Wednesday, October 6, 2010
What We Hear
©2010 Rebecca Rhielle
Hold it together, hold it together…
Sadie was desperately trying not to faint in front of a hundred mourners.
“Whoa, easy there, sport,” Harold’s voice sounded again. “Let’s not make this a double funeral.”
Har..Harold? She asked silently.
“In the flesh! Well…not in the flesh, but you get the idea.”
His laughter filled her ears, causing her heart to skip a beat.
“Hey, you’re not lookin’ so hot.” Harold’s voice took on a tone of mock sympathy. “Is it the earrings?”
I just…I’m just happy. To hear from you, she distinguished quickly. Not that you’re dead.
He chuckled, that contagious sound that Sadie was so worried she’d never hear again, and she could almost see him shaking his bald head the way he always had when he laughed.
“Not bald anymore!” he answered her thoughts. “Those guys at admin are pretty okay! Now if they can just get my movies piped in we’ll be set…hey, you wanna sit down?”
Yes, Sadie answered gratefully, I think that’s a great idea.
“Okie dokie…let’s find somewhere we can really talk. These people are bummin’ me out anyway.”
Settled down the hall in the casket showroom, Sadie tried again to catch her breath. Thankfully, Gale had recognized her ‘medium face’, and knew her well enough to let her go alone.
“So,” Harold began. “How’s it goin’?”
“Are you serious?” Sadie replied, incredulous. “It’s ‘goin’ awful! Why did you leave, Harold? So many people here needed you.”
He materialized then, and Sadie was shocked into laughter at his appearance. Sweatpants, house shoes, football shirt, glasses (glasses? really?)…that was Harold, all right. But his head! Where once there had been a struggling patch of hair around the sides and a few rebel strands up top, there was now a full, dark brown, Elvis-style pompadour.
He smiled wide.
“Like it? I had Elvis sit in for the fitting. He was pretty flattered. Oh, and he really is dead, by the way – in case you were wondering. Nice guy, kinda dramatic. Always talking about his mother.”
Harold’s grin faded then, and his face grew very serious.
“I know you were all sad to see me go. I was sitting right with you guys in the hospital. What a cluster that was. Back and forth, everybody wearing themselves ragged. I tried to tell you guys I was already out, but I guess I didn’t have the strength yet to get through. Wish I’d have known you could talk to spirits then…maybe I’d have tried a little harder.”
Sadie’s eyes filled with tears as she recalled the myriad of feelings that had passed through her in that hospital room. Through all of them, she supposed.
“But what happened, Harold? Why did you have to go?”
She saw his broad shoulders sag as he sighed.
“I don’t know, Sadie,” he said sadly. “That’s the honest truth. One minute I was standing in the garage, and the next I was waking up on the floor. I didn’t feel quite right when I got up, and I tried to tell Darla I didn’t want to go to the hospital, but the ambulance came anyway. By the time we reached the hospital, I was fading out, and next thing I know, I’m looking down at my body and wondering what the hell happened. Took me a while to even realize I was dead. Well, mostly dead, I guess. My body was still ticking away, but I wasn’t in it. Kinda thankful for that – they put that poor thing through so many tests… But that wasn’t what you asked. I don’t know why I had to go. I had – have – a wife, a son, a daughter…grandchildren…nieces, nephews, relatives all over. Personally, I think I had a few kickball games left in me, but I don’t make those decisions.”
Sadie felt anger bubbling up in her at the injustice of it all.
“Then who does?”
“I don’t know that either,” he answered, shaking his head, the pompadour swaying with his movement. “I haven’t met whoever’s in charge yet. Don’t know if I ever will. You know, I always thought we’d get all the answers once we’re dead. But it only brings up more questions.”
Tears brimmed in Sadie’s eyes. It was all so unfair! Here was this man who was so full of life and joy and compassion. Why couldn’t whoever-was-in-charge take someone else? Someone who was already planning suicide or hated their life?
“It doesn’t work like that, tiger,” he replied quietly to her thoughts. “I do know that much. When your number’s up, it’s up. Nothing you can do about it. I was happy to see so many people show up today, though,” Harold said, brightening. “I just wish they weren’t all so down – I’m not really gone, you know. Just relocated!”
“Yes, but we can’t hug you, we can’t see you. It’s not the same.”
“I know that. But it’s what we have for now. And I’m always around. I like to hang out and watch my grandsons…Steven and Scott are so funny now, like little adults. And the twins are always making me laugh. They can see me, too, you know. The babies. I go and play with them all the time, and they think it’s a riot. Especially my hair. They like for me to make it jiggle,” he laughed.
Sadie thought back to the few times she had seen the twins since Harold died. It was true, there were plenty of moments when they seemed to be giggling at something only they could see, but she had just chalked it up to normal baby behavior.
“Yeah, little kids are like that. I’ve talked to lots of folks who visit their relatives, and it’s always the babies that see them. Hey!” he changed course suddenly. “Did I tell you they gave me a job already?”
“No,” Sadie sniffled, smiling at the same time. “What kind of job?”
Harold sat up and puffed out his chest. “I am the official Head of Sports Acquisitions!”
At his niece’s confused look, he elaborated.
“You know, I take in all the sports figures that kick the bucket. The old, retired ones…the ones who just played one to many times without a helmet…that kind of thing. Kind of like Markie, only with a specialty.”
Sadie had to laugh. “Well, that sounds just perfect for you. You always were the sports nut.”
“Yeah. I’ll tell you one thing. I’m glad I was already dead by the time the Texas/OU game came around. I’m pretty sure I would have stroked out then if I wasn’t.” His expression clouded, and his mouth turned down at the corners as he looked at her over his glasses. “Frickin’ idiots. Handed the game over with a bow wrapped around it. Pitiful.”
Raising an eyebrow, Sadie grinned at him. Her smile faded quickly as he began to grow transparent, however, and she felt panic flutter in her belly.
“Sorry, Sadie. It’s tough hanging on to this form. Besides,” he continued as he completely disappeared, “they’re calling me back anyway. Seems a second-string linebacker just bit it. I’ve gotta get up there. He’s screaming and kicking and threatening to call his lawyer if we don’t get his agent up here. Idiot.”
“Will you come again?” she asked softly, afraid of his response.
“Oh, yeah. Can’t get rid of me that easily, champ! Now, you go on back there and try not to let those people drag you down. They just don’t understand. And if you get the chance, trip that preacher guy for me, will ya? He’s just annoying.”
“Will do,” said Sadie, smiling again. “And Harold?”
“I love you.”
“I love you too, tiger. See ya on the flip side!”
Then he was gone, leaving Sadie with only the overpriced caskets for company. Walking out to the lobby area, she realized the funeral had ended, and now people were milling about again, hugging and crying and kissing.
Gale found her in the crowd, slipping her hand into Sadie’s with the ease of many years together.
“Everything okay with Harold?” her partner whispered quietly.
Sadie leaned over and kissed her cheek, grateful once more for not having to explain herself.
“Yeah,” she answered. “I think he’s gonna be just fine. Elvis thinks so, too.”
Gale looked at her with a mixture of amusement and confusion, and Sadie laughed aloud.
“I’ll explain later. Now, let’s go find that preacher,” she said with a wicked grin. “I have a present for him from Harold.”