By Scout Petersen
My dog had a routine. Every day before my mother got home from work he’d be biding his time licking his balls and gazing longingly out the door. That was regular for most dogs, but mine could only poop if my mom was home. On the chill tile floor, he’d lay sieging and farting, waiting for precisely the right moment. I’d offer to let him out after he had his kibble brunch, but a bowel movement wasn’t anything of interest. Surely, he couldn’t defy natures laws day in and day out, but who’s to argue with a 12-year-old doodle that prefers not to lay turds in my parents’ backyard? I’ll give you a hint: not myself.
Today, unlike most days, my mom hadn’t gotten back home until around 4:30pm, which wasn’t on my dog’s shit itinerary. Did I mention that he was picky about location? Well, if you wanted the dog to shit, he had to be taken on a golf cart ride. That bastard needed to ride shotgun on the lime green 6-seater. Forget that there was plenty of room in the back for a dog of his demeanor. I imagine he’d argue it was the airflow in the front that helped remove his feces fatigue.
I was in town visiting my parents before leaving for Europe and we, of course, continued this tradition. I hadn’t been home in a few months and during my time away, my parents had taken to adventuring the land surrounding our lake home in South Bend, Nebraska; population 100. As we rode along for my dog’s bathroom ride, we took a detour to check out the soybeans. It was technically a corn year, but the soy in the field nearby was phenomenal, and I don’t say that lightly. We passed by some private property en route toward the beans, but in these parts of the country, trespassing signs just mean that if someone stops you, all you have to do is say that some guy in a white truck said it was okay.
Given I hadn’t been on a shit ride in while, my parents played the role of a hop-on-hop -off tour guide, pointing out the major landmarks, all of which happened to be creepily small cemeteries. We turned onto a gravel road that had a sign reading “South Bend Cemetery 1895.” I wasn’t sure if the 1895 meant that it was the first time someone was buried there, or if that was the last time they’d mown the grass. As we rounded the turn on the non-existent path, up at the top right corner my father pointed out all the headstones and overgrown shrubbery as my mom hollered, “I think our spot is up here.”
“Our spot?” I whipped my head.
“Yeah, our spot,” my dad replied nonchalant.
“Our spot, I just said that.”
Under a patch of greenery below a dying pine tree, my mother paced in a bizarre effort to recall where the plots of ground she and my father apparently had chosen to “rest” for all of eternity.
“I thought we were just taking the dog out for a shit?”
“We wanted to show you the land we purchased.”
I gazed at the green space under my mom’s feet, mortified that she was walking on her own grave, unknowingly disrespecting herself.
My family isn’t the type to visit the deceased . . . like ever. I can’t recall a single time I have ever stepped foot in a cemetery without a full moon above and a Ouija board in hand. I know people visit their loved ones and pay their respects, but my family has traditionally done so by displaying passed-down antique salt and pepper shakers, my favorite being the three wise monkeys. Although, I still couldn’t figure out what to put in the third one. Point being, it’s what our loved ones would’ve really wanted.
When my grandmother passed away, we buried her in a golf ball. Not like an actual golf ball. She wanted to be cremated and we honored her wishes, but instead of getting an antique vase or a 4-by-12 wooden shoe-box-sized unit offered by the mortuary, my dad and his brothers decided on a massive golf ball urn. Sometimes I think I can see her talking to me, though I cannot stop myself from picturing her as a golf ball oracle. Her obsession with Phil Mickelson truly lives beyond the grave.
“We made sure to put in writing that your brother has to dig the hole,” My father offered from behind the steering wheel of the golf cart, as if that miniscule detail made the situation better.
“You bought cemetery plots in a graveyard that requires you to dig them yourself?”
“Well, they let us prepay for our headstone. We’re thinking of a modest stone inscribed “Petersen: Party of Two.”
No date, no year, no “Loving Mother and Father to Two Incredible Children Who Were the Light of Our Lives.” Just what a minimum wage working hostess would sassily call out as she smacked her gum, leaning casually against the hostess station, counting the hours till her next smoke break: “Petersen . . . . party of two.”
This, from the same people who waited until their children were in their twenties to update their will. I’d been informed a mere four months prior to this particular graveyard drive that I’d finally been added to the will.
“I wasn’t on it before?” I asked my dad.
“No, but there was a clause in it that said if some other person existed than your brother, that offspring would be included in the reading of the will.”
“What would’ve happened if you’d have died?” I questioned my parents.
“We’d have died.”
“But what would happen to me?”
“You’d be alive,” he said. “What’s relevant now is that our accountant will step in if something were to happen to your mother and me.”
Instead of signing their children away to a family friend, cousin, or distant fairy godmother, my parents made the big decision to leave us in the hands of an accountant whom I would be unable to pick out from a line- up of two people. Fortunately, that task will never be required because said accountant died about two weeks later.
“Gusto’s shitting on your land,” I shouted from the back seat of the golf cart. We didn’t have a poop bag because we’d forgotten to buy them at the grocery store for about the last 12 years.
My mom dug her bare toes into the grass beside the shit, ripped up a few blades, and toe-sprinkled some greenery atop the fresh dog manure. With my dog’s gift finally dropped, we hopped back on the golf cart and were on our way.