Precious Possessions

Issue 35 by Kennedy Weible

Precious Possessions

Carson Rawlings, attorney for the late Miriam McShanahan for over twenty years, waited for Trapp to stop laughing at his mother’s burial request. Trapp sat dwarfing a brown leather chair across from his desk. Carson leaned forward, fingertips pressed together, hands tented, glaring at Trapp. Trapp continued giggling. Carson sighed. “I remember the hilarity of my own mother’s passing,” he said. Trapp carried on, his mother only six hours dead, laughing until tears made shiny deltas in the corners of his eyes. “I’ll go on while you try to compose yourself, okay?” Carson said. “This was your mother’s request, and of course we want to honor her memory and wishes, but seeing as how it’s both macabre and illegal, we can get around it.”

Trapp straightened up. “We’re doing it.”

“Illegal is the word you obviously missed.”

Trapp made a dismissive face that Carson wanted to slap. He threw a pen instead. It hit Trapp in the chest.

“I’m a hundred ways serious,” Trapp said. “It’s her last request. She put it in there so we’d do it.”

“That’s not why she put it in there,” Carson said. Trapp had caught the pen and placed it back on the desk. “She put it in there because she was a stubborn woman who found inconvenient extravagances amusing. It was just the most random thing she could think of.”

“She’s dead, asshole,” Trapp said, all laughter gone now.

Carson picked the pen up and threw it at him again. “I know, asshole,” he said, imitating Trapp’s voice. “Because I was the one sitting there when she went.” The pen hit Trapp in the chest again, though Carson had been aiming for an eye. It bobsledded down the wrinkles in his shirt.

Trapp sagged and stared at his lap. “I don’t like hospitals,” he said, quietly. “I get, I don’t know, skeeved out.”

“Look,” Carson said, gentler now. He gestured for the pen back and put it in a drawer. “I know you want to honor your mother’s request. But you shouldn’t take it so seriously. She just put it in there for the novelty of it. You know how your sisters are, especially Pandora. Your mother knew they’d fight it.”

“There’s nowhere it’s legal?”

“Minnesota maybe? They have a lot of lakes. I don’t know. Does it matter?”

“Why did Mom want me here first?”

Carson shrugged, though he knew it was because she favored him. “She wanted you and me to call your sisters together. Her body is over at Rudger and Johnson. There’ll be a private viewing the day after tomorrow. She didn’t want a wake or anything.” Trapp nodded, staring at his hands in his lap. “We’re supposed to call Sailor next,” Carson said.

__________

Miriam McShanahan had come to Carson’s office shortly after winning just over three million dollars in the lottery. She had been abused and abandoned by one husband, then abused again by a second whom she shot in self-defense, “but only in the leg,” as she put it. She had three children, one by the first husband, two by the second. Miriam had worked in Snapjack’s Laundromat for eight years when her numbers were called.

“The Quickpick,” she had said. “Random numbers out of the computer. I busted my ass working my whole life and then…randomness.” She was a slight woman in jeans and a tank top. Her mouth was enormous, and when she smiled he feared her head would split. “You have to just accept it, I suppose. Or at least you can’t kick it out of bed for eating crackers, you know? Not when randomness gives you three million and working your ass off just leaves you without an ass.”

She wanted to hire Carson, not for any particular legal need, but as some all-around consigliere – an advisor, paper-pusher, and glorified accountant. He was going to turn her down on the grounds that none of that was what a lawyer was for until she said, “Cassie Chestnut told me to come here.”

“You know Cassie?” he had said.

“She used to come to the laundromat. Listen, I got three million dollars and you and I both know I’m going to get ham-boned on this thing unless—”

“Ham-boned?” he interrupted.

“They’re going to eat and eat all around me until there ain’t nothing left but the damn bone and then they’re going to say I should be happy to have even that. Cassie said you won’t let that happen. Cassie said there’s no one else. Cassie said I oughta come here.”

Cassie Chestnut had been a poor woman in a poor trailer, living on what became valuable land when a multi-million-dollar condo development across the highway from her needed to tap her water line. Rather than pay her, the development group began proceedings to take her family land out from under her. Carson represented her pro bono because he knew it would get his name in the papers and he needed the exposure. Cassie was now a wealthy woman in a new trailer.

“Cassie said you gave a damn about people who get run over by the world,” Miriam said. “Is that true?”

“Something like that,” Carson said.

“I want to buy Snapjack’s,” Miriam said. “And I want to keep every cent of money I can away from the government and scumbags and I want my kids to grow up secure, without relying on randomness. Can you do that?” She looked him up and down, sitting there in his only good suit in the office he could barely afford.

What the hell, he needed the money. So Carson said, “Of course.”

He said “Of course” a lot to Miriam over twenty-two years. Sometimes it was matter of fact.

“I want to own my house and cars free and clear and the laundromats.” She had franchised after the first one. “I want to own the buildings. No wasting money on a lease. That’s the best plan, right?”

“Of course.”

Sometimes it was sarcastic.

“I think a black-tie bar-b-q is fun. People in tuxedos and gowns standing around a grill. It’s funny. And listen, I think the city council should be grateful to be invited to any party at all, what with the shit job they do.”

“Of course you do.”

And sometimes it was all he had to offer.

“No one wants to admit they’re a bad parent,” she said over whiskey one night.  “But what do I know about kids? You screw up the most with the first one. The others only benefit a little from your trial and error. I worry about them and what they’ll think of me every day. They’re the most precious things I have. “

“Of course.”

__________

Carson waited outside the funeral home. Pandora pulled into the parking lot first, but Sailor was only a minute behind her. They were both on their phones. Carson wondered if they were talking to each other. Sailor hung up and walked across the parking lot while Pandora held up a finger through her window indicating one more minute. Sailor gave Carson a hug and looked back at her sister, raising her hands in an impatient gesture. The single finger returned to the window.

“How are you doing, Carson?” she said.

“Busy. How are you holding up?”

Sailor shrugged. “I don’t really feel anything yet. I’m going to have some drinks later, though. See if that gets me going.”

“It’s good to have a plan, I guess.”

Bracelets jangled as Pandora clip-clopped up in her heels. “Oh my God, Carson,” she said, her eyes welling up. Sailor gave her a hug and then Pandora wrapped her arms around Carson. “Oh, Carson,” she said again, letting go. “That son of a bitch is still trying to get money out of me. Even after all this with Mother, he—”

“Tell me you weren’t just on the phone with Perry,” Carson interrupted.

“He called me. I didn’t—”

“You cannot accept phone calls from the person divorcing you. Do you understand? Stop talking to him. His lawyer can talk to me.”

Pandora crossed her arms and looked away across the lot. “You don’t know what I feel right now.”

“Don’t act like you’re experiencing something the rest of us aren’t,” Carson said. He looked down and saw that some of her body glitter had come off on his suit. “Jesus Christ,” he said, brushing at it.

“Is Trapp coming?” Sailor asked.

“I just got here. But I don’t see his truck,” Carson said. “Pandora, I’m serious. Stop accepting his calls.” Pandora sniffed. “C’mon.” Carson held open the door of the funeral home.

While they waited in the foyer, Carson said, “Girls, before we go view the body, maybe we could talk about your mother’s burial request.”

“The flaming boat thing?” Sailor asked.

“I believe it’s a Viking sea burial, but yes, the flaming boat thing.”

“We are not doing that,” Pandora snapped. “Burning her? It’s so morbid and gross. We’re going to cremate her like normal people.”

“Yeah, really. I can’t even think about it,” Sailor said.

“I want you to understand that this was her final request. The last thing she asked you to do for her.”

“Ugh, she didn’t want that. She must not have understood what it was. Or you wrote it down wrong,” Pandora said.

“I thought it was illegal,” Sailor said.

“It is but—”

He wanted them to not be so dismissive. It was preposterous, sure, but the request was owed some thought simply because of the person who made it. “It is,” he started again, “but—” Goddamn it, why weren’t you at the hospital when she died? That’s what he wanted to say. How could you even manage to get dressed this morning with her gone, how are any of us even able to stay on our feet?

The funeral director strode into the room, a slim man in an expensive suit, bent at the waist, hand extended for shaking when he was still ten feet away. “There’s a slight problem,” he said, gripping Carson’s hand. “It seems we’ve lost her.”

__________

The room where Miriam McShanahan should have been was brightly lit and had a row of folding chairs. The space where the coffin should have been was surrounded by flowers with a small kneeler in front.

The homeless man who said he helped Trapp load the body into his truck sat in one of the folding chairs, flanked by two cops. He was wearing a sports coat over a dirty T-shirt.

“How’d the two of you carry her out of here?” Carson asked him.

“Coffin was already on a cart with wheels. Just scooted her along and slid her into the truck.”

“All the viewing rooms have doors that lead to the back lot,” the funeral director said. “To carry the deceased to the hearse. He came in half an hour before you got here. I let him into the room and left him alone. Naturally, I had no idea he had this man waiting out back, or that he planned to abscond with the departed.”

“Naturally,” Carson said. He turned to the homeless man. “Were you paid for your help?”

“Twenty,” the man said.

“We’re going take him in now,” one of the cops said.

“Man, I didn’t do nothin’. Some guy asked me to help him for twenty bucks. I thought he worked here. He gives me this jacket, says it’s to blend me in. Then he tells me to help him move a coffin.”

“We aren’t pressing charges,” Carson said. “You can let him go.”

“What?” Pandora shrieked from her spot slumped on the kneeler. “Of course we are. He stole Mom’s body.”

“And don’t we need his fingerprints to like, match up with any prints he might have left on the coffin?” Sailor chimed in.

“Pandora, he didn’t steal her body, your idiot brother did. Sailor, I’m glad you’re trying to help, but that doesn’t make a bit of sense.” Carson pulled out his wallet and took out two hundreds. He held them out to the homeless man. “Sir, we’re sorry for your trouble. In the future, if someone asks you to move a coffin, ask for more than twenty. People pay top dollar for that kind of thing. Just ask this guy.” He thumbed towards the funeral director.

“Carson, what the actual fuck?” Pandora yelled, stamping her foot. It was a gesture from her childhood that Carson always wished she’d outgrown.

“We’re going to need some information from you concerning the brother. Make and model of the car and all that,” one of the cops said.

“I’ll meet you up front in a few minutes,” Carson said.

“Sure. We’ll walk him out,” the cop said, nodding at the homeless man.

“You need this jacket back?” the man asked.

“Consider it a gift,” Carson said.

“Thanks, buddy.”

They left and Carson turned to Pandora and Sailor. “Listen, I know this seems like—”

“Oh fuck off, Carson,” Pandora said. “You can’t tell us what to do. You’re not our father. You’re just some lawyer.” She strode out of the room, the heavy scent of her perfume trailing her.

“You just work for us,” Sailor said. “You’re not better than us.” She turned and followed her sister.

__________

Carson met the police out front. Sailor and Pandora, both on their phones again, pulled out of the lot while he gave a description of Trapp’s truck and the plate number. The police left and Carson drove slowly down the road until he saw the homeless man ambling along. He pulled alongside him.

“Yo, man,” the guy said. “I told you I didn’t do nothin’ wrong.”

“Have you eaten?” Carson said.

“What?”

“I’d like to take you to dinner.”

The man’s name was Edgar. Carson drove them to Paisan’s. The maitre d’ gave them a look when they came in and said to Carson, “Ah, sir, we have a dress code…”

“And?” Carson said. He looked over at Edgar. “He’s wearing a jacket.”

Edgar thumbed the lapel to prove it, and Carson pulled out a fifty and slid it to the maître d’. He smiled or winced and said, “Right this way.”

They were seated at a dimly lit table near the kitchen.

“Was the coffin open? When you first went in there?” Carson asked.

Edgar nodded. “Me and the big guy closed it. They got steak here?”

“I recommend the filet and get the mashed potatoes. Did you see her? The woman in the coffin? How did she look?”

Edgar raised an eyebrow. “She looked dead, man.”

Their waiter came. “Can I start you gentlemen with something to drink?” He looked from one to the other.

“What’d you say I’d like?” Edgar asked Carson.

“I think we’re probably ready to order,” Carson told the waiter. “Edgar, you like beer or wine?”

“Rum and Coke.”

“We’ll have two rum and Cokes, two sixteen-ounce filets, and we’ll both have the mashed and whatever the vegetable of the day is.”

“And tea,” Edgar said. “Hot tea.”

“Right. And a pot of Earl Grey please,” Carson said.

“Yes sir. The drinks will be right out.”

When he left, Carson said, “Other than being dead, how’d she look? Did they make her look…” he wanted to say right. Did they make her look right? But how would Edgar know? He settled on, “Nice?”

“That was your girl, huh?” Edgar said, buttering a roll.

“Yeah, something like that.”

“She was smilin’ kinda. It wasn’t creepy or nothin’, but it was a little weird. She almost looked, like, happy. The big guy, he was cryin’ the whole time and here she was smilin’. Like the whole thing was a big joke.”

__________

Carson dropped Edgar back near the funeral home. He drove to his office and logged into Trapp’s credit card account. He had all their passwords. He managed their accounts and paid their bills. Trapp may have used his own truck to steal his mother’s body, but he wasn’t completely stupid. He would know the police would be looking for his vehicle. Carson searched through the day’s charges and found the van rental from that morning. Above that was a charge from a gas station north of the city and above that a motel just across the state line. It was eleven o’clock, the motel charge had only gone through fifteen minutes before.

Carson pulled up an online map and examined the roads to Minnesota. The motel and refueling suggested Trapp was taking side roads and avoiding the highways. There was a faster route. He could call the police, but when he looked at the phone he knew that was an ugly solution – Trapp in handcuffs, Miriam’s body in the back of a police van, the inevitable write-up in some “Wacky News” article that would go viral. It was late. Carson logged into all of Pandora’s accounts and limited the amount of her withdrawals. Then he drove home long enough to pack and fill a thermos with coffee. It was after twelve when he got in his car and followed Trapp’s path out of town. He was going to get his girl.

Carson drove through the false daylight of the bright city into the star-glow that dimly lit the four-lane highway north. Later, the sky paled in the east and the pallor spread into day. He pulled up outside the motel around seven.

A red-eyed man in the small lobby told him Trapp had checked out and left.

“You his father?” the man asked.

His father would have tried to beat this sort of behavior out of him, Carson thought. But he said, “Something like that. How far is it to the Minnesota border?”

“Eight hours easy. More maybe, if you hit weather.”

“Do you have Wi-Fi?”

Carson took a room, showered and changed quickly. He checked Trapp’s gas and food purchases on his tablet and compared them to the route into Minnesota. He was still taking the smaller roads, the slower way. Carson zoomed in on the map and found the lake closest to where Trapp would cross the border. He would have to assume that’s where he was headed and try to catch him first. Carson checked out and got back in his car.

__________

Pandora was right. He was not their father. Her father was dead, killed by the bottle a few years after he left Miriam. Sailor and Trapp’s father could have been anywhere, limping along the side of the very road Carson traveled, his knee still locking up from time to time from the gunshot. Carson had been in their lives since they were small, though. Miriam had them running loose in his office the day after she hired him.

“Shouldn’t they be in a pen or something?” Carson had asked as Trapp, who looked like a five-year-old even though he was two, overturned a chair.

Carson’s second office had been Miriam’s kitchen table, where he shooed Pandora away from his accounting calculator while she did her math homework.

“You have to work them out by hand,” he would say. “Or you’ll never learn a thing. Here,” he would tear a sheet from his yellow legal pad. “Work them out on this so we can check over them before you put the answers on your worksheet. And use a pencil. No one does math in purple marker, I don’t care how pretty it is.”

He ran their mother’s increasingly successful businesses with her and found himself sharing in the role of child chauffer, dropping kids off at one activity or another. Once, when he took Sailor to ballet, the instructor rushed over to greet him. “You must be Sailor’s father,” the prim woman said.

“I’m her attorney,” he had replied.

Miriam caught him in the tangle of their lives. Tiny hands held his own across streets and free lollipops from the bank stuck to the upholstery of his car. But Pandora was right. He was not their father.

__________

He stopped for gas later in the morning and opened Trapp’s credit card account on his phone. He was on the same trajectory and Carson was closing the gap. He checked Pandora’s accounts. There were no major withdrawal attempts, that was positive. He was about to leave when he had a thought. He logged into Sailor’s account and scrolled through her recent transactions. There was a twenty-thousand-dollar withdrawal, taken out as a cashier’s check. He started to call Sailor but before he could, any energy he had left drained from him. He let the phone fall onto the passenger seat. What was the point? It was seventy-two hours since Miriam died and one kid had lost twenty thousand dollars, one was still talking to her cheating, asshole, soon-to-be-ex-husband and the third had stolen her corpse. He couldn’t help them; he couldn’t manage all this. Fuck ‘em.

He had quit smoking fifteen years earlier, but he went inside the gas station and told the attendant, “Pack of Camels.” Back in the car he lit up before pulling out onto the road.

After the first few cigarettes, he stopped feeling ill and all the old pleasures came back. Just before eleven he gave in and called Sailor.

“Hey Carson,” she answered.

“What are you doing?”

“Just hanging out. Being bummed about Mom. They find her body yet?”

Carson thought back to the last conversation he’d had with Sailor. “I think you forgot you’re mad at me,” he said.

“I’m not mad at you. I love you. You were always so good to Mom. I don’t know what she would have done without you.”

Died alone, Carson thought, but he said, “Oh, you’re drinking, aren’t you?”

“I’ve only had a few!”

“No, no. This is good. This works. Did you withdraw twenty thousand dollars from your account yesterday? It was the money for your tuition.”

“No, I don’t even have my bank card. Pandora took it. She said she needed to be in charge of it since Mom died and you and Trapp couldn’t be trusted. She said not to tell you.” She gasped and Carson pictured her putting one hand over her mouth. “Carson?”

“Yes?”

“Do you think someone stole my identity?”

Carson called the bank and froze all of Sailor’s accounts. He called her back.

“I cancelled all your cards. Do you have any cash around if you need it?”

“I have some quarters in the cup-holder of my car.”

“If you need cash for anything today, call me. Okay? Promise me, honey.”

“Okay,” Sailor said. “Did someone steal my identity?”

“Impossible. You’re the only one of you. I’ll get you some new cards.”

“Thanks, Carson. I think I’m going to take a nap for a while.”

“It’s been a trying day for you, I’m sure. Get some rest.”

“Sailor, out.”

The line went dead.

__________

Carson and Miriam slept together many times over the years. Her body’s full curves thinned to bony angles as his hands traveled their familiar routes through the decades. Chronologically, Carson remembered the first and last times they spent the night together. The rest blurred, and he couldn’t remember their order any more than he knew the order of the times he’d seen her face appear in the doorway of his office or sat across from her at dinner. When their bouts of intimacy stopped, as they invariably did, it was never over harsh words or a callous deed. They tapered off at the whims of greener lives – Trapp got the flu, Sailor was failing dance, Pandora had dropped out of college to live with a guy who had an emu farm. Their lives took precedent and broke the pattern of Carson and Miriam’s sleepovers for stretches of time.

Carson was never good at making things, including a family. Once, after Trapp broke both thumbs by accidentally slamming them in the car trunk, Carson said, “We should get married.” They were sitting in the hospital waiting area, waiting.

“What?” Miriam said.

“Married.”

“Here in the ER waiting room, that’s where you wanted to ask that?”

“I stated it, and yes. Here in the ER, where we are together. You called and I came. For you.”

“That’s true. You always come when I call. And I love that about you. But Christ, Carson, I wouldn’t put you through that. Hell, I drove one husband off and shot another. You’d have to be a brave man.” She laughed, her high cracked laugh, like it was all a big joke.

Carson put on his tight smile and said, “Of course.” He went back to the year-old news magazine he’d been reading. She reached over and closed it.

“Husbands and fathers just failed us,” she said. “You’re something else. Something like that, but not. Be happy about that.”

He drove her and Trapp home from the hospital and waved goodnight from the driveway as they went inside, Trapp’s white plaster thumbs held out in front of him as if to say, good job.

Carson spent one last night with Miriam, sitting up in a chair next to her hospital bed. He woke beside her in the morning and she was gone.

__________

Carson pulled into the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant that advertised “Free Wi-Fi” on its sign under something called the Triple Bacon Fatter Platter. Trapp’s last purchase was from the Outdoor Adventure Experience. Carson looked up the store’s address on his tablet and mapped it from the fast-food place. It was twenty minutes northwest, just across the Minnesota border. The purchase was an hour old. He pulled up a map of the area. The closest lake for miles was Commodore Lake.

Back on the highway, his phone rang and he almost wrecked when he saw it was Pandora.

“Oh, Carson, I’m so sorry,” she said when he answered. He heard her crying.

“Pandora, I—”

“I shouldn’t have yelled at you and I should have listened to you about Perry and I went over to Sailor’s and she’s drunk and had her identity stolen.”

“Pandora, shut up for a minute.” He added, “Honey. Tell me what happened. Slowly. Did you take twenty thousand dollars from Sailor? You know how hard it is to keep her in that school as it is. Missing a tuition deadline isn’t going to help.”

“I just wanted to get Mom back.”

“So you took twenty k from Sailor?”

“I called Perry after I left the funeral home. I just needed someone. I told him what happened. He said he had a friend who was a private eye and that he could find Trapp and Mom. I just needed the money to pay him and there was something wrong with my account. But now I can’t find Perry and when I call his cell it says the line is disconnected and I don’t know what to do and Sailor had her identity stolen and—”

“It’s okay. We still have Sailor’s identity. I mean, it’s not stolen. And I found your mom and Trapp, sort of. And Perry…” He bit his tongue and stopped before he got vulgar – stealing twenty thousand dollars from her right after her mother dies, Jesus Christ. “I will handle Perry with extreme prejudice.”

He heard her sniff, sad and exhausted after trying to fix everything and having it all fail. “You found Mom?”

“For the most part. Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I guess, now. Carson, you always take care of everything. Did Mom leave you anything? In her will?”

“Unfortunately, just her most precious possessions.” You among them, he almost said.

“What?”

“Nothing. I just meant she left me something personal. Listen, do me a favor. Go sober up your sister.”

__________

The lake had a boat landing and parking lot but Carson didn’t see any vans. One last check of Trapp’s card showed a purchase made at a general store at the top of the road to the lake. A dirt road off the parking lot looked like it followed the lake’s perimeter and Carson started along that. The road began to climb, and his sedan strained and bumped against the dirt ruts. The grade of the road leveled out, and Carson saw a green panel van parked in a clearing. He got out and looked in the back. The seats had been removed and through the tinted windows he saw a familiar empty coffin.

Carson found a narrow trail down a slope to the lake’s bank. The sun was opposite him, resting just above the hills that cupped the lake like hands. In this light, Carson almost didn’t see Trapp hulking below him next to a small fire. He shielded his eyes with his hands and saw Trapp had a bow and arrows. He wound strips of cloth around the arrow’s tips. Ten feet from the bank something floated in the water. It was stacked with logs and on top of those, thin sticks and branches that tangled together like a nest. Nestled in the heart of this was Miriam, hands folded across her chest, strands of what remained of her silver hair twisted through the twigs under her head. The pyre had been launched aboard a blue plastic craft.

“Oh Jesus Christ,” Carson yelled. Trapp looked up, startled, and saw him. “Is that a kayak?” Carson bellowed. “You put her in a kayak? Seriously?”

Trapp shot to his feet and promptly tripped over his bow. He got up and notched an arrow, lit the tip in his fire, and launched it at the blue kayak holding his mother’s body. It plopped down in the water a couple feet from shore.

“For Christ’s sake,” Carson muttered. He looked back up at the falling sun settling into the hills, then down at Trapp frantically lumbering around the bank trying to fulfill his mother’s last wish. Trapp dipped another arrow into the fire and tried again. The arrow sailed fifty yards beyond the kayak and disappeared into the water. Miriam’s embalmed figure bobbed patiently offshore. There’s no dignity in absolute love, Carson thought. No room in the full heart for that kind of luxury. He tried to make out the smile Edgar had told him about, but Miriam was too far away. Well, he had seen it before. Twenty-two good years. He lit a cigarette and started down the slope.

Trapp drew back another flaming arrow but his fingers slipped and it shot into the ground at his feet. Carson took his time coming down the trail. Trapp got the arrow out of the ground and sent it drooping into the lake. Carson sighed. “Slow down and concentrate on what you’re doing,” he shouted.

Trapp looked back up at him. He lit another arrow and walked to the water’s edge. He looked back up to make sure Carson was still on the trail, then fired. The arrow struck his mother’s leg and they both winced despite the circumstances. Trapp must have splashed something flammable on the boat and body. The flames held at the point of contact for only a moment before rushing fore and aft, engulfing the craft and its cargo.

Carson came off the trail and walked over beside Trapp.

“I’m sorry,” Trapp said, crying. “I had to do it.” He didn’t look over at Carson, who flicked his cigarette into the fire and lit another.

“It’s what she wanted,” Carson finally said. “Except, you know, for the kayak.”

“They were out of canoes,” Trapp said mournfully.

“They always are, when you need one.”

The sun was gone now. A breeze came down the slope behind them, pressed against their backs and legs and pushed Miriam McShanahan farther out into the lake. The orange flames glowed deeply above the dark blue of the kayak that was all but vanished against the shadowed surface of the lake. The last coals of the sun did the same behind the dimming hills across the water, and on shore their own small fire leaned away from the wind with a scratchy roar.

“I hope no one sees this and calls the police,” Carson said.

“You said it was legal in Minnesota.”

“I said maybe it was. It’s already going to be all I can do to keep you out of jail back home.” Carson put his hand on Trapp’s shoulder for a second, then took it away. “She’d be pleased,” he said.

He stood with Trapp and watched the whole time the fire burned. Eventually a hole melted through the plastic of the kayak and it filled with water and she sank.

They would get a hotel for the night. Then he’d call the private investigator he used, a real one, and get him working on finding Perry. An arrangement would have to be made with the funeral home to hold a ceremony for the benefit of Sailor and Pandora. They deserved their own closure. Then dinner. The four of them should go out together to a very nice dinner.

About the Author

Kennedy Weible

Website

Kennedy Weible's work has previously appeared in Hanging Loose Magazine, The Ledge, Main Street Rag, Fogged Clarity and Iron Horse Literary Review. Kennedy's Iron Horse story was republished in their “Best of” issue in 2018.