The Kübler-Ross Model

Ice knew something was wrong when he woke up shivering. It was a Saturday morning, late fall, yellow leaves piled up in the corners of the wide windowsill. Ceasar didn’t have work today. Ice stretched out a hand, laid it on the sheet beside him. Cold.

Ice threw back the covers, shivered again when his feet hit the hardwood. He pulled the blanket over his shoulders, let the end drag on the floor behind him as he walked, picking up dust. Ceasar’s toothbrush was sitting in the jar in the bathroom, next to Ice’s, both encrusted with dried toothpaste in the grooves of the handles. Maybe he got called in, Ice thought, spitting mint foam into the sink.

Ceasar’s shoes, the plain and sensible black loafers, were gone, and so was his jacket, though his car keys still hung on a hook by the door. Ice ran his fingers along the cheap leather keychain, the name of the dealer stamped across it off-center.

Ice went to the kitchen and rummaged through the cupboards. Ceasar had an English muffin for breakfast every morning. The new package was unopened; Ice helped himself to one, cranking the toaster up to six. It must have been urgent, Ice thought. He slathered peanut butter over the muffin and watched it melt, wondering why he hadn’t heard the phone ring.

On the second morning Ice dialled Ceasar’s cell phone. It rang once. “Hi, you’ve reached Ceasar Wolf…”

“You should have called me,” Ice said once the tone had cut off, “Or left a note, or something. You could be dead! You could be anything!” Ice paced around the house. “You left without your toothbrush. What if you’d got hit by a car and were dying somewhere while I ate breakfast. I was so worried I called every hospital in town. I’m still worried. Where are you?! Why won’t you call?!”

Ice found himself standing in the living room. Something was beeping incessantly, the pause between just long enough to make you think it’d stopped. There was a cell phone on the coffee table. Ice looked at the display. One missed call, one new voicemail. Dial tone buzzed in his ear.

On the third evening Ice knelt beside his bed, his hands folded together. His first owner had been a church-going man, said his prayers every night while Ice watched from the foot of the bed. Ice didn’t know which god he was praying to now: his, his master’s, something else, maybe they were all the same thing.

“Please,” he said, “I’ll do anything, so please. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.”

On the fourth day Ice lay in bed without moving. A faint scent still clung to the pillow beside him and he breathed it in, slowly. Around three o’clock the sun slanted into his eyes, and still he did not stir.

On the fifth day Ice cracked a pair of eggs into a skillet and turned the stove on. Ceasar was not coming back.

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