THE LIFE, WORK AND CHRONICLES OF JEFF KOYEN: REFORMED ITINERANT, OCCASIONAL WRITER AND FRIEND TO ALMOST ALL DOGS

Best Place to Bury a Small Pet:
Old St. Patrick's Cathedral
When our ten-dollar San Genarro turtle finally went stiff (he was a thoughtful gift from a friend who recalled our childhood trauma of watching neighborhood bullies kill our boxer turtle with a shovel) we didn't know how to dispose of his remains. He was our first dead pet in New York. Granted, a turtle ain't the family cat or dog, and he wasn't the most affectionate reptile, having spent most of his time stuck in the corner of the tank between his filter and a chunk of sidewalk we'd dropped in there. But we were nonetheless quite fond of him and wanted to have a little respect for his carcass. Plus, we knew that flushing him would cause septic hell to break loose.
Our original plan called for a burial at sea in the East River. But we were busy, you know? No time to walk across town for a turtle interment in the middle of the goddamned week. So his little turtle corpse sat atop the fridge for a few days until we found the time. It was unsetlling, having him greet us each morning, always with that wide-eyed, accusatory stare. And, frankly, we were becoming worried that we might create a restless spirit. Aren't ghosts rumored to be the manifestations of souls seeking solace in the afterlife? What if our turtle was unable to meet his turtle maker? What then? Who among us could handle a turtle ghost? Where would he appear to torment us? In the shower? The crapper??
One evening, turtle in pocket, anxious to put him to rest, we set out. A dig in the park was too risky, and we passed on the sewer and garbage cans out of respect. Nothing seemed right; we were anxious; we could feel his immortal soul stirring in our pocket, eager for rest. Then we passed the Old St. Patrick's Cathedral on Mott Street. Behind those eight-foot brick walls, on the North end, there's a small patch of hallowed ground: an old cemetary.
After a last, quick goodbye to our little friend, we pitched him over the wall. And there he sat, on an unkempt plot with an illegible headstone, for all eternity. Well, for several days, at least: when we peeked over the wall early the next week, he was gone. Either the groundskeeper or some animal scooped him up, or -- as we'd prefer to think -- he was spirited away to a better place, where the water is always clean and there's rocks to rest on, not slimy chunks of a city sidewalk.