Bobby stares into the nurse’s pale blue eyes.
“Still trying to figure out if this is heaven or hell.”
He views her curves as she bends down to connect the IV.
He looks at the clouds beyond a tree in the window and then stares at her round bottom.
“Oh, and how could this be such a horrible place?”
“When you’re here, I get a glimpse of heaven.”
He hears water dripping in a bowl and some slaps of sneakers in the hall beyond from some other kind of kingdom.
The world begins to fade once again, and his vision blurs. The pain returns, and he sees the ladder ascending into the heavens.
He clutches his bald head and mumbles.
“It’s…a dream. The dream. The ladder was resting upon the earth with its top reaching into heaven….”
Bobby gags and vomits, but only saliva comes up.
He turns and writhes in pain with his eyes wide. Looking up through the sanctuary, a tear crosses over a smiling cheek.
Bobby stands and hobbles about on naked and frail legs in the evening. The coarse, scratchy gown dangles strangely, scarcely covering his behind. He finds a sink in the corner of the room and holds himself up by the taps.
He puts his face in the polished ceramic and lets cold water run over his smoking skull.
He lifts his head and urinates a few painful drops into the adjacent toilet. He raises his gown and palms more water over his shrunken stomach as the nurse enters the room.
Bobby staggers backward and moves towards her.
“I saw it again,” he says.
“What are you doing?”
“Bathing in the fountains of youth before being embraced by your loving rapture.”
“You need your rest, mister.”
“Do I know you?” asks Bobby.
“Hear me out,” Bobby says. “The angels of God were ascending and descending upon it.”
“Hush now,” she replies. “Let’s go. Back in bed.”
“The Lord said I will give you and your descendants the land you are lying on.”
“Okay, that’s it now. Nice and easy.”
Bobby halts and places one knee on the cot. He looks at her bosom and an eager face that crumbles away into concern.
He lies back, sheets clammy and salty damp. The nurse lowers the head of his bed with a foot switch while he fans his belly with the gown’s skirt. He then points to the incandescent light and closes and opens his fists.
Bobby hugs the air.
“The angels are on the ladder. Can you see them?”
His arms sway momentarily before he reaches for her breasts.
“Bobby, stop that.”
“All will be blessed through your offspring,” he says.
She grins, covers him, and leaves.
He lay half-awake, floating in the oblivion of his thoughts. He hears the attendant circumstances surrounding his case.
“Urinary tract infection.”
“Three hundred milligrams.”
“We will need to catheterize.”
He dreams again of the vast staircase. This time, a town lying dormant in an enormous body of water. Some snot-green sea resting heavily in the dawn.
Far off stands a twirling spire in smoke, softly attended by a plethora of light where the waters have broken open—upending hot gouts of lava and slabs of earth amidst a slight rain of stones that splash and hiss with fog for miles.
Bobby watches a tapestry of green and gray, and another ladder of old bone coughed up from the sea’s floor. The angels make a tincture of pale colors, delicate like shells and half melting.
High above, chalked shambles grow amidst coral that flows into the shape of temple columns. Across that, just above the clouds, is a shining cube of gold. A sanctuary brighter than the sun.
“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go,” he declares.
He listens to the words as they pour from his own mouth.
“I am with you.”
The words fall upon other deaf ears that cannot comprehend.
Bobby awakes to footsteps in the room. Shapes cross between his thin and crooked eyelids. He’s pulled on a gurney again through the corridors of the sanctuary and into spaces that never cease. Bobby views walls that seem unordered and unadorned.
He feels moist and warm.
Bobby’s pushed through swinging doors. He’s wheeled through regions auscultating and yellowish like some inner gut of an enormous living thing. To and fro, his soul goes by floodlight through the universe’s renal areas. Phantasms and shapes drift through tomb-like rooms with glass and mirrors reflecting the fear of God.
Bobby sees the faces of the living bend.
He closes his eyes.
Gray, geometric apparitions lurk about the halls in shadowy corners. Lost souls only capable of descent.
He’s awake for days, and nobody knows. He touches a hand attending to him and smiles at its withdrawal.
“Go on. Get now. You had your chance, and you would not,” Bobby mutters with slurred speech.
The freaks and phantoms sculpt away under the cold white plaster of the ceiling.
Bobby smiles and then laughs at their retreat.
The priest visits. The bed is elevated for him to see. Bobby’s body droops like a veined invertebrate. His sweat pools on the sheets, surrounding bed sores soaked in vaseline.
“Is there anything you would like to confess?”
“My entire life in the flesh. I did it,” says Bobby. “I did all of it.”
“I bet you did,” says the priest.
A quick smile.
“I’d like some wine.”
“Oh, that’s not a good idea,” says a nurse.
“It was never an idea.”
The priest bends, opens a leather case, and takes out a small corked apothecary jar.
“You had a close call yesterday,” says the priest.
“Life is always a close call.”
The priest uncorks the jar and tilts wine drops from a miniature spout down Bobby’s throat. He closes his eyes to savor it.
“Do you have any more?”
“Just a drop. Not too much.”
“That works,” Bobby says.
“How do you feel today?”
“Good. Great, actually.”
“God must have been watching over you. You nearly died.”
“From the ladder… they are all watching.”
“They never stop watching.”
“Is that what you see?”
“Bobby sees none other than the House of God.”
“I see,” says the priest.
Bobby shakes his head.
“No,” he says. “You don’t.”
The priest’s eyes furrow.
“And why is that?”
“It’s not for you to see right now.”
Bobby closes his eyes, and the priest leaves.
Bobby lies with his privates leaning down the side of a condensation-filled pitcher. The nurse comes again to change the catheter.
“Catherine,” Bobby says.
“My name is Kathy.”
“At a certain point, I will have to take you out on the town.”
“I’m not so sure my husband would approve.”
“Doesn’t he already know about us?”
“Hush now. Can you lift up? I need you to rise up some.”
“You said you were married. I can do it, but try and control yourself.”
She grins while gently tugging the tube from his privates.
“What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him,” Kathy says.
She looks up and winks.
“And here I already had forgotten your name.”
“I never saw a lovelier ass.”
“I never knew anybody get sexy while being catheterized.”
Bobby closes his eyes and thinks of her naked, but the thought suddenly flees.
She removes her latex gloves, pulls up a chair, and grasps his hand. Bobby looks up to the angels swirling above.
“Kathy, will you marry me?”
“Sure,” she agrees.
“Do you have it memorized?” Bobby asks.
“You’ve given so many. Your favorite?”
“Yeah, that’s the one.”
“I think I got it.”
“Let me hear.”
Her voice carries the pitch of a tantalizing siren.
“And He saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
“That’s my girl. You finally memorized it.
“I have no idea what it means, but I did. Just for you.”
Bobby points above and drops the finger with tears falling from closed eyelids.
“You’ll know. One day. You’ll see.”
She places her hand over the shallow heartbeat of his chest.
“I think I’ll rest now. Just for a while.”