Work in progress on the road to God

Since the death of my wife, I spend my nights drinking gin and watching old movies. In other words, I live in a fantasy world of make-believe and mayhem, depending on the movie.

It’s preferable to the world of reality and the endless grief of living without my life’s companion.

There’s another fantasy world out there — way out there — revolving around the uncorroborated hope that when we die, or sometime thereafter, loved ones and soulmates and husbands and wives will be reunited in a realm or sphere or dimension or phenomenon or heaven or whatever, hidden somewhere in the space-time continuum of the wondrous and unimaginably miraculous universe.

All of which was sheer nonsense I used to think, before I received a totally unexpected phone call last month from a long lost friend from the 1980s when my wife and I lived in Miami Beach.

The friend who called from out of the past — her name is Renata (I love that name) — believes that my “uncorroborated hope” is reality and that it will happen, if one believes, and even, I suppose, if one doesn’t believe.

As far as Renata is concerned, I am a work in progress. All I know is, I’m feeling a whole lot less suicidal than I did before she called.

And here’s the kicker, as an old reporter like me would say, the full name of the person who called from out of the blue at my time of suicidal depression, is Renata de Dios.

If you don’t know Spanish, look it up. And while you’re about it, look up: Dios se mueve de maneras misteriosas.

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Okay, God, now what?


I was hauled before Devil’s Court on a charge of Attempted Christianity in the Second Degree.

For the past nine months I had been hopelessly depressed and suicidal since the death of my wife. And then last week I got a phone call out of the blue from a woman my wife worked with thirty years ago in Miami Beach. She had read about Susan’s death and wanted to reach out to me.

Susan and I used to hang out with her, getting drunk and smoking dope and watching Miami Vice on TV. Ah, Miami Beach in the 1980s — what a magical time.

Susan’s friend wasn’t then, but she is now, a woman of deep faith and firm belief in God.

That 70-minute conversation we had after all those years had a profound effect on me.

My words and possibly my actions in the following days did not escape the scrutiny of the Devil’s secret agents on earth.

When they took me into Court, my attorney put forward, against my will I must add, the following defense:

“Your Devilship, if I may, the charge against my client is all the fault of a Christian by the name of—” he looked down at his notes— “a certain Renata de Dios.”

“Who the hell is Renata de Dios?” boomed the horned freak.

“A woman that the defendant, through his wife, knew in Miami Beach thirty years ago. She read about the defendant’s wife’s death and contacted him unexpectedly and began putting all these crazy ideas in his head.”

“Yes, well, we will investigate her as an accessory before the fact, but the only fact we’re concerned with here is that the accused actually entertained thoughts of life after death and god and heaven and all the rest of it — and I use the word entertained advisedly because that’s what it is, sheer fantasy, a mere entertainment for the masses.”

“My client realizes that, Your Devilship, and it goes against everything he has believed in, namely Nothingness and Oblivion after death, not to mention that it goes against his knowledge of science and logic.”

“Indeed,” said His Devilship. “So, are you saying that your client can still be saved from this Christian nonsense.”

“I am, Your Devilship, if you give him another chance, I assure you and this Court that he will go back to believing in Nothing and that a black void of Oblivion awaits us at the end of life.”

At this point His Devilship turned toward the Prosecutor and said: “Taking into account that we need all the non-believers we can muster on earth, I find myself sufficiently swayed by your adversary’s argument that the accused has seen the madness of his recent wayward thoughts and has sufficiently relented to please this Court. I thereby order him released.”

But the Prosecutor couldn’t let it go without suggesting strongly to the Court one proviso: That the defendant cease and desist from any further contact with the instigator mentioned in the complaint.

His Devilship agreed. “So ordered,” he said.

Whereupon the bailiff set me free. My first impulse when I got home was to call Renata, but I dared not. I was sure my phone was tapped and the last thing I wanted was to ensnare her any further in the Devil’s trap.

It didn’t take long for the depression and hopelessness I had felt since my wife’s death to once again overwhelm my mind and destroy any last hope I had allowed myself to have. Despair began crushing my soul. The only solution, once again, was suicide. I decided, finally, to hell with it.

I took the 9-millimeter Glock out of the desk drawer in the study and went into the bedroom. I lay down on the bed, put a pillow behind my head to lessen the mess and leveled the barrel—

The sudden ringing of the phone was a jarring sound.

I lowered the gun and picked up the phone. I didn’t say anything.

The voice said: “Hello? Billy Boy? This is Renata.”

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