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by Gabriel Valjan

Kane could and he did because he was able. He sat there in his apartment with his dog, Good, and cat, Evil, asleep at his feet. He muted the television. He wanted to contemplate the cost of grief. He had sent off the envelope. He remembered it well.

Stamp? Check. Is the necessary item inside? Check. Address correct? Check.

He composed a poem: an elegy, actually, because that is the sign of loss. It’d cost him a few lines of time, having to count out the syllables, measure out the feet, and conjure rhymes not too perfect, not so cute, but believable and a tad off. He wanted a touch of refinement and grit, Norman and Saxon words, to get the blend just right for the elegy-eulogy thingamajig. By God, he thinks he’s got it right.

He wanted a beer. Kane stepped over Evil at his feet. The cat was still asleep, curled up in dreams of catnip, head tucked in its armpit. Evil always did confuse Kane, because it was neither he nor she since Kane had inherited him already fixed. Good snored through everything.

He opened the beer, and dialed the number. He navigated all the insurance company’s prompts until he landed in the ear of a real human being.

“Death Benefits,” said the lovely plastic voice in a cubicle somewhere unknown. Kane gave her the three points for proper identification. “How may I direct your call?”

“Beneficiary.”

He heard her say, “One moment, please,” and thought of a cheerful mannequin in a store window. While a pop song converted into mood music played, he pulled the catalog towards him.

“How may I help you?” asked another voice; different pitch but same monotony.

They reviewed the facts: Letter received. Death certificate received. Check in three business days. That made him smile.

He tapped the page. He had pre-ordered that flat-screen television. He was indecisive: wall-mounted or an entertainment center?

“Can I help you with anything else today?”

“No thank you.”

“I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m glad that we’ve been able to be there for you in your time of need.”

“Thank you; that means a lot,” he said and could count several thousand ways that it did. He hung up the phone. He set aside the catalog. Something about the poem bothered him. He had to count the syllables again.

It looked good; it was perfect, even.

Kane thought that he had gotten the thingamajig just right when there was a knock at his door. Good lifted his head. Evil expected food.

Two men at the door, and one flash: “Homicide. Like a word, please.”


Gabriel Valjan is the author of several short stories. Turning to Stone, his fourth novel in the Roma Series from Winter Goose Publishing, came out this month and is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He lives in Boston and writes with two distinctive cats at his side, Squeak and Squawk.

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