Godsend - Chapter Three

Chapter Three

Brad sat on the couch across from the enigmatic gentleman in his living room and twisted the cap off his beer. He took a long swallow of the ice cold brew and stifled a burp. He had resigned himself to whatever fate awaited him and fired off a quick prayer to God that he didn’t care what happened to him just please make sure that his family didn’t get hurt.

“That is so like you” the man said with genuine admiration.

“What is?” Brad replied

“Never mind.” The stranger uncapped his beer and also took a long pull on the beverage.

“Ohhhhhh……That’s good.” He exclaimed as he turned the bottle to look at the label. “It’s been a looooong time since I had one of these.”

“Please” Brad almost whined “Tell me who you are and what this is all about. I don’t think I can take much more. Besides, my wife will be home soon and I really don’t want you here when she gets here.”

“Kelly will not be home until you and I are done.”
“How do you know my wife?!” Brad said suddenly alarmed. “What have you done to her?!” The panic was starting to exert itself in his mind again.

“Relax.” The stranger said. “Your wife is perfectly fine. She is having a great time with her friends and I assure you I have never even met her……Face to face anyway.”

Brad couldn’t help thinking why is he talking like this. And why is that voice so familiar. His mind felt like it was coming apart.

“OK” the stranger said “Time for introductions. I know who you are and whether you believe it or not you know who I am as well.”

Brad greeted this with a blank stare.

“I’m God.” The stranger said simply and without fanfare.

Brad paused for a moment, slowly taking this in, and then slowly began to smile. “This is a joke right? Some kind of weird practical joke.” But even as Brad said this he believed that this was not a Punk’d episode. In fact he had a suspicion that there was something more sinister involved. Not otherworldly necessarily but more like I have a mad man in my house.

The stranger (God?) smiled that patient smile again. “No joke, just you and the deity”

Brad shook his head as if to clear it of an unsavory idea. “Either you’re crazy or I am”

“I had a feeling that you would need convincing. After all a stranger appears in your house uninvited and claims he’s the almighty…I mean who wouldn’t call to book a rubber room.”

Brad was startled that he used the same words that he thought only moments ago.

“Ok…you want proof. Hmmmm…..Well first of all turn on the TV. I think you’ll find your shows are a little slow tonight.” The man implored

Brad reached for the remote and turned on the TV. The picture slowly faded in on what looked like a Friends rerun except the picture wasn’t moving. Joey & Chandler stood in their apartment, unmoving in mid conversation. Brad looked up, quizzically, at his guest to see the same smile.

“Go ahead try another channel.”

Brad flicked to the next channel and saw Gene Hackman frozen in the middle of shouting at Will Smith. He flicked to the next channel and saw more still life. A Law & Order episode, next a Cialis commercial then a baseball game frozen in mid pitch. Channel after channel the people on screen were like figures in a wax museum.

“Go to the front door” The stranger instructed, not unkindly.

Brad dropped the remote in stunned silence and made his way over to the front door on legs that felt like rubber. He opened the noisy, ramshackle screen door and absentmindedly thought I’ve got to replace this. He stepped onto the stone front steps and let the door slam behind him, and like a slap in the face, the almost stagnant feel of the night air immediately struck him. Nothing in the outside world moved. The air was abnormally still. He looked to his left and saw the lights from a car that had yet to appear from around the corner. The headlights never retreated and they never got any closer. Everything was preternaturally silent. No crickets chirped, no car engines revved and no leaves rustled.

Brad found it difficult to breathe. He wasn’t sure whether the motionless air lacked oxygen or whether it was that his pounding heart had caused him to begin to hyperventilate. He felt a gentle hand on his shoulder. The stranger had somehow made his way onto the front steps without making a sound. Brad never heard the screen door open. He had once joked to Kelly that their front door could wake the dead yet this odd man had opened it and let it close without a sound.

“A little unnerving, isn’t it?” The man said “Come back inside and let me help you through this.” He put his arm on Brad’s shoulder and gently guided him back inside the house.

When the two were back in their respective seats Brad was finally able to break his vocal paralysis he asked “Am I dead?”

The stranger chuckled. “No, you are very much alive.”

“What the hell is going on?”

“I told you, I’m God. You know…The Almighty, The Creator, Allah, Jehovah. I am called many names but it all boils down to the same thing. I am who I am.”

“And I’m supposed to believe that God is sitting in my living room drinking a beer?” Brad said sarcastically.

“Yeah” he said simply as he shrugged his shoulders

Brad rolled his eyes and laughed. “You can’t be serious”

“Ok…You need more proof. How about this.”

Brad felt a brief moment of vertigo and shot his arms out as if to stop himself from falling. When he regained his balance he found himself sitting in a lounge chair with a hot, bright sun beating down on him. He was dressed not in his blue jeans and New England Patriots tee-shirt but in a tank top and a brightly colored bathing suit. His now bare feet dug into warm sand. He was sitting on a vaguely familiar beach. The change in light from the relatively dark living room to this surreal midday beach scene caused a sharp pain in his eyes. He squinted against the pain and waited for them to adjust.

“Do you recognize this place?” The stranger asked

Brad turned his head to the left and saw a number of people. Some were lying on blankets, some were swimming in the crystal clear green water and others were simply moving around, talking and laughing, as if they hadn’t a care in the world. He slowly turned his head in the other direction and saw more of the same. As he looked over his right shoulder he spied what appeared to be the top of a large hotel beyond the trees that lined the rear of the beach. Slowly it dawned on Brad where they were.

“This is where we came for our honeymoon……Aruba”

His companion smiled and nodded.

“How is this possible?” Brad asked more than a little stunned. And then another thought occurred to him. Why are these people moving? Shouldn’t they look like those people on TV?”

“Excellent question.” His patient tour guide replied. “The difference here is that we are not only on the same beach where you and Kelly had your honeymoon we are here at the same time as well. Look over to your left. You might see a familiar face or two”

Brad turned his head and at first saw nothing other than the scene he previously witnessed. He scanned the left side of the beach, his eyes stopping briefly at each person in his line of sight. None of the vacationers looked familiar to him. There were two young bikini clad women lying on brightly colored blankets catching the afternoon sun, an overweight man in his fifties sitting under an umbrella reading what appeared to be the latest Tom Clancy paperback while his equally overweight wife ate cheese puffs right from the bag and drank a Diet Coke. He saw a mother in her thirties reading a magazine while her two children attempted to build a sandcastle at her feet. What he didn’t see was anyone that was even remotely familiar.

Brad was about to turn to his companion and say this when he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. Walking onto the beach from the direction of the hotel, were a man and a woman burdened with the assortment of gear that people bring to enjoy a long day at the beach. Towels, a cooler, a radio and a bag loaded with books, magazines, sun tan lotion and a variety of food. The pair was young, possibly in their early to mid twenties and both had the easy smiles of people on vacation in paradise. It took only a few moments for Brad to realize that he was staring at a younger version of himself and his wife.

The dual images of what his eyes were seeing and what his mind’s eye remembered made him dizzy. As he stared at the familiar couple walking in his direction his mind recalled this day with sudden clarity. He knew that the couple would sit only a mere 5 or 10 feet from where the older Brad now stood. They would lay down their things and spread out their towels next to each other. Brad, the younger, would pull a bottle of water out of the cooler uncap it and proceed to drop it in the sand at his feet. When he picked up the fallen bottle it would be covered in sand and Brad would bitch about it for the next twenty minutes. They would spend the next 3 or 4 hours alternately sunning themselves and swimming in the warm Caribbean water. After they left they would change and have a romantic dinner on the outdoor deck of the hotel restaurant watching the slowly setting sun send cascades of color into the evening sky. After dinner they would walk hand in hand down the moonlit beach stopping occasionally to steal a quick kiss in the night air. They would later return to their room and enjoy each other in a much more private and passionate way.

Brad recalled all of this in the blink of an eye. The memory made him smile. It had been one of the most perfect days of his life. He turned to see his companion smiling at him as if he could read Brad’s mind. Slightly unsettled, Brad cleared his throat and returned his attention to his youthful self. Look how much younger and thinner I am. He thought.

The couple walked past them as if they weren’t there. In a way, Brad surmised, they weren’t. They couldn’t be. At this thought Brad’s mind turned from the movie like scene in front of him to the reality (or unreality as the case may be) of his current situation.

“I have one more thing to show you.” The stranger said. “I think this will convince you”

In an instant the beach, the water, the overweight couple and their cheese doodles, and Brad’s younger life were gone and in their place was a large ornate room with folding chairs lined up in a dozen or so rows. The walls were painted in soothing earth tones, the windows were decorated with heavy, ornate treatments and many people spoke in hushed tones as they milled around on the thickly carpeted floor. The room was easily identifiable. Brad had been in enough funeral parlors in his life to know that they all had the same feel and the same quality to the air. There was a certain reverence inside a funeral home that was unmistakable.

Brad gave a look to the man who had brought him here that said what’s this about. The stranger nodded to Brad as if to say go see for yourself. Brad made his way through the throng of people toward where he knew the casket would lie. As he approached he began to realize where he was. His suspicions were confirmed as he passed by the final group of mourners to see the receiving line in which he, himself stood at age twenty and the casket that held his father.

Francis Earle Carlisle (Frank to his friends) died in October of 1986 just one day before the opening game of the World Series following a prolonged illness as the obituaries always say. Brad thought at the time that it was too bad that his father, having been a life long Red Sox fan, had to miss watching the Sox in the series. But after they way it ended, Brad used to joke; it may have killed him anyway. Frank was a quiet and reserved man that worked hard to provide for his family. He was a Gas Supply and Systems Control supervisor at the regional Gas Company, a job that would often require him to work overnight hours and holidays. When Brad was born his father was in his mid forties so consequently the two had very little common ground. Frank did all of the things a father was supposed to do with his son, teach him how to hit a baseball, how to bait a hook and how to drive. As Brad grew into a teenager the distance between them grew larger. They never had an adversarial relationship; it was more like they were just acquaintances. Brad always liked his dad. He had a dry, sharp, intelligent wit that Brad inherited, but they because of the vast age difference they were never very close.

Brad never told his father that he loved him and he never heard those words from his old man either. To the outsider this would have been almost tragic. But Brad knew that his father had loved him and he was quite sure that his dad knew that Brad felt the same way. So Brad never felt a need to speak the words out loud. If his father lived to be a hundred (instead of age 66) they probably still wouldn’t have said it. It just wasn’t their way. In the almost twenty years since his father passed away Brad had (as the unrelenting march of time will do) almost forgotten what he looked like. He stood at the casket and gazed forlornly at his dad. He missed him. He didn’t realize how much until that very moment and it brought a lump to his throat. Brad always wondered what their relationship would be like if his father were alive today. Frank died when Brad was just a know it all twenty year old with no real responsibilities. Now that he was a husband and father himself with a mortgage and tax bills he wondered how much that common ground would have strengthened their bond.

Lost in these thoughts Brad failed to notice his companion slide up next to him. He put his arm on Brad’s shoulder and, as if he were reciting a favorite passage from a favorite book, he said. “Dear God. Please take care of my father and help him to start living a better life”

The familiar words startled Brad badly. His head whipped around to look at the stranger. He moved his mouth to speak but he could not make the words form on his lips.

“Those are the words that you said to me the night before he died when he was lying in the hospital.” God said “And that’s the reason that when you ask me to bless your family now you always say “please help them to live a long, happy healthy life here on earth with me.” You are afraid not to put it that way because when you prayed for your dad you think I did exactly what you asked for. I took care of him by calling him up to heaven and now he leads a better life.”

Brad nodded his head. He couldn’t speak for fear the emotion in his voice would betray him.

“Look over there.” God said as he pointed to the far corner of the room. Standing there was God Himself smiling at the room full of people. “I always loved to come to these things. I love to look at it as a great final picture of a person’s life on earth.”

At the word “picture” Brad’s heart leapt. It came out sounding like pick-chure. Brad’s mind went immediately to a time when he was five years old and he asked his father how to say the word p-i-c-t-u-r-e. His father said “That’s a hard one. It’s pronounced Pick-chure” Now Brad understood why this stranger’s voice sounded so familiar. He was using a voice that Brad would feel comfortable with. Not his fathers voice entirely but close enough so Brad would recognize it.

“He was a good man and he too, misses you very much.”

With that Brad’s fragile composure burst. He cried in great heart wrenching sobs. They were both sad and joyful at the same time. God once again put his arm around him and guided him away from the casket. A moment later they were back in Brad’s living room. God sat patiently next to His child and waited patiently for the tears to stop. When they began to dry up he said. “So…..do you have any questions for me?”