Wolfrom Writes: Born Again at Granny’s Cave (Short Story)

Born Again at Granny’s Cave (Short Story)

by Regan Wolfrom

I hadn’t known what was happening at the time. There’d been no lighter fluid or gasoline, no exploding boilers or burning SUVs… Kara had just been lying there in my arms. The shaking had stopped and her eyes had turned glassy, and I’d just realized that I’d lost her.

It started in her chest, right near her heart. The flames spread quickly. Within seconds her entire body from her hair to her toes was on fire, burning up in front of me.

♥♥♥

I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that Granny’s Cave is a shithole by design; god-awful music, dark wood panels on the wall that make you feel like you’re trapped inside a giant tree… I think they do it all on purpose, some way of getting you to drink a few more of their eight dollar draughts.

If it hadn’t been for Callum and his baseless optimism I would’ve been halfway home to East Van and the comfort of my neatly-categorized porn folders. But I decided to stay, even though there weren’t that many women around. The place was mostly packed full of guys with edgy piercings and poorly-placed tattoos, wearing those skinny guy t-shirts I’ve never had a legitimate reason to wear.

“Nice talent, eh, Lanny?” Callum said as we circled, checking out every woman in the room.

What I’d seen so far was nothing I wanted. All I saw were girls who were definitely the wrong flavour of nasty. You can’t just take those women home and scrub them in the bathtub, hoping once they towel off they’ll be good as new; there will always be a little bit of grime left on women like that.

“Most of these girls are too young for us,” I said, not bothering to mention that they were probably too drug-addled and disease-ridden for us as well.

Callum grinned, immune to my doubts and to basic common sense. “Confidence is everything.”

He nodded towards a couple of girls talking together by the vintage cig machine; even the girls took notice, throwing smiles our way that didn’t seem altogether mocking.

“They’re into us already,” he said.

He marched right over to them as I followed behind, more anxious about being left behind than I was about making an ass of myself.

Callum claimed his target, the ultrathin blonde with hoop earrings and a stud in her nose.

That left me with the spindly brunette.

She had all the markings of a girl who’s been called plain a lot: a purple streak in her hair, an ironic wool beret tilted to one side, the standard thick black glasses with the thinnest lenses known to science… and she looked like she hadn’t eaten in a week.

She was nothing like my ex-wife. I considered that a plus.

“I’m Lanny,” I said.

She gave me a cute little smirk.

I wanted to spontaneously combust.

“You girls going to school?” Callum asked, making it even more obvious that we are old and they are not.

“UBC,” the blonde replied in a way that wasn’t at all convincing. “You guys remember going to school back in the day?”

Callum didn’t skip a beat. “I’m a student, too… going for my doctorate. Architecture.” He’d learned long ago never to tell women what he really did for a living; the only girls who are into funeral directors come with some pretty heavy baggage.

“Ooohh… a doctorate,” she said, giving a little roll of her eyes. “Student debt is so very sexy. Tell me all about your part-time job at Burger King.”

Callum laughed and kept going, and the blonde kept digging into him. She hadn’t pulled out the bear spray so I guess you could call it flirting.

I felt someone grab my hand.

“You’re married,” the spindly brunette said, holding up my wedding band as evidence.

“No,” I said, “I’m just depressed. I’m one of those idiots who really thought she’d stay married to me.”

“Stick of butter’ll get that ring right off.”

“Oh, really?” I said in a way she must have liked.

She held up her over-sized purple-red handbag. “I don’t have any butter in my purse, but I do have bolt cutters if you can trust my precision.”

“What kind of person keeps bolt cutters in her purse?”

“This kind of person,” she said, giving me the kind of smile you see on TV right before people hook up. “My name’s Kara.”

“Like Kara Thrace,” I replied with immediate regret.

“Who?”

“Uh… from Battlestar Galactica.”

She gave me a laugh. “Don’t worry,” she said. “I still think you’re cute.”

I bought Kara a shot of tequila and did my best to clean off a couch to sit on. As she sat down beside me she brushed up against my side in a way that couldn’t be mistaken for an accident.

It was all pretty textbook so far; I felt like I was on my way to waking up in a bathtub full of ice.

“You’re not a student,” I said. “I can tell.”

“Dropped out a long time ago.”

“Do you work around here?”

“I guess I’d say I’m a writer. So far it hasn’t paid much.”

“That sucks,” I said. I couldn’t think of anything better. I wasn’t about to ask her what kind of depressing jobs she’d taken to make ends meet, not that I could picture her wearing a hairnet.

“I think you can tell that Ashley and I aren’t like the other girls. I’m not sure you should be talking to me.”

“I’m a thirty-one-year-old divorced man with nothing to say. You probably shouldn’t be talking to me.”

“You’re only thirty one?”

“That hurts a little,” I said. “You’re wondering how I could have gotten so damned fat in just three decades?”

“Don’t put yourself down. It’s not attractive.”

“What is attractive?”

“Smiling and nodding. I’ll tell you random things about my life and my cat and my favourite metal bands, nothing the least bit interesting. And you’ll pretend to like it.” She leaned in and whispered into my ear. “Then you’ll take me back to your place, we’ll have awkward but reasonably enjoyable sex and after that I’ll overstay my welcome by a couple of months.”

“Sounds good,” I said. It did sound good.

And she was pretty spot on about the sex.

♥♥♥

Kara and Ashley stayed over for a few days. Ashley left on Sunday night after getting to know Callum well enough to make an informed decision; Kara never really left.

She did leave once, though, to bring over her cat. I guess I should have realized they were a package deal. Insert two pussies joke here, eh?

After a little prodding, she borrowed my laptop to show me some of her writing. It was like nothing I’d seen before, beautiful and sad… it wasn’t pretentious or anything, but it was definitely deeper than I was used to, a story about the past that read as though she’d been there.

All I could say to her was that she had talent; she nodded and smiled, and I could see that my opinion didn’t really matter.

But I was still glad she’d shared it with me.

She gave me a kiss and took her purse into the bathroom.

I decided to keep reading, looking for some kind of clue. There had to be a logical explanation why she seemed as drawn to me as I was to her.

I couldn’t find it.

She didn’t come out of the bathroom for over twenty minutes, and once she did she was different somehow, restless but relaxed, and her pupils had shrunk down until they looked like little emeralds shining back at me. She sat down on the couch and smiled at me.

She looked like she was having the best day of her life.

That was the first time Kara shot heroin at my place. I wasn’t happy about it but I didn’t want to send her away. She was already the best thing that had ever happened to me.

♥♥♥

It took less than a week for Kara to bring a client home to my place. He came in and she made him take a shower, and she and I sat waiting on the couch, not really talking about what was going on.

I was trying to be open minded.

At first I’d thought it was a poor attempt at spicing up our week-old love life, and I was flattered if a little confused. But after he came out of the shower the guy handed me a wad of cash and Kara told me to wait in the bathroom with her cat, and I tried to figure out if the heroin use would have been the right place to draw the line.

She did let me keep some of the money. I don’t want to think about what that makes me.

We had dinner after her date, out at Gotham Steakhouse; I think she managed to eat more than I did. That’s apparently a bit of a turn-on for me.

Sitting there with her, feeling like I’d finally gotten my balls back… it didn’t matter that she was a metalhead heroin addict, or that she usually forgot to flush the toilet even after taking a dump, or that she often had sex with strangers for money.

I was pretty sure I was falling in love.

It’s funny how falling in love can feel so different the second time.

♥♥♥

Kara and I were married three weeks later at an eco-resort on Vancouver Island. Callum had suggested we all drive out to Kootenay Lake instead, but I’m pretty sure it was just another attempt for him to show me that house built from leftover bottles of embalming fluid.

It didn’t feel like the last time, when I’d bought a ring because I thought that’s what you did after two years of living together with someone you didn’t hate most of the time. With Kara it felt like some kind of tropical disease, where I just had to be around her and know everything about her. And hopefully not the kind of disease where my organs are cooked from the inside out.

Callum was my best man, which was no surprise after twelve years of friendship and always having each others’ back, close enough to be honest with each other but never quite crossing the line into a devil’s threesome. I don’t think there’s anything we wouldn’t do for one another; when you find a friend like that you keep him no matter what.

Kara made Ashley maid of honor with a little less ceremony, and I had the feeling that her friend was more a placeholder than anything else. But it gave Callum and Ashley the chance for a second regrettable fling together and saved us from having to buy them thank you gifts.

Kara let me stick with the ring I already had from the first time, telling me she wasn’t overly sentimental and that there was no reason to waste money on trinkets when there’d be plenty of black tar to pay for.

I liked the idea of putting the ring to good use for once.

The wedding went well, and the day after the four of us went up to MacMillan Provincial Park and played hide and seek in the big trees. It didn’t take long for Ashley to get lost; Callum cheerfully advised us to just leave her out there and head back to the resort for dinner.

Kara eventually found her, quite a ways off the trail, in a hole in the trunk of a giant Douglas fir, one that was big enough to hold two or three junkies of average girth. Ashley was heating a spoon with her cigarette lighter and didn’t seem the least bit concerned about something as boring as cleanliness.

Kara shook her head. “That girl will be dead soon,” she said. Her lips pursed into a strange sort of smile. “Lucky bitch.”

“That’s not funny,” I said. I grabbed her arm and squeezed. “You need to take care of yourself.”

“Don’t get all mushy, asshole.” She frenched me with extra tongue.

By that point Ashley had finished shooting up and it was time to join Callum in the task of dragging a decidedly fucked-up Ashley over to his Mitsubishi.

After we dropped her off at what she claimed was her parents’ house in North Vancouver, I never saw Ashley again. We didn’t mention her anymore and to be honest I’m not sure Kara ever gave her another thought; I guess to her Ashley was already dead.

I’m not sure why she decided it had to be that way.

♥♥♥

Callum moved out of the apartment. He and I had argued briefly about who got to stay, but my argument was boosted significantly by the fact that my name was the only one on the lease.

I found out in due course that I was allergic to Kara’s cat, but luckily she knew a guy who had suspiciously cheap allergy tablets for sale over in Fraserlands. I found with practice that every fifth tablet or so caused me to black out for a few hours, so I set my alarm to take them each morning at 3:30 in order to give myself a little wiggle room.

Things were great, mostly. Living together was great, the sex was great… but the drugs were becoming a problem.

I’d originally thought Kara needed heroin like I needed my Irish coffee, just a hit before work to get through the day. But she was using more and more often as time went by.

She started bringing home new clients, guys who looked like they couldn’t really afford the $350, guys so shady I became convinced that I should start bringing my tire iron in from the car. Pretty soon she wasn’t making enough money to cover the drugs, and after a month or so I was starting to have trouble making rent.

“I think it’s becoming a problem,” I told her after her scuzziest client yet had left, as she grabbed her oversized handbag from its drawer in the nightstand.

“I know,” she said.

“I think we need to get you some help.”

“I’ll handle it.”

She opened her purse, took out her spoon and began to swab it.

“How come you never ask me to join you?” I asked.

“You shouldn’t use drugs.” She gingerly took out the sticky dark powder.

“Are you joking?”

“It’s not a joke.” She grabbed her syringe and squirted the water, and then gave the mix a little stir with the plunger. “I don’t ever want to see you using. There’s nothing good about this.”

“Then why do you do it?”

“My god you’re an idiot. It’s called being a drug addict, douchebag.”

I watched as she loaded up the needle and injected into the freshly swabbed skin on her arm. She took a deep breath and gave me a little smile.

“It’s a few hours of Jesus between my thighs,” she said. “After that it’s the worst thing a person can ever live through. You know… until they die.”

“I want to help you.”

“I’m headed out to Granny’s Cave. Don’t wait up.”

“I want to come with you.”

“You’re bad for business,” she said.

“You’re not serious, Kara. You’re not going to solicit random guys at the bar.”

“And how did we meet?”

I tried to understand what she was going through, the opiates coursing through her body… but she was being such an asshole.

“What the hell are you talking about?” I asked, straightening my spine like my therapist had once told me to do.

“Everybody pays… we’re just using the barter system.”

“Fuck you. That’s not what marriage is about.”

“Says the guy who’s only been married twice. Take it from me, Lanny… that’s all marriage is about.”

Kara turned and left the apartment, and I’m sure someone who didn’t know her would’ve never realized she was on something; hell, I hadn’t known she was high the night we met.

I waited long enough to know she’d have already caught the Sixteen before I followed her downtown. By the time I found a place to park and walked the fifteen minutes to Granny’s I saw her near the front of the line. I stayed at the back so she wouldn’t notice me, and within ten minutes she was in.

I waited for almost an hour before my turn, not bad for synthpunk night. I checked the dance floor first but she wasn’t there.

I wandered through the rest of Granny’s but couldn’t find Kara anywhere. I did a second loop, hoping that maybe I’d missed her the first time, or maybe I’d see Ashley or even Callum rehearsing his latest pickup line, but I didn’t find anyone I knew. Granny’s was just a sea of people cooler than me, grinding and bumping and ignoring my existence.

I checked the mens’ bathroom, and then stood awkwardly outside the ladies’, asking a few of the less threatening women if they’d seen a spindly girl with thick black glasses and dark brown hair with a purple streak. That got me nowhere so I took a chance and shoved my way through the ladies’ room door.

And there she was, leaning up against the sink with her forehead touching the mirror. She was rolling her head against the glass. I couldn’t tell if she was having trouble pulling her head up or if she just liked the feeling of a scratched and lipstick-smeared bathroom mirror against her skin.

“Kara,” I said. “What’s going on?”

She didn’t answer. Some of the other women in the bathroom were staring, watching us like we were putting on a one-act play.

“Goddamn it!” I screamed. “Did anyone call an ambulance?”

They all looked away. I put both hands on her shoulders and tried to pull her up. She fell back against me and for a moment I thought I’d drop her.

I felt her body start to jerk, and I lowered her down to the floor. Her eyes were open but I wasn’t sure she was still with me.

“Kara,” I said. “What happened?”

She didn’t respond.

“Kara… I love you. Please…”

I fumbled with my cell phone, eventually fingering the numbers to 911, and as I waited for an operator Kara closed her eyes.

I knew she wasn’t going to make it.

“I’m so sorry,” I said. I looked around the women’s washroom, hoping that someone would know what to do, but by that point we were alone. I don’t think anyone bothered to tell the bouncers.

I guess no one wanted to be there when she died.

I told the operator who finally answered what I thought had happened, that we needed an ambulance, that I was pretty sure I was losing her.

I can’t describe how it felt, seeing her like that, knowing that she’d finally gone too far, that she’d put in too much junk for her body to take.

I stared into her eyes, hoping she’d come out of it.

But she wasn’t there. Kara was gone.

I felt a tickle of heat on her skin and I thought it was just some part of me trying to keep the warmth from leaving her. But then the skin started to smoke and then to burn, and I had to pull myself back from the heat.

I laid down a few feet away, watching as the fire grew, orange and white flames swallowing Kara and nothing else in that bathroom, the heat close to searing my skin. The fire roared and then it stopped.

The smoke began to clear.

And Kara was still there, unburnt and completely bare, her clothes burned to nothing. But her beautiful eyes and her beautiful freckles were there, and her dark brown hair, looking soft and shiny, missing its purple streak.

She opened her eyes and looked at me.

“I’m okay, Lanny,” she said, reaching out to me with her hand. “But you look like shit.”

Nothing had happened to me but I could barely move.

She pulled off my shirt and dressed herself in it, trying to pull it down far enough to reach to her thighs.

Kara helped me back to the parking garage, my arm draped over her shoulder; my knees felt like they’d been shattered.

And then she drove us home. As she steered the car down Hastings Street, she told me what she was.

She was like a phoenix, she said, only one of her in the entire world, born and reborn and never dying. I figured she’d feel like a god, but all she kept telling me was how the loneliness settles in for forever.

“I’ve been left behind more times than I can count,” she said. “Falling in love and always losing it. It leaves a mark.” She looked down at the floor. “So I guess it’s no wonder… I’ve shot up… I’ve filled up on gin and turpentine… I’ve mixed nightshade into my wine and spent the day seeing visions of Saint Jerome. I can never die, Lanny… do you know how terrible that is?”

“I can’t know… and I think it’ll be awhile before they figure out a way for the rest of us to live forever. I doubt I’ll be around long enough for that. Maybe that makes me lucky.”

“You are lucky,” she said, tears running down her face.

♥♥♥

Kara and I stayed together after that night. Everything seemed different then, with no more heroin and no more clients dropping by. I used up the rest of my vacation time and we spent eight days straight just laying together in bed like John and Yoko. She told me more about her past lives and the people she’d lost; for my end of the conversation I mostly talked about movies I’d seen.

We decided after a while that Kara should go back to her writing. I joked that to make some quick cash she should dig out her old manuscripts and just add a shitload of zombies. She decided on writing something new about sparkly vampires and I chose to bite my tongue.

I was happy, but I could see that Kara wasn’t. I could see that for her nothing had changed.

By the time my vacation was over, Kara hadn’t done anything: no writing, no drugs. She was just there, like she was waiting until I left for work so she’d have a chance to crawl under the blankets and weep.

“Is it withdrawal?” I asked her.

“I love that you’re stupid,” she said. “My old body was hooked on heroin. My new body’s free and clear.”

“It’s not your body I’m talking about.”

“I’ll snap out of it.” She stared at me for a moment; she knew I didn’t believe her. “Really… I promise.”

I wasn’t surprised to see that she wasn’t there when I came home from work. She’d left all of her things behind, including her cat, but that was no guarantee that she’d come back.

I sat on the wall of the bathtub with my laptop and waited for Kara to come home.

♥♥♥

She returned with a nervous energy, giving me half of a hug before she went into the kitchen and started pulling food out of the refrigerator.

“What are you making?” I asked at the combination of ketchup, lettuce and expired eggnog on the kitchen counter.

“I’m cleaning the fridge.”

“Don’t clean the fridge. Come and talk to me.”

She left her cleaning behind and threw herself onto the couch. “This place is boring,” she said. “You’re boring.”

“I don’t get this… I’ve never seen you like this.” I wanted to know what she’d taken, what she was on, but I was too scared to ask.

“I’m not a junkie,” she said from her place on the couch. “That’s what’s important to you, isn’t it? I’m just like any other girl. Bored to death by this squalish little apartment.”

Squalish?”

“It’s a word. Look it up, asshole.” She pulled a crooked cigarette out from her pocket and waved it at me. “Light it,” she said, kicking her legs on the cushion.

“You don’t smoke.”

“Come on.”

I took the cigarette from her. The rolling paper was crinkled and wet, stained in brownish yellow. “What is this crap? Some kind of drug?”

“It’s all legal,” she said.

“That doesn’t mean it’s safe. Please, Kara, tell me what this is.”

She started to laugh. “It’s embalming fluid. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, seeing as almost everyone I’ve ever loved had the chance to try it years ago.”

“You smoked one already?”

“It’s wearing off.”

“You can’t keep doing this,” I said. “Please…” I lowered myself beside her on the couch as best I could and wrapped my arms around her. Her whole body was shivering and I could feel her heart pounding.

I was overwhelmed and I began to cry.

“Don’t,” she said. She planted a sloppy kiss on my cheek.

“I’m sorry… I’m just worried about you.”

She sighed. “I’m sorry, too.” She started to climb off the couch so I got out of her way.

She stood up in front of me and took off her shirt.

“This is me,” she said as she pulled down her pants. “This is your wife. I’ve been alive longer than anyone else, but I still suck at it.”

We laid in bed together; she wanted more, but it didn’t feel right. We held each other and eventually she came down enough to fall asleep. I watched her for over an hour as she slept.

I didn’t regret marrying her. Or falling in love with her. I didn’t regret a thing.

♥♥♥

“I want to die,” Kara said.

I was just about to leave for work when she said it, and she sounded for a moment like a teenager who’d just been grounded. But that wasn’t Kara; Kara meant it.

“You want to start over again?” I asked.

“No… I want to stop starting over. I want to be dead. I want you to rip out my heart and feed it to a goddamned grizzly bear. I want to get this over with.”

“Would that even work? The bear, I mean?”

She shrugged. “I doubt it. My heart would probably just start burning up somewhere inside its large intestine… you know… kind of like Mexican food.” She smiled at her own joke. “I think the only way to stop me from being born again would be to flash freeze me like a salmon.”

And that’s when it came to me.

It felt strange; I wanted to help her with what she wanted more than anything but I didn’t want to lose her.

“Would you really do it?” I asked. “If you found a way to die, would you?”

“I’ve had plenty of life,” she said quietly. “I’m ready for something else.”

I gave her a kiss on her forehead. And then I gave Callum a call, wondering just how far our friendship could stretch.

♥♥♥

Callum didn’t believe me at first when I told him about Kara, and I think that somehow made me feel a little better. It’s not like I had any proof.

We were walking together along the trail by the marina, watching people jogging and rollerblading and getting on with their lives. I’d told him the story; I’d told him everything, and then we just continued on in silence for almost a half hour.

That’s how long it took for him to come around.

“Would you really let her go?” he asked me. “I mean, if somehow we actually had the balls to do this.”

“It’s what she wants. I think that’s worth more than anything else.”

“There are other things to try… counselling or something.”

“She doesn’t want that. She doesn’t want anything else.”

Callum gave me a quick pat on the shoulder. “I’ll only do it if it’s really what you want.”

I nodded. “It’s what I want.”

We turned around a few minutes later, walking back without much talking. I didn’t really want to keep on about it.

As for what I wanted for Kara, I’m sure Callum knew I was lying. But he didn’t call me on it.

♥♥♥

Kara and I met Callum a few nights later, after his staff had gone home. He didn’t look at all happy to see us; I knew I was asking a lot.

“Are you sure you’re okay with this?” I asked him.

“I have to be,” he said. “You need my help so here we are.” He looked over to Kara and gave her a nervous smile. “It’s non-toxic. That way you’ll know you’re not poisoning the earth.”

Kara didn’t say a word or even nod. She just stared at him blankly.

“That’s good,” I said, trying to smile. I wrapped my arm around my beautiful wife and gave her a squeeze. “Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked her.

She nodded.

I looked over to Callum. “So it needs to get done to her… before…”

“I know,” Callum said. “I have ether for that.”

I tensed up a little. “Will it hurt?”

Kara pulled at my hand. I looked over to see her slowly shaking her head at me. I wanted to think she was telling me to forget the whole thing, to take her home and just hold her. But all she really wanted was for me to shut up.

He led us through a door into a tiled room. On one wall was a shower and a shelf with some glass and plastic bottles. On the other side was a long metal table, and next to that a red couch; both looked out of place.

“This is usually where I wash up,” Callum said. “We’ll do it in here if that’s okay. I felt it was nicer than…”

“It’s very nice,” Kara said. “Thank you.” She sat down on the couch and took off her shoes.

“Do you guys need a couple minutes?” Callum asked.

Kara shook her head no.

I kept my mouth shut.

Callum put on his white latex gloves. He took a clear plastic bottle from the shelf and brought it over to Kara along with a large white cloth.

She lowered herself down until she was fully reclined, her head resting on a small pillow.

Callum carefully poured the ether into a glass measuring cup that looked like it belonged in a kitchen. He then dropped the cloth into the cup to soak.

“Don’t breathe any in, Lanny,” he said.

“What about you?” I asked.

“I’m less sensitive to it after all these years. I’ve been on a lot of dates.” He seemed to catch his bad timing. “Sorry…”

“Thank you for doing this, Callum,” Kara said. “I really appreciate it.”

Callum nodded. He knelt down beside the couch and held the cloth up to her face. “Breathe deeply,” he said.

I held her hand as she took it in, three deep breaths before she closed her eyes.

Callum held the cloth to her face a little longer before pulling it away.

“You’re doing okay?” he asked me.

“I’m fine.”

“Good… help me get her onto the table.”

I helped him move Kara, and I helped him with the chemicals, both of us in gowns and gloves.

Callum explained to me that everything he’d use was biodegradable, even the flame retardant he’d gotten from his cousin in Coquitlam. He explained that it wouldn’t be like regular embalming, that Kara would be more like a medical cadaver; he wouldn’t have enough time to drain her blood and there was really no need to make it look good. Her body should be preserved for decades or longer, her heart kept cold and still.

My heart was already starting to eat itself.

I asked him how he knew it would work and he told me there was no way of knowing; I felt silly for having asked. There was no way to know for sure. I tried not to imagine Kara waking up again, staring at me, angry that the hope I’d given her had turned out to be useless.

Once Callum made the injection I had to leave the room; I didn’t want to see it. I sat in the front room of the mortuary on a matching red couch.

I sat there, wanting her body to catch fire on that table. Maybe then I’d have her for good.

Callum found me later; he said it had been several hours, but I couldn’t be sure.

“Is she still in there?” I asked.“Is she… gone?”

Callum sighed. “I don’t know… I think so, but I’m not sure. How long did it take before?”

“Minutes…”

“I think she’s gone.”

I stood up and shook his hand. He gave me a hug.

“Thanks, man,” I said. “I’ll never forget this.”

“I’m glad you came to me, Lanny. I’m glad we could help her.”

I didn’t understand why he was so damned glad about everything.

I just felt lost.

♥♥♥

We brought the hearse onto the ferry out of Horseshoe Bay; I tried to ignore the stares from camera-toting tourists.

We drove her to MacMillan and the giant fir trees at Cathedral Grove. We waited until the sun had set and the lot had emptied.

We took out the casket made of cardboard and cloth, and together Callum and I carried Kara into the woods. We found the place, that large Douglas Fir far off the trail, with a hole in its trunk just big enough to bury the love of my life.

After Callum had gone and come back with the shovels, we dug a little place for her in the earth that lined the floor of the hole, digging it deeper and deeper until there was no dirt left, and the shoots of the trunk came together again.

We took her out of the casket and laid her there, curled into a ball and wrapped in several sheets of plastic. We covered her with a couple feet of dirt and layered over the area with needles and some wayward leaves and grass.

I had a feeling she’d be safe there, away from the trail, buried on an island that had no coyotes to dig her out. Buried there until she lives again.

I wonder if by then they’ll have found a way for someone like me to live forever. Kara wouldn’t have wanted that, but that’s because she was always alone with that life, the one and only phoenix in all the world.

She’s had to live on for what seems like forever after losing everyone who mattered.

Maybe the next time she wakes up I’ll be here waiting for her. And then she’ll finally have someone else who understands just what it’s like.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

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