I wake up in my sleeping pod to the sun’s rays scurrying in through the window. My leg dangles over the side of the bed until the rest of my body is ready to take on the day. Not a cloud in sight, I stand up slowly, accepting the glare to bask in the fleeting movement of spring.

Clutching the knob, I brace myself for another meaningless day, but eventually I muster the strength to continue the descent from my tower, into the lounge.

The empty nest. I do miss the company. A memory of the younger generation, I no longer play host to the no longer kids. Like on most mornings, my house is welcomingly mute.

But wait a second. There is steam coming from the boiling kettle. The implausibility that someone else would be here sends a prickle down to the pit of my stomach and makes me quiver. A possible intrusion is troubling, but I’m able to confront my natural cowardice. I creep towards the kitchen, instinctively covering my exposed torso, and pour myself a cup of tea.

Waiting for it to steep, I fry two eggs, as I want to do, and check my watch. The time can’t be right. Oh, it’s not. The second hand refuses to click. The battery must be dead again. I take a gulp from the mug and set it back on the table as I reach for the nearby pack of cigarettes. It’s empty too. I remain intrigued by the kettle’s early activity, and I’m more than willing to play sleuth.

Still in my raggy robe, I walk outside, neglecting to close the door behind me, and immediately notice the draft. Mass is starting soon at the church that spans the other side of the street. An array of children in their nicest clothes don’t act like it, as they swarm the front steps, taking part in whatever mischief they can find.

A young boy smacks his sister, who begins to cry. He seamlessly dazzles his mother with some deceitful storytelling, repeatedly denying his act. Sunday school hasn’t been dropping much wisdom on him lately. His charm or stubbornness prevails, and the woman turns away to greet a friend. He notices my pitying stare, and with an unearned pride proceeds to wink in my direction. I almost forgot I was at all part of this mob scene.

As the band starts to play, the preacher invites everyone inside, where he will be blessing his congregation under their deity’s ubiquity, and they rush through the open doors. Just like that, the world is silent again, and I can get back to uncovering the boiling kettle conspiracy.

A shiver runs through me as my instincts recognize a putrid stench coming from my backyard. I sneak around the far side of the house to avoid a possible ambush. Under a clear sky, thunder crashes right as I come across the source of the miasma.

A man’s corpse, plump and bloated, chained up and replete with bite marks, litters the otherwise barren earth, casting a shadow over the day and the bank it’s lying on. He may have been a stud while alive, but his murdered remains are wrecked, and it would be an unkindness to even pretend that the pandemonium I’m seeing is anything less than complete destruction.

I catch a glimpse of an empty raft bobbing in the river behind him, floating away but staying stable enough to eventually finish its crossing to the other side of the water at a medium pace.

There’s no shortage of confusion on my end, and still I know that before anything else happens, I need to dislodge the body from its temporary resting place. It’s a nuisance, for sure, but without lamentation I haul to a hole, already dug. There I bury him the way that he lived, as a lifeless annoyance, with a business card protruding from his front pocket, and a party balloon sticking out his backside.

[Editor’s note: All italicized words are terms for a group of animals. Hover over each one for the corresponding animal collective.]
October 16 – Flea gets animal collective nouns
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