The day— it was night the last time he knew – had gone well. The same routine since he’d retired. Wake up, stretch and do qi gong exercises, email and Facebook, read, write, walk, yardwork, dinner, bass practice, TV, sleep. Yes, he’d made it to almost asleep. Maybe still conscious of what was on . . .
And then there’d been a noise, right, that wasn’t the TV, and the lights came on. Blinding and bright. Then gasping, he’s awakened. Right here.
He sat confused, trying hard to remember how everything happened, sweat soaking his aloha shirt, the fever burning his face to what had to be a deep red flush.
He recalled confirmation, the Bible he’d been given for being a good Lutheran, the personalized red hymnal. He opened his eyes, heard . . . What was that again? His name?
Someone spoke, far away. He strained to hear. My name?
“And the holy ghost.”
Now I’m hallucinating, he thought.
“And what does this mean?” Pastor Johnson quizzed him.
Hallucinating means I’m imagining things . . . crazy, confirmation questions, not the body and the blood, just wine and bread, and remember that you cannot buy your way into heaven.
What in the hell? Hello? he called. Hello, can anyone hear me? Is someone up there?
He listened to the silence.
We are to fear and love God, he whispered, picturing the congregation watching him prove that he deserved to be confirmed long ago. Bible verses, creeds and commandments. What they were, what they meant. God, that could really ruin a teenager’s Saturdays.
I think I’m not an atheist, he said into the air.
It was like thunder. The vibrations. The whole room moved.
He was too tired. Amen to you too, he muttered. Tell me about it.
“So amazing that it all fits.”
He sat up when he heard this, shaken by the voice. It sounded as if it were right in his ear.
“He chose it himself. It’s koa wood.”
Now he was imagining his sister speaking, talking with someone.
He yelled, Christine, is that you? Are you there? Christine!
Silence. He remembered movies about people trapped in bank vaults. They run out of oxygen, he thought. But they’re always are saved, right? They don’t die. Even if they come closed, they’re revived. They don’t die. People do eventually get picked up. The swing holds. They don’t fall into the canyon.
Swing low, sweet wobble to and fro, he said to nobody.
Taking a deep breath to check, he had a horrible feeling. No air. He felt dizzy.
Mustering up all the energy he could, he yelled, Christine!
The air was thinning, his energy too. He shook with the cold, his clothes soaked in sweat. His breathing slowed.
Amen, he thought. And what does this mean? he whispered into the disappearing air.
The idea of counting sheep, their green pasture, drifted through his mind. But before he could begin, he slipped into a deepest sleep.