It is well known in the world of mediums that once folks who have passed to the other side start gabbing, it’s hard to shut them up. Why wouldn’t Farrah talk to me? After all, I had that famous poster of her up on my wall as a kid, and I never missed an episode of Charlie’s Angels. Furthermore, I had a bit part in Love Story (if you look real quick, you can see me walking past the window in the famous pie-eating scene), starring Ali McBeal and Ryan O’Neal, who had a famously tempestuous relationship with Miss Fawcett.
Anyway, when the woman who runs the dry-cleaners saw that I didn’t have any trousers to drop off, she gestured with her thumb toward to the cramped room at the back of the store, where I found Madame Sassafras dozing. A local sports talk radio show was blaring away and a cigarette had burned down to a long ash in Madame Sassafras’s ashtray, which was actually a tuna tin (Chicken of the Sea, if I remember correctly) filled with sand.
Madame Sassafras is a medium, not a psychic or phrenologist, so she was unable to foretell that I would be coming into her shop this particular afternoon. (Not everyone is aware of the distinction, which is an important one: psychics read auras, phrenologists read head bumps, and mediums channel dead people.) Her head was dropping down to her ample bosom when all of a sudden she jerked awake with an impressive snort.
After a few pleasantries—the oil spill, the election, the Jazz lottery pick—we got down to business.
“I’d like to chew the rag with Farrah for a few moments,” I said.
“Hey, you and everyone else. I hear she’s getting fed up with all the questions, but I’ll give it a try.”
For the next several minutes, Madame Sassafras did her damnedest to get Farrah on the horn from heaven. She squinted, she scrunched up her face, she pursed her lips, she pulled on her ears. Nothing seemed to work. Finally her eyes lit up, and she nodded at me excitedly while giving me the double thumbs up.
Then, like a florescent light flickering out, her face went dark. She heaved a great sigh and gave me the bad news.
“I got her answering machine, and her voice mail is full. No succeedo.” After a pause, during which she cast a glimpse at her empty tip jar, she asked, “Anyone else you want to talk to? Maybe we just ought to see who’s coming through. This is usually a good time of the day to make contact.”
I had my heart set on Farrah, but I thought, what the hell, I’m here, let’s see who’s hanging around on the other side. Sometimes you get a hold of some spirit who bends your ear worse than that bore next to you on the airplane.
“Sure,” I said. “Have a whack at it.”
In no time at all, she was channeling Uncle Harlow, who had passed to the other side just a couple of weeks ago. There was no mistaking his reedy voice, so different from Madame Sassafras’s smoky pipes, proof positive that my good-natured dead uncle was indeed coming through.
But almost immediately I could tell that Uncle Harlow was not a happy camper.
“Get me outta here! I’m going nuts! I can’t stand it!”
I felt totally helpless. Madame Sassafras can only transmit one-way from the other side. I wanted to calm down my excitable uncle, urge him to be patient and give death a chance to grow on him.
“Somebody! Anybody! Please help me! This is the most boring place I’ve ever been. Nothing to do all day but sit around singing hosanna and listening to inspirational speeches from heavenly big shots. It’s worse than conference! The food’s terrible! I’m dying for something spicy. And the conversation! Nothing to keep the mind alive!”
I stuck a twenty into Madame Sassafras’s tip jar, and made a quiet exit. Maybe, I prayed, Farrah would someday be able to cheer Harlow up.