Calling It

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“How is this happening?” she gasped. She had pulled me into the corner of the dimly lit room to kid ourselves into thinking this gave privacy. As it turns out, our voices didn’t really carry, the room muffled so well with heavy curtains, carpet, even tapestries.
“I don’t know,” I answered tenuously. I looked back into the room, through the darkly dressed attendees toward the coffin. “They did a pretty good job on me, didn’t they?” Her eyes widened in fright. She began shaking. “Sorry, I said.” I could understand her shock.
I walked over to the coffin. The group of mourners parted for me, silently, their disbelief declared, loud and clear. I tossed my head to look back and she had remained in her corner, like being punished. I caught four of five people hurriedly escaping the room. They made stifled crying sounds as they racewalked away. I turned back to the casket and resumed approaching it. It was all like a dream.
I kneeled down and said a Hail Mary. God knows I needed it. There I was, lying in state, cold, like marble, just a support for a suit. Is this what I had amounted to? 170 pounds of sinew, dried blood, bones, and tissue imbued with embalming fluid? I was so dead. Not even real any more. I felt my own person, patting myself down; 98.6 degrees, breathing, thinking, and even mourning.
"There are only two possibilities: yes or no," he had said. “Are you going to call it?”
His hand was ready to flip the coin. I struggled against my restraints. It’s so funny how something so insignificant can make an enemy of someone. Significant enough for him, I suppose. A coin in one hand, a revolver in the other. I didn’t even remember what I had done. He obviously had. He hated me, after all. And now he said he was undecided about whether to blow my brains out or not. He said he wanted someone named Schrödinger to help him decide, whoever that was.
“Well,” he said with a smirk, “I’m gonna take that as a yes. So I will flip this coin and you will call it. You call it right, you live; if not, well...”
“You would leave something like this up to chance?”
“There is no chance,” he replied. “When I flip this coin we’ll be saddled with a result, and you will either live or you will die.” He tossed the coin with an added flick of one finger such that it spun on a horizontal axis as it shot upward. The coin’s trajectory reached its highest point in its parabolic arc, transitioning between rising and falling, with my life literally hanging in the air.
I found it fascinating seeing who would attend my own funeral. It’s revealing how some you thought were your friends were too busy to come see you off. And then there were those you had no idea were endeared to you in some way, taking their turns to kneel right there, throwing their own Hail Mary’s, Our Father’s, or Glory Be’s into the hat.
My hat. My casket. My empty shell where my soul should be.
Of course all of this—the usual goings-on of a typical wake—had stopped in midair, so to speak, when I had shown up. When I realized I was at my own wake, I expected a stampede of mourners to rush the exits, but most stayed. And why would I not be in that stampede? Why wasn’t I unsettled by all of this? But I was being rude and unkind, so I walked back to the corner.
“I have no idea how this is possible. I know I’m also somewhere else right now, with my life at the mercy of a coin toss. A coin toss that has begun but hasn’t completed.” She didn’t understand. Her eyes began to tear. I turned to the crowd.
“Hello?” a frightened child—my own child—asked tentatively.
“Hello,” I replied. This was the first time anyone but her could actually hear me. There was a collective gasp, and the small child ran to his mother in the corner of the room and hid behind her.
“Tell us about…this,” she said aloud, pointing to me with one hand and to the body with the other. “Please!” Her voice broke. I turned away from her corner and I addressed my mourners.
“Who is Schrödinger?” I asked.
“What?” said a priest who stepped forward, willing to be spokesperson for the disbelievers as easily as he had been willing to be one for the believers before I had arrived in mid-toss.
“Who is Schrödinger?” I asked again. The priest stood perfectly still. He held a rosary he was going to use in a group prayer before I had crashed my own party.
“He was a 20th Century Austrian Physicist,” he answered.
“Is he alive? I was told he can help someone decide on something.”
“No, he dead.”
“Well, then, how can he help me?”
“He can’t by himself. Him,” and turning to my casket, added, “nor his cat. Not now.”
“Cat?”
“Just a mind exercise that says something either is or isn’t until it’s observed.”
“Ah,” I muttered to myself. “I’ve heard of that. Yes, I remember.” I searched my memory. “Yes, he can help me. I think he may have already.”
Once again I struggled against my restraints.
“So…heads or tails?” my captor challenged. “I’ll lift my hand and it will be either heads or tails. So call it. It’s your way of joining in the indecision and collapsing it.”
I was ready. I didn’t enjoy being no one in two places. My life was in the air as much as the coin had been, which now sat under his hand, ready to be called…ready to be observed.
“Heads,” I called it. He lifted his hand slowly, but I stopped him. “No, wait." He paused. "Make that tails.”

©2017 Gerard DiLeo

About the Author: 
Gerard DiLeo is a physician, inventor, women's health published author, and blog author. From New Orleans, he lives his post-Katrina life in Florida with his wife and family. He misses boiled crawfish very much.