Tiny Tim was dead these 16 years. There can be no doubt about that. His plucky heart first gave out at a ukulele festival in a grange hall in Massachusetts; two months later, while he was hitting the high notes for The Women’s Club of Minneapolis, he had his final heart attack. And on November 30, 1996 he stopped tiptoeing through the tulips … and started pushing up daisies.
This is not entirely true. He was never laid to rest underground but was entombed in a mausoleum.
But that made me no less surprised to see him.
If you asked me yesterday, I wouldn’t have been too sure Tiny Tim was indeed dead. But seeing him at the foot of my bed, floating six inches above the ground, there could be no doubt. His long hair was dry and wiry against his skull, which seemed to be attached to his body only by the grace of a red checkered cravat—obviously the one he was buried in. (Pardon me, entombed in.)
“Mercy,” I croaked. “What are you doing here?”
“A tisket. A tasket,” the long-croaked trebled to me. “For 16 years, I have floated from bedchamber to bedchamber, invading the dreams of those who repose in sweet slumber. I have borne falsetto witness to the music inside their heads—those very melodies that tug at their brain, tightening their lips into whistles or even causing them to burst into song.”
“Yes, we all get a tune stuck in our heads. Nagging things,” I said.
At this, the spirit of Tiny Tim cried out, hitting a high register that cracked the glass on my nightstand. “Nagging things? You think a catchy tune a nagging thing? Do you find the fur on a kitten’s head scratchy? Do you bristle at the lingering aroma of lilacs? You should drop to your knees and thank the Almighty Paul Simon for the lyrical bliss you find so … nagging.”
“Why do you tell me this?” I asked. And in retrospect, my question should have been “What the hell did I eat?” to actually see—let alone converse—with the ghost of Tiny Tim. Were those flaxseed oil pills I took at breakfast or something else? Was I completely losing my mind or had I just temporarily misplaced it?
Tiny Tim sat on the end of the bed. That is to say he assumed a sitting position six inches over the end of my bed. He flipped his hair and a wad of it dislodged from his skull and floated towards the dresser. “In life, I made a mockery of music and fame,” said the ghostly troubadour. “Although pitch perfect in a world before Auto-Tune, I sang songs that no one wanted to dance to … to sing along to … to whistle to … or even remember in a dream.”
“You were always a good con man of the business, Tiny Tim” I said.
“SILENCE!” screamed the wraith. “That’s all I require of you. Silence. Because in life I plagued the airwaves with a goofy brand of singing, I am now forced to spend the afterlife warning those on similar paths. I’ve heard you sing. … Shut up.”
“It’s just in good fun, Tim.”
“Shut up. I mean it.”
“Or I will end up sharing your gruesome fate?”
“Yeah, let’s go with that.”
“OK. I guess I could stop singing. Will that bring me salvation?” I asked.
Tiny Tim rose, floating toward the ceiling. “First, you will be visited by three spirits,” he said. “All Bee Gees. The two dead ones will stop by at one and two a.m. And then at 8 a.m., Barry will stop by to try to sell you some magazines.”
And as the ghost of Tiny Tim disappeared behind the ceiling of my bedroom, I distinctly heard inside my head .... "Staying alive. Staying alive."