I live in fear of the zombie apocalypse.
Well, not really. I mean, I’m no more concerned about the dead rising and wandering the Earth as hungry revenants craving only our brains as the next guy.* In most of those scenarios, you’ve got the zombies wandering around you have to worry about.
I’m more concerned about something happening in a more specific location to reanimate the long-dead bodies. And by specific location I mean the totality of my backyard. And by long-dead bodies I mean all the many, many pets I’ve interred back there, both with and without the help of various grieving young sons.
See, I’m pretty sure the Angel of Pet Death** gets some kind of frequent flier discount when it comes to getting to our house. After all, it’s been here so much over the years I almost think of it as a member of the family. Although, what that says about my concept of family isn’t something I’m prepared to discuss at this moment.
We have gone through more different pets and more different kinds of pets than I ever dreamed would be possible.
The first things I buried in our backyard upon moving here to Charlotte and discovering the woods that we’d accidentally purchased in back of our house were hermit crabs. The two oldest little dudes whined their way into hermit crab ownership in the gift shop at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not in St. Augustine, FL, during a summer vacation there just before we moved north.
Despite the love and care lavished on the crabs, the first two died within a week of making the move here. It was the first and second time any of my sons had lost a pet. To say it was traumatic would be something of an understatement, akin to saying Mt. Vesuvius made a bit of a mess in Pompeii.
Tears flowed. Already putrescent bodies were hugged to chests. Wails were wailed.
I searched through the detritus we’d lugged from Florida and quickly found the shovel. We picked out a nice spot under a tree because, as we all know, hermit crabs love trees (they do!), and started digging. When I say we started digging, I mean, of course, I started digging. It’s a good thing hermit crabs don’t need a lot of volume for a good burial because neither of the boys were much help. They had to work out their despair running around and squealing and playing on the swing set.
When it came time to bury the little guys, I stood there next to the tiny grave, youngest in hand, head bowed with both of the older boys standing next to me, having remembered to cry. Because they were so broken up, it fell to me to say the goodbye words over each dead hermit crab.
I won’t say it was easy, but it certainly was easier than the next round of hermit crab funerals. I tried to reuse my best material, but got called out on that pretty quickly. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find something new to laude a hermit crab with? “He was a good crab” only goes so far.
And then there were the fish. And the beaded dragons. And the other lizards. The birds. The snake. The hamsters. The white mice. The rats. The cat. It seemed the graves got progressively deeper and bigger.
And harder to find room for.
It wasn’t until I accidentally dug up the bones of a former fish within eyeshot of one of the kids that I really understood the meaning of fearangerpainsadness at a very high volume.
After a while, I took to digging the graves on my own so if anything. . . untoward. . . showed up I could deal with it in a much more sedate fashion.
So now we have a very diverse little graveyard in the backyard. Everywhere I look, I can see a reminder of some sort of tiny body buried beneath that section of ground. And I live in fear of the zombie apocalypse.
I fear the moment when tiny claws begin clacking their way up the back steps, when bony talons begin skittering across the hardwood floor. Because I know exactly who they’re going to be coming after.
Don’t worry about me, though. I have a plan. Mostly it involves thick-soled boots and a tall ladder from which to perform distance stomping.
Footnotes & Errata
*Provided the next guy worships George A. Romero and keeps a zombie-preparedness kit in the mini van.
** As opposed to the Death of Rats and just plain DEATH found in Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series of books. They’re funny. And satiric. A deadly good combination.