this is an installment in Mort’s Graveyard Tours. If, perchance, you find it entertaining, feel free to check out the others- just click on the link for ‘em over to your left…
Sneed rocked down onto his haunches amidst the roots of Mort’s tree. He quietly watched twilight paint bleeding colors onto the scrim of the horizon; plum blended into smoky grey and patchy pearly leavings of light. He fingered the brim of his hat. “Now, it’s not that we need sleep as such. There’s some as prefer a lie down of an evening anyway.”
Mort was standing at his graveside, studying the pretty calligraphy that spelled out Mortimer Ramsey. He felt thin; the required concentration for holding his particles together in this form was waning.
“Do we dream?” he asked quietly. “Do the dead dream, Sneed?” He found that he felt rather anxious about the answer either way.
Sneed reached up a hand and scratched at the bashed in ruin of his face, fingers mixing right in with the foggy apparition of his skull. “Yeah, sure, sometimes. Ah, it usually takes a while though. You have to, ah, be sort of relaxed into the finality of the whole thing, ya know?” Sneed’s smile was both ghastly and oddly reassuring. “I don’t think you’ll drop deep enough just yet.”
Mort crossed one foot in front of the other and sank onto the freshly turned earth mounded over his grave. He skimmed his palms across the grass to either side, imagined that he felt the tickle and bend of individual blades against skin that no longer breathed. He looked up. “I feel like I’m trying to have a séance with myself.” His grin was real, but tired. “It feels like it’s all a dream now anyway. But I’d rather rest without them tonight, I think.”
Sneed’s where-his-heart-would-be twinged as the grin faded from Mort’s face. “Then you will,” he said. He clapped his hands together, a disconcerting sight without the expected accompaniment of sound, and his tone slid from jovial to gentle. “Just rest up now, boy. It’s sorry I am to have met you here and now, but I’m glad of it all the same.” The bowlegged man bandied his way over to his carriage and climbed in. With a noise that sounded half chuckle and half cluck he sent his horse trotting away, around a bend and gone, leaving Mort alone.
Leaving Mort, he thought, mortally alone. He sighed. He was well and truly as alone as it was ever likely possible to be. A phantom burning rose where his tear ducts used to be, and he pushed phantom fingers into his phantom face to make it stop. It was like a cousin to grief, once removed – he felt that he was sad, but he didn’t feel sad. He decided to lay his head down and curl up under his tree, holding tight to Sneed’s memory and hope for tomorrow. A leaf fell, slowly drifting down and through his cheek to the ground beneath, a good night kiss. Comforted, he slept.
The dream wasn’t so much a dream as a memory. A gift straight from Father Time, who remembered past present and future like they had already happened somewhere within infinity. A present of the past, if you’d like a bit of cleverness.
Mort sat at his dining room table, in his customary chair, across from his mother and to his father’s right. “He’s called you his right hand man since the day you were born, you know,” Patty Ramsey used to say to Mort, brushing his hair behind his ears before kissing his cheeks good night.
Dream Mort’s feet dangled above the hardwood floor, and he guessed that he was about six. “Dad,” he said. “Hi!”
His dad laughed. “Hi yourself, weirdo. How was soccer practice today?” He steepled his fingers under his chin and opened his eyes wide to stare at his son. The fingers waggled. “Was MA-deline there?” he asked with exaggerated interest.
Mort’s grin widened. “Yup,” he confirmed. “She ran down the field faster than anyone, and then when she got the ball guess what she did? Guess, Dad!” Without waiting for an answer he rushed on. “She passed it to ME and I got to score the goal!”
“Well, no kidding? So when’s the wedding?”
Mort threw a pea at him. “That’s not funny,” he said seriously, and then burst into an embarrassed fit of giggles. “Shut up.”
Throughout the encounter, Milly sat, quietly eating and smiling, listening and watching. These were some of her favorite moments; the byplay between her two strange and wonderful guys, good food at a comfortable table. Flying peas. At times like this she was more than happy to remain an observer, grateful to have been given admittance to this club that was her family. She kissed Mort on the top of the head as she walked behind him into the kitchen to refill her water glass.
The ghost of Mortimer Ramsey opened his eyes.