Mr. Fluffy | Audio
By Barbara A. Barnett
Barbara A. Barnett is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop whose short fiction has appeared in publications such as FANTASY MAGAZINE, BLACK STATIC, SHIMMER, DAILY SCIENCE FICTION, and FLASH FICTION ONLINE. Barbara lives with her husband in southern New Jersey, is currently pursuing a graduate degree in library science, and frequently bursts into song.
Figures, Pete thought as he stared into the rabbit cage. Mr. Fluffy lay corpse-still, his formerly floppy ears rigid and his pink nose no longer twitching. The damn rabbit would have to up and die on Good Friday.
Like any good father, Pete worried about his son first. How was he going to explain this one to a nine-year-old? Here's your Easter basket, Joey, and an extra chocolate bunny to make up for the fluffy dead one I just buried in the backyard.
And like any divorced parent with joint custody, Pete worried about his ex next. Mr. Fluffy's death wasn't going to win him any points there. He could already hear Beth's nasal-voiced assault: you're too irresponsible, nag nag nag. Responsible enough to care for a pet she bought the kid, though.
Pete dropped his morning paper to the floor, opened the hall closet, and searched through the cluttered abyss for a shoebox--the best rabbit casket his pittance of a salary could buy.
It's not my fault, he thought, shoving aside tacky Christmas lawn ornaments and bags full of sweatshirts that had grown too tight around his gut. I fed the damn thing. Got kind of attached to it, actually. And I sure as hell don't want to see my kid in tears when Beth brings him over Easter morning.
Pete finally found the perfect box--full of keepsakes from Joey's first year at St. Francis of Assisi Elementary School, but the right size for Mr. Fluffy's snowy white corpse. As Pete dumped the contents onto the floor, one of Joey's drawings--a depiction of Jesus on the cross that looked more like an elephant with a spear through its head--landed on top of his discarded newspaper. Pasted beneath the drawing was a strip of paper proclaiming, "And on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead."
"If only the damn rabbit could do the same," Pete muttered. He picked up Joey's artwork, and his eyes fell on the newspaper ad it been covering up: Milo's House of Magick, new downtown location to serve all of your occult needs.
Suddenly, Pete had an idea of how to solve his problem.
"Yeah, I know," Pete said, casting a nervous glance at the shrunken heads in the storefront window, "good Catholic boy like me shouldn't be messing with the occult. But if you ask that old bat of a church organist down the street, I shouldn't be letting my kid read Harry Potter books either. Please. Like people can actually ride broomsticks."
A stone-faced, bouncer-sized man with a voodoo head wrap and a beaded necklace--Milo, presumably--slapped a spell kit onto the counter: Raising the Dead in Three Easy Steps. Ages twelve and up. Incense not included.
"And this will work?" Pete asked, giving the shop another once-over. Clouds of incense hung over tables littered with crystal balls, tarot decks, aromatherapy candles, and paperback copies of Honing Your Psychic Skills for Fun and Profit.
"It'll work," Milo grunted. "But I wouldn't use it if I were you."
"Yeah, whatever." Pete dug out his wallet, eager to leave. The service may have been prompt, but the place reeked worse than a beer-coated frat house floor. "How much?"
Milo set a package of incense sticks on top of the spell kit. "$59.99 for the kit and materials."
"I don't think his eyes used to be red," Pete said to Beth. Mr. Fluffy was staring at them with what Pete could only describe as an I'm-gonna-eat-your-brains-for-breakfast gleam in his eyes. "And he makes this half-moan, half-growl noise whenever he twitches his nose."
Beth wrinkled her face in disgust. "I thought you were going to do something about the smell."
"I tried, but there's not enough Lysol in the world to get rid of that stench."
The front door flew open, and Joey bounded inside, a shoebox tucked under one arm. Inside the box, something rustled and squeaked--probably another one of those field mice he had gotten so good at catching.
"Dinner time, Mr. Fluffy!" Joey cried.
Mr. Fluffy began foaming at the mouth.
Quickly and carefully, Joey opened the rabbit cage, dumped the mouse inside, then re-locked the cage door. The padlock made feedings more complicated, but Pete wasn't about to take any chances with a bunny who had developed a taste for flesh and fur.
Once the cage was secure, Joey leaned forward to watch Mr. Fluffy eat.
"Don't get too close," Pete chided.
Mr. Fluffy, who was surprisingly quick for a resurrected corpse, pounced on the mouse and chomped like crazy. The mouse squealed in horror as its blood splattered across the cage. Pete's stomach lurched, but Joey grinned the whole time.
"At least he's spending less time playing video games," Beth said.
Pete snorted. "Easy to see the bright side when you're not the one cleaning up mouse skeletons."
"Well, we're not keeping that thing at my place. You're the one who brought it back from the dead."
The mouse's squeals ceased, only to be replaced by a squelching sound as Mr. Fluffy gnawed on the rodent's flesh.
"Hey, Dad," Joey said, watching the bloodbath with wide-eyed fascination. "Can I bring Mr. Fluffy in for show-and-tell next week?"
"That's probably not such a good--"
Beth made a tsk-tsk-tsk noise with her tongue. "You shouldn't stifle his individuality, Peter. He's probably the only one in his class with a pet zombie."
Pete sighed. If he said no, Joey would hate him, and Beth would never let him hear the end of it. "Fine. But the cage stays locked, and don't you dare tell your friends to poke their fingers inside."
With a whoop of excitement, Joey darted toward Pete and hugged him. "You're the best dad ever!"
Pete couldn't help smiling. What father didn't want to hear those words? But still . . .
"I just hope he doesn't ask his teacher to pet Mr. Fluffy," Pete whispered to Beth. "Joey's never liked that woman very much."