Fake It ‘Til You Make It
“I’m sensing… a grandfather. You had a grandfather,” said Madame Lareesia, aka Patricia ‘Patty’ Miller of Detroit, Michigan. Her face was partially covered in a delicate purple veil emblazoned with gold stars and bangles (the finest gold-plated plastic), and her heavily made-up eyes held her customer’s gaze like a vise.
The scene was thus: Madame Lareesia’s Den of Mystery (on Fifth and Pacific, rented on a weekly basis), a silk (polyester) draped room, arcane (bought from Michaels) adornments in every corner, all centered around a heavy round table (Ikea, woodstain), carved in ancient symbols (Google, pen knife, paint), and Madame Lareesia’s crystal ball (Michaels again, with a little lightbulb hidden inside) lighting up the faces of her and her customers.
“Yes!” said her customer, an elderly woman who had absolutely no chance of still having a living grandfather. “Is it Grandpa Tate? I’m here!”
Madame Lareesia nodded solemnly. “It is, indeed, your Grandpa Tate. He says he is very proud of you.” She waved her hands over the crystal ball, making sure, at all times, to obscure the lightbulb.
“Oh Grandpa Tate…” the woman stopped beaming suddenly. “Where did you hide the money after you killed grandma?”
Madame Lareesia choked.
“I did no such thing,” said a voice in Madame Lareesia’s ear. “It was an accident, plain and simple. Woman shouldn’t have been trying to re-shingle the roof herself.”
Madame Lareesia, with the self-control gained through a week of putting up with complete bullshit, regained her composure and, in a thickly accented voice that no European country had ever produced, continued: “He says that what you seek is in… something blue. Do you have something blue?”
“Oh bullshit!” said the voice. “We spent it on gambling! We loved the cards! Your grandma just couldn’t bluff for shit!”
The customer looked aghast. “Blue? Are you sure?”
“I am,” said Madame Lareesia. Direct hit. Battleship sank.
“We sold that cabinet!” The customer said in despair, gripping her head. “I can’t… augh!”
“Yes,” said Madame Lareesia, solemn and controlled, “Yes he’s saying to me it was in the cabinet. He says he is sorry about your grandmother and that… that their love was star-crossed.”
“Our stars met regularly, thank you very much,” said the voice.
The customer sighed, threw Madame Lareesia’s fee on the table, and stormed out.
A chill engulfed the room and a shadowy figure appeared where the customer had sat.
“I don’t NEED your help,” said Madame Lareesia, yanking off her veil and pulling out a clove cigarette.
“I don’t understand, ma’am,” said a turn of the century voice. A couple turns ago. “I thought she’d be real happy to hear from her grandpa, so I went and fetched ‘im. Made it real authentic for you. But you didn’t tell her a lick of truth.”
“Because I’m not here for truth. I can’t just tell people that their grandparents were clumsy gamblers, they’d never believe me. They want romance, action, tragedy. Not slapstick.” She blew some smoke at the dark figure. It went right through.
“Abner, I don’t want your help,” she said. “I know my business.”
The dark figure seemed to fidget, somehow.
“I can’t rightly say I’ll stop, Miss Patty. When I get sweet on a lady, I do what I can. That’s just the way of it.” A dark shape drifted to her elbow.
“Is ‘Grandpa Tate’ gone now?” she asked, not pulling away.
“Oh yeah. He stormed right back off to the yonder, to be with his wife. Said he served ten years before dyin’ for that accident.”
The dark shape rested on Patty’s arm. She patted it absently, her arm going through it.
“At least we have privacy now. I doubt that would have made that woman feel any better to hear that her grandpa went away for a mistake and the money had never existed. I’m in the business of closure, Abner, not explanations.” She took another puff.
“I thought you were in the business of separatin’ fools from their money.” He did not sound approving.
“That too. Do stop trying to make an honest woman out of me. It’s not becoming of the dead. You’ve been ramping it up all week. Either you calm down or I call an exorcist, got it?” She stood up, turning on the regular lights. Lit up, the ‘Den of21 Mystery’ looked like the deep discount it was constructed at.
Not a drop of light touched the dark figure in the chair. You could almost make out, however, the shape of a person. A big man.
“I reckon you like it, or you would have called one right away,” he said.
“Oh yeah. I know your type. You fake it and then when you make it, you can’t let go of the show.” The figure ‘stood up’ now too, up close to her. Her cigarette faded out. “I always liked that in a woman.”
“Is that why you’re a ghost now?” she said, dropping the cigarette to the floor and stepping on it.
“I reckon it is, Miss Patty. It’s a dangerous habit. Like lyin’ for a living.”
“Telling truths you’re not supposed to know isn’t much safer,” she responded. She lit some incense to return the proper ‘scent’ to the room.
“Well maybe we can work out, as they say, an equilibrium,” said Abner, sounding out the last word with relish. A chill brushed against Patty’s lips. They curved into a smile.
“Until I call an exorcist.” She leaned in, she couldn’t kiss Abner, not really, but she could just touch the edge of his shape with her mouth. Any further was too cold.
“Sure. Until you call an exorcist, I’m sure you’ll be gettin’ right on that. I don’t wake up from the dead for just any lady and I don’t think you’re the type to get rid of an opportunity like me.” Abner chuckled and the darkness got closer. Not close enough to freeze her, but it was her choice to back up or not. She didn’t.
Patty shivered and put her hand where Abner’s hip would be, if Abner had a form. No fear from her about her spectral ‘friend’.
“You’re so romantic,” she said. “You know what my heart wants – business opportunities. But Abner, darling, if you’d give me their credit cards instead of their great-grand-aunts, you’d win me over so much faster than with dead rose petals and whispering my name in the night.”
She squeezed her hand over the cold darkness. The noise Abner’s spirit made… well, he got the hint.
“I stopped that nonsense. Wasn’t gettin’ your attention enough. Come on. Let me have a bit of fun with you, spookin’ the rubes and… well. You’d be surprised what I can do,” he said, the cold touches growing more insistent. She groaned, then stepped back.
“No time right now. We’ll see how I feel after my 4 pm. Screw that up? I’m calling an old priest and a young priest.” She fixed her veil back into place. “I’m going to tell them exactly what they want to hear and not a single uncomfortable bit of reality is going to interfere. Like I said, you won’t make an honest woman out of me, Abner. After that… my night’s yours.”
“Sure thing, ma’am. Not a problem, ma’am. That’s the boy who wants to talk to his uncle, innit?” Abner’s voice sparkled with innocence.
Patty sighed deeply in surrender. “Did you already bring him here?”
“Oh yeah. I just wanna tell him I’m proud of him, okay?” said a voice in her ear, a new one this time.
“Ugh. Fine,” she said.
“You two make a fine couple,” the voice continued. Patty waved her hand to disperse it, smile hidden by her three dollar veil.
Abner brushed against her lips once last time and retreated out of sight while she prepared for her next customer.