At the end of a long boozy tirade about nothing in particular, Tasha said, “We should have a séance!” and everyone said, “We should.” Merrill didn’t say anything, not because he objected to séances but because he wasn’t the kind of person who said the things that everyone said. Tasha said, “Merrill! Don’t you want to have a séance?” And Merrill shrugged and said, “Sure.” And Tasha said, “You’ll host it, won’t you?” And Merrill shrugged, and blushed, and said, “Sure.”
They settled on next Saturday.
Merrill hadn’t hosted many parties, let alone a séance, and he wanted everyone to have a good time. He bought a Ouiji board at the local toy store (pausing over, but eventually passing up, the Hannah Montana special edition. He knew that the séance was a joke, but not the same kind as a blonde-wigged teenager—could it be?).
He exhumed his table from junk mail and old pizza boxes and set up the board. He planned where the snacks would go. He thought about the questions Tasha would ask and the other guys and the other girls and how he couldn’t guess what Tasha would ask or begin to guess. He practiced rapping once for yes and twice for no. Then he practiced rapping twice for yes and once for no.
In the wandering half-asleep waking of that Saturday morning, Merrill saw (or rather heard-and-saw as in a vision) the perfect final touch: a ghostly voice rising from the table, seeming to emanate from the wood somewhere between the Ouiji board and a splash of carelessly dripped salsa. So on the way back from getting snacks, he stopped by the bookstore and picked up Ventriloquism for Dummies.
Once home, Merrill thumbed through the book, not under the misapprehension that he could master ventriloquism in a day, but hoping to acquire a sufficient smattering for a half-assed, laughing attempt, which would be perfect in its own way. For this séance. Which was a laughing, half-assed thing.
He hadn’t read far when he realized the book was actually Ventriloquism for Dummies. It said that the world was full of ventriloquists, mouths tight shut, casting out their voices like fishing lines. To the dummy, fell the delicate art of hooking a line. The book instructed Merrill to feel the line hook his lips like a thought. It warned that the mistake most dummies make is not moving their mouths. A dummy should move his mouth but not his lips. His lips should resemble carved wood or a hard and shiny slab of lipstick.
The book said that the first ventriloquists were ghosts, and the first dummies were shamans. The Sumerians conducted fertility rites in which the priestess was the dummy and the ventriloquist was god, and everyone's orgasms were in everyone else’s mouths. The Egyptians took up ventriloquism next and called it mummification. The word dummy actually came from mummy.
A mummy is waiting to become a dummy for the ventriloquist of itself.
The book said that modern religions teach that everyone lives forever, but most scientists now believe that only certain professions can. The embalmers, the zorasters (the pronunciation guide indicated this rhymed with “choristers”), the electricians, the toll-takers, the zorasters (the pronunciation guide indicated this rhymed with “pastors”), the dummy/ventriloquists.
Merrill had just wanted to know how to make a voice rise out of the table, making everyone gasp like a laughing sigh and say, “This is a good party. We’re having such a good time”
Someone knocked at the door. “Come in,” Merrill called. They knocked again. Rap twice for no. Merrill opened the door, and Gary said, “Am I the first here?” Merrill said, “Yes,” but then Tasha arrived and then everyone else.
They said, “Wow,” when they saw the Ouiji board. They said, “You really went all out.” Merrill said, “There was a Hannah Montana one too, but I stuck with the classic.” Tasha said, “Oh wow,” and everyone laughed. “I stuck with the classic,” Merrill repeated.
They asked the Ouiji board more political questions than Merrill had expected and more about who would win what Oscars. He had envisioned this séance remaining in the realm of the personal. When they had enough pushing the wedge around, they turned out the lights and wiggled the table. For one moment, the table seemed to hover, while everyone’s knees knocked against their neighbors’, and Merrill almost heard a voice being squeezed out of the table, and it almost felt like it belonged to him.
When they had enough of that, they turned on the lights and talked and ate to the end of the party, their mouths in constant chewing motion like fish.
This post is an installment in a continuing series of content coordinated by theme or motif with posts from Enoch Allred of Chiltingham, John Allred of clol Town, Jon Fairbanks of Funkadelic Freestylings of Another Sort, Eli Z. McCormick and Miriam Allred of Modern Revelation!, John D. Moore of Whatnot Studios, Joseph Schlegel of Sour Mayonnaise, Sven Patrick Svensson of Sadness? Euphoria?, and William C. Stewart of Chide, Chode, Chidden. This week's theme: 'Ventriloquism'.