It happened while out mountain biking, poetically. Something went horribly wrong descending the famed Trickle Falls and Leonard plummeted two metres, breaking the fall with his own face. A sharp rock punctured his skull and claret leached into the dirt. By the time he was found, he was a mottled shade of off-white, set in rigor mortis. A feral cat was chewing on his eyelids.
In his backpack they found a large hardcover edition of the Collins English Thesaurus. They think that the weight of the thing pivoted him over the front wheel and sent him plummeting into a cold early oblivion.
At his funeral eight mourners gathered. The clergy officiated from a typed sheet that was curled up at the corners and sat in a drawer in his office out the back until it was needed. At the end of his speech he asked for a moment’s silence, to remember Leonard.
After the service, the mourners drank percolated coffee and ate from a platter that had been set out in the foyer of the RSA. One man chewed on a sausage roll and asked a woman how she knew Leonard. He used to come into the library and trawl through historic newspaper clippings, she said. “Sometimes he’d bring me some story from a nowhere town like Akaroa and say ‘What do you reckon these guys talked about when the SUN went down?’ I never knew what the hell he was on about.”
How did you know him?
We worked together at the docks, said the man. “Sorry but you’ll have to excuse me, I need the loo, these sausage rolls give me terrible *gas*.”
The man walked into the bathroom and took care of his business. When he emerged from the stall he stood at the sink. The mirror was blotched and the tap was dripping. In the corner of the room the linoleum was peeling up to expose the swollen cork beneath.
On a wall was a faded white poster, torn at the edges and creased down the middle.
Horoi o ringa ringa, it said.
Wash your hands.