“You boys go to sleep now.”
After checking on them, she tucked Pat into bed and kissed him goodnight. When the boys finally fell asleep, she decided to take one of those long, hot bubble baths with candles and the whole nine yards. Bev poured herself a glass of wine, settled into the tub, and took a long, slow sip of wine. Kent and Pat’s dreams laid heavy on her mind. She concluded the dreams had been more like visions rather than dreams. With the combination of the bath, wine, and exhaustion she drifted into shallow sleep.
Startled, she sank into the water and woke up.
Still in the tub, she covered herself with a washcloth, looked around and whispered, “Tony?”
There was no answer. Shaken and rattled, Bev climbed out of the tub and dried off. She put on her nightie, poured another glass of wine, and lit a cigarette. We had a party at the house several months ago, and one of our guests left a pack of Marlboros behind. Bev hadn’t smoked since college, but this seemed like an opportune time to start again. She peeked in on the boys one last time before crawling into bed. She laid there for a couple of hours and stared at the empty space beside her. She grabbed my pillow and held it close to her face and took in a big whiff. The faint scent of Aqua Velva was all that remained, but enough to remind her of me.
Bev was exhausted but afraid to let herself sleep. As many times before, she cried. Bev wondered how so many tears could be produced by a single human being before there were none left to cry. After hours of reminding herself what Pat and Kent experienced were illusions and nothing more, but concluded what she’d heard in the tub was a delusion. At peace with her rationale, she fell into a deep sleep. Now it was Bev’s turn to dream.
Her eyes open, and she is standing in the middle of a vast green meadow surrounded by gently rolling hills. There would have been silence if it weren’t for the sound of lapping water in the pond a few feet away and the song of a welcoming bird circling above. The cool, still evening air caresses her skin…and just like Kent said, a faint fragrance of vanilla fills her nostrils.
“Attention, K-Mart shoppers!”
Bev looks around at the empty meadow.
“Tony, is that you? Where are you?”
“Hi, Bev. Yeah, it’s me. You’re dreaming, and a nice one at that. It’s beautiful, but can you do away with the bird? God loves birds but doesn’t like them flying over His ‘Vette’, if you know what I mean.”
Bev, aware that she’s dreaming, takes the experience in stride. She notices the peacefulness surrounding her. Treading lightly had not been her usual behavior of late.
“I figure it was time to give you a break and explain what’s been going on.”
“I’m all ears, Tony.”
She drifts around in circles like a ballerina, playfully tugging on her nightie like a child.
“Pat gave me your message.”
“I know. You’ve got a grip like a corrupt politician!”
Bev recalled something Kent told her, and begins chuckling.
“What’s so funny?”
“Kent said something about you being God’s messenger.”
“Yeah, ain’t that a hoot?”
“Yes, it is. But Tony, you’re practically a heathen, for Christ’s sake.”
I know she can’t see me, but in a panic, I anxiously look around.
“Shush! Have you lost your mind? God gets a little edgy when people talk like that, especially about His kid.”
She covers her mouth, “Sorry.”
We wait for a second to make sure we weren’t going to be struck by lightning.
“Well, I guess the coast is clear.”
“I’ll be more careful next time.”
Bev finds a nearby log and decides to sit and admire the scenery. After a minute of contemplation, she walks over to a nearby pond.
“Can I walk on it?”
“It’s your dream, go for it.”
Then with a snicker, I say, “You may want to check with Peter first. It didn’t work out so good for him.”
Before Bev takes another step, I mention a towel hanging in a tree nearby just in case. She takes a few steps backward.
“I believe I’ll pass.”
Bev turns and asks, “Why can’t I see you? I can hear you like you’re right beside me.”
“Bev, I don’t make the rules. It’s the way they do things around here.”
She’s seen enough and has an idea, but queries as to exactly where “here” is.
“Right now, you’re standing in a meadow. Kent was right about the dreams; it’s the best way to communicate, a lot less interference.”
She picks up a small stick and tosses it into the water, then notices the pure beauty of the setting sun. For the first time since this all began, she’s at peace.
“I miss you, Tony.”
Staring into space, she lets out a long sigh.
“I wish I could hold you.”
“Bev, turn around.”
I suddenly realize that I’m allowed to show myself for the visit. Predictably, she runs in my direction and nearly tackles me.
“Tony, I’ve been worried about you! I love you so much!”
She’s all over me like a wild woman.
“Bev, calm down!”
She kisses and hugs me. Losing our balance, we fall to the ground, rolling around like slithering snakes in heat. She’s trying to be romantic, and I’m attempting to escape.
“Bev, stop it! They don’t allow that kind of stuff up here.”
I gently push her away, and she finally quits with the assault. We stand and brush away the grass and sand that’s clinging to our bodies. Bev regains some form of dignity and we decide to sit together on the log. Again, I nervously search all around, looking much like a bobble-head doll. Looking up and down, side to side, and everywhere in between to see if anyone is watching.
“Are you trying to get me in trouble?” I whisper.
She wraps her arms around me again, and I try to wiggle free.
“Stop it! If you’ll contain yourself for a minute, I’ll explain what I know.”
I tell her as much as I can since I’ve not seen Heaven in person. Want to visit a distant planet? Done. Enjoy swimming with the dolphins? No problem. Personally, I like golf and played eighteen with Him today and shot a thirty under.
“Bev, you’ll never believe this. Today I got five back-to-back holes in one. So many birdies and eagles I lost count. I got one bogey on purpose to break the monotony.”
Ignoring my success on the course, she exclaims, “He what? He plays golf?”
“All the time. And He’s pretty good.”
“Golly Gee Wilikers, He should be.”
“He also likes poker but doesn’t consider it, as they say around here, ‘part of those worldly things.’ God calls it a game of skill and cunning. He’s a big fan of Texas Hold’em. I was told He and Mother Teresa are regulars every Friday night at the lodge.”
“The lodge?” She gives me an incredulous look.
“Yeah, the lodge. What’s wrong with that?”
“I didn’t expect to hear about a lodge in Heaven.”
“Why not? They’re not barbarians. Heaven has all sorts of neat stuff. Heaven is what you want it to be, within reason you understand.”
“I realize this is meant to be Heaven or at least somewhere around here, but how did you manage to send me those messages?”
“Pretty neat, don’t you think? They must have one hell of a phone bill!”
Upon catching myself using the word “H-E-double-hockey-sticks,” I quickly apologize.
A voice thunders from above, “Don’t let it happen again,” then He laughs.
A little spooked, she asks, “Was that—Him?”
“Yes-sirree Bob! That’s Him, The Big Boss. The Man Upstairs. The Head Cheese. The Big Kahuna. The—”
She covers my mouth, and says, “All right, Tony, I get the picture.”
I move her hand away, and say, “But around here we just call him Frank.”
She shakes her head in disbelief. “You’ve got to be kidding! Isn’t that a little beneath Him? After all, He is—well, you know.”
“Bev, get a grip. God is what He is and who He is, but, like I said, around here, He’s just Frank. It’s His way of getting people closer to Him and have a more personal relationship without all the formality.”
“I see,” she says with folded arms.
Not entirely satisfied with my answer, she’s OK with the explanation and begins to feel more comfortable.
“Seems lackadaisical around here.”
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, I don’t know Tony—let’s kick it off with golf, poker, lodges, and then move all the way up the ladder to—Frank!”
“Don’t take me wrong, He demands and expects respect. He’d still rather we do it the usual way during prayer. You know, Dear God or Dear Lord, instead of Dear Frank.”
“Where is He? I mean, is He here?”
“Bev, God is omnipresent. That’s why we need to be a little more careful—He’s everywhere. I took His suggestion and looked it up. It’s about the only word in the dictionary almost exclusively dedicated to Him.”
“One thing for sure, you’ve stretched your vocabulary since you got here.”
I ignored her jab and continue to explain everything I know up to this point, including that God has a real knack for making you feel special. He hangs out with everyone, and I mean everyone, at the same time! I suppose that’s the benefit of being omnipresent.
“The things that go on in Heaven—I take a moment to glare at her—like His omnipresence, is never in question or doubt. Things just are. He is always present, whenever, wherever. While mortal, the way to communicate with Him is through prayer. Frank told me He wished every once in awhile, we should be less formal and just talk to Him like you would a friend. In Heaven, He’s only a chat away. You never need an appointment to visit with the Almighty. All you do is show up, and He is always there.”
Bev asks, “Don’t they have Bible studies or something like that?”
“Nope. Frank figures you must’ve covered all the bases, which is part of how you got to Heaven in the first place.”
A few moments pass and an unexpected visitor arrives.
“What’s going on? I was in the neighborhood and stopped by to say ‘hi’ to Bev.”
Jesus squeezes in between the two of us still seated on the log.
“Excuse me, but do I know you?” she asks.
“You should, you’ve got a picture of me in Pat’s room. Not my real likeness, but it’ll do.”
“Are we talking about the one over his bed?” she asks with a shaky voice.
“Yep, that’s me,” then there was a bolt of lightning, followed by a clap of thunder.
“Cut it out, Moses!”
All of us could hear Moses laughing in the distance.
Still squeezed between us, He asks, “Guess what, Bev? You’re on the VIP list. Just thought you should know.”
“You know; theeee list. It’s the one for folks who have done extraordinary things with their lives, like your work at the hospital, etcetera, and etcetera. Why, Bev, you’re practically a saint!”
Overhearing the conversation, I let out a big “Ha!”
Jesus moves in close to Bev and whispers, “Between you, me and the fencepost,” — then pointing in my direction — “you should be on it just for marrying that rascal.”
“You’re probably right. Can I see it?”
Jesus is momentarily distracted and asks, “See what?”
“Not really. You’ll get the chance when—well, you know—how can I say this—?”
Jesus scratches his head.
“What is that word? Oh, yeah—when you expire.”
“I think I’ll wait for now.”
Jesus quietly says, “That’s probably best”, — then He moves in close again — “for now.”
He sits back up and continues.
“While we’re on the subject, wanna hear the best part when you arrive?”
Bev is still a bit intimidated by her surroundings, and with the addition of the “expire” comment, she nervously asks, “What?”
“Come on, Bev, guess. Oh, never mind. The neat part is you get to spend all of eternity with the one you were married to as a mortal. Is that peachy or what?”
Throwing her intimidation out the window, she glares at Him with her famous “look” and smugly replies, “Is there a choice, are there other options?”
He nudges me whispering, “I like her. What a sense of humor.”
Then He slaps me on the back. “You’re a lucky man, Tony.”
Jesus hops up from the log, dusts a few specks of bark from his Bermudas, and adjusts His ball cap.
“I have to scram. I’m playing a quick round with Dad. Do you want to join us?”
Then sarcastically adds, “That’s if you have the time.”
I glance at a watchless wrist, and say, “Count me in.”
In an instant, He snaps his fingers. “Rats! I almost forgot; it’s bingo night. The, you-know-who bunch will never let me hear the end of it if I’m not the caller tonight. We could get in a quick round though. See you later, Tony.”
Jesus turns to Bev, and with a cheeky grin says, “And I’ll see you in about fifty-seven years.”
After the “fifty-seven years” comment, she starts counting on her fingers and doing math in her head, then she stands up and bows her head.
“Have a blessed evening, my Lord.”
“Lighten up, Bev, we’re not as formal as you think. My friends call me Chad.”
The look I gave God earlier at hearing his chosen name was weak compared to the one Bev gives to Jesus. She is rarely speechless about anything; this is the exception which includes a dumbstruck expression on her face.
Jesus notices her lack of words. “Bev, are you OK?”
She utters a reluctant, “I’m alright.”
“Marvelous! But Bev, if you aren’t comfortable calling me Chad, my personal favorite is King of Kings, but it would be silly if every time you ran into me, you said, ‘Hello, King of Kings,’ so Chad is swell by me. Or if you prefer, you could call me—”
I interrupt Him, lean over and ask, “Don’t you need to be somewhere, Mr. King of Kings?”
I’ve been around long enough to know there’s an amount of informality around here, even when talking to Jesus.
Shocked at my lack of reverence, Bev punches me in the arm.
“Chill out, Bev. You’re right, Tony, I have a busy day. See you on the golf course.”
Jesus waves as He leaves and Bev waves back. But as if in a trance, her wave lasts long after His departure.
“Snap out of it, Bev, He’s gone.”
Bev and I pick up the conversation where we left off.
She regains her composure, saying, “You know Tony, between you and your new pals, you’re making everyone at the hospital crazy. Paul is about ready to shoot you in the head and end all of this. And the boys on the top floor are giving Kent a ton of grief. How long is this going to last? Pat said you were coming back. Are you?”
“That’s the word. After three days, and when the third sun rises from the east, then sets in the west, that is when I shall return.”
Humored, she asks, “When did you start talking like that?”
“When the third sun rises—blah, blah, blah.”
“Be careful, Bev, I’m pretty sure I have supernatural powers. I could smite you or something.”
“Do you have any clue what smite means?”
“Now you’ve gone and done it, woman!”
I jump up from the log, and like a traveling evangelist, raise both arms in the air, shaking them and profess, “You have been smited!”
“What’s supposed to happen now that I’ve been smited?”
Deflated, I sit next to her. “I’m not too sure how it works.”
“Well, I don’t feel any different.”
Pointing at her head, I say, “Better look in a mirror and check out the huge mole on your forehead.”
Bev frantically feels around for it.
“I’m kidding, Bev.”
Relieved at the confirmation of my inability to cast a spell on her, she jabs, “I didn’t realize they let jerks in here.”
Once again ignoring her, “Hey Bev, I have to catch up with the gang. You heard Chad; we’re getting in one more round before I go to a Barry Manilow tribute concert.”
Since I’m only sort of a guest, I don’t have to go, but the squeakers do. I explain to Bev squeakers are folks who almost didn’t make it in. Jesus, who oversees admissions, is a prankster. It’s either the concert or an Amway seminar. Most choose Barry.
“You need to go now.”
“Why? The time seemed so short.”
“You just need to. Our boys will be waking up soon.”
Being the romantic I sometimes can be, I pick up a small twig and place it over her ear like a flower.
“I promised Pat, and now I’m promising you, I will be back.”
I kiss her on top of the head and begin to walk away, then turn back and say, “Oh, I ran into your dad at the lodge. I’m not sure what he was talking about, but the next time he sees you, he’d like his ten cents back.”
When Bev was a little girl, she’d always bum spare change from her dad. Earlier in the day, and just a few hours before her father died, she asked him for a dime. She has kept it in her jewelry box ever since.
“I’ll be sure to remember. Tell Dad I said hello.”
She lowers her head, and I notice a grin and a small tear. As I am leaving, I turn back once again, and blow her a kiss.
“Bev, I love you and always will. See ya.”
Bev’s eyes close, and when she opened them, she was back in bed.
She collected her thoughts and mumbled, “I really am losing my mind.”
Trying to rationalize her dream, said to herself, “OK, Bev, you’re a smart gal—figure it out.”
Bev contemplated her words for a few moments, but this time was convinced her dream was more than just an illusion. It seemed so real. The sights and sounds were much more than any dream she’d ever had. Those things we talked about, especially my “coming back before the third sun sets”, was confusing at best. Whatever it was, Bev felt calm and rested.
Becoming more awake, she felt something poking her in the head and discovered a small twig. Her confusion became comfort as she removed it, then she gently rolled the little twig with her fingers. She smiled and placed it on her nightstand next to her jewelry box.