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Before flying to Malmö for the funeral of our recently deceased colleague, I check the octopus tanks one last time. It’s re-chipping day for our cephalopods.
‘Kevin, microchips at two-thirty. Understand?’
‘Where will you be?’
Kevin looks down at the floor. ‘They’re violent. They don’t like me.’
‘Don’t talk nonsense, Kevin.’
Our recently deceased colleague wanted a sea burial. We circle the Ribersborg bay. The anchor drops as I receive a message from Kevin. The buzz of my phone continues to be covered by the splash and bubbles of our
recently deceased colleague’s casket.
Incorrect hypotheses arise from a group of children as they look into the sea at a jellyfish bloom.
‘They’re not made of electricity. The zinging you claim to see is only a trick of the light,’ I say. ‘I hope you see the error in your assumption.’
The children, shielding the sun from their eyes, turn toward me.
A girl in a dark dress says, ‘Why are you smiling?’
‘It’s a nice day.’
I wish I wasn’t so hungry, otherwise I would happily chat to these children about jellyfish, but it’s at the buffet I cross paths with our recently deceased colleague’s wife. She is launching into an anecdote about her husband as I stare at my pile of food, a story about a rare trip to the cinema she took ‘alone’, a trip, she claims, her husband forced her to make. It turns out this was the day her husband met with funeral directors to organise our cruise around Ribersborg harbour, final wishes he’d resolved to keep secret as his wife watched the new James Bond film.
Shoulders slumping, she then says, ‘It all makes sense. I don’t even like James Bond.’
He had not gone jet-skiing as she originally thought, instead, she found her husband lifeless and blue in the bath. Just as well my food is cold, I think, my appetite diminished.
I spoke to our recently deceased colleague three weeks ago, after the introduction of the new regulations. The department needs to tighten up its procedures and practices before inspection. Our recently deceased colleague’s fierce last words to me were about how no ‘satanic bureaucrats’ were going to stop him delivering his research.
As I sit on the train I try, with text messages, walking Kevin through the microchipping procedure, but I know he isn’t our most dexterous assistant and will need closer guidance. Standing in the train’s vestibule, I call Kevin’s phone.
‘Stand down Kevin, get Debra to do it…Of course your hands are wet…No, I left early, I will be there in ninety minutes.’
When I heard the news, the death of our recently deceased colleague was a surprise. Even if I knew that would be the final time I spoke to our recently deceased colleague, I doubt I would have been brave enough to tell him to do things differently.