“Clarice! Make me a sandwich! The game’s picking up and I’m getting antsy!”
From the kitchen, Clarice said nothing. She opened the fridge and pulled out the lettuce, the tomatoes, the ham, and the cheese. She laid them all out on the counter before sliding open the breadbox and taking two slices of bread. They weren’t the heels, of course, though she often wished she could make her husband’s sandwiches as low quality as she could. But not today, she thought, as she slapped the sandwich together. It wasn’t the act of making a sandwich that was so irritating, to be honest. It was the fact that Bob was always yelling at her to make sandwiches that made her angry. The man was a renowned ex-athlete, it wasn’t like his body ailed him, and more than that, he was a grown man. Clarice threw his sandwich on a plastic plate and headed towards the living room.
“Here, Bob, take your sandwich.”
“No need to be snippy, babe.” He took the sandwich. “Ew, what is this? Haven’t I told you before? I don’t like tomatoes anymore.” One by one, he took the tomatoes out of the sandwich and chucked them on the floor next to Clarice’s feet. “Get those for me, will you? I don’t want the dogs eating them.”
It took every fiber of Clarice’s body not to whistle for Olive and Murphy, her dalmatian puppy and old yellow lab. She picked up the tomatoes, went back to the kitchen, and smushed the slices in her fist. Light red tomato juice sloshed down the sides of her arm, staining her fingers and wrist with a slightly ketchuped smell. At the sink, while she washed away the tomato remains, Clarice found her mind wandering. What had she done to find herself with such an average husband, one who never berated or hurt her, but was always demanding sandwiches and lounging on her sofa like an overheated bear cub? Was it something she’d done in a past life that prevented her from reaching her full potential? The water began to jump over the edge of the sink, making a mess on the floor, and Clarice snapped back to reality, her musings scattered by the sound of dripping.
Once she had mopped the floor, Clarice popped into the living room and sat down beside Bob. There had to be some good reason she’d ended up here, married to the guy. Only, every time she looked at him, he seemed almost unrecognizable. This was a far cry from what she’d wanted in life, and she definitely never thought he’d be telling her to make his darn sandwiches all the time. “Hi, Bob,” she said.
“Oh, hey, what’s up?”
“I just wanted to talk about-”
Bob waved a hand at her, “Can it wait? I’m watching the game.”
“Right.” Clarice stood up. “But I feel like you’re always watching the game.”
“Okay, and? Is that an issue? I can always go to Ryan’s house and watch it if it’s gonna be such a problem.”
“No. It’s fine.” Clarice fell quiet as the game roared on. After a while too long, the game gave way to a commercial advertising one free phone call to a medium, who would then come to your house and help you speak to the dead.
“Isn’t that just peachy?”
Clarice looked at Bob, “What?”
He jabbed a thumb at the tv screen. “I said, isn’t that just peachy. Do you think anybody actually believes in those things? Those mediums?”
“Well, obviously, someone does, or else they wouldn’t be blasted all over the television. People want the truth, Bob.”
If Clarice was hoping for a good conversation with her husband, she was hoping in vain. As soon as the game came back on, Bob was lost to the world. Clarice knew there was one person she could talk to, one person who would tell her what she should do about her problem, but the problem with that was… This person was truly, undeniably dead.
She went to the bedroom and picked up the phone to dial the medium’s number. It rang for a few seconds, and then clicked. On the other end of the line, a mystical voice announced that Clarice had reached the right place. “Oh good,” Clarice said, “I’m calling about the free medium visit. Can I set that up?”
“Awesome, when can you be here?”
“When do you need me?”
Clarice said, “Now would be best. Today, I mean. It’s important you get here today.”
“Who will you be speaking with?”
“An old friend of mine.”
Clarice told the medium her address.
“Give me thirty minutes.”
Clarice nodded to herself. “What’s your name?”
She smiled, “Mistress of the Dark?”
“My parents were big fans.”
“I’ll see you soon.”
“Awesome.” Clarice hung up and put the phone back down on the table. She left the room feeling lighter, like someone had finally lifted the huge weight always sitting in the pit of her stomach.
“Who was that on the phone, babe?”
Clarice waved a hand at Bob, “Just an old friend, don’t worry about it. She’ll come over in about an hour.”
“But the game-”
“You’ll be fine, Bob. You and your game will live together in stupid harmony, I assure you.”
Bob furrowed his brow, “You’re so dramatic today. What’s gotten into you?” He shook his head. “Hey, take this to the kitchen for me and make a new sandwich. This one’s gotten too soggy because, you know, tomatoes. I’ve gotta be in peak shape for this next quarter.”
“You’re sitting on the couch. Why do you have to be in peak shape?”
“You’re a woman, Clarice, you wouldn’t understand.” Bob laughed and laughed and Clarice snatched up the plate and the discarded sandwich and made sure her steps were light as she stormed back to the kitchen, where, according to Bob, she belonged.
“Here’s your sandwich, dear.”
“Dear? Babe, you’ve never called me that once in your life.”
“Sure, dear, whatever you say, dear.” She handed him his sandwich, this time wrapped loosely in a Starbucks napkin.
“You’re being weird.”
“You have a sandwich, don’t you?”
He nodded, already taking a bite. “Yeah,” he said, with a full mouth, “I guess I do.” Maybe if he said thank you, Clarice would have reconsidered.
The doorbell rang precisely thirty minutes after Clarice had called Elvira. Clarice opened the door to find a very normal looking young woman, not much older or younger than herself, perched on the frog porch. Elvira wore faded jeans and a loose top, with sleeves that ended a little too far up her arms, almost like the shirt was too small for her. Or at least, too small for her arms. Clarice waved Elvira into her home, noticing with slight envy that the medium had the prettiest hair she’d ever seen and smelled like rose hips and salted caramel fudge.
“Hi, I’m Clarice,” she told her, as they stood in the hall together.
Elvira stuck out her hand, “And I’m Elvira, as I’m sure you know.”
Clarice shook hands with her. “I do know, yeah. Say, uh, are you hungry? You want something? I’m told I can make an okay sandwich.”
“That’s alright. I’ve gotta be in and out of jobs like this.”
“Oh,” Clarice was surprised she was this desperate for company, “That’s right, I bet you do. Do you need some kinda set-up?”
“Nope, not really. Who’d you say you were talking to, again?”
“Just an old friend I haven’t heard from in a while. I need some advice and I just think, well, this is the best person to ask, I think.”
They sat at the kitchen table. “Do you have, like, those cards? Carrot cards?”
“T-a-r-o-t. It’s pronounced like the t is silent, though, and no, I don’t have them.”
“Sorry,” Clarice explained, “I’m just really curious about how this whole process works. I’ve never done anything like this.”
“Most people haven’t. That’s alright, though. Here,” Elvira held out a hand to Clarice, “Do you have a hair tie?”
Clarice deposited her hair tie in Elvira’s open palm. “Sure, use that one.”
Elvira put her hair up in a lopsided ponytail. Still, she had the shiniest ponytail Clarice had ever seen, including the unfortunate time her mother had signed her up for the fifteen and sixteen year old category in Miss Gas Station Tamale’s Beauty Contest.
“Thanks.” Elvira smiled. Her front teeth were chipped and crooked, but in an endearing, almost vampirical way. “Shall we get started?”
“Sure, why not?”
“Alright, let me tell you how it’s gonna work. No one’s gonna show up. It’s not exactly a tangible experience. It’s more like… I’m gonna tell you what this person is trying to communicate to you and you’ve gotta trust I know what I’m talking about.”
“Sure, that’s a good plan. And you know, I feel like I’ve met you before. Is that some kinda clairvoyant connection?”
Elvira chuckled softly, “No, I think I met you at the grocery store one time. You were buying ham for sandwiches, if I remember correctly.”
“You do, you do. Seems it’s all I buy these days.”
“Ah well, that could always change, couldn’t it?”
Clarice nodded, “Yes, it really could. Okay, well, uh, let’s get on with this. Do you want me to get the lights?”
“Doesn’t have to be dark, but if it adds to the moment-”
“I’ll get the lights.” Clarice hopped up and flicked off the lights. Elvira’s face, now shadowy, was lit only by the living room lamps. Clarice shivered, “Well, hey, this is kinda spooky.”
“Not as bad as you thought, though.”
“No, not nearly as bad.” To tell the truth, Clarice could almost imagine that this was any normal old day, that Elvira was a good friend of hers, that the conversation they were about to have was just regular gossip. “Are your eyes gonna glow or something?”
“Just foaming at the mouth.”
“No, not really. What’s your friend’s name?”
Clarice told her the name.
“And when did they die?”
“Hm, not too long ago. It was a very sudden, sad, tragic thing.”
“Right.” Elvira focused on her hands. She placed them on the table, palms towards the ceiling. “Give me your hands.” Clarice laid her hands in Elvira’s. “Close your eyes.” Clarice closed her eyes. “And relax.” Clarice did her best to relax, though nothing about the situation was relaxing in the slightest. “Hello, anyone there?”
Clarice didn’t hear anything. “Is it working?” She whispered, hoping the interruption wouldn’t break the process.
“Shh, yes. It’s working.”
“Shhhh. Not so loud, I’m listening.”
Clarice nodded and kept her mouth shut, training her mind to be still once more. Elvira was silent for several minutes, then she rose from the table and turned on the lights. Clarice rubbed her hands together; they were still warm and, she suspected, softer because a little bit of Elvira’s lotion had seeped into Clarice’s skin. Not that it bothered her, though.
“Do you have a pen? Paper?”
Clarice opened a nearby drawer. “Here.”
Elvira began to write and wrote for at least ten minutes before looking up at Clarice and sliding the notepad over to her. “Is this what you wanted?”
Clarice said, “Yes, exactly, thank you.”
“Is it… Well, it’s none of my business, but is this what I think it is?”
“Sure, I think so. Why? Gonna tell on me?”
Elvira smiled, “No, just curious.”
“Yeah, well, hey, do you want a sandwich?”
Elvira freed her hair from its elastic prison and shook her ponytail around over her shoulders. “Yeah, tell your husband to make one for me. For you, too. I’m sure you’re hungry. Things like this always work up an appetite, don’t they?”
“Speaking from experience?”
“Maybe. Now, sandwiches.”
Clarice leaned into the back of her seat, “Bob! Make me a sandwich! The game’s picking up and I’m getting antsy!”
From the living room, Bob said nothing.