Sophie Panzer ~ Estate Planning

My friends and I are talk­ing about what comes after we die. Nothing about souls or the after­life – the only one who believes in that stuff is Cassie, and we all know that’s her Pisces moon talk­ing – but we are con­cerned about our bod­ies. Burial, we agree, is old-fash­ioned. Not to men­tion bad for the envi­ron­ment. Did you read that Times arti­cle about what formalde­hyde does to the soil? Alicia asks. We keep killing the plan­et even after we’re dead. I did read that arti­cle, eyes wide as I absorbed that our sense of enti­tle­ment to a final rest­ing place leaves a lega­cy of poi­soned ani­mals. I know cre­ma­tion is no bet­ter because it releas­es tox­ic gasses into the atmos­phere. Alicia wants her body donat­ed to sci­ence, to be sliced and stabbed by bud­ding med­ical stu­dents. There’s a com­pa­ny that com­posts dead bod­ies, Oliver says, it’s all over the West Coast and legal in New York now. That’s what I want. Eva asks is that the one that uses mush­rooms to dis­solve you and Oliver says no, that’s a dif­fer­ent one. We agree head­stones are point­less; none of us will need a lit­tle land­mark to com­fort descen­dants. We are all too con­tent or self­ish or ambi­tious or pes­simistic to have chil­dren. I want to be made into food for shel­ter ani­mals, says Lucas, who has four cats in his stu­dio apart­ment. We stare at him incred­u­lous­ly and he says Why not? If our bod­ies can feed plants why not ani­mals? and we con­cede he may have a point. Everyone looks at me because I am the only one who has not shared. What I want the most is to some­how be made into a tree. An oak or maybe a maple grow­ing in a field where my three younger sis­ters can vis­it until it is their time and they are also made into trees that can grow beside me. Our branch­es will make high whis­pery sounds in the wind and sound just like we did when we were lit­tle and plan­ning mis­chief. But this will nev­er hap­pen because they are all mar­ried and want kids, and that means fam­i­ly plots in ceme­ter­ies, his and hers head­stones where off­spring can weep over fresh flow­ers. So I say, just toss me in with the pet food guy, and every­one laughs.


Sophie Panzer grew up in New Jersey, earned her BA at McGill University, and cur­rent­ly writes and edits things from her home in Philadelphia. She is the author of the chap­books Survive July (Red Bird Chapbooks 2019), Mothers of the Apocalypse (Ethel Press 2019) and Bone Church (danc­ing girl press 2020). Her fic­tion has been nom­i­nat­ed for the Pushcart Prize and longlist­ed for Wigleaf Top 50. Her work has appeared or is forth­com­ing in Heavy Feather Review, MAYDAY, Whale Road Review, Menacing Hedge, Lammergeier, The Hellebore, and oth­ers.