She opened the door and led them inside.
They sat down at the kitchen table
Eric took a deep breath. “Mrs. Flynn…Today I found Henry in the road…” Eric couldn’t look at her. It was too heart-breaking to watch her reaction. “He…he was hit by a car. I’m so sorry.”
Eric slowly looked up to make sure she wasn’t about to faint. She was on the brink of tears. Eric didn’t know whether to go over and hug her or to just leave her be. He wasn’t close with his neighbor and rarely spoke to her.
After silently sobbing for a few minutes while Eric and his father just sat and waited, letting her cry, she asked, “Where is his body?”
“That’s why we were here,” said Dan. “We made a memorial for him in your backyard so he can rest in peace here.”
After shedding a few more tears, Mrs. Flynn thanked them. “I appreciate you telling me,” she said. “And for arranging his memorial.”
“Are you going to be alright?” Eric asked, attempting to show some compassion for this woman who was ultimately a stranger.
“Yes, I’ll be fine,” she clearly lied. Eric doubted she’d sleep well tonight. That was another reason it would have been best to wait till morning but there was nothing they could do about it now.
She knew and that was good. Although Eric felt terrible, simultaneously he felt good for having done the right thing.