When I was in high school, I enjoyed writing short fiction stories for fun. Unfortunately, since coming to university, I haven't done a lot of writing. I just stumbled across this story I wrote back in 2010 though, and I really enjoyed re-reading it, so I thought I'd share it with you.
The Hardest Thing
The funeral, he decided, was the second hardest thing he had ever done in his life. Looking back over the years made him realize this definite and uncontested fact. Most definitely, the funeral was the second hardest thing he had ever done in his life.
It was a drizzly day in mid-March, the kind that is nearly cold enough for snow but Mother Nature decides to drench the world with freezing rain anyways. Most of the attendees at the graveyard were wrapped in huge coats, clutching umbrellas as close to them as possible, as though it could offer some meagre amount of warmth. He wasn’t, though. He thought that it was poetic and well-befitting his misery to stand in the freezing rain with little more than his sportcoat to protect him from the elements. He regretted that decision, as poetic as it may be, because he did not find that the fact that he was physically miserable helpful towards the fact that he was emotionally miserable at all. The rain simply made him cranky in addition to being inconsolably depressed: a dangerous combination.
The priest at the head of the grave seemed not to notice the rain or the cold or the discomfort and general unhappiness of the people around him. The priest, let it be known, had an interesting theory that there was a perfect balance of sullen and cheery that best serves the mood of those who are in attendance of a funeral, especially when the funeral is made particularly sad and morose by the untimely death of the subject. He had a small, sympathetic smile on his face that most of the attendees, and most particularly the man with no coat or umbrella, hated the moment they saw it.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today...”
He was numb. At this point, he wasn’t entirely sure if it was from the cold, the copious amount of drugs he had been taking ever since her death, or the fact (that he had quite conclusively decided) that his soul was as dead and gone as she was. In fact, he had decided that not only would he never love again, he would never feel anything ever again. He was annoyed (and only a little bit relieved) to find out that he could in fact feel emotion again: he was quite angry at the priest, and wanted more than anything to shove his fist into the small, sympathetic smile on the priest’s face.
He turned a deaf ear to the entire affair. He stood there, nodding every so often as so-called friends and family approached him with empty words of sympathy, and soon everyone had dispersed, discouraged by the rain and cold to linger for too long. The coffin had been lowered into the large hole in the ground, and the men who intended to fill the hole (as quickly as possible due to the condition of the weather) stood a respectful distance away. After what seemed like a long time to those men, he nodded to them curtly, and walked briskly towards his car.
He felt fine on the drive home. He felt fine as he unlocked the door to their – his – house, and he felt fine as he locked the door behind him and hung the keys up on the hook. He felt fine, in fact, until he noticed the ridiculous stuffed animal she had always insisted on keeping in their tiny living room. When he saw that goose, he felt all the feelings at once, and it was overwhelming. He fell to his knees, crying and silently screaming, shoving his clenched fists into his eyes. She was gone, but that ridiculous stuffed goose (of the Canadian variety) would stay there with the ridiculous smile on its face, sitting ridiculously on her favourite couch, staring at him ridiculously every time he entered the door. But she, she was gone, and would never again smile at him, or sit on her couch, or greet him when he returned home.
He stood, furiously grabbed the goose by the neck, walked outside, and threw it with all his might into the forest by their house. He screamed in triumph, walked back into his house, and proceeded to get ridiculously drunk.
When he awoke the next morning, he decided that the only explanation for his current misery was that he must be dying. His head ached, he was about to vomit, and his entire body ached as though, well, as though he had gotten ridiculously drunk the night before. By late afternoon, he was more or less back to his new usual level of misery, and he found this satisfying in a queer sort of way. He made himself another mug of coffee, and decided that he would get ridiculously drunk again that night. Before he could even begin reaching for his next trusty bottle, he was frozen by a sound that he heard outside.
He walked towards the door, and paused before opening the door. He had a brief, powerful vision of Claire standing at the door, bruised and bloodied and broken, demanding to know why he didn’t help her, why he wasn’t there to help her. He wrestled with himself, emotion versus logic, and finally he opened the door. Standing at the door was not Claire, but an average sized Canadian goose. He jumped back in surprise. The goose simply stared at him. He looked at it for quite some time, and eventually came to the decision that it was waiting for something.
“Hi?” he said uncertainly. The goose honked curtly, then fell silent again, and continued to stare at him. He approached it slowly, but when he came within a few inches of the animal, it backed a short distance away and hissed. When he withdrew back into the doorway, the bird approached again and continued to stare at him. He sighed.
“Well, you might as well come in.”
He thought he saw the bird nod, and it walked past him into the living room, where it sat in Claire’s favourite chair. He looked at it, too stunned to really comprehend what was going on.
“As long as you’re going to be here, do you want something to eat? I might have birdseed or something.”
The goose stared at him.
“I’ll take that as a no.”
He decided to ignore the bird, as he was clearly imagining things. Probably a combination of the alcohol and the drugs he had been taking recently. He went back to the bottle of whiskey that he had been in the process of opening before he was so rudely interrupted by his hallucination. He turned around, bottle in hand, and suddenly the bird was in front of him, looking into his face. He was so startled that he dropped the bottle to the floor, where it loudly crashed and made a mess of the floor. The goose seemed satisfied, and returned to the living room.
“What the fuck!” he yelled loudly, anger flaring and pulsing in his mind. “Fucking bird!” There was a disgruntled honk from the other room.
“There is no fucking way a goose, in my living room, just honked disgruntledly at me.”
Ignoring the fact that he was now talking to himself, he cleaned up the mess he made, muttering to himself the entire time.
“Happy?” he called, “That was our best bottle of whiskey. Cost a pretty penny, that did.”
There was silence from the other room.
“Yeah, okay, it wasn’t that special. It was just your regular 20 buck bottle from the liquor store. You got me, okay? I was lying. Damn bird.”
The bird was in front of him again, as though irritated by his name-calling. It stared at him expectantly. He backed into a corner.
“Yeah, okay, I’m sorry. You’re a beautiful bird. Exquisite really. A paragon of your species. Happy?”
The goose appeared to nod again, and walked back into the living room.
“I have got to stop doing so many drugs.”
The bird was still there a few weeks later. He had taken to calling it Bobo, the name that Claire had given to her stuffed version, and it seemed to like that. He fed it scraps of bread, and it seemed content with mooching his food and warm house and occasionally scaring the shit out of him. Somehow, the bird’s presence was comforting, and soon he found that the apparent hole he had felt in himself since Claire had passed didn’t ache and burn as constantly.
One morning, he arose groggily, and walked into the living room.
“Hey Bobo, I was thinking we could watch some football today, how would you feel about that?” There was silence, and he gazed around the room and found that it was empty. “Bobo?”
On closer examination, he found the bird outside his front door, staring at the door expectantly and holding something in its beak.
“How did you get out Bobo? What did you find?” He reached forward, and the bird gently placed the item it was carrying into his hand. The stuffed goose. It was a bit wet and dirty, but surprisingly intact. He looked at Bobo, who nodded his mysterious goose nod, turned around, and waddled away. That moment he knew, staring at the slightly damp and dirty toy in his hand and watching the only strange comfort he had had in the past weeks walk away from him, that that would be the hardest thing he would ever face.