We were all seated. I could not see them. They had swoomed in at the last door ring.
They shuffled by, clothed in white garb, and sat down at the dinner table. I saw the chairs moving back and forth and the napkins unfolding. I sat down and welcomed my guests. Did I know who they were?
I soon found out. At my opposite sat Uncle Diederick. He sang his last song in jail. I recognized his drawl. He was accused of unlawful sexual behavior with minors in the stables. I will not draw on this any further because you cannot say anything bad about dead people.
On his left sat Aunt Irma. She always accused me of bedding every girl I could get my hands on and died, disinheriting me from her fortune. She still had this shrill voice, as I’d heard it in our last telephone call when she cursed me in her hospital bed because there was “this child that had to come again.”
Opposite her sat Aunt Ann, also one of those shrill women. She taught me horseback riding and yelled so loud each time when I didn’t sit straight in the saddle that my horse bucked with all fours in the air, me flying out of the saddle.
Next to Aunt Irma sat Willem B. I can’t reveal his last name because his family is so important that they would sue me if I did. He swindled every client on his way to the bank and became so rich that he was unable to count his money on his dead bed. He’d wanted to make me his heir too, but forgot to put it in writing, so the State got all the money. They never said “thanks.”
Opposite him sat the headmaster of my primary school. I couldn’t figure how he would turn up in this illustrious group of noble people, as he was a very ordinary man and a notorious child molester, hitting everyone with his cane who dared to be unruly or contradict him, jumping on our lecterns coming after us.
On the headmaster’s right sat Hans with the long earrings. She had this false smile and mean look and always entered the breakfast room, disturbing my quiet moment with my grandmother, only to gossip about everybody else with a double name in the village.
Opposite her – and next to me – sat Baroness B. whose name I cannot reveal either for the same reason as Willem B’s. She’d kicked me out of her vast apartment where I’d rented a room because the housekeeper had caught me copulating with a girl (the censor board sanitized this part of the sentence). Boy, was she mad.
On my left sat Aunt Phyllis, as an extra punishment. She used to come into the dining room and spat saliva with every word she uttered so that we kids held our hands over our plates whenever she appeared.
So I thanked everyone for coming and invited them to take some food, but nobody did. They chuckled, as they didn’t eat anymore, but they drank the good wine alright, glasses floating in the air.
Baroness B. whispered that she was still waiting for the last month’s rent I hadn’t paid after she’d thrown me out. I asked her where I could send the money, but she didn’t want to reveal her address.
The schoolmaster mumbled he was surprised to find me in a large house with expensive cars and a lot of money because he’d found me the stupidest kid in the class.
Aunt Ann yelled over the table why I wasn’t competing in the national horse shows, as I’d performed so well flying off my horse.
Uncle Diederick told us that his punishment in the afterlife consisted of having to clean stables for the rich, often confronted by beautiful girls he couldn’t like and unable to touch any beautiful boy that came his way.
Aunt Irma inquired if I had birthed any more children out of wedlock, and when I told her I hadn’t as far as I knew, she didn’t believe me and was going to find out about any hidden babies among the women she said she knew I’d known and slept with full force.
Willem B. sort of apologized for his forgetfulness but in revenge he was spooking the lives of the taxmen who’d stolen his money, and they were all going crazy and were being put in madhouses one after the other.
Aunt Hans with the long earrings told us she’d put an earring with a bug in Hillary’s bed to find out about her latest schemes. To my surprise, a lot of that became true after Halloween. Luckily, Aunt Phyllis had no saliva anymore and could not spit on my plate.
When they left cackling through the front door without opening it, I knew they were friendly ghosts now and might turn up again. The dinner was left untouched on the table but the glasses were empty. I went to my drawing room where my wife’s precious dolls occupied a whole sofa. One of them, a blond beauty I’d always hoped would come alive, suddenly started talking, her eyes winking at me. “Hi, Johnny,” she said. “I always wanted to see you again, and now I can. I am Fiona, the girl who gave you your first kiss. Remember?” I sat dumbstruck. Fiona died in a horrible horse-riding accident when she was sixteen. She kissed me in my grandmother’s vegetable garden when we were six. “Yes, of course, I remember. We were going to get married. I was inconsolable for years when you died. How come you are a doll?”
“Only for tonight, Johnny. Just kiss me once more, Johnny, and I go back to heaven.”
I took the doll, and she felt soft, alive, kissed it softly on the mouth, and the eyes winked again. Then it stiffened, and it looked straight ahead as if nothing had happened.
“Why are you kissing that doll?” I heard my wife saying to me. “And why haven’t you cleared the table yet?”
I had no answer.