“Mr. Murnane, my name is Ophelia Barnes and I wonder if you might be willing to give me a few minutes of your time. I understand you recently had an operation.”
“I did indeed,” said Tim. “They took out my appendix and my gallbladder, too, when they found it was bad. I’ll be here awhile longer while they run some other tests. At my age, things can go wrong, you know, and they want to see if they can find anything else.”
“Very true, Mr. Murnane. Folks I know have been dying at a faster rate than usual in recent years. It can be frightening but it happens to all of us. If you don’t mind, Mr. Murnane, please tell me where you think you would go if you died tonight.”
“Well,” said Tim, beginning to get the direction of the conversation,
“I’d probably go to Egan’s Funeral Home up on 63rd Street. I went through pre-arrangement counseling there and paid for everything–the box and the plot. I took care of all that for myself when I had to bury the wife a few years back. Got nice discount. In fact, the plot’s in St. Adalbert’s Cemetery, just up the road, not far from here.”
“Mr. Murnane, I meant if you died tonight, would you go to Heaven or Hell.”
“Mr. Murnane, If you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior right now, I promise I will visit your grave. You could even be buried from our church. It would be a beautiful ceremony. We’d love to have you, dead or alive.”
“Mrs. Barnes, I do accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I always have, ever since grammar school. I’d have never graduated if I hadn’t learned about Jesus dying for my sins from all those nuns, God bless ’em. They taught me from first grade on that if I had been the only human being on Earth, Jesus would have died for me alone. Of course, they let me know too that I had to keep his commandments as well as believe in him. There were only a couple of commandments I’ve had trouble with. I mean, I never stole anything or killed anyone.”
“You’e right, Mr. Murnane. Jesus would have died for you alone. And if you decide to join my church, I promise I wlll visit your grave.”
“You wouldn’t have to bring any flowers or anything, Mrs. Barnes. Just walk right up on the gravesite and stand next to my tombstone.”
“Stand next to your tombstone? Why would I do that, Mr. Murnane?”
“Well, if I start feelin’ a little better, I’d like look up your skirt.”
Mrs. Barnes didn’t faint but she did walk out of the room without saying a word.
And Tim Murnane pushed the buzzer for the nurse. He wanted to see if she would ask the next priest she saw making rounds to stop by his room. A couple of priests had stopped in already but Tim hadn’t been ready for anything serious. Thanks to Mrs. Barnes, however, he knew now that he’d like to give any priest a real earful. It had been 30 years since his last confession and he had plenty to talk about. At 74, he wanted to be ready before going to Eagan’s.
Nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize, Donal Mahoney has had work published in the United States, Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of his earliest work can be found at http://booksonblog12.blogspot.com/.