Pondering the Pavement

August 1, 2019

Soooo Over My Dead Body

“If life seems jolly rotten,
There’s something you’ve forgotten,
And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.”

Monty Python

* * *

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Cruising the obits for potential clients… it’s a never ending job!

When I finally admitted to the outside world—and myself—that I was a medium, I was a tad floored that a huge slice of the people I knew were anything but on board with it. Many thought I had finally lost it (Well, the joke is on them… I “lost it” long before disco was ever found). One friend of mine even told me she wouldn’t hesitate to commit me to a hospital in order to prevent me “…from hurting yourself or anyone else!” The joke has been lost on this one, too: I’m far too lazy to walk uphill, let alone bring harm into the mix. One of my biggest lack-of-supporters on this new pathway was, naturally, my mother. She kinda believed my mediumship abilities were sorta real…maybe. This didn’t faze me because, honestly, the woman never expressed approval on anything I did, thought or contemplated at any given mileage marker along my life’s turnpike. If she had been supportive of my mediumship, I probably would have stopped long before I started. I became a cartoonist solely because she told me I couldn’t. Wow. Yet another joke being lost on someone. One more and I’ll have to start posting them on milk cartons.

Mom had a set of friends—three cohabitating sisters—who happened to eat this mediumship stuff up with a spoon. When I was in West-By-God Virginia, I would make a point to visit The Sisters (with Mom in tow like a trash barge) for a good old-fashioned afternoon of chatting with their larger than life dead family (see what I did there?). Mom would sit at their kitchen table, gasping in astonishment, right along with the sisterly trio. Mom even received messages from some of her long-gone relatives (folks I never knew). She would validate each and every piece of info that came through to me from them. Then, on the tedious drive back to her home (which bore a thought-provoking resemblance to the Bates’ residence, sans the motel), she’d go on and on about how much I had embarrassed her “yet again.”

* * *

I was involved with the theater department while in college. I didn’t major in drama. Like my participation in my high school marching band, I just used it as an excuse to get out of the house. Oddly, it was my mother who tossed me the bone to get involved in theater in the first place. Irony can be so gooey, can’t it? Sorta like chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven: if you’re not careful, it just gets all over everything. She would attend the plays I was in, then dutifully tell me how glad she was that no one knew she was my mother. “You were the loudest one on that stage!” she’d say. “I’ve never been so humiliated!” It was as if she had just realized that I’ve never had a functioning volume control on my voice box. Well, I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s not like she was ever the pointiest arrow in the quiver.

“Well,” I’d say matter-of-factly, “I bet the people in the back row were grateful they could hear me!”

“Don’t get smart with ME!” she’d exclaim in a voice that often rivaled the staccato sounds of an MG 81 (Today’s Fun Fact: that’s a machine gun used by the Luftwaffe).

“Why? Am I confusing you?” Her reaction to that comment was totally worth the next few hours of her non-stop banshee-like bitching, by the way.

* * *

As time waddled by, like a fat guy in a Hawaiian shirt circling the dessert buffet for the second time, my presence as a medium became more prominent. That’s when Mom started tapping franticly on the big ol’ panic button that not only existed, but lushly thrived, within her one-track mind. “Can any of my friends find you on the computer?” she’d ask.

“Sure,” I’d shrug. “If they looked. But why would any of your friends be typing my name into their search engine?” I’d then have to take 20-odd minutes to try to explain the term “search engine” to her.

“I just don’t want anyone to know what you do. What would they think?” Her brown eyes would stare me down with such intensity that I nearly burst into flames.

“I don’t know what to tell ya,” I’d say. “Just toss your hands up in the air and blame it on the fact that I’m adopted. Ya know, all that faulty DNA n’ shit.” For the record, I offered up that excuse to her far too many times in my life.

* * *

She once told me that if I became famous for anything (cartooning, mediumship, serial killer, Burger King Employee of the Month, etc.), she wanted me to change my name. “I don’t want anyone to know we’re related,” she’d say.

That’s pretty much how I felt throughout my formative school years, but I digress. “OK,” I replied. “I’ll change my professional name to “Mildred Filius’ Son.” Oddly she wasn’t amused. Go figure.

* * *

She’d then lecture me on how I needed to take this crisis seriously. Again, it’s as if she just didn’t know me. I do stand-up at funerals. How did she expect me to take anything seriously?

“What’s the big deal if someone you know discovers that I’m a medium?” I asked.

She’d thrust one of her crooked talons into my shoulder, emphasizing each word with its own individual poke. “They’ll—find—out—over—my—dead—body!”

* * *

Fast-forward a few years later to her funeral. I was positioned by her casket, greeting a surprisingly long line of—well, for lack of a better word—mourners. Admittedly, I was shocked at the size of the turnout. I assumed they were just wanting to make sure she was really dead, but that’s a theory for another time. One of her friends, a former neighbor named Marsha, greeted me with a hug (something I detest). I honestly couldn’t tell you how many decades had passed since I last saw Marsha. As Mrs. Parker reminds us, “Time doth flit; oh shit.” After Marsha spewed out the stereotypical “I’m so sorry for your loss” spiel (I managed to bite my lip, keeping my giggling under wraps), she said to me, “I hear that you’re a medium. Is that true?”

I’m sure my surprise speedily sprawled across my face like grape juice engulfing a sheet of Bounty, but I didn’t hesitate to say it was indeed true.

“That’s wonderful,” she said. “Do you suppose I could get a reading with you while you’re in town?”

Curiosity wrestled me to the mat in three counts, so I asked, “How on earth did you know I’m a medium?”

With a nonchalant wave of her hand, she explained, “Oh, Doris told me!” Doris was another former neighbor. Well, how about that? The word was out and dancing in the streets without a chaperone.

I told her I’d be happy to schedule something for her. She gave me her number and off she went. So, yea, I booked a reading for this woman literally over my mother’s dead body. Snort!

Is there a moral here? Some great lesson or sliver of wisdom to pass along? Something along the lines of a “always have someone you can count on in your corner” kinda deal? Oh, hell, no. It’s just a really funny story. Sometimes that’s all you ever really need to get through the rest.

* * *

Nikki Page: [leading a drunken Beckett out of a bar, while being followed] How do you lose a tail?

Maxwell Beckett: [tries to focus] Evolve?

(An exchange between
Jessica Lundy & Edward Woodward,
“Over My Dead Body”, 1991)

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