“What is that thing doing near my grave?”

“Don’t get so excited, Stan. It’s a crow dying on the grass. I called the wildlife rehabilitators and they say that lots of crows are dying from West Nile Virus.”

“Oh, how I wish I was alive again so that I could chew it up!”

“Stanley, you want to come back to life to kill something?”

“Yes! Yes!”

“I remember how you used to get a gleam in your eye and a sneaky grin on your face, Stan. That’s how I knew you were up to no good.”

“Remember that squirrel that got stuck in the bird feeder and the feeder came crashing down? I rolled that sucker up and down the lawn, practically gave it a heart attack. One of the greatest days of my life, only you had to come running outside yelling like a banshee and picking up the whole thing, squirrel dangling right in the air like that. Dumbest squirrel I ever saw.”

“You practically chewed its tail off, Stanley!”

“I would have chewed everything off if not for you.”

“I had to unscrew the entire feeder to get it out, and it ran off. You know, Stan, you have fans out there who think you were terrific, but I know the nasty bully you were. I know the real you.”

“How could you know the real me?”

“I spent the most time of anyone with you, Stanley. I walked with you, I trained you, I sat down by you, we had lots of conversations.”

“You’re a human. What could you possibly know about being a dog?”

“What could you possibly know about being a human being, Stan?”

“Not much, only that you’re olfactory retards. I don’t even think you know the real Man. And he probably doesn’t know the real you.”

“No doubt about that one. But Stanley, I watched you for almost 14 years. I looked, I studied, I listened, I noticed.”

“You know what I’m doing now? I’m rotting away. Getting thinner by the moment. Remember all the worms I loved to trample on the ground? They’re getting their revenge as we speak.”

“That’s not the real you, Stan. You’re still around, somewhere. Sometimes I could hear the plastic dog door billowing, as if something hopped through it.”

“The wind.”

“The guest room door opens, Stanley. Remember how you loved to open that door? Or I go out at night and there’s something dark there in the shadows by Kwan-Yin.”

“A bear. Or another crow. And as for the old lady, she’s rotting away, too. More chipmunk condos inside her than in any tree. Sorry, I know you don’t like saying good-byes, but me and the old lady are fading as we speak. That crow, too. And do everyone a favor, when it’s dead don’t leave it there, otherwise whatever bites it will get sick too and spread the virus. Put it in a trash bag and into the garbage.”

“Oh Stan, this can’t be the real you talking.”

“Who said anything about the real me? It’s just a new disguise.”

“Really, Stan?”

“You’re a disguise, too. We’re all disguises.”

“I am? We are?”

“Sure. When you put down one disguise, another disguise pops up. Like that sick crow over there. One disguise after another.”

“So if we’re all disguises, Stanley, what’s the real deal?”