I'll tell you exactly how it began. I was about to drift off to sleep, indulging in my usual nightly reverie: Scarlett Johansson and Salma Hayek fighting over me, then deciding I'm not worth it and going off with each other. I'm one of the few men who gets dumped even in his own fantasies. It's that rare psychosis mental professionals term PLS -- Pathetic Loser Syndrome.
Suddenly, Uncle Jerry appears at my bedside. This immediately got my attention, both because he had died last April and because sparks were now shooting out of his hair. In truth, I was terrified. I began to doubt my sanity. Waves of nausea overtook me. Basically, I was experiencing the same sensations I feel whenever I get undressed in front of a full-length mirror.
I've never been one to believe in ghosts. People had to shush me through "Casper," because I kept exclaiming, "Yeah, right." But I swear to you that Uncle Jerry was as real as the three late payments on my TRW credit report. He even still had his life-long lower back pain. Thank God I had the presence of mind to reach under my bed and switch on my tape recorder -- the one I use nightly to dictate my memoirs of being raised by a man and woman who insist they're my real parents. I keep telling them I don't care that they're Pygmies -- they brought me up and I love them and that's all that matters.
In any case, here is the word-for-word transcription of my encounter that night with the apparition of my Uncle Jerry:
Me: Are you a ghost?
Uncle Jerry: If my skin tone is bad, just say so. Yeah, I'm a ghost.
Me: What's it like being dead?
Uncle Jerry: It's like living with your Aunt Sophie, but with less aggravation.
Me: Why are you here?
Uncle Jerry: Of all my relatives, I liked you best. I admired you, respected you, had the best time with you. Yes, Duane, you were my favorite.
Me: I'm Mark.
Uncle Jerry: Really? You look just like Duane. Sorry. I'll be going, now.
Me: No, wait, please. There's so much I want to ask you.
Uncle Jerry: E-mail it to me. I'm on a tight schedule.
Me: Are you in heaven? Hell? Limbo?
Uncle Jerry: Nah, there's none of that stuff. There's just two enormous rooms. If you've been good, you go to Room A -- the ice cream parlor.
Me: And if you've been bad?
Uncle Jerry: Room B -- the auto repair shop.
Me: Which one are you in?
Uncle Jerry: Ice cream parlor. But I just barely made it in, so they put me in the back, by the restrooms. And I'm not allowed to have toppings.
Me: Do you get to see God?
Uncle Jerry: Nah. He doesn't come in. Calls in for messages, though. And addresses us through the loudspeakers.
Me: Really? What does He say?
Uncle Jerry: You know, the usual -- love thy fellow man, turn the other cheek, why can't Harvey Keitel do a nice comedy movie...
Me: Can you take me back with you, just to visit?
Uncle Jerry: Well, we're only given one guest pass a year, and I've promised mine to this spokesmodel.
Me: What's your typical day in the afterlife like?
Uncle Jerry: Have you ever watched a golf tournament on TV? It's not that bad.
Me: If you could live any part of your life over again, what would you do differently?
Uncle Jerry: What is this, a Barbara Walters special? Okay, I'm sorry. It's a good question. I guess I would have been kinder to your Aunt Sophie.
Me: But you sacrificed your whole life for her and treated her like a queen.
Uncle Jerry: And still she was unsatisfied. Is it any wonder I had that fling with your cousin Duane.
Me: You what?!
Uncle Jerry: Oh, come on, everybody knew. Well, I gotta go.
Me: Hey, Uncle Jerry, save me a place up there with you?
Uncle Jerry: Oh, uh, about that. Actually, we won't be in the same room.
Follow Mark C. Miller on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MarkMiller123