by Liliana Ries
Michael finds out that he has more than just the common cold.
| “You’re dead.”|
Michael Hudson glanced up at his doctor suspecting there was more to what she’d just said. There wasn’t.
He decided to ask her to elaborate, “Are you sure?”
Doctor Michelle Hughes clicked her pen several times as if spanking a bad child on its bottom and continued to script and scroll through paper work. A bad cold was one thing, but to be dead was a completely different scenario. Would family and friends need to be contacted? How much paperwork would this involve?
“You’ve been dead for a while. I’m surprised you were even able to make this appointment.” His doctor clicked her pen once more and placed it into her lab coat pocket. She was thin and firm. Her dress blouse dipped achingly low, and her skirt was too tight. She wasn’t supposed to be sexual, but he had followed the length of her necklace to the tiger’s eye gem that rested at the eclipse of cleavage. Her lips made lines when she went over his charts that he did not find charming. Mostly they frowned.
“I should, . . .”
“You should relax, Mr. Hudson. You are dead now. These things happen.” The pat on the back she gave him was friendly, but nothing more than a pat on his back. She began to walk away, indicating the end of their appointment. But she paused and turned her head back to him as if getting one last look at the dead guy. Whatever thought she had to say made a final attempt as her lips parted. He thought how the color of her lipstick made her look crass. Dr. Michelle Hudson closed her mouth, turned the knob on the door and walked out leaving Michael in nothing but a thin blue colored exam gown.
“Dead.” Saying it aloud, the word was foreign coming out of his mouth. She seemed to swing it around like last night’s panties. Here he thought he was just sniffling too much. Snot had a way of annoying him and it was never tolerated. He’d go around with Kleenex sticking out of both nostrils if he had to get things done. But no. Now he was dead.
Michael got dressed in the khakis and polo he’d arrived in. They were comfortable, better than the gown. He looked as if he’d just come from a game of golf. But maybe it would have been better to have had died in a suit? He looked better with a tie on. He assumed most dead people walked around in their last worn clothes. He would be he dead guy in a polo.
The receptionist at the office didn’t ask him to pay his bill; the taxi driver who took him home didn’t ask for his fare. As far as Michael knew, being dead was a free world. At his apartment, the clothes piled up in his laundry basket did not wash or dry themselves. Can’t have everything.
After a lunch, which he had to make himself, Michael decided to call his family and friends. They had to know about his predicament. They had to know he was dead.
“Hey dad,” Michael rubbed his head raw trying to come up with the best way to tell his parents.
His father pitched him the perfect segway, “Michael, how are you?”
“Turns out I’m dead.”
There was silence on the other line. A pregnant pause so long Michael thought the connection had been lost.
“I’m here, Michael. Your mother and I knew that you’d figure this out, one way or the other. Truth is, you’ve been dead for a while.”
This time it was Michael’s turn to be pregnant.
“You still there, Michael?” His mother’s voice lit up the phone line and Michael knew she’d have a better way to explain it.
“Mom, how could I have been dead without knowing?”
“Sweetie, it’s been going on for quite some time now, honestly. I thought you knew. We figured it out at your Jr. high school dance. You took that one young girl from church, Maggie, . . . Marcia, . . .” his mother strained to make her memory recall this girl’s name.
“Mary,” his father threw in.
“No, she was blond with those cute ring curls. I always wanted a daughter so I could curl her hair like that.”
“Mom,” Michael blushed on the other line.
“Anyway, that’s when we knew. You took Mary or Marcia to the dance and the entire time you wanted to hold her hand, or kiss her or whatever and you never did. She sat with her group of friends and left with them afterward.”
He was dead because he hadn’t touched Mary/Maggie/Marcia? Michael needed to make some more calls.
The afternoon was spent dialing friends from the office, friends from college, friends from high school. His best friend Mike told him he’d been dead since the day he passed up a promotion at work. His high school friend, Mickey told him he was dead when he refused to smoke pot after gym class. There was one more number Michael needed to call. It was Michaela Kerry’s number, which had been burned into his memory three years prior, when they’d been dating. First on, now they were officially off.
Michael had scrubbed his routine clean. He would ask if she remembered him. If she said yes, and he hoped she would, he would tell her that some startling news had come upon him. He was dead. That had gone so well with the others, they knew exactly what he was calling about before he even had to say it.
“Hello?” Her crisp voice answered on the third ring.
“Hello?” she asked this time with more urgency in her voice but still blanketed with her sweet politeness.
“Michaela, this is Michael. Do you remember me?” It sounded so silly to be asking an ex-girlfriend that question. Of course she did remember, but had she wanted to forget him?
“Michael?” She asked making sure the name rolled off of her tongue as strangely as it rolled off of his.
“Yes,” he paused for the impact, “I’m dead.”
“Dead?” she asked.
“Dead,” he repeated.
“Well, I don’t know about dead,” she scoffed; a nervous laugh trickled through the phone wire. “You were very serious and uptight, but you weren’t dead.”
Michaela went into a few stories he would have liked to forget. The time at the movies when the popcorn was too salty; the sock drawer he meticulously organized; the kitten heel shoes of hers he’d tripped over. If she didn’t think he was dead after the assortment of occurrences leading up to their break-up, then why did everyone else think so?
Michael hung up feeling better about death, knowing that maybe it wasn’t so bad, as long as your ex doesn’t think you are dead. Just serious.