I parked the car and got out. The road wound farther down, dark and empty, to a small town. Clouds brooded overhead, and a cold wind flicked across the barren hill. I took the spade from the backseat and fetched Fizz in his shoebox. Scrambling across the ditch, shoebox under one arm, I headed into the bog until behind me the car had disappeared. Springy heather carpeted the ground. Here and there, geometric ruts holding black mirror-flat water cut through the land. I picked a spot and put Fizz down while I hacked at the ground with the spade. The shoebox, colourfully painted and sparkling with glitter, looked ridiculous against its bed of dark, stricken heather. “Fizz, 2004–2015, We’ll Miss You!!!” was carefully lettered in purple crayon across the lid. Alice had asked when Fizz was born. I told her 2004 although I couldn’t honestly remember when or even how he had come into our lives. A second epitaph across the front, slightly less legible, read “Best cat ever!” Tessa’s tearful, hiccupping contribution. The girls hadn’t wanted to come. After a minute of digging, despite the cold wind, I started to sweat and had to put down the spade and pull off my fleece. When finally the hole was wide and deep enough I lay the shoebox in it and covered it with loose clumps of turf, patting it all down with the spade. That was that. I scraped the spade clean on the heather and headed back to the car. Driving home, I thought of what to tell the girls. Something positive to dent their sharp, youthful grief. “Life is a circle, Fizz is at peace now, returned to nature.” And yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that we had only abandoned our Fizz to the black acidic grip of the bog.
A Hard Goodbye was published on Spelk Fiction on March 2016.