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Waiting Room

April 6, 2009, 8:49 am



 A further passage from my unedited and unrevised Marion Grace novel The Godmother


 There were no cobwebs on the ceiling. It was finished in a hazy blue sheen with clusters of shining planets, not a speck of cloud in sight. There’d been a shower, though, because the gutterspout was eking out bleeps of honeyed gold which were collecting somewhere in a paradisal waterbutt. You could count them. And to think every single drop was numbered!

“It’s a funny place, Heaven,” Sibyl muttered to the diminutive form moving somewhere on the periphery of her vision. “Why’ve I still got aches and pains?” There was something she’d forgotten. Disquiet sharpened her senses and her brain began to work overtime.

“You’ve had a bad fall, Miz Ritchie. A nasty shock.” The voice was almond-sweet with an Asian accent.

“I’ve come without my suitcase...!”

“Never mind. We can sort it.”

“A robe. A nice white one. Fuller’s Earth job.”

“I’ll fetch one in a tick.”

“They don’t use the biological here. No stains. I bet you’re glad you came. You got lucky... Saved young.”

Sibyl sensed that the nebulous shape was smiling but confused. Notions of being cast adrift in a rudderless boat in the Pacific, or of clinging grimly to the underside of a transcontinental haulage truck, panned across Nurse Tasmin’s mind.

“I’m from Manila.”

“Foreigners are first in the queue! It’s scripture! I thought there’d be angels.”

“There are one or two!”

“Did Edwin make it? Did you say....gone for the suitcase?”

“Try to rest now, Miz Ritchie. You don’t worry. We take good care of you.”

“But when are we going through? He does know I’m waiting, doesn’t He?”

Nurse Tasmin’s frown melted into a beatific smile of enlightenment. “Oh, he’s been already. He comes to see your records in the morning.”

He was here and gone! The long-awaited, earth-shattering moment had been pre-empted. Sibyl had missed an appointment with God! Why hadn’t the octane of his Being awakened her? What if he was taken up with someone else and didn’t return and she was forever consigned to the waiting-room? What if he passed by on the other side? Or failed to acknowledge how she had been germane to his Plan and how patiently she had braved affliction to win her laurels? She’d be mortified! He was coming to check her records! “Can’t I see him now?”

“Sorry, afraid not. On duty long hours, you know. He take rest.”

“Is it Sunday?”

Sibyl’s perplexity was such that in an access of energy, she almost raised herself from the pillow. Her hip was cracked and she’d had a heart attack, events which merciful nature had blotted out. According to the patient’s notes, the registrar had authorised further sedation should the night staff think it warranted. Evidently it was his opinion that she had functioned on a reservoir brimful of adrenalin. Nurse Tasmin, following procedure, put Sibyl’s hand in touch with the red button dangling by the side of the bed, with a tactful caution that it was to be used only in an emergency. Moments later, the sister in charge came to examine her and made adjustments to her dosage. “This’ll make you more comfortable, zap the pain. It’ll help you get a bit of shut-eye, Mrs Ritchie,” she said as though Sibyl were far away.

Sibyl was uneasy about being in Heaven. At least in the world she’d had an important task, helping God run the show, but here he was perfectly capable on his own and didn’t seem to need her input. The level of extraneous noise was unsettling, not what she’d expected. And it was noise, not just sound, animal sorts of noise and people talking and things clanking. You’d imagined wafting breezes and babbling brooks and massed choirs, she hadn’t quite got to that, wasn’t allowed the run of the place. Not yet. But what if this was it? Perhaps the trade-off was that they took care of you in return for you forfeiting your say. It was like that in Russia, she’d seen it on the telly, and nobody looked happy. They’d done away with the Czar the day her Da left Dun Laoghaire. Throop’s Russian vine had run riot up to the eaves...not a true vine...no grapes...didn’t have to feed it oxblood... Sibyl’s head swam with a montage of shapes, tendrils, blossom dander, soffet boards with blistered paint... Paddy’s disfigured face dripping down his uniform in the heat of the fire... The dull throbbing pain was dying. Calm stole over her...feather-edged...blissful... What followed was neither dreaming nor reverie, but a state more lucid than either. It was open-eye rather than shut-eye. Another land where the scenery was as fantastic as it was beautiful.

And then it vanished. A blanket of mist descended while the space around Sibyl became absorbed in subtle depths of light. She could just make out the shape of an ethereal form, becoming clearer within the brightening gloriole, more diaphanous than Lalique. This was the advent she had waited for with an expectancy the gospel chroniclers had not even ascribed to the Mother of God.

It was the angel...

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