Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Ali hid under the table and sat on the kitchen floor. She stared at the open doorway that led to the living room, waiting for the sun to creep down and settle the day. The guests began to show up, appearing out of thin air and materializing from head to toe. Their bodies were translucent like vapor and glowed amber against the radiant dusk. Ali looked at the new arrivals and searched for a face she trusted. When a teenage boy made eye contact with her, Ali turned away.
"Ali, come out of there," said her mother Olivia. Ali pushed herself to the base of the table and grabbed the front legs of the chair in front of her, using it as a shield from anyone who dared to disturb her.
"No!" said Ali.
"I hope she's not scared of us," said Grand Aunt Colleen who appeared next to Olivia.
"No, she’s just shy.”
“That is so cute,” said Grand Aunt Colleen. She stooped down to look at Ali. “Hi Ali, don’t you remember me?”
Ali struggled to identify Grand Aunt Colleen; it was hard to identify someone with a see-through face. When Ali recognized the dragonfly hairclip and the plump physique, Ali remembered. Last year, Colleen was the loudest and the rowdiest of the dead relatives. Colleen had consumed a bottle of wine, a bottle of Jack Daniels, three bottles of Guinness and a glass of Long Island Iced Tea. Ali could never forget the smell of Grand Aunt Colleen’s breath. Ali raised an arm and waved at her to say hi.
Olivia walked over to the stovetop oven and checked the turkey inside. When Olivia opened the door to take a peek, the aroma escaped and wafted through the kitchen. Mrs. Carmine, who was good friends with Olivia, cooked her potatoes on the stove, frying it with garlic oil and sprinkling it with spices and seasoning. Mrs. Carmine was alive and breathing, and she could see the ghosts too, just like Olivia and Ali.
"You make them potatoes really good Mrs. Carmine," said Grand Aunt Lisette, hovering between the kitchen table and the stovetop oven. "If only I can smell them right now."
“You will dearie,” said Mrs. Carmine, “You will soon enough.”
Ali stayed under the table, scanning the guests as they came through the front door and as they appeared out of thin air. The living room was getting crowded, and the living and the dead mingled with one another, catching up with their loved ones and sharing stories about their travels to the country side and the nether planes. The ghosts talked about their adventures as well.
"I was in Anne Hathaway’s body when she accepted her Academy award," said Grand Aunt Colleen. "I felt so alive and it was electric with all the lights and all the celebrities looking at you. Well, I mean, her." The living room burst into laughter.
When moonlight entered through the kitchen window, Olivia went back to Ali. She knelt down, looked Ali in the eye and reached for her daughter.
"Come on Ali, the ritual is about to start."
“He’ll be here. Don’t worry sweetie, daddy will be home soon.”
Ali grabbed her mother’s hand and pulled herself from under the table. She immediately clung to her mother’s waist, which made the walk from the kitchen to the living room a balancing act for Olivia. When they crossed the threshold, Ali searched for her father, scanning the room filled with strangers and relatives. When Ali didn’t see him, Ali buried her face in Olivia’s dress.
"Happy Halloween everybody! Family, friends and welcomed guests, we are gathered here tonight for this special occasion," said Olivia. "Please enjoy your brief stay in the living plane. Have fun and stay safe."
The ghosts cheered and whistled while the living clapped with their hands. The newly dead turned to the veteran ghosts and asked what was to come.
“Wait and see kid,” said Great Aunt Lisette to the teenage boy.
"Come on sweetie, mommy needs to sing," said a voice behind Ali and Olivia. Ali turned around and immediately recognized her father. She loosened her arms around her mother and scampered towards him. She wanted to grab him and hug him and drag him to the kitchen for tea, but Ali remembered what her mother had said about touching a ghost and interfering with their space. Ali made that mistake last year when she passed through a crowd of ghosts – she had nightmares for weeks. Like a good girl, Ali placed her hands behind her back and stood next to her father.
Olivia smiled to her husband and turned to her audience. She took a deep breath and sang. The words were not in English nor were they in Latin. No one knew what was said or knew what it was about. But Olivia sang. The high notes were perfect, and she sustained them flawlessly like a professional. She belted the low notes that came out strong and vicious. Ali listened and felt the energies emanating from her father and from the ghosts that filled the room. The hairs on her nape stood. The living listened, mesmerized by the song as if the melody touched their souls.
The ghosts slowly transformed into flesh, beginning from the head and down to their toes. The clothes they had worn before their deaths materialized with their temporary bodies. As soon as they inhaled the aroma from the kitchen, they dropped from the air and landed on the floor. Olivia finished her song, and everyone applauded until their palms were red. Olivia smiled and curtsied to her audience. She turned around and embraced her husband, kissing him in the lips and sharing a tear to his warm cheek.
“I missed you so much, Ray.” said Olivia to his ear.
“I missed you too, ‘Liv.” said Ray.
“Daddy, daddy, let’s have tea!” said Ali. Ray looked down to his daughter and gave her a smile. He carried Ali up to his face and kissed her and kissed her and ruffled her hair.
“Come on guys, food is ready,” said Mrs. Carmine from the kitchen. Everyone in the living room proceeded to the kitchen. The guests helped themselves with servings of oven-roasted turkey, garlic potatoes, scallops wrapped in bacon, fried chicken, steamed fish and more food that could feed a whole graveyard.
"Tea time, daddy," said Ali to her dad, pointing at the Little Princess Tea Table at the corner of the kitchen.
“Ali, let daddy eat first!” said Olivia.
“It’s alright ‘Liv,” said Ray. Ray walked over to the small table that had pink teacups, toy teaspoons and a plastic sugar bowl on its surface. Ray placed Ali on her seat, and he sat on the floor, fearing that the tiny chair might not hold his weight.
"Why yes please,” said Ray, reaching his empty cup to his daughter.