Where Is The Goddamned Light?

Where was the goddamned light? Couldn’t they send someone for her? She hated the way she felt; dazed and hazy the way you feel when you wake up from a nap that has done more harm than good. It was dark and there were no lines only jagged ends to things, half of this and a quarter of that, she didn’t see any wholes. This place wasn’t what she had expected.
“Over here,” the voice called, unrecognizable and genderless, having neither the high-pitched tone of a woman, nor the low and deep hum of a man. She looked in the direction of the voice and saw nothing, another mind game she thought. She had searched in vain for a way out, a new place to go, but there was nothing beyond this…
”I know, I’m late. It’s been like that here lately.” The nondescript thing that sounded like her mother said. When the woman came in full view, she realized that things weren’t all that different. Her mother was the same with the grays tightly rolled into curlers high up on her head.
“I’m old aren’t I?” the mother thing asked. “You remember me the way that I was. Your father see’s me as a twenty-year-old college coed.”
“Daddy’s here?” she asked.
“Well where else would he be?” her mother sat on a small bench in a characterless green space.
“I just thought with the tax evasion, and the infidelity...”
“Oh, of course. Well, we can talk about that later.”
The last thing Lorraine remembered: her heart, it was bad, rotted from the inside the doctor told her before offering her a thin mint. She sat beside her husband and searched for his hand, which he had yet to offer. Morty married her on a dare he’d joke when they had dinner guests. He should’ve answered the question instead of taken the dare he continued as the guests laughed, smiles hidden behind green and red tinged martini glassed with twisted stems in matching hues. The smiles of those more fortunate than she, with stronger marriages, superior careers, smarter children and, all these years later, healthier hearts that promised to beat well into their golden years. 
“What do you want from me Raine? I told you to take Cat. She’s better at this sort of thing.” He finally offered his hand. “You brought money didn’t you?”
“Yes, but I figured in light of my failing heart, you’d at least pay for parking.” Her mother told her never to marry a Jew, but what choice did she have, it was Mort or Paul Farb. He weighed 300 pounds and had bad teeth. “At least he’s a gentile,” Mother had said as if anyone still used such terminology, “won’t contaminate our gene pool.” And what genes they had. Mother died at sixty-five after a lengthy battle with dementia. In the end, she was calling Lorraine by the wrong name and peeing in the flower garden behind the house. Lorraine believed failing memories would find her too, ultimately causing her untimely demise. Father, always a heavy drinker, died in his forties while driving to the grocery store to pick up a bottle of whisky. His liver simply stopped working.
“Do you want to see your dad now? Or shall we wait?” Her mother began to unroll the curlers and place them in a bag, white canvas with the words ‘My stuff’ emblazoned across the front in a scripted, chartreuse font. She seemed impatient as if Lorraine was keeping her from something.
“Hot date, Mother?” Attempting to keep the sarcasm out of her voice failed, but after all this time she wondered why her mother wasn’t happy to see her. They’d never had a close relationship, but still. “I just don’t understand why you’re in such a hurry. How much can be going on up here?”
“What makes you think we’re up?” Mother adjusted the pin curls surrounding her face with a small gold comb that seemed to have materialized from nowhere, which Lorraine supposed was exactly where they were.
She looked down, “Are we?”
“Of course not, why would you even think such a thing. Hell is a place for those who choose it, you’d do well to remember that.”
“I only thought, since Father is here.” Her mother stared at her, hands on hips, mouth puckered causing the mild frown lines to go full tilt.
“You father never admitted to anything. Life wasn’t easy for him. How was it for you and the Jew? Difficult, I’m sure since you’ve joined us at such a young age.” The sound of a bell, from some distant place, echoed.
“Our marriage was fine,” she lied, “not responsible for this at all. In fact, me being here is a mistake. I was supposed to wake up. The doctor who performed the surgery was one of the best in the country. Morty made sure of that,” she added the last part in an attempt to stick it to her mother. Lorraine remembered that this is exactly what their relationship had always been about, one upping each other, grandstanding in order to alienate and humiliate the other person. Such a silly thing for two women to do to one another, but they never could seem to get a handle on it.
“I don’t know why they sent me. You never wanted me around. I think maybe we should figure out a better way to get you to the other side. I’m useless because you believe me to be. I wish you’d had a better life. I’ll send your father.” With that, her mother turned and walked off toward the blue sky surrounding them, fading into it as if a part of it.
So she waited, sorry things ended the way they did. A common theme in her life, regret promised to swallow her again. Why had she done this or failed to do that? But, this wasn’t her fault. She had a bad heart, nothing Raine could do about that.
You didn’t have to eat so much? Or smoke so often. What about all that butter and the bacon? The voice inside her head that she’d always associated with Bethany Simmons, her high school rival, said. Beth, both popular and beautiful, had actually never said a word to her from elementary school through high school, but lived deep inside of her anyway, cutting her down at various low points throughout her life. Maybe she’d run into her somewhere now, the prom queen died at age eighteen after being raped and beaten in a fraternity house at some New England Ivy League school. At least I outlived her, Raine thought though the victory felt empty because in Beth’s brief life Lorraine was sure she had been happier than Raine had in all of hers.
“Apple Dumpling,” her father stood holding her hand, though she’d never even sensed him. “What brings you our way?” After looking at a chart on a shiny metal clip board he made the cliché tsk, tsk sound which followed her around during her youth, “Your heart, huh? I assumed you’d go batty like your Mom or have a shit liver like me. At least you did something different. You never were one to run with the crowd.”
“The back brace made that a bit difficult,” she started to say and rethought. Mentioning her scoliosis would only cause him to make the hideous sound again. And of course, she’d have to relive the times when she was invisible. When the other kids did see her, she became the butt of their jokes, a pin board straight back holding her in a position so uncomfortable she often missed school.
“How’d you manage to piss your mother off?” He continued without waiting for an answer, another annoying trait he dragged with him to the afterlife, “I suppose you two were always like oil and water. Kaboom,” he held his hands back and brought them together. “Well, no use dwelling on the unchangeable. Let’s get you to the office. They want to meet you. I told them all about you, being a proud father and all.”
Proud, she thought wondering why she had yet found the chance to say one word to a man who’d been going on for so long. “Daddy, I think I need to go back.” She tried to turn and walk away, but wherever they came from was gone.
“You can never go back, only forward. Maybe things will suit you better up here. You want to return to life? Why? I always thought it bored you. Raine, you never seemed to fit. Up here, people let you start over.”
Lorraine wondered why this didn’t sound more appealing to her, he was right. Life had never been kind. People would say, “Things can’t get any worse.” She would moan, “Fine, but why don’t they ever get any better?”
“Maybe your right, Daddy,” she didn’t have much to go back to, a philandering husband who allowed her few of life’s luxuries, though their convenience store had done well in the twenty years they’d owned it and had sold for a substantial profit. While he drove around in a brand new sports car, she still tooled around in her economy-sized one, purchased ten years ago, used. Her daughter Cat, while a nice enough girl, shared no common traits with her. They talked weekly on the phone, but Cat delivered her list of updates in chronological order the way one would recite a shopping list or convey a catalog of symptoms to a doctor. Lorraine was close to only one person throughout the course of her life, Est Brown, now referred to as the local town nut. To Lorraine, she was a confidant, a friend and at one time a lover, which she was sure no one had ever known. They had only become intimate out of loneliness, hoping it would fill a void left by children and husbands who expected too much or too little.
Her father opened a heavy wooden door and led her in by her elbow. Even this small touch seemed too much from a father who spent most of his life chasing things he didn’t have. “Sit down and wait. He’ll be in soon.”
“God?” She straightened her hair, cursing herself for not keeping a mirror in her pocket.
“You look fine. And no, not God. Heard he retired, if he ever existed at all.” He kissed her on the forehead and turned to leave, “I’m sorry this is how it all happened for you. I wish I’d done more while I was alive. I’ve gotta get back to your mother, the woman can’t stand to be without me. The nice thing about finding her up here is getting a second chance. Maybe it will happen for you too.”
Then, he was gone and she was left sitting in the room which looked like a 1940’s detectives’ office with its beveled glass door, hard wooden seats on wheels and heavy mahogany desk.
“You see what you want to up here.” The woman who walked in said. Her petite frame and large glasses stood in glaring contrast to one another. “Don’t you remember me?”
“My eyes aren’t great anymore. Do we know each other?”
“We did a long time ago. I wasn’t important.”
“Neither was I,” Lorraine pulled a chair closer and motioned for her to sit.
“I can’t. I need to have you fill out this form.”
As Lorraine took the pen, things started to get hazy and she saw the bright light floating above her and then a sound….distant at first, an echo of something, a bell. No something else, a beeping noise. She could see a form above her somehow separate from the light. As it came closer, Lorraine tried to scream, but her voice didn’t work and then darkness, so complete, swallowed her.
“Hon, hon,” Morty stood above her holding a bouquet of flowers but a part of her was still away, up with the woman with the large glasses.
            “I do remember you,” she heard herself say. “You’re Carolyn Farlas. You sat behind me in chemistry.”
“I was unpopular. On the day I killed myself you tried to stop me. Do you remember? In the bathroom, you told me you liked my glasses. You said that on someone else they would appear too big, but on me, they added depth and intelligence. You were kind to me. I’m returning the favor, go back….”
The smell of lilacs so pungent forced her to open her eyes and there they sat on the small hospital bed, Mort on one side rubbing her cheek and Cat on the other holding her hand.
“I got you your favorite flowers,” he said as he leaned toward Cat, “can you put them in some water?”

Lorraine hated lilacs, but decided not to tell him. She felt the steady hum of her heart beating, irregular but strong, under the blue and white hospital gown.


  1. Fantastic! More short stories please!

  2. I love the line, "...a small gold comb that seemed to materialize from nowhere, which Lorraine supposed was exactly where they were."

    Your imagery is spot on through the entire piece. I love all your details.


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