Honourable mention in the 6th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.
Shadow lay dead in the kitchen, curled inside Ghost. Veronica’s parents spilled coffee on their slippers, murmured Jesus Christ. They pulled the dead cat from the terrier and buried her in the backyard. Wrapped in a brown and white blanket, Veronica watched from her bedroom window, her hair turning pink at the sight.
Later, while Veronica was drawing portraits of Shadow and splattering the paper with tears, Ghost dug up the dead cat and carried her gently in his mouth to the door, scratching with one paw to come in. Shadow’s head and legs poked out stiffly from Ghost’s jaws, and when Veronica opened the door she backed away screaming. She ran and hid in the closet when the dog came inside, squeezing her hands over her ears to shut out the sound of Ghost’s panting and Shadow’s rigor-mortis limbs tap-tapping on the closet door.
Veronica’s dad tried to retrieve Shadow from the devoted clamp of Ghost’s jaws by dangling toys but Ghost would not let go. That night, Veronica’s parents crept down to the kitchen while Ghost slept and carefully pried Shadow from the dog’s paws. Veronica’s mom held the flashlight while her husband shovelled, deeper this time.
The next day Ghost dug up Shadow again.
Veronica’s dad placed boulders on top of Shadow’s grave but Ghost dug around them to get to Shadow. Veronica’s dad hid Shadow in a new grave behind a shrub, but Ghost sniffed out the dead cat and lifted her from the earth again, drooling a little, triumphantly.
Veronica hid behind a tree, peering around the bark to watch Ghost play with Shadow on the porch as he batted at her gently with his paws, or propped her against the wall with his nose, licking what was left of her face.
Veronica felt guilty for being afraid of Shadow, especially next to the devotion of Ghost. After all, it wasn’t Shadow’s fault that she was dead, that her fur was matted and missing in some places, that her moon bones were showing through. “Sorry, Shadow,” she whispered into the bark as she pinched her nose against the smell.
Veronica’s parents wanted to keep Shadow in their backyard so Veronica could offer poppies and prayers. But Ghost wouldn’t stop digging up the cat. Neighbours began treating the family coolly, perturbed by Shadow’s reappearing and rapidly deteriorating corpse and the little open graves dotting the yard. They were weary of Ghost too, some misunderstanding his loyalty, suspecting he’d dug up Shadow to finish off what was left of her remains.
Two weeks after Shadow’s first resurrection, Veronica’s dad laid the dead cat in the car. Ghost pressed his nose against the glass as Veronica slipped into the back seat. In the heart of the woods, they buried Shadow’s fur-tufted skeleton deep in the soil, amongst indifferent trees. The little cat was still sticky with Ghost’s saliva when Veronica placed her, for the last time, in the grave.