The (un)dead tell no tales

A Weekly writer attempts to contact someone from the other side—Michigan

Rick Lax sees dead people. Or not.
Illustration: Robert Ullman
Rick Lax

On a Friday afternoon i met with a medium and contacted my “dead” mom. Notice how I put “dead” in quotation marks? Yeah, my mom’s not dead. She lives in Michigan, where she designs websites, does half-hour sessions on the elliptical machine at Lifetime Fitness and eats Gardenburgers with my dad at J. Alexander’s. Of course, I didn’t share any of that with the medium; I told the medium my mom was dead, and I let her take it from there.

I don’t want to reveal the medium’s name, but I will reveal that it’s close enough to “charlatan” that she might want to consider changing it. So for now, let’s call her Charla. Charla is an older lady—about 70—with hair extensions and incredibly white teeth. When I met her—I don’t want to reveal the place of business at which we met—she was wearing a pink tank top that showed off her wrinkly cleavage.

“You must be Rick,” she said. “You look nervous.”

“I am,” I replied, “I’ve never done anything like this before.”

I meant that I’d never before attempted to expose a medium, and if Charla were truly clairvoyant (as she claimed to be), she might have known that.

She escorted me to the séance area, and I pulled back a curtain of hanging beads and walked inside. The tiny room was adorned with scented candles, psychedelic posters and a massage chair. We sat across from each other at a three-foot-by-three-foot table draped with a red tablecloth and topped off with a green place mat.

“You want to contact your mother,” Charla told me.

Don’t get all excited; I told Charla’s assistant beforehand that I wanted to schedule an appointment to contact my mom.

“When did she pass?” Charla asked, taking my hands into hers.

“About a year ago.”

“And how did she die?”

I looked down, took a deep breath, looked back up at Charla, and said, “Dog bite.”

And then there was a long pause. During this pause, I began to get worried. I began to worry that Charla could see through my lies, that I’d gone too far with the “dog bite” line, that I should have saved the crazy stuff for the end of our 30-minute session. And when I couldn’t take the silence any more, I started talking:

“I mean, not just a dog bite. That’s why she went to the hospital in the first place, but once she was there, she got this infection, and then they moved her, and she got this other thing, and one thing led to another …”

“Have you thought about filing a medical malpractice suit?”

That was the last thing I expected to hear from Charla—legal advice.

“My father and I talked about it,” I said.

“You might want to consider it. If your father has the means, of course … Does your father have the means?” she asked.

“I guess …” I replied.

Charla nodded solemnly, and I tried to get her back on track:

“So … we can get in touch with my mom, here, today?”

“You don’t feel it?” Charla asked. “You’re already in touch with your mother. I can sense her presence all around you. Right now. I can see tiny shapes all around you. Little geometric shapes.”

“And the shapes … are my mom?”

“Did you mother do something with math or science?”

“Not really …”

“What did she like to do?”

“Figure skating. She loved figure skating.”

“That’s what it is!” Charla exclaimed.

“That’s what what is?” I asked.

“The shapes—they were cold and white … like ice!”

I took the cue and feigned enthusiasm.

“Do you ever figure skate?” Charla asked me.


“Here’s why I’m asking: Your mother is telling me that she’d like for you to go figure skating. She wants you … to go out on the ice … and see the world from her eyes.”

“Ever since she passed over,” I said, “I can’t even watch figure skating on TV. I try to, but I just close my eyes and change the channel.”

“Well she wants you to do something creative—that’s what she’s telling me right now.”

“Anything else?”

“She’s telling me … that she wants … she wants you to do something to clear your mind … to go hiking at Red Rock, or go to Mt. Charleston, by the canyon, where there’s a waterfall … to reconnect with her.”

My mom knows I hate hiking. So even if she were dead (which she’s not), and even if dead people could talk (which they can’t), she’d never send me to Red Rock. Maybe to the Red Rock casino, but that’s it.

“Did your mother leave anything for you?” Charla asked.

“After she passed, I found this chest,” I improvised, “and I unlocked it, and inside—”

Just then my phone rang. It was my mom. I’d told her to call me at that time. I’d planned to put her on the phone with Charla, and have her tell Charla that she was alive and well. But I chickened out. Charla was so warm, so comforting and so clueless, I just didn’t have the heart to reveal the truth.

“I’m so sorry,” I said to Charla, as if my phone’s ringer had somehow disturbed the mediumistic energy aura she’d build up over the past half-hour.

“Don’t worry about it. We’re coming to an end, anyway. Was there anything else you wanted to know?”

“There is one thing: Sometimes … I get the feeling … that my mom is trying to contact me. Is that weird?”

“You mother is trying to contact you,” Charla assured me. “She’s calling out to you. She wants you to know that she loves you and that she’s okay.”

Charla and I hugged, and I considered fake crying, but decided against it. Then I reached into my wallet to pay her, at which point Charla said the funniest, least believable thing I’d heard all day: “That’s right; I almost forgot about the payment!”

The fee was unreasonable in that Charla was totally wrong, but reasonable in that Charla charges much less than, say, a psychologist would charge. Of course, you get what you pay for.

And if you did pay for a psychologist, he might remind you that death is scary, and he might tell you that a belief in spiritualism is a denial of death. But mediums, of course, can’t talk to the dead. Or rather, they can talk to the dead, but the dead can’t talk back.

That’s what I think, at least. And my mom agrees. She told me so yesterday.


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