Sadly, the creator of Comanche Joe, the only talking dog in the west, has decided to take a stand against whimsy and kill off his creation.
Never one to be put off by something as small as the death of a character, I have, a la Sherlock Holmes, brought him back from the dead.
Comanche opened one eye and carefully, experimentally, flexed his right front paw.
So, this then, was the after-life, somehow, he had expected more, well, difference. Truth be told, he had felt far rougher after a heavy night of rot gut.
He sighed and then realized that he wasn’t actually breathing, so the sigh, although dramatically correct, was not completely necessary.
He opened the other eye and looked around and was not surprised to find himself at the back of the old Radley place, in the pet cemetery. In death he had, it seemed returned to a more canine existence, quickly, he nipped in the bud a complex internal dialogue as to whether he could, in all accuracy, use the term existence in his newly dead state. He recognized the sophistic cul-de-sac that he was heading down and decided instead to mosey into town and see how much he was being mourned.
As he walked towards the ramshackle collection of buildings that comprised Falling Pines – population 666, he found himself reliving the last few moments of the life before this after-life.
He heard again the clatter of the runway wagon, the gasping of the terrified horses, the soft smashing of heavy wooden wheels across his body and then the gentle comfort of Slims’ arms around him and the tears dropping softly onto his yellow fur.
Comanche shook his head to dislodge these terrible images and set his face towards Main Street, he didn’t see the stirring, the digging, the gentle movements coming from out of the pet cemetery.
Now, Comanche prided himself on a pragmatic approach to life in general, he shook his head, there it was again, the after-life raised an un-ending stream of linguistic and syntaxical conundrums,so, he sighed, a pragmatic approach to the after life in general, so he did not expect to see a town completely destroyed by grief, but he had high hopes for the undertakers’ lily vase or spittoon with perhaps his name picked out in chrysanthemums and he was sure that soda fountain & reiki healing center would have done something clever and restrained with black crepe paper.
He was therefore just a little surprised to see no changes at all to Main Street, unless he counted the large poster advertising an Iron John drumming retreat nailed to the livery yard fence and a new line of vegan bakes piled up in a window display in the General Store.
Comanche sniffed the air, he couldnt feel any grief, any out-pouring of loss. Of course he thought, the Saloon, that’s where I spent my best moments, the book group, the cahiers du cinmema appreciation society, the midnight screenings of Iranian cinema, that’s where I will be missed.
As he headed towards the Saloon, he failed, again, to notice the dust cloud created by the small feet, paws and claws moving from the pet cemetery towards the town.
The gambler, dressed in black, with his back against the wall was the only one to notice the tiny, almost imperceptible movement the swing doors of the saloon made, he shivered, a icy blast crept down his neck and then he shook his head and went back to the task in hand, the removal of as much gold as possible from the hardworking townsfolk before they began to question his re-working of the rules of Snap.
Comanche looked around, the bar was full of familiar faces, but no-body seemed miserable than passed for normal on a dog day afternoon, he shook his head and then realized that for the first time in his life, there it goes again, he thought but managed to avoid another linguistic loophole, that he was not itching or twitching with un-wanted visitors, clearly, the after-life did not include fleas.
And then he saw Slim, the most familiar of all the familiar faces, standing in his usual place, a half full glass in front of him, Comanche was about to pad over, to give his old drinking buddy a gentle sense of his presence from beyond the grave when he saw it. On the bar, curled up half asleep was a small beige puppy and as Comanche watched in horror, Slim picked up the tiny dog and began to tickle his tummy, crooning endearments into its small floppy ears.
Comanche turned and left the bar, his leaving noticed only by the out of town gambler and then only as slight frisson of despair.
The dog began to walk towards the town limits, his tail and head both pointing towards the dusty ground.
Some way out, on the windswept prairie stood a black cowled figure, Comanche nodded to himself, it seemed fitting that Death had adopted a Bergemanesque appearance.
Behind him and in a line stretching back to the pet cemetery came guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits and a one eyed, three legged cat, still wearing a blue velvet collar with the name tag Lucky glinting in the late afternoon sunshine.