We had a funeral for Rango today. It was an altogether perfectly sad and gloomy setting for the memorial. The clouds wept with us, and the rain slithered into our coats and down our backs and filled our boots. We dug a hole—two feet by two feet—and put him in the ground. I didn’t know him that well. I don’t think any of us did, really, but we wore black overcoats and dug the hole, and we made everything up in a way that we thought Rango would have liked. His favorite food was crickets, so we sprinkled a few in the Nike shoebox before we buried him, and then we spoke. We spoke of how glossy sunrises and sunsets bathed his scales in radiance, and when it was my turn, I spoke about the time I fed him crickets, and then about the time he hid under the old white porcelain fridge. I’d had to tilt that dinosaur of a fridge back and rest the corner of it on my shoulder and reach through the cobwebs and coax him out. He bit my finger through the glove, and we held on to each other that way as I slid him back into his tank.

Illustration by Anna Hall

I’ve wondered since then why he’d wanted out of his cage so bad that day. Why a lot of animals want out of their little cages so bad. Why a lot of people do, too. Like Travis. Some people go on and on even when it’s all impossible, and others decide it’s time to go. Did you know something I don’t, Travis? Maybe this is a little cage, and there is a whole world on the other side. The flowers there bloom more brisk in the spring. The thrushes whistle longer, and the compacted rocks on the riverbank aren’t so hot on your soft feet. Maybe the smell of wildflower perfume hits your insides and fills you up and lingers there forever. Maybe, when you walk down paths through the crisp woods in the fall—with leaves turning colors that make your outsides buzz through to your insides—and you hold the hand of the person you love, maybe the walk doesn’t have to stop. Maybe it never stops. Or maybe you didn’t think of that stuff at all and just wanted out, like Rango sometimes did.

The rain stopped just as we mounded and compacted the last bit of soil. The whole thing was beautiful, it really was. But the rain turned the dirt to mud, and Rango’s grave was kind of a watery mess when we left. We walked back to the house in the damp, and Brian said he thought we did right. He knew Rango the best and said when the storm really cleared and the stars shone that night, that Rango would be able to look down and see the tracks of what we did, left in the lawn and soil, and he’d be proud and happy. He’d know, at least, that he had brought us together in his absence. I figure lizards probably focus on the flies right in front of them, so I don’t know if he’ll look down and see anything, but maybe it doesn’t matter if he looks down. Maybe what matters is that we look up.

About the Author

Jarrett G. Ziemer

Jarrett G. Ziemer is a recent graduate of Central Washington University with a BA in professional and creative writing. You can find his work published in Variant Literature, Belmont Story Review, and Manastash.

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