My mother sees dead pets.
She’s fairly bitter about it, as if the specters of our pets past have nothing better to do in their afterlife than deliberately plague her. I don’t see what the problem is (aside from the whole “my dead pets are haunting me thing,” of course). Seems to me a ghost cat would be less trouble than my mother’s three alive-and-biting ones, but what do I know?
She’s been seeing dead things for as long as I can remember, and while I’m not above conceding the existence of the supernatural, I am inclined to ask my mother to pass the crack pipe she’s smoking. Somehow, seeing Princess Aura Roo, our ten years-gone Siamese, playing hide and seek under the kitchen table is a bit too fantastic to let pass.
My own paranormal experiences have been less vivid to say the least, though not for lack of trying. I spent hours circling a planchette over the Ouija board my mother gave me, hoping in some childish wonder that my invisible friend Possum might find his voice in it.
Looking back, the Ouija board seems like something of an odd gift to give a seven year-old, though I never did get so much as a twitch out of the thing. But then again, I buried it in the basement six months after receiving it, not coincidentally following my first viewing of The Exorcist.
The movie freaked me out enough that I took a very Smokey the Bear approach to keeping our home Captain Howdy-free. Burying the spirit board was easy enough; my mother, no so much.
It wasn’t my mother that I wanted to bury so much as it was her china set. You wouldn’t think to look at it that it was the devil’s china; the pattern was obnoxious in a 70s sort of way and covered with a rose-colored floral pattern. It was ugly, yes, but nothing to sprinkle holy water over.
But there I was, slack jawed, bug eyed and repeating “It’s only a movie,” as I rocked back and forth on the couch when I came face to face with a horrifying connection: the exact same mug that I was drinking hot chocolate out of was also in the on-screen hands of Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist.
And just one flight of stairs away from her in the movie was a ravaged, screaming, demon-seething Linda Blair, who as far I was concerned at the time, may as well have been standing directly behind me dribbling vomit and holding the matching saucer and serving tray.
The connection was too close to home for my liking. Not that my mother cared. She got that giggly, self-amused look when I told her of my “Only You Can Prevent Demonic Possession” campaign – the same look I’d seen the previous year as she presented me with a stuffed vulture when I was quarantined with scarlet fever.
I suspect she considered the creepy coincidence her own satanic seal of approval. In fact, she had actually stood up in the theatre when she and my father first saw The Exorcist in ’73 and announced with glee, “Those are my dishes!” The crowd was too busy fainting and crying and covering their eyes at the time to much care, but with me she had a new audience.
So no, she had no intention of throwing the china set away, she would not donate it to charity, and if I wanted water at bedtime, I’d drink it in the mug she gave to me and like it.
I’d eye that miserable china mug in the twilight of my room every night and shudder. As the night hours wore on, I’d envision the clicking of our cats’ claws on the hard wood floor as the scratching of Pazuzu, every door shutting became the slam of a possessed girl’s convulsions. I’d go off to school the following day a twitchy mess and it wasn’t long before I was regularly performing the Rites of Exorcism on my dolls, just in case.
Perhaps it was finding my favorite doll fastened to a wooden pinball game, arms and legs roped to the frame with pink ribbons that prompted my mother to swap my mug for a shiny new plastic drinking glass. It had Garfield on it as I recall, fat and happy.
My mother eventually upgraded her china set, too, and for this I am grateful because while I came to appreciate The Exorcist over time, I never could get used to those damn dishes. They remain packed in the basement where they belong, alongside worn scratching posts and cat beds that my mother refuses to dispose of. The spirit board I lost track of years ago, but I think it’s a safe guess that my mother knows exactly where it is.