Title: A Fling for Fling
Type: Short Story
Date: Summer 2011
Notes from 60th
A Fling for Fling
A short story
It was a sunny afternoon in the early childhood of the Engle family, when money was for spending, and not saving, and the Adler mansion was a color aquatic reef of temporary friends, swimming in and out at their leisure. The backdoor served, as a concierge desk to Siobhan Calmine’s numerous chic houseguests.
Ronnie was standing in the back office that stood to the right of the back entrance. She was just tall enough so that her chin just overreached the edge of the round, wooden table in the middle of the room. It was devoid of chairs.
In waltzed Sugar Rutherland: tall, impossibly blonde, and erupting with the fragrance of Au de Perfume. She was decked out in a full, pale blue, cashmere pant suit; a shining monument to Chicago’s elegant society life. She looked like Donatella Versace, fresh from the swarming beehive of fashion week. Her bosom busted from her decadent sweater, the way her air of fabulousness busted from her every pore. In the crook of her arm rested the $5,000 Louis dog bag that cradled the slowly decaying carcass of her deeply beloved dog, and natural protégé, Fling.
On this day, this breezy afternoon, there was to be funeral. In the backyard, on the left side of the meticulously pruned lawn, Sugar was going to bury her darling Fling next to the maturing pine tree that had been planted in celebration of Johnny Calmine, the eldest son’s, birth, seven years ago, in late July.
“Is that the puppy? Is he really dead? Are you really gonna put him in the ground?” Ronnie squeaked excitedly, adjusting her white lace pinafore and struggling to climb on top of the wooden table to perch and gawk. Her knees were scratched and scabbed from endless play in the great outdoors. In reality, her wilderness playground was the Calmine’s three-acre backyard, only one characteristic element of their grand estate. Other features included, the Olympic style swimming pool, a slew of chefs and maids, and a gaggle of flower-filled gardens, cared for by a jovial band of grounds keepers.
“It is, my darling. My sweet Fling, my baby. He lived a superb life for a dog. Now, we’ll lay him here to rest in the backyard of my dearest friends in all this world.” Sugar Rautherland always oozed with a natural, infectious, drawl. She placed Fling’s bag on the table, next to Ronnie, so that she could open her compact and reapply her soft, pink, Chanel lip lacquer. The shade showed opaque against the white blonde tresses of her hair.
One at a time the other four Calmine children appeared in the doorway, peeping in like little mice on a snoozing feline, ready to pay their respects to Fling.
“Who wants to be our reverend? I’d really like it if one of you angels would say a few words during the burial.” The Calmine children: Johnny, Ronnie, the twins (Clyde and Scarlett,) and the youngest, Chloe, all surrounded Fling’s ephemeral wooden pedestal and gaped, sad-eyed, at the Louis Vuitton casket.
“I’ll do it!” Clyde put his hand over his heart as if he were being sworn into office. “I’d like to give Fling a good send off to heaven.” The five green-eyed youths, and their dearest aunty retreated to the pine tree in the backyard.
One of the grounds keepers, having already been made aware of the importance of the occasion, had dug a small, terrier-sized grave for the burial. They all gathered in mourning around the site.
As the ceremony began, the sun was taking its final bow and disappeared behind the green velvet curtain of conifer trees that lined the vast property. The sky was now a psychedelic tie-dye explosion of bright oranges, reds, and pinks.
The two boys gingerly took the bag from the weeping Sugar, and lowered it steadily into the abyssal whole.
The children all wore variations of the same outfit in white, as was Chicago suburb custom. The color was a request made by dear aunty Sugar. She wished her precious dog-child to be commemorated in a color that was bright and cheerful, instead of dull or depressing.
The boys diligently filled the hole with mounts of dirt, displaying all the talent of professional worm excavators. They returned to the circle of weary mourners.
“I’ve never been to a funeral before!” announced Chloe, her china chop haircut perfectly stationary and flat to her head.
“Quiet, dumby!” hissed Johnny, “Clyde? If you please?” Clyde gathered himself together, puffed up by the great importance of his role, “Dearly beloved, we are-“ Scarlett interjected with a yell that cut Clyde off in the middle of his opening, “This isn’t a marriage! It’s a funeral!” She smacked her slightly senior brother on the shoulder, thoroughly exacerbated. Clyde took a deep breath, managed to contain his composure and began again, “Today we say goodbye to Fling. He was a good dog and a good friend. I hope he makes it to heaven safely and that the signs and directions aren’t color coordinated…” Clyde paused for laughs. The only sound that broke the silent horror of his blatant disrespect was an intermittent wail that escaped Fling’s heart-broken mother. He continued, quickly realizing his mistake, “Fling will always be remembered and will remain in all of our hearts forever and ever and ever and ever and ever.”
They all said amen.
“Will you lovely children maybe sing a song to end the ceremony? Fling loved music so much and you all have such beautiful voices.” Sugar, mascara stained and weepy, begged.
“What kind of song?” Johnny asked.
“A sad song, as this day is just so sad.”
“I don’t know any sad songs. I only know ‘The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow.’ Do you know any?” Clyde asked Scarlett. She shook her head.
In the end, they joined together in broken harmony and managed to deliver the first verse and chorus of “My Heart Will Go On,” as Titanic had recently débuted on the Hollywood big screen.
They assembled around the grave so that their nanny cold snap a Polaroid, a request sent down from the master bedroom.
After the ashy film melted away, the picture revealed a splotchy golden ring of light surrounding the whole company. “I bet you anything that’s Fling’s soul going to heaven! Wow!” Ronnie threw her hands in the air, dancing around in giggly vigil, like a Dionysian worshipper.
The funeral ended and the chef called the children into the brightly lit kitchen for their dinner.
The light vanished from the sky and left it pin-pricked with stars. The grave dissolved into the all-encompassing veil of night and the chorus of woodland insects.