Here are the facts: his name was Oliver, he was 11 years old, a border-collie, gray-white with plenty of spots, awfully stinky, insatiable, always setting the toy on your lap when you were trying to get work done or read a book, nudging it forward with his snout, tossing it up in the air with all his might so it landed right on your laptop and closed your Chrome tab, insufferable, to say the least.
The date: September 9th, Thomas woke up dazed, plinked one and a half cups of kibble into Ollie’s bowl, not a teaspoon more or he might get fat, unlatched the cage, grabbed a protein shake, didn’t even notice the stillness, the silence, the pure rigor mortifying the air of the studio apartment. It wasn’t until after work, deep in the dusk, swinging open the door to no greeting, not even a bark, that Thomas sensed something was off. It was the smell, and then those glass eyes, they were blank, beyond blank, like little portals to oblivion, and Thomas thought, ‘oh, so Ollie’s dead.’
No car, not even a driver’s license, so Thomas had to call in a favor to get Ollie’s body to Pet’s Rest Cemetery and Crematory in Colma, a fenced off grassy green field of dogs and cats and bunnies and gerbils and birds, surrounded by real cemeteries, humid humanity wasting away right next to all their best friends. Thomas carried Ollie, or the shell of Ollie, into Pet’s Rest, shuffling forward with eyes on the floor. The receptionist, a short woman with a punk slash of a pixie cut, yelped, ‘Excuse me, what are you doing? Do you have an appointment?’ Thomas felt like howling, ‘No, I don’t, I’m sorry. I thought I’d just, like, walk in here and get him incinerated? Is that not how it works?’ But he put on a front, acted laid-back and withdrawn, sort of sociopathic, and monotoned, ‘No, sorry.’ Unbothered, she replied, ‘That’s okay, here,’ and rolled out some sort of gurney contraption from behind the counter. Thomas gently heaved the shell onto it, and then she covered everything with a piece of pristine white tarpaulin. ‘You want him buried? Spots start at a grand.’ He shook his head, ‘No, thanks.’
‘Oh, you’d like em cremated?’ He nodded. ‘It’ll take about 8 hours. Did you bring your own urn?’ Thomas thought no, of course not, who has a spare urn just sitting around like that? Where the fuck would I even buy one if not here? But he just demurred, ‘No,’ and the pixie, ‘No worries, we have a selection, take your pick,’ motioning to a wall sagging with shelves of stacked ceramics. Thomas picked a brown bulb with an imperfect white-sand glaze. $250. Steep, but fair enough considering there would be no more vet fees from here on out. He signed the forms, paid the toll, and asked, ‘Can I just chill here until it’s done? I don’t really have anywhere else to go.’ She motioned to the plush armchairs opposite the urn wall, ‘Of course, you’re welcome to wait.’
Thomas sat down and pulled an abused copy of War and Peace out of his tote. 7 hours, or 300 pages later, he was carrying Ollie’s ashes out to the Uber. Thankfully, the driver didn’t say anything besides, ‘You’re Thomas? Laguna Street? Okay, hop in.’
2AM. Mission Dolores. It was his favorite park. It didn’t matter what part of the city they were in; he’d bite down on the leash, hard, and pull it South, towards the Basilica, the rolling hills, the tennis courts and soccer players milling about, but not at this hour, never again. Thomas let the tears flow freely as he plopped his backpack onto the grass and lugged the urn out of the front pocket. He’d duct-taped it airtight for the walk over; as he separated the sticky adhesive strips from the cold earthenware walls, they made a sppprzp noise, which matched how he felt inside, in some obscure way. The tape all removed, Thomas pulled off the lid and set it on the grass next to his bag. He carried the body of the urn twenty feet away and unceremoniously tipped the ashes over onto the damp loam. Then he walked back to his stuff, rejoined the body and head of the urn, unzipped the main pocket of his bag, and yanked out five lukewarm dasani water bottles. Slowly, methodically, he unscrewed the caps, walked back over to the white streak of soil, Ollie’s former form, and unleashed the flow. Thomas wanted the water to carry Ollie deep into the earth, all the way to the bedrock, maybe even to the molten core, so he could fertilize some plants and bring some fresh life into the world, even in death. Also, Thomas didn’t want any unsuspecting park goers accidentally trampling over Ollie and dragging his dust through the mud and asphalt. In this way, the water killed two birds with one stone, by ferrying the debris of Ollie down into the underworld on its own little river Styx.
Everything laid to rest, Thomas slung his backpack over his shoulders and walked out of the park, onto 18th street. He stood in front of Mission High School, brought the urn up over his head, and slammed it down onto the pavement like he was warming up for a volleyball game. Shards everywhere.
About the author
Thomas Hobohm lives in San Francisco, but grew up in Texas. They're interested in interrogating queer desire. When they're not reading or writing, they like to play volleyball and explore independent cinemas. They can be found at: https://www.thomashobohm.com/.
Did you enjoy the story? Would you like to shout us a coffee? Half of what you pay goes to the writers and half towards supporting the project (web site maintenance, preparing the next Best of book etc.)