THE ENTIRE KIT AND CABOODLE

Late Friday night I cried in bed. A short while later, just as I was falling asleep, I looked up and saw someone sitting further down on the bed. It contemplated Aussie, who, strangely enough, didn’t move in her dog bed.

“Who are you?” I asked, sniffling.

“Who do you think?”

“I don’t think you’re a guy, otherwise the Delinquent would be running downstairs and out the dog door. She’s scared of men.”

“It’s true, I’m not a man. Not a woman, either.”

“One of those,” I said.

“Why were you crying?”

“Because I watched a DVD of a Mission Impossible movie.”

“You cried because of a Mission Impossible movie?”

“It’s the kind of movie I always got for Bernie because he liked those action flicks. He’d be sitting on his wheelchair by the edge of the couch. I’d usually be sitting on the couch pretty close to him; sometimes we’d hold hands, sometimes not. And usually in the middle of some totally insane escapade by Tom Cruise I’d glance over towards him and find him looking right back at me, as if to say, You believe that! It was a look we exchanged, see.”

“So why were you crying?”

“Because this evening I looked the same way towards the right and just met a white wall.”

“Poor thing.”

“I’m in the middle of this grief and I don’t know whether I’m coming or going,” I said. “My brain doesn’t work, I get exhausted early, I feel like a zombie. Also, my hair looks terrible.”

“That’s okay, you don’t have to do any work.”

“I don’t?”

“Of course you cry, get sad, confused, lonely, and all that, but I’m the one who does the real work.”

“You? Who are you?” I asked.

“I am your system, the whole thing. I am The Entire Kit and Caboodle.”

“You mean, there is such a thing as the whole thing?”

“Would I lie to you, girlfriend?”

“And what do you do, Entire Kit and Caboodle?”

“I take care of you. I take care of everybody, but most people don’t get that they’re being taken care of day in day out. When do you notice it? When you’re grieving.”

“Really?”

“Do you know how much work has to take place when you lose your husband? Your entire being is restructured even as we speak. Billions of cells are reforming, synapses massively transformed, the entire body-mind has to be reconfigured.”

“Scientists don’t talk about this.”

“What do they know? Let me tell you, the person Eve Marko has to go through a complete overhaul; the entire operating system has to change.”

“My emotions, maybe, but my body, too?”

“You, a Zen teacher, are asking such a silly question?”

“Now you sound like my old dog Stanley.”

“The emotions and the body are all the same thing. The shock of Bernie dying as fast as he did, did that disappear?”

“I wonder if that’s why my entire left side has been hurting since his death. But I’m too tired to do anything about it.”

“That’s the beauty of it, you don’t have to. Leave it to me, The Entire Kit and Caboodle. Unbeknownst to you, while you’ve been sleepwalking around the house and bumping into things, barely remembering to take out the recyclables and go to your annual eye check-up, I’ve been overhauling you. You have to die and get reborn—“

“Now you’re scaring me!”

“—but you can’t do any of that, at least not now, so I’m doing it for you. All you have to do is not get in the way.”

“How do I get in the way?”

“By thinking you have to do this or have to do that. By jumping hard into work or reading too many books on Zen, spirituality, or death. Don’t do any of those things, go take a bath. Have yourself a good cry. Don’t talk too much to people. Nuzzle with Aussie and tell her how glad you are that Bernie insisted on going to a shelter to pick her out. Speaking of which, why did he name a dog from Texas Aussie?”

“It’s a mystery.”

“Mystery is another one of my names, but I prefer The Entire Kit and Caboodle. See some movies Bernie would have liked and cry some more. Have a lonely dinner but also remember that at least now you don’t have to eat all that red meat. You just keep on doing all those silly things, and leave the rest to me.”

“I had no idea you were working so hard.”

“I’m always working hard. The Entire Kit and Caboodle never rests even when it’s resting. People always think they’re the ones doing everything, but they’re not. It’s always me, The Entire Kit and Caboodle.”