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I would know her from seeing her a mile away. There she was, sitting at her usual spot in the cafe as if nothing had ever happened. It was as if she hadn’t died from lung cancer, spending her last hours, days, weeks, and months in agony and regret. Why nobody noticed her, I couldn’t tell you. They walked by us as if we weren’t there at all. There she was, prettier than ever, but then the afterlife must not take the same toll on the soul as this world did on the body.

“Happy Mother’s Day, Mom,” I told my mother at last, wondering if people would notice me and soon cart me off to the psych ward.

“Hello, Daniel. And thank you for that. It’s the first time I’ve heard it … since death,” Mom told me, never liking my preference for “Dan.”

Well, it was Mother’s Day and she was dead, so I would humor her. Of course, she would likely still prefer me to say it in her native French, especially Maman instead of Mom, but … well, I was an American, like it or not. She was never naturalized, something that always puzzled. She lived in the United States, gave birth to three Americans, married an American, divorced the same American, and yet she always remained proudly and staunchly French to her core.

Séraphine Ariane Duclos, that was her name by birth. She wed my father, Anton Marko Petrovic, years back. He was the son of a Macedonian immigrant who fled Tito’s rise to power. There was some lingering speculation that Grandpa was probably a Chetnik, a Yugoslav monarchist resistance fighter, or at least that he had monarchist sympathies, though it was never proven. Thus I was born of rather pronounced mixed Franco-Macedonian stock, which left me looking very foreign or ethnic to most Americans and caused most Europeans to doubt that I was American, too. I never needed a DNA kit to know my own ancestry, of course.

It was funny that both of my parents were atheists, both were smokers, and both were heavy drinkers of both coffee and brandy. I suppose those were things that helped them bond. They were also both rather adulterous, but that was never an issue for me. Not being born into a highly religious or moralistic family, there was far less baggage in that way. Well, there was until Dad got religion, that was. Yes, you could say that Jesus was a homewrecker, because he broke up my parents’ marriage.

When I was just fourteen, Dad gave up smoking, drinking, adultery, even coffee when he was converted by Mormon missionaries who came to our house. He told Mom in no uncertain terms that he wanted her to change as well, to convert, to give up her lovers, to drop the smoking, the drinking, the coffee, all of it. Their divorce struck like lightning not long afterward, because Mom wasn’t about to change her ways. It hurt me, seeing them split like that, but I knew that Mom didn’t change the rules of the marriage. Dad did when he tried to impose strict monogamy and the Word of Wisdom on her overnight by ultimatum.

Dad remarried, but Mom did not. She absolutely, flatly refused to ever take that kind of chance again. She used to joke that I was her man now, not Dad. She didn’t need a new spouse, she told me. She was happy with her lovers … and with me. Well, her lovers eventually passed from the scene, though I didn’t judge them for that. Men and women alike, they were predominantly married or otherwise attached, a number of them were cheaters, and several were parents. While they cared for her, they had obligations and responsibilities that conflicted with caring for a sickly, ailing woman on the cusp of menopause who learned of her lung cancer far too late to survive it.

I had two sisters, but neither lady seemed that eager to drop everything to be Mom’s caregiver. That role fell to me, causing me to leave the Army as soon as my enlistment was up and get a job closer to home. Uncle Sam was a great employer, beylikdüzü escort but I loved Mom far too much to let her die in some hospice with strangers. I had nothing against hospices. I just refused to let them do my job for me. We had plenty of tensions and conflict, Mom and I, but I felt as if the last days of her life she was happier with me than she would have been without me.

“Penny for your thoughts, or should I say Euro, since this is Paris?” Mom asked me now.

“Oh, I was just … thinking of old times. I’m just glad that I spent your last days with you, not with Dad and Karen. I never much liked Karen. She convinced Dad that I should be circumcised. Did you know that? She got him to be circumcised, too. That must have been very painful for a grown man. The Church didn’t even require it … and I was never … you know … baptized. I think that Karen wanted to punish me for my fierce refusal to convert like Dad did. I also think that she wanted to discourage masturbation, but it backfired, of course,” I chuckled now.

“Yes, I was outraged when I learned of that, I assure you. They never consulted me about it, you know. In France, we never did that kind of thing unless you were Jewish, Muslim, or had some medical necessity for it. I was under the impression, quite honestly, that the LDS Church required it. Now that you told me otherwise, I am livid, as much as that is possible for a ghost,” Mom reassured me.

“Dad really went downhill without you, Mom. Karen was nothing but an interloper, a pernicious influence, strict as fuck with me, with Julie, and with Manon. As the eldest, though, I got the brunt of it. The twins, they got off relatively easy. Karen kept pushing me with this abstinence talk, with the constant meeting with Mormon elders, with Sunday School, with all that jazz. Lectures on masturbation, on sexual ‘immorality,’ aka ‘fornication,’ etc.

“At one point, Dad pulled me aside, shook his finger in my face and told me, ‘You don’t want to end up suffering eternal punishment like your wanton whore of a mother, do you?’ I was furious, of course. I told him, and I quote verbatim, ‘I would rather spend eternity with Mom than with you … and don’t you ever call her that in my presence again.’ I kept asking to just be allowed to move in with you. I even tried to open up a legal case, but no lawyers would take it, Dad and Karen kept sabotaging me, etc.,” I informed Mom now, making her really turn pale as a ghost … which was fitting, since she was one.

“So … that’s why you joined the Army right after graduation. To get as far away from Dad … and Karen, as you could. Mon Dieu! On the other hand, it turned you into one helluva of a strapping young man. I must confess that … when I first saw you in your uniform, and I’ve never admitted this to anyone before, I was drawn to you in a way that I never was before. I was always secretly drawn to uniforms, you see. My parents, brother, sister, none of them understood this. They were Communists, after all. French Reds are not overly fond of uniforms of that nationalistic sort,” Mom confessed her infatuation with me, something that I wondered about at times, but well, I let it slide.

“Yes, I remember that Grandpa Duclos … he kept giving me Communist literature that might well have gotten me some very unwanted attention from Homeland Security, even a decade after the Soviet Bloc collapsed. He even left him his own personal copy of Das Kapital, in French, of course, in his will. Irony, using capitalist probate law to pass on a testament of Marxist principles to one’s own grandson, if you think about it. I take it that Marx was wrong, and so were you, that God is real? Do I have to kick him in the nuts for you? Because I will, for your sake. You never did anything to deserve this,” beyoğlu escort I groused now.

“Yes, I did, Daniel. I smoked three packs of cigarettes a day for fifty years. That’s reason enough to deserve this kind of awful death, which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. This was the natural consequence of smoking so much for so many years, dear. I don’t regret drinking. I don’t regret coffee. I don’t regret the adultery, trust me.

“That was … the best pleasure in life, other than your company, possibly more than the company of your sisters, if you’ll pardon my saying so. They both went Mormon like your father, after all. But I do regret smoking. I’ll regret that forever, because it took me away from you for so damn long!” Mom exclaimed, making part of me sure that someone would finally overhear us.

“Wow … Mom … don’t forget that plenty of people smoke and don’t get lung cancer. Some don’t smoke at all and do get it. Andy Kaufman, for instance. There’s no rhyme or reason to this. There is no pattern. If God exists, he’s a bad practical joker, playing constant pranks on everyone. I really want to kick him in the nuts for you … or in the ass!” I ranted, waiting for people to notice me shouting in anger.

“You’re upset. I get it. You’re very … hurt. You miss me. I miss you. It’s okay. No one can hear us anymore. No one can hurt us anymore. Here, let me show you something,” Mom offered me her hand, love in her eyes, and I took it.

The next thing that I saw was a very simple ceremony, much as I had directed for myself given the chance. There at the crematorium, waiting to be thrown into the furnace, was my own face, my own flesh, my own … self. Me. Yet not me. I didn’t understand, and then I saw Dad, Karen, Julie, Manon, and two of my ex-girlfriends. Why were they there? Two of my army buddies were there as well, with their wives. It really sunk in, and then I looked at my own form. I was transparent, ethereal … non-corporeal.

I was dead.

“Mom … you didn’t greet me to resolve some Sixth Sense, last minute regrets resolution for yourself, did you? You came to usher me into the afterlife. I’m dead, aren’t I?” I asked Mom, who nodded, but smiled.

“They can never hurt you again, mon cherie. Never. No one can. No one will, Not even God, who they tried to make you fear. You’re free now, just as I am. Free to spend eternity with me, just as you wished,” Mom told me as she touched my face and we watched tears fall down Dad’s cheeks … down Julie’s … and Manon’s. Tears even came to the eyes of my two ex-girlfriends, Brittany and Tala, as well as my army buddies, Reggie and Stu. Tears fell down the face of the wives as well, seeing their husbands stricken with grief.

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” the funeral director announced briefly, before passing onto Reggie to speak my last words that I wished him to speak.

If we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended. That you have but slumbered here, whilst these visions did appear. And this weak and idle theme, no more yielding but a dream. Gentles, do not reprehend. If you pardon, we will mend. And as I am an honest puck, if we have unearned luck, thus to scape the serpent’s tongue, we will make amends ere long. Else the puck a liar call, and so good night unto you all. Give me your hands, if we be friends, and Robin shall restore amends.

Yes, being fond of the Bard, I in the end opted for the last monologue of the Puck, Robin Goodfellow, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. For, after all, life was but a dream, and I was convinced that death was the awakening to the world beyond it. We were all dreamers dreaming together, yet we would all awaken someday and find that we were beyond the pain, or so I hoped.

“So fitting and so true, you know,” Mom bizimkent escort said to me, “You were more right than you knew. When you’ve passed on, as I have, as you now have, you discover that there are far better things awaiting you than you could ever imagine. A world without pain, without consequence, without regret, once you learn how to liberate yourself from it fully. And I will be your guide here, my son.”

“Lead the way, Mom. I meant what I said. While I didn’t plan to die, it happened and here I am. I meant what I said. I would rather spend eternity with you than with them, any day of the week and sixty-nine times on Sunday. Even if we end up in Hell together. So be it. We can hold each other and do our best to ward off the demons and the flames … together. I love you … Maman,” I finally said that word in French, just as she wished.

“That’s very sweet, but this isn’t Hell. It’s not Heaven, either. God isn’t Jehovah, Jesus, or any of those. He’s Jove. Jupiter. Zeus. The All-Wise. The King of the Gods. The King of Heaven. Come with me. We don’t have coins for the boatman, so we have to wander this side of the Styx, never able to cross into Hades. That’s alright, though. We can sit here, on the other side of the Styx, together forever. That’s Heaven enough for me. How about you? Until … well, your sisters join us,” Mom told me.

“And what do we do … while we wait for them, Maman?” I asked her now.

“For one thing, we can play pranks. For another, we can fuck. Or make love. Or both. And when they arrive, we can fuck them, too,” Mom explained to me, “they won’t mind in the afterlife, I think.”

“How do we … fuck without bodies, Mom?” I asked her, now quite curious.

“We possess your Dad … and Karen … and your sisters. Sound fun? Admit it, she’s a bitch, but part of you has always wanted her body, that fine head of ginger hair. And I would love more chances to ride that dick of your father’s. And we can make love to your sisters, both of them, like this. Think of it this way. What would Puck do?” Mom’s laughter brought the Sun to my face.

“Well, when you put it that way, lead the way. What about my exes?” I asked her.

“Oh, we can enjoy them, too!” Mom winked at me, as we watched Karen finally shed a tear at my passing, a real first for her.

“Fuck her … now she cares about me? Where was this care when I couldn’t get to the doctor and I ended up in the hospital? Where was this care when I died? Fuck that bitch!” I snapped.

“Later, my dear son. Fuck her later. Let’s make love first, you and I,” Mom urged me … dropping into Manon’s body before I followed suit and took possession of Julie.

“Oui, Maman … It is Mother’s Day, after all. This can be my gift to you,” I told her telepathically, “I love you, Mom.”

“I love you, too … Dan. But this is my Mother’s Day gift, as far as I’m concerned. Spending eternity with you,” Mom told me, tears of joy flowing down her ethereal cheeks.

If Julie or Manon minded, well, fuck them, too. This was my first chance to see Mom again and make love to her as we both wished. They got their bodies back in time, though we possessed them whenever it suited us. We also possessed my exes … and Dad and Karen. Every time together was thus really a foursome, and that was the best revenge on the rest of my family ever … and on my ex-girlfriends.

“Yes, I did miss you, you know,” Mom told me after we made love in the form of Julie and Manon.

“When?” I asked her.

“When I was looking for myself out there. I don’t have any drops of Jupiter in my hair and I’m not back from my soul vacation, but we’re both tracing our way through the constellation now,” Mom laughed softly as she quoted from that song by Train.

Well, the lyrics certainly fit now.

So did the words for the song that I requested for the funeral service, sung by Stu.

All our times have come

Here but now they’re gone

Seasons don’t fear the reaper

Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain, we can be like they are

Yes, I was evil enough to have Stu sing “Don’t Fear The Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult at my funeral. So sue me.

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