They died together. Facing each other like two lovebirds except for the love. Jacob and Edward had come into the world at the same time, raced each other through life, and they did the same right into death. Their hearts stopped within seconds of each other, leaving behind billions between the two of them—so much money that even their surviving family members, who were, for the most part, also extremely competitive, had nothing to bicker about. The whole of the Ronson family was in agreement: there was enough to go around and then some. The same, however, could not be said about the afterlife.
If it weren’t for the fact that these two brothers were already dead, you could’ve called the contest they waged a fight to the death. But what were they fighting for exactly?
Usually, when a person dies, family members who’ve already passed will welcome the newcomer into the fold, and a family reunion is convened in which a series of negotiations begin as to who will join the new spirit’s team. They’re called teams, but you might want to imagine something like a Facebook page. The allegiances are fragile and shifting. They can change and will change as spirits of other family members come into the mix.
Before Edward and Jacob showed up, the teams were just excuses for a little friendly competition—just a way to while away eternity. That, of course, did not sit well with Jacob and Edward. When they died, they eschewd the welcome party and instead announced to all of the previously departed Ronson family members in attendance that a decision would need to be made. Team Jacob or Team Edward? And more to the point, these teams would mean something.
“Decide and decide well,” Jacob announced. “Yes, because fickleness will not be tolerated,” Edward added. And to make their point, each brother came up with a binding contract in which a spirit would basically promise itself to one of the brothers in perpetuity, which in the afterlife is a very long time.
As in life, Jacob and Edward knew how to come up with a contract. And they were aggressive, too. Whenever any Ronson died, as soon as he or she went through the white door, across the ivy-covered bridge and in and out of the tunnel of light that connects life and death, the first thing this newly-minted spirit would see was the cranky twins waiting with a contract in each of their bony hands. Frightening, frightening, indeed, which is why the brothers were able to force their whole family to divide itself among the two of them. No one dared refuse. No one except for Katie Ronson.
Her father, Thomas, had once laughed at Jacob and Edward for their competitive ways, which caused the brothers to suspect that Thomas had been adopted. They ignored their first cousin in life. In death, they needed that pesky cousin’s daughter. Every vote had to be accounted for in the Ronson brother competition—even the spawn of an annoying cousin.
When Katie arrived, it beame clear to the brothers that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. “I’m too old to care about that kid-stuff,” Katie said when presented with the contracts, which only confused the brothers. Their second cousin was a quarter their age, how was it that she was too old? “Vampires, werewolves, who cares?” Katie said as she flounced over to a Ronson who’d died in the late 19th century. Katie, it should be said, loved knickers and people who wore them.
“I am not a vampire nor am I a werewolf,” Jacob said as he ran after Katie.
“We are your cousins,” Edward interrupted. “And you must decide which team you will be a member of. It’s your duty.”
“Will you make the right decision and be on mine,” Jacob said.
“Or,” Edward interrupted, “will you be wise beyond your years, and choose my team?”
“Let me get this straight,” Katie said with a smirk that only a young soul could muster, “you guys are having a popularity contest like a couple mean girls? LMAO.”
“We are having no such thing,” Edward said.
“No such thing,” Jacob seconded. “What we are doing is organizing this ragtag family of ours into categories—correct categories that will take the family into the future and beyond.”
“You’re like a couple chicks. I don’t have internet, and I can’t Facebook or Tweet, but I have to decide between two flabby old guys. OMG.”
“OMG?” Jacob asked.
“It means, I’m not going to play your little game. It means you don’t get a vote. And, just for the record, you all need to get some gum because you got some after-life halitosis going on.”
And with that, Katie walked away, leaving the brothers and their contracts behind.
Of course, this did not end things. Jacob and Edward Ronson were not that easily dissuaded. But what could they do? Katie was not one to be intimidated. Like her father, who was still alive and grieving his daughter’s untimely death, she laughed at the old men and their need to compete whenever they approached her. Truth be told, she enjoyed the way they kept after her, and they did so night and day (even though in death, those words don’t mean anything.)
In death, a lot of things don’t mean anything. Time, fun, happiness—even grief loses its meaning. Unlike those silly movies in which spirits know what the living are feeling, that is not the case. Spirits are selfish, which is why Katie could go about her business without worrying about her grieving teacher-dad and why Jacob and Edward could spend eternity chasing after a second-cousin they never would have paid attention to in life.
Competitions for popularity between two silly men in death is silly. But what else are spirits to do? It’s not like people in this life spend their time on such silly competitions. Now that would be ridiculous.