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Exiting the store, I noticed a young woman standing outside ringing a bell anticipating contributions to be given to a local charity. The volunteer from the Salvation Army wasn’t there when I entered the supermarket. I bet she took a dinner break. Fumbling with my purse, I managed to yank out a few dollars. I never carry cash but yesterday I returned a jacket to the local thrift store on my lunch hour. This is the season for giving. If this self-sacrificing Good Samaritan can donate her time and brave the frigid temperatures, I can oblige.
The majority of the parsimonious middleclass oppose the concept of giving to the unfortunate. They will not part with their lucrative financial coffers by offering coinage to parasites that prey on community goodwill. Almsgiving goes against the natural grain. Asking these selfish individuals to give a buck is like asking for their firstborn. According to their personal and political ideologies, poverty would be extinct if everyone worked and contributed. Jesus said we would always have the poor. He also taught when we provide for those in need we are serving Him. Mother Teresa cared for thousands of ill and impoverished victims. This holy woman saw the face of Jesus in every smile.
The thin, twenty-something appeared to be dressed warmly in a white-fur coat. To appease the animal activists, I’m confident the garment was tailored from faux polyester hides. The hat was a carbon copy of the Doctor Zhivago fashion millinery after the hit movie received ten-Oscars back in the 1960s. Her peaceful appearance haloed the circumference of her head, shadowing a saintly silhouette. Similar to the good-buddy connection I had with Vinny, I knew deep down this acquaintance has been with me all my life. I recall glimpses of her face during times of tribulation, yet she appears to be twenty-years younger than the date on my birth certificate. And to think, I haven’t had a glass of wine. Her charismatic voice brought me back to earth.
“Thank you, Barbara and Merry Christmas.”
Hearing my name from this mysterious, yet virtuous vision, her remark ignited a disturbing current of electro-shock therapy. Tonight is chockfull of surprises. Vinny’s intuition, something is slated to happen has heightened my self-preservation and engaged my security system. My mouth marched forward leaving the brain behind, promulgated by this outrageous and enigmatic turn of events.
Stopping dead in my snow tracks, “Miss, have we met before? It wouldn’t be the first time I forgot a face and a name.” I analyzed the transpiration taken over by my inquisitive nature.
The do-gooder with the tam o’shanter covering a portion of her flowing-red hair, seasoned her counter with the movement of her head. “No, we have never physically met but I know who you are.” Her blue eyes were effervescent, sparkling like champagne under bright-twinkling lights.
“Since I’m not familiar with our previous meet and greet, you must have me confused with another short, forty-year old. People always mistake me for someone else. I have one of those ordinary faces.”
As I continued to reflect on her persona, everything deemed copacetic; I wasn’t in harms way. There were no goose bumps or paranormal radar bells or whistles grappling with the airwaves. Debunked by my gut feeling, this tête-à-tête will not cruise into a predictable ghostly encounter. If it did, it would be my first at a strip-store location. But there is definitely an aura surrounding Angelica’s - my name for the campanologist - corporeal attendance. Indulging and recognizing her inner strength, it was incontrovertible that this dynamo could easily scalpel the sinew from my bones exposing my naked sinful soul, discerning the inner depths of my mortal subconscious. This woman knows me inside out, better than I know myself. Taking deliberate steps, she placed her white-gloved hand on my black-gloved hand sending a direct signal to my retrospection.
“Barbara, you have walked with God all your life. You have struggled with evil predators in many situations and circumstances. Your loving faith has kept you in God’s grace. Yes, you’ve made bad decision, toyed with wavering allegiance, and at times stumbled from the narrow path but like the prodigal, you always returned.
“In consideration of your premature birth, every breath has been a struggle from infancy. Through no fault of your own, you’ve experienced being a victim on many levels. Life has been dysfunctional from the beginning and as an adult; it didn’t get any better. Each relationship brought more pain and sorrow.
“I’ve been with you during serious bouts of sicknesses, car accidents, head trauma, a burning building, dog bites, broken bones, and two times, you were held at knifepoint. Tonight your childhood will flash before your eyes and then death will knock at your door. Accept this reality. Do not ask to go back to the living. You’ve run the spiritual race - seize your reward. I’m begging you; do not go back.
“I can see your future. If you return, your destiny will be weighed in the balance. You will not have control of the final outcome. Walk cautiously because God will consent to a spiritual battle. The Prince of Darkness is waiting to strike if you forfeit fate. Evil against good will prevail for twenty-four hours. If you overcome the perils of this warfare, you will be victorious and the gift to intercede for the dead will be yours. But, if the devil triumphs, you will be sentenced to the second death. At that appointed time, God will cast your soul into the lake of fire, the final destination for Satan and all his followers. There is no escape from God’s righteous judgment.
“Please, I beseech and implore thee to accept your inopportune demise. Wedding bells are ringing but God’s plan is eternal. Heaven is waiting for you. Before the clock strikes midnight you will face death. There is nothing to fear, your guardian angel will be with you. Walk home with me and don’t look back as Lot’s wife did.”
Still in shock, I continued to deny her allegation that I was going to die. “Miss, you have clearly mistaken me for someone else. Why would I die tonight? I just left the doctor’s office and I have a clean bill of health. Save your scary story for someone else. I feel great.”
Quoting scripture, “Barbara it is written in the book of Hebrews, you could be entertaining angels unaware. If you did not give alms to the poor, I would not have given you your final forewarning. Mark-my-words, tonight you will fall into a disturbing sleep. This is the precursor to your providence; your childhood will unfold before you like a picture book in clear vivid snapshots. This is a sign; your time is at hand. All this will take place before the clock strikes twelve and you shall pass from life to death. Please, let nature take its course.
“Be vigilant and watchful; Satan is on the prowl seeking whom he may devour. If you choose this creature’s challenge, I pray you will be victorious in the end duplicating God’s loyal servant Job. May God have mercy on your soul. Your room has been prepared in your Father’s mansion. Seek His refuge and clothe yourself in immortality.”
Her face lost the heavenly glow when four shoppers left the store disturbing our private repartee. Getting into the car and driving home, I shrugged off her warning. I’m not going to die and Satan is definitely not after me. Thinking to myself, this has been one hell of a day. If I did terminate, Angelica said I could request to go back to the living. That doesn’t make sense. There is no turning back after death, is there? Even if it were true, why would I want to do that? I’ve lived my life.
I bet her face was glowing because someone in the parking lot had inadvertently switched to high beams. Add that to my over-tired physical state, which is bordering on delusional hysteria, my imagination pulled rank. I better get shuteye tonight or I will go berserk. I think I’ll pass on the pills and go straight for the booze. The chemicals will put me to sleep.
Angelica actually knew my name. It had to be a lucky guess. The second death, lake of fire was all part of Father Joe’s class. He even said Michael the Archangel disputed with the devil over the body of Moses. The devil can appear as an angel of light according to Saint Paul in the book of Corinthians. Saint Paul told the Thessalonians, Satan did bogus miracles.
Maybe the young woman is a sincere believer. It could be part of her religious doctrine to warn everyone she meets about dying. In retrospect, Angelica really didn’t mean I was going to checkout tonight. She wants me to be prepared for death. Anyone who believes in heaven and hell knows we should be ready to crossover. Death can extinguish our last breath like a thief in the night.
God’s volunteer was preaching to me and she does represent the Salvation Army. I guess Angelica is trying to spread the Gospel for the holidays, peace on earth and goodwill toward men. I should be evangelizing instead of whining about my going-nowhere life. Telling me that I’m dying is actually true - we’re all dying. Honestly, I needed this scare tactic like a h*** in my head. If this keeps up, the doc will be drilling my head.