Speaking impolitely to the dead.

I went in to Madame Dorene's, gave her $20 from my wallet. She held the money in front of the light, checking for the anti-counterfeit strip.

“What is your name?”

“Scott,” I said.

“Give me your hands,” she said.

I put my hands on the table and she took them in hers. Her nails were painted in a swirling pattern. She was 43 or so, and her touch was cool, very comforting. She was wearing heavy eye makeup and a robe. There was glitter on her hands. I liked her. The sullen, gangly 16-year-old who opened the door for me must be her son

“You want to speak to someone,” she said.

“Yes,” I said.

“A family member?”

I said, “no, not a family member. Someone who died a long time ago.”

“Who?” she asked.

“A man named Jim Morrison.”

It was quiet. “You mean from the Doors?”



She took a long breath. “That's very difficult. As you have no connection with the person, so calling out to them across the...well, it's hard. It'll cost you $10 extra.”


“I will try.” She took her hand away and put it under the table. Her arm moved her subtly and the lights dimmed. Glow-in-the-dark moons, and stars, and ringed planets winked into view on the walls.

“I am calling out to the spirit world, I am calling out for Jim Morrison, Jim Morrison. Jim Morrison, hear my call in the spirit world, come and enter my physical presence and speak to me, Jim Morrison, oh jama la---, jama la jama la!” I saw her elbow twitch and a breeze came through the room, rustling the curtains. Her voice went low and gravelly.

“I am here,” she said. “It is Jim Morrison.”

“Jim,” I said, “my name is Scott Rahin.”

“Hello, Scott. Please speak quickly as my time on this plane is very limited, very brief.”

“Jim, I wanted to know how things were for you now. Are you happy?”

“Yes, I am happy. I am more happy than I was on this plane.”

“That's good. You know you are still very famous down here.”

“I did not know. I thank you for telling me.”

“Well, don't thank me, I had nothing to do with it.” I took a breath. “Jim, the reason I asked you here tonight is that I wanted to know what in Christ's name you were thinking when you wrote your poetry. It's barely poetry at all.”

A long pause. “Please ask your question again. I cannot hear you.”

“I mean, don't you have any shame for how bad it was? There's a killer on the road. His brain is squirming like a toad. It's barely even literate.”

“I do not think you speak with enough respect for those who have gone on,” said Jim/Dorene.

“Remember this? `Midnight/criminal metabolism of guilt forest/Rattlesnakes whistles catcalls.'”


“That's from a little poem called Sirens. As is the line `I am troubled/Immeasurably/By your eyes.' Had you no shame, Lizard King?”

In a less Jimlike voice, Dorene said, “So you brought me back from the spirit realm to tell me I was a bad poet?”


“My visit to this plane is over,” said Jim, and suddenly the lights came back up. Dorene, as Dorene, looking very annoyed, said, “Were you able to ask him your question?”

“Yes, thank you.” She wanted me to leave. “How much would it cost to talk to Shari Lewis and Lambchop? Maybe ten dollars?”

She looked at me and shook her head. “I am very tired tonight, no more crossing over for me. Understand?”

.  .  .  .  .  

Echoing Dorene, Paul said, “You paid $25 just to yell at Jim Morrison?”

“Worth every penny.”

“What were you going to ask Shari Lewis?”

“I thought it would be cool to get Dorene to have to do Shari Lewis doing Lamb Chop. I had it all prepared. I would ask, 'does it get your goat, as a sheep, to have a hand rammed up your ass?”

Paul's eyes half-shut and he looked tired.

.  .  .  .  .  

See also: 26 Jan 98.

.  .  .  .  .  

This week, Ftrain is supported by Mark Anderson, of the first-class Booklend - a lending-library by post.




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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

Woods+. People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately. (July 10)

Reading Tonight. Reading! (May 25)

Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford. (May 18)

Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford. (May 17)

Nanolaw with Daughter. Why privacy mattered. (May 16)

0h30m w/Photoshop, by Paul Ford. It's immediately clear to me now that I'm writing again that I need to come up with some new forms in order to have fun here—so that I can get a rhythm and know what I'm doing. One thing that works for me are time limits; pencils up, pencils down. So: Fridays, write for 30 minutes; edit for 20 minutes max; and go whip up some images if necessary, like the big crappy hand below that's all meaningful and evocative because it's retro and zoomed-in. Post it, and leave it alone. Can I do that every Friday? Yes! Will I? Maybe! But I crave that simple continuity. For today, for absolutely no reason other than that it came unbidden into my brain, the subject will be Photoshop. (Do we have a process? We have a process. It is 11:39 and...) (May 13)

That Shaggy Feeling. Soon, orphans. (May 12)

Antilunchism, by Paul Ford. Snack trams. (May 11)

Tickler File Forever, by Paul Ford. I'll have no one to blame but future me. (May 10)

Time's Inverted Index, by Paul Ford. (1) When robots write history we can get in trouble with our past selves. (2) Search-generated, "false" chrestomathies and the historical fallacy. (May 9)

Bantha Tracks. (May 5)

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