Tim died in June but, after the funeral was over and everyone left, he started to get lonely. Even worse, the collar of the shirt he’d died in continued to be as itchy as it ever was. He spent his first few dead days wandering the graveyard where he’d been buried, hoping to meet a fellow ghost or phantom or spectre, but he found the place to be as desolate in death as it had been in life. Row after row of grey teeth shot up from the ground, emblazoned with last names and Born/Died dates, but there was nary a spook to be found.
It was a full week before Tim met his first dead person, an overweight ghost named Clyde. He’d been walking down the street, wondering why he was the only person who’d ever died and became into a ghost, when he rounded the corner and spied Clyde, a fellow apparition at last, licking an ice cream cone. Tim started to wonder how exactly this other ghost was holding an ice cream cone, when he realized that Clyde wasn’t actually holding it himself: there was a young woman standing beside him, holding a chocolate ice cream cone she had ostensibly purchased for herself, and here was Clyde licking it as though this was the most normal thing in the world.
“Hey, what the hell are you doing?”
Clyde took one last fat lick at the dribbling chocolate and turned to face Tim. He was a man in his forties, or at least he had been when he died, with a balding wisp of hair atop his head and a bloated body stuffed into a black-and-gold tracksuit. With a confused look on his face he replied, “What?”
Tim persevered. “I saw you, you were just licking that lady’s ice cream. How can you even taste it?”
“I don’t have to taste it now to remember what it tasted like before. Licking it just helps put me in the state of mind to recall better.”
Tim wasn’t quite sure how to respond, and so he rolled his eyes. It was something he’d hated seeing people do when he was alive, but he wasn’t anymore, so the whole social rulebook kind of went out the window.
“Lemme guess: newly dead?” Clyde smirked in a way that Tim did not appreciate one bit.
“What’s that got to do with it? Don’t try and change the subject.”
Clyde wiped his hands on his tracksuit and extended the left one to Tim. “Name’s Clyde; it happened to me about a year ago. Fell down the steps at a Saints game; trying to carry too many beers and wieners back to my seat, I guess. By the time I hit the bottom, well…” Rather than explain further, he grabbed the top of his head and pulled to the right. His neck bent about 90 degrees, until he was staring at Tim sideways.
“Jesus,” said Tim, “alright, I get it. Enough.” Clyde laughed and brought his head back up to where it normally ought to be.
“Man, you’re gonna have to get a stronger stomach. You’re dead for fuck’s sake!”
Tim began to bristle at this other man’s coarse language, but stopped. “Right… I keep forgetting that.” He sat down on the curb and held his head in his hands. The itchy shirt collar tickled his neck, but he couldn’t bring himself to scratch it.
“Aw, shit” said Clyde, and awkwardly shuffled his bulk until he too was seated; his legs were splayed out into the street, almost unbent at the knee. He patted Tim on the back as he let out a soft whimper. “Alright, that’s enough of that. You’re dead, get over it and figure out what to do with yourself. You don’t see anyone else weeping like a girl around here.”
Tim lifted his head from his hands. “I haven’t seen anyone else around here period. You’re the only other ghost I’ve actually met. How can that be?” He wiped his eyes with the sleeve of his sweater. “Even the graveyard was empty.”
Clyde laughed. “Sheeyit, think about it for a second. Why in the hell would anyone wanna hang around that creepy place? You’re dead! You can go anywhere, see anything, but instead you’re gonna camp out in some park full of dead bodies?”
Tim thought about it for a second, and then said “Wow, you’re right. I’m a complete fucking idiot.” Clyde snorted, slapping him roughly on the back. As strange as it was, it felt nice to actually be touched by another human being. He held out his hand, saying “My name’s Tim; I choked to death on a cluster of raisins.” Clyde took Tim’s hand in his own, and began to shake violently with laughter. Tim turned red.
“I guess it’s not as glamorous as being King Klutz. How hard can it be to carry a tray?” Clyde whooped, slapping his knee mirthfully. In spite of himself, Tim began to laugh as well. His shirt collar began to itch again, but this time he wrenched the stuffy button-down up over his head and hurled it into the street. Sitting next to Clyde on the curb in his undershirt, he started to wonder if maybe death wasn’t the end of the world after all.