Excerpt from Genteel Spirits

   
     "Gumm-Majesty residence," I said into the receiver, as I almost always did. "Mrs. Majesty speaking."
     "I need to speak with Mrs. Desdemona Majesty, please."
     Perhaps I should explain that Desdemona thing. You see, when I was ten years old and first pretended to communicate through the Ouija board Mrs. Pinkerton (then Mrs. Kincaid) gave Aunt Vi, people actually believed I was speaking with spirits. So I let 'em. I mean, if people wanted to believe that sort of rubbish and I could profit therefrom, why shouldn't I? At any rate, that's when my career as a spiritualist began. When I was ten years old. Honest. It's the truth. Shortly thereafter, I decided Daisy was too humdrum a name for a genuine spiritualist. Not that I was one of those, but people thought I was, and that's what mattered. So I selected Desdemona as my nom-de-whatever. Not until three or four years after that was I forced by a particularly mean-spirited English teacher to read Othello, or I'd probably have chosen another name. I mean, who wants to share a name with a famous fictional murderee, for heaven's sake?
     Anyhow, I said, "This is she speaking." I did so in my low, smooth, soothing spiritualist voice, since I knew nobody'd be telephoning for "Desdemona Majesty" unless the call was work-related.
     "Mrs. Majesty, my name is Gladys Pennywhistle—"
     "Gladys?"
     Silence on the other end of the wire. For good reason, as I didn't generally shriek into the telephone receiver and just had. But I was shocked. Gladys Pennywhistle and I had gone to school together ever since the first grade!
     In an attempt to retrieve the moment, I said, "I beg your pardon, Gladys, but this is Daisy. You know, Daisy Gumm?"
     "Daisy?" came uncertainly through the wire. Talk about sober-sided people, Gladys was probably the premier example of the species. Very smart, the Gladys I knew had absolutely no sense of humor and took everything seriously, even when it wasn't. We'd never been close friends, although we always got along well.
     "Yes. It's Daisy. Only I'm Daisy Majesty now. Have been since 1917, in fact, when I married Billy Majesty, whom you may remember. He was a couple of years ahead of us in school. My professional name is Desdemona Majesty."
     "Daisy?" she said again, as if she couldn't believe her ears.
     "I'm sorry, Gladys. I didn't mean to startle you. But yes, I am Desdemona Majesty, and I am the spiritualist for whom you're looking."
     I decided not to startle her further by telling her I'd made up the Desdemona part of my name. For all she knew, I'd been named Desdemona at birth and Daisy was a nickname.
     "I... I see." Gladys cleared her throat. "What... what an interesting line of work you're in, to be sure, Daisy. I mean Desdemona."
     "Please call me Daisy, and it certainly is. How may I help you?" I couldn't quite imagine Gladys calling upon a spiritualist for herself. Although people do change over time, I couldn't reconcile the Gladys I'd known in school, and who'd actually understood and enjoyed algebra, with a person who possessed the need for a spiritualist. Personally, I'd liked geometry until we got out of the theorem stage and had to begin using algebra again. For my money, algebra is for the birds. Not that it matters.
 
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