I was cleaning off my desktop computer, trying to sort things into folders so I could find them, and then I printed out everything in the AKMG folder so I could see if the different things I’d written were making any sense. One file that ended up in there was called “Ghosts” so I opened it and found two pieces of scenes–not scenes, just fragments that I’d written down so I wouldn’t lose them–that I have no recollection of writing. I mean, i think I wrote them down so I wouldn’t lose them, they sound like me, especially the last piece, but I not only do not recall having written them, I have no recollection of what I thought the story was going to be. They’re pretty old; the heroine thinks Buffy is still on Tuesday nights and her husband is named Cal (I changed it to Richard to avoid confusion now, so that came before Bet Me which I wrote in 2003. And it’s written in first person which is not like me. But very weird to read something you wrote that you can’t remember ever reading before. Or, disconcertingly, how you thought was going to end. I can’t even tell what the story is going to be about.
See if you can figure it out:
Hi. I’m dead.
That’s me down there in that car. The one with the really high safety rating and the deployed air bag. Really pisses me off.
I realize I had to go sometime. Sometime in the far distant future, when Richard and I had a kid or two, had survived the mid-life crisis affair he was definitely going to have, had paid off the house we were going to get and the kids’ college loans and bail money. After we’d retired someplace nice and warm, like say, Paris, and I’d buried Richard because women live longer than men, and had a passionate affair with a younger man of sixty. And then one beautiful French morning, I’d wake up dead. At like ninety.
Instead here I am at thirty-five with my face stuffed in an air bag. Or rather there I am.
The thing is, I did everything right. I bought the safe car. I never drove drunk. I did not hit the deer. (And I’d like to take this moment to address the apologists for the deer. I know what you’re going to say, I was in his space, the highway cut through his natural habitat, but I’m telling you now that I-75 went in forty years ago and I don’t think deer live that long, so the highway was there first, not the deer. And I still saved its damn life. Or I would have if the semi that was trying to pass me hadn’t take it out. The whole thing is just a mess.) And when I swerved to avoid the deer, I swerved off road so as not to endanger the deer-killing semi driver behind me. I even managed to miss most of the embankment. My air-bag deployed. I should still be alive. And then I have a fucking heart attack at thirty-five.
And to top it all off, it turns out that death is just as annoying as life.
Because here I am, stuck as ever. I’m expecting a transition here, maybe Death will show up and talk to me in all caps, or maybe an angel who looks like Buck Henry, I’ll even take that guy in the black cloak with the scythe who plays chess and twister. Or, and this would be really great, a woman in black cloak who plays pool. Maybe that’s why I’m still here. Maybe I’ve been chosen to be the new Death, the one who plays pool with newly departed, and I’m just waiting for my cue. I’m really not expecting God because we haven’t spoken much since catechism, but I thought there’d be some kind of organization here. Someone showing up with some kind of dearly departed multiple choice, like a banquet dinner card, the afterlife version of Beef, Chicken, Fish or Vegetarian. Maybe harps, opera, pop, or country. Or NBC, PBS, HBO, or Fox. A Cosmo quiz for the hereafter. Choose Your Own Paradise.
I don’t think it’s arrogant of me to assume it’s Paradise. I swerved to save the damn deer, didn’t I? PETA should be scheduling a wake for me.
But what I’m really hoping is that I’m not attached to that body down there, the one the paramedics are trying so hard on (okay, I feel bad about that, it’s a lost cause, guys, I can tell that from up here, but I appreciate the effort, really), that I’m not going to have to follow it to the morgue and the autopsy (bleah) and then hang around the cemetery for the rest of eternity, watching people forget to put flowers on my grave. I should have told Richard to cremate me. At least my ashes might have gone interesting places. I wonder if that’s why people bury the dead, so they’ll stay in one place and not go roaming around. Put a nice big rock on top of them to seal the deal.
Which would not be Richard’s way at all, so maybe he’ll cremate me on his own, scatter my ashes somewhere nice. Of course, his idea of someplace nice and my idea are not going to be the same. I’m going to end up in at urn on the trophy shelf down at the pool hall or sitting by the TV where I can watch ESPN all day and night. Except Richard’s more thoughtful than that. He’ll put Buffy on for me every Tuesday. And he likes HGTV, especially the building shows so he can yell, “No, no,” at the screen when they’re not doing it right. I love watching HGTV with Richard.
Well, I loved watching it, anyway.
What the hell is taking them so long? I’m dead, guys. Oh, they know that now. Sorry, didn’t mean to take it on you. Must be hell, trying to save people too damn dumb to stay on the road. When my work day goes badly, somebody goes home with a bad report card. When their day goes badly, somebody goes to the morgue in a bag. Really sorry, guys. Thanks for the effort. Really.
God, death sucks.
Here’s something interesting: I love the way food smells. I’m not hungry for it, exactly, but I really enjoyed that dinner. And what I’m wondering is, if I enjoyed that dinner, or if the smell of that dinner reminded me of meals I really did eat, that the smell releases the memory. In which case, all those people who stayed on macrobiotic diets are in hell. I’m telling you now, people, eat well and savor the food. Build up those memory banks. You don’t want to die with nothing but microwaved pizza and sensible salads in your eternal pantry. The next time somebody offers you a fabulous dessert and you start counting calories, remember this:
You’re eating for the afterlife.
Huh. The things you find when you clean.