Skip to content

Can I Tell Your Congregation How A Resurrection Really Feels?

May 19, 2011

Frobisher’s return really caused a stir. His wife Ellen met him at the front door with a shotgun, his own deer hunting rifle. Having no other proof of identity, he quickly thought to remove the wedding band from his withered finger. She examined the inscription, Vous et nul autre, and promptly collapsed to the floor in a fit of hysterical crying that took two hours, three gin martinis and a Xanax to calm.

When she called their two kids to let them know the news, they feared for her sanity and requested hard evidence. Frobisher, always full of adequate ideas, posed for a picture while holding up a current issue of People magazine, the publication date prominently displayed. He did a woefully bad impression of the Sexiest Man Alive; brittle, grey lips spread thin across the bony contour of his face in a wan, toothy grin.

Ellen sent them the photo in an email; the image of a corpselike figure in their parents’ kitchen, mugging for the camera, only made their worry more severe. Flights were hastily arranged, bags were packed, pets were deposited with neighbors, all in record time.

The family would finally have its long awaited reunion (the last time didn’t count as Frobisher had been dead and therefore didn’t get to see his children). Ellen was delighted. “And it only took your resurrection to get them off their lazy asses,” she noted wryly, adding an ice cube to her fourth gin martini. “It’s a darn good thing we didn’t cremate you.”

*

Their oldest, Paul, was first to arrive. “Jesus dad, you look like shit,” was the best that he could muster.

Abby, their youngest, got there soon after, her raw, red face battered by a sea of tears. She clutched her little girl to her breast for security. Scott, her wary husband, trailed behind her like a piece of worn-out luggage. The baby, intrigued by the funny green tint of her grandfather’s face, reached out and gave him a playful pinch. Frobisher’s anatomy was still a bit unstable, his skin still moldering and vulnerable to the slightest provocation. That very morning he’d gone out to the curb to collect the newspaper and found himself using it as a shield against a murder of crows that descended upon him in the dull morning light, mistaking him for a carrion meal. The baby’s playful assault caused a piece of Frobisher to fall off. Not an irreplaceable piece, thank goodness, but a sizeable chunk of flesh nonetheless. While Ellen ran off to locate the first-aid kit, Abby swooned and Paul went glassy-eyed and dissociative and pardoned himself to the kitchen to pour a drink, calling back to his father in the hall, who seemed like a stranger to him, “can I get you one as well? Or will you be going soon?”

The two questions on everyone’s lips were these: “What was it like?” and “How did you get back?” Offering further proof that he was in fact Charlie Frobisher – patriarch of the Frobishers of Wenham,Massachusetts; lifelong middle manager; golfer of unremarkable handicap – and not some hallucination mutually experienced by the grieving, he answered the second question first, as was his habit.

“I woke up sneezing in the cemetery, with a damn cat licking my face. You know how allergic I am.  Well, I was confused as hell. Thought maybe I’d blacked out drunk, maybe someone had slipped me a Mickey. Only I couldn’t recall being at a bar, or being anywhere for that matter. My senses were all ass backward. It’s like I was hearing with my tongue and seeing through my nostrils, which was tough, you know, because I kept sneezing.”

The deep, dug-out hole in the ground beside him failed to clarify his situation. Matters were made significantly more alarming by the nearby gravestone etched with his name, his birth and evident expiration dates. Frobisher shivered and checked his fingernails for signs of dirt, but they were cleaner and more trim than he ever remembered keeping them, a mortician’s manicure. The bells in his head were ringing and his brain throbbed like a hammered thumb, vestiges of a nasty embalming fluid hangover.

His senses scrambled to man their proper stations and his breath dangled in the frosty air before him like a ghost in a noose. And then he remembered.

“I would like to tell you all, but you’ll need to bear with me. It isn’t entirely clear, see. It’s kind of like a dream you wish you wrote down in the middle of night, but you couldn’t find a pen. The next morning, all you have are fragments.

“I recall there was an airplane in a lighting storm. I was on the wing, me and the seven dwarfs. Those were some anxious moments. Let’s see, what else…oh yes, I recall being on a unicycle, a very tall one, and just careening out of control while the folks around me smiled and waved, and coming to a rather abrupt and messy stop by colliding headfirst into a mountain of fresh ground beef. I know how that sounds, but it didn’t seem at all weird at the time. I recall that the buffalo wings are delicious…”

The closest Frobisher could come to giving any meaningful account of the afterlife was to say that it felt like he was the one still alive, and everyone else had died. The dwarves and the raw hamburger meat notwithstanding, life in death felt quite normal. There were no angels walking around on clouds. The light was pretty much the same. The sun rose and set, unless it was raining. The dead went to work each day. While the details remained hazy, Frobisher felt certain of this: death was a simulacrum of life, with the difference being that very strange things – the kinds of things that normally happen in dreams – seemed perfectly commonplace.

Oh, and there was this. In death, there was no such thing as death. The dead couldn’t die again. Consequently, there were no such feelings such as loss or sorrow; not in the purest sense, anyway. Yes, you might lose the keys to your Batmobile – Frobisher remembered taking his out for a 300 MPH joyride along a curvy, mountainous New Hampshire highway just before it transmogrified into a 12-point moose and left him stranded on the shoulder of the road, wearing nothing but a ukulele and a smile – but everyone you loved would be there for you tomorrow.

 “Did you see Aunt Margaret?” asked Abby.

“No sign of her,” Frobisher said. There was a moment of silence around the table, the sound of a family’s suspicions confirmed that their father’s maniacal, recently deceased sister had probably gone to hell.

“Well, what about a family? Obviously we weren’t there. Did you have a death wife and death kids?” Ellen was clearly onto something.

“The people around you are different people than the ones you knew before…you arrive to a new family, and new friends, and while this may sound troubling, these people immediately seem familiar to you. You’re at once aware that you’re meeting them for the first time, and that you’ve known them forever. Death is like a perpetual experience of déjà vu.”

“What was her name?” Ellen pressed, her question pointed and flinty.

“I think…I’m not 100% sure, but I think it was Beverly.”

“That bitch you dated in high school?! The one with the aneurysm!?”

“It’s very difficult to recall,” Frobisher said to her back as she stormed out of the room. “Like I said, I couldn’t find a pen!”

*

Abby had serious misgivings about going public with their father’s story, not that keeping it a secret was a viable option. Everyone they’d ever known had attended the funeral service or sent their condolences. The wake was open casket, eliminating the “hospital mix-up/mistaken dead person’s identity” alibi that Scott unhelpfully suggested. Someone was bound to ask questions.  

“Don’t you worry that undermining mankind’s faith so thoroughly might lead to, um, you know, worldwide hysteria? People are going to go ape shit,” was her incisive prediction.

Paul had other ideas. He had always nourished a creative and entrepreneurial spirit – while other children hawked lemonade for pennies, he self-published a series of comic digests about plucky siblings, man-eating rabbits and the perilous paradox of time-travel. And he didn’t bother selling measly, one-off copies – he sold yearly subscriptions at ten dollars apiece, achieving a minor but enduring celebrity within his elementary school and local community. In his father’s present circumstance he recognized an unparalleled business opportunity.

Licensing.

Frobisher would be a star, an icon of unparalleled renown, a celebrity bigger than any that ever lived or died, bigger than James Dean and Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley and The Beatles all rolled into one. A trillion-dollar enterprise, in need of some good sound management.  Paul was never more confident in a business plan analysis then he was in this.

Abby had seen this look in her brother’s eyes before, the beady leer of avarice. “You have no idea what people will do,” she warned. “The believers will flock to our doorstep by the thousands. A pilgrimage like never before. The skeptics, too. Tens of thousands, more than our plumbing can accommodate.”

“We’ll get Porta-Potties,” Paul said.

“How about crowd control? Have you thought about that, Paul? This town doesn’t have enough cops to manage that kind of crowd. You’ll need to conscript the National Guard. Our neighbors are going to be so pissed.”

“Don’t be such a Cassandra. Look at this t-shirt design I made up.”

*

Frobisher was not a religious man. Raised Catholic by parents whose adherence to the strictures of the church was at best half-hearted, he remained a member of the congregation just long enough to receive first communion. He was never confirmed, never attended confession, and recalled almost nothing of the Holy Scripture. Whenever “The Bible” came up as a category on Jeopardy, he would shout out “What is Leviticus!” in answer to every clue, a strategy which had a very low success ratio.

Father Sheahy, head of the local diocese, paid them a visit at Ellen’s behest to offer spiritual perspective and advisement. He ingratiated himself with the family by arriving with a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies. When Ellen, intending a compliment, blithely referred to them as “sinful,” the Father hiccupped a nervous chuckle.

“There are a handful of resurrection stories in the Bible. The most popular one you probably know. ‘And the third day he rose again,’ so goes the Nicene Creed. I’m speaking of Christ, Our Savior, of course.”

Ellen pardoned herself and reached across the table to grab a second cookie. Frobisher nodded and scratched absent-mindedly at his forearm.  He had lately shown some promising signs of healing; a flush of pink was returning to his cheeks, his ears and extremities. Mottled with the cadaverous green, his face faintly resembled the textile pattern on a preppy tie. With the slow healing, his skin had recently become extremely itchy.

“There are others?” he asked.

“They pop up here and there. Peter raised Dorcas. Paul raised Eutychus. In the Gospel of John, Jesus resurrects Lazarus. It was an exceedingly rare event, as miracles tend to be. Saved for special occasions, you might say. When someone needs to prove a point.”

“What about this?” Frobisher gestured to his face and hands, which though they were on the mend still appeared a bit decomposed. “When Jesus was resurrected, he didn’t look as bad as this, did he?”

“Well, he was only dead for a day and a half. That accounts for it, I’d say. Not much rotting to be done in a day and a half.”

Ellen wiped some chocolate from the corner of her mouth with a napkin. “Father Sheahy,” she said. “What about immorality? Is it possible that Charlie is immoral?”

“Immortality,” Frobisher corrected her. Ellen was still a little woozy from the effects of alcohol and depressants. He reached beneath the table and patted her knee.

Father Sheahy smiled. “While it isn’t a foregone conclusion, I would say – given the course of recent events – anything is possible. Unfortunately, there’s only one way to find out.”

“What’s that?”

“We’d have to try and kill you, naturally. Not that I’m advocating such a thing…”

*

Vans from the local news affiliates lined up along the curb, their mast-like antennae extended high into the sky, ready to transmit Frobisher’s story over roof tops and tree canopy. The lawn was littered with collapsible camp chairs and coolers. Several camera operators, large men with baseball caps and bushy beards, sat around a folding table, passing the time with a game of rummy, cupping their cards in their hands to prevent reflection in their mirrored, aviator sunglasses. Reporters dressed as if for job interviews paced the corners of the yard, talking to themselves, practicing their lead-ins, eager for their once-in-a-lifetime shot at the national news.

Paul was out there too, cordially receiving their guests, handing out some of the hundred promotional coffee mugs he had screen printed with the photo his mother had sent them; Frobisher, looking very cadaverous, beneath the tagline:

Resurrected and it feels so good!

Charlie Frobisher

1953 – 2010

2010 – ???

 The scorch of his mother’s and sister’s disapproval seared his face as he came through the front door.

 “Why do you assume it was me?!” he protested. “It could have been a neighbor who tipped them off! Dad hasn’t exactly kept a low profile, taking out the trash and all that. It could have been Scott,” he said, waving a thumb at his brother-in-law, an unlikely scapegoat, fallen asleep on the sofa while watching a baseball game. “It could have been that priest!”

“You’re father isn’t ready for this! He’s very self conscious about his looks! He hasn’t even seen a doctor yet!” Ellen was shrieking. She was hoping to keep her husband’s situation a secret. While she hadn’t completely thought through the logistics, she had settled on a strategy of implausible deniability. They would simply reintroduce Frobisher into mainstream life and pretend like nothing untoward ever happened. Most people wouldn’t say a thing, figuring they were the ones going crazy. Others might casually mention the funeral service, but Frobisher and Ellen could breezily dismiss it as “a misunderstanding” and quickly change the subject. This was Ellen’s plan. The media circus setting up a midway on their front lawn was seriously foiling it.

Frobisher wandered in, carrying an open beer bottle and a bowl of pistachios. “Can you guys keep it down? Poor Scott is trying to sleep,” he said, turning sideways to shuffle past them in the narrow hall on his way to his favorite living room chair. He stopped to peek out a window and let out a low whistle.

“They’re here to speak to you, dad. Have you had a chance to look at the notes I gave you?” Like any good publicist, Paul had prepared his client with talking points to sate the media.

“Why can’t I just tell them the truth?”

“Because frankly the truth kind of sucks. Don’t get me wrong, the beginning is strong. The part where you’re taking a shower and then BAM, you shed the mortal coil, pulling down the shower curtain with you, I kept that in. And the end, where you wake up next to your own grave with a cat licking your face? That is fucking dynamite!”

“LANGUAGE!” Poor Ellen was apoplectic. Abby gripped her mother’s arm tightly, staying it from lashing out and slapping her insensitive older sibling across the face. Paul ignored them both. He was on a roll.

“But the middle…the middle is weak. You’re going to lose the audience with that crazy shit about dreams. If people discover that heaven is all rainy days and 9-5 work schedules and cars with noisy mufflers, they’ll get so depressed they won’t even want to kill themselves. People can’t bear very much reality.

“Take the moment you realized you were dead. You said that you woke up in a hotel bed next to some woman who was not your wife…”

“She was my death wife. There was no hanky-panky going on.”        

“Regardless, it isn’t exactly family-friendly. We’re going to have a lot of kids watching. Instead, I think you should tell them there were clouds and harps playing. Tell them you stood in line at the pearly gates, shook hands with Saint Peter. Say you got fitted for your wings! Endorse the clichés! Give the people what they want!”

“I haven’t showered”

“No hurry. I’ll keep them entertained. Oh, and dad? It wouldn’t hurt if you threw a little God in there too. It’s in the notes. See bullet five.”

To be continued…but don’t hold your breath.

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: