“This story was inspired by a wake I went to where the deceased was being subjected to more criticism than fond reminiscence by those present. I didn’t sit well with me and then I thought about what fun he would have had if his ghost could have moved around and listened in.
Perhaps he did”
Tanya the Teenage Queen of Parties and Bad Magazines went to sleep under a thicket of blue red eye shadow that remoulded itself above her eyelids. She moaned a bit and writhed a bit before finally giving up the ghost on her friend’s sofa.
She was such a terribly young candle to have had her flame peter out so soon.
Tanya’s mom and sister cried a lot.
“Whole life ahead of her”
“What a waste”
And various other tributes were uttered dutifully. That’s not to say they weren’t meant but the older amongst them had heard such utterances before, usually at the funerals of other young tragics who had passed on at the wheel of fast cars or drugs. It didn’t make it less sad, only less imaginative.
Tanya, despite being dead, found herself able to attend her own funeral. At first she was tentative as she turned the corner of St. Martin’s Avenue to where the church was. She stopped for a moment, seeing the black cars parked outside the doors. There were lots of stony faced men in ill-fitting black suits, perfunctory badly ironed white shirts and poorly knotted black ties.
Funerals, weddings and court appearances.
She saw her brother Darren. He was in the same black tie he wore to fancy dress parties dressed as Mr Black from Reservoir Dogs. The women where cloaked in veils, like shy dervishes, moving slowly on high heels, clip-clopping up the steps and into the church like little horses in dark dressage.
But on hind legs.
This being her first funeral since her own parting and first public appearance, she was worried that someone would see her but the voices told her not to be so silly. She took a deep breath and walked towards the mourners and with a steely burst, mingled amongst them.
They didn’t see her.
Tanya sat at the back wearing a dark blue frock coat and a pair of black doc martens. She was invisible to everyone because she was a spirit. The powers that be let the spirits back on ‘funeral leave’ to see and hear what everyone thought about them.
Tanya itched to tell her sister that she had fucked Jimi Hendrix and Rimbaud the previous night.
What a party that was Tanya thought.
She blushed to think of the things she let John Donne do to her body and he was from the middle ages too! It was the ‘Getting to You Know You’ party held once a week for the newly dead. The next day held no hangover and she shared a spliff with a ploughman called Huw who came from 11th century Devon. Huw didn’t say much but his breath stank and he kept leering at her bosoms. Women’s bosoms weren’t as shapely back then but it was heaven after all. God let the souls do what they pleased.
And it pleased them
After the service, all Tanya’s friends and family piled into their black limousines and ceremoniously drove home in convoy back to Aunt Chrissie’s house.
Tanya hopped a ride on the roof of her mother’s limo and after 20 minutes, all the cars were parked and everyone went inside. The door closed on Tanya’s face but she glided through the wood and glass and into the living room.
The crying stopped. Tanya’s dad put on a Chas and Dave CD and before you know it, the mourners were lifting up their trouser legs and hitching up their skirts to dance to ‘Gertcha’ and ‘Knees Up Mother Brown’.
Mum came down with a family album, stuffed to the gills with badly taken family snaps. With a flourish, she held the album over her head and tipped the photos on the ground.
“Come on, let’s all dance on Tanya”
Everyone danced on Tanya’s old photographs. Uncle Pete had taken a framed picture of Tanya from the sideboard, broke the glass, took out the picture and stuffed it in a sausage roll before eating it. His youngsters stood around him egging him on.
“Oh, you’ve been waiting a long time to eat young Tanya, haven’t ya darlin’ croaked his fat wife. Everyone rolled around laughing.
Tanya was horrified. Nobody seemed one bit in the least sad. Everyone was having a good old time. Everyone seemed glad that she was dead. Even her friends were taking part.
She walked around the room, short of breath, eyes red with the sting of tears still fresh on her cheeks. She saw her sister Agatha drawing a moustache on a school photo of Tanya. The felt-tip pen had run out and Tanya’s mother pulled out a fresh one from her handbag and gave it to Agatha to continue the defacement.
“Hold up love, she aint’ ugly enough, lemme have a go”
“Alright mum, go for it”
Tanya’s mother produced a blue pen and drew large pieces of acne on Tanya’s face on the photo.
“Look everyone, look at the spotty dead girl”
Everyone laughed. Tanya was beside herself. Someone had remarked that it was an improvement.
Tanya went up to her mother and started to throttle her from behind but her hands went through her neck like it was thin air. Tanya fell forward with the force and her head landed inside the brickwork. It was odd seeing her old house from the inside this, Tanya thought. No-one has much of an opportunity to put their head inside something impregnable like a brick and have a good look without their skull being bashed in.
One of the advantages of being dead was that no-one could physically harm you anymore but psychologically, she was as sensitive as ever.
Tanya thought that this might be how it should be. After all, the mind is the seat of the soul, if the soul lives on, so might the personality. But the sound of a really loud Jam record interrupted her erudite train of thought and thoughts of revenge came back. She got up and dusted herself down and went into the kitchen and picked up a knife but the knife couldn’t be lifted. Tanya felt like a toddler who couldn’t express what she felt. She screamed again
“Why the hell are you doing this to me? What have I done? Does no-one I ever loved miss me at all ?”
She crumpled up like a crushed doll and cried bitterly. She felt she would cry for ever. After a minute, she felt a hand on her shoulder. She froze. This was the first time she felt touch since she died. Tanya looked up and saw her beloved grandmother looking down at her. Grandma Wilkes had passed on only five years earlier but she looked more alive than ever. Her face, although wrinkled seemed luminescent, her eyes were deep like a mountain lake and her hair was more silver than grey.
“Come on Tanya love, stand up now”. Tanya clasped her Grandmother’s hand and helped herself to her feet.
“Grandma, why are they doing this to me? What’s going on”
Grandma smiled beatifically at Tanya and gently caressed her cheek.
“Oh love, you must understand, you’re seeing them as they really are. This helps you to move on and leave them all behind. Flipping heck, I’m starving, look and learn love, here’s a little trick”
Grandma turned to the crowd and shouted “Woooo, looks who’s here”
The crowd turned around and began to throw sausage rolls and pickled onions at Grandma. She kept her mouth open and scoffed the lot. After she swallowed, the crowd went back to their original stances and chattered merrily amongst themselves.
“Heaven might be full of your rock stars and gold and makeup but I tell you, there’s not enough food to go around. You have to come down to Earth and get your grub. Funerals and wedding are best, lots of people and lots of nice party food and you never put on any weight! Look at my ass. I used to have a big fat one. I don’t any more”
“Gran!, don’t talk like that, it’s embarrassing”
She looked at the room once again. Family members and friends were getting progressively pissed and telling tall tales about Tanya. Tanya was overcome with a wave of altruism and felt sorry for them. She walked up to her mother and looked at her face. For some reason, Tanya noticed her mother’s eyes focussing on her own.
“Tanya?, is that you ?”
“Yes, mum, it is”
“You’ve seen and heard all this then, haven’t you?”
“Yes mum, why?”
“Well if you can’t make fun of the dead, who can you make fun off?
“But I’m your daughter. It’s not right. You should be crying”
“Oh you want your dear old mum to cry do you ? You always were a selfish little girl. Now, I’m getting me another glass of wine, oh I forgot, does God exist?”
“No, he doesn’t. There’s a heaven alright but no God. It’s just one big giant party. A bit like this one.”
Her mum stood there, staring into her glass of warm Tesco’s merlot.
Tanya smiled and faded slowly away.
She never returned again.
Image entitled ‘Streets of Madness’ by Evelina Kremsdorf http://fineartamerica.com/featured/streets-of-madness-evelina-kremsdorf.html