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If you missed chapter two visit: here
3. GOOD DAY SUNSHINE
Well, the bowel movement thing was not my finest moment.
For one thing, it turns out that in addition to whatever other stuff they are pumping into me off this aluminum Christmas tree that Miss Pimple rolled me into the john with, they’ve got my Little Richard wired up and piped into a whiz bag. I should’ve figured that. I’ve been in this hospital bed for at least two days now and never needed to have a go.
But that upset the natural order of pee and poop, if you know what I mean. Miss Pimple was very nice—I kinda like her now, too, though she’s no Ms. Susie. She’s fatter and there are those facial lesions but she smells like candy canes and vanilla fudge, and I guess I could get to like that in a woman, though my Little Richard is off the circuit till further notice, it seems.
Anyway, she trundled me into the john with the Trojan hearse of bags on tin wheels, let me sit with as much dignity as a buttless hospital gown allows one on the pearly throne, and retired back into the room to await my high-pitched cries of victory.
Nope. Not to come. I heard Wheezer and the Wheezettes come back into the room and the nurse yodeled in, “I’ll be back when you need me.”
But I didn’t. Golly, I wanted to. At one point, I broke into my best Brian Wilson falsetto and sang, “Well, it’s been building up inside of me for oh I don’t know how long.” The Swiss Family Wheezinson got so suddenly silent that I couldn’t help adding the next line: “I don’t know why but I keep thinking something’s bound to go wrong.”
It sure didn’t go right. I don’t know how long indeed. No clocks in this place anywhere, no television but the outside blare which sounded like a football game now so I figured it had to be Saturday.
But no shit. And I mean that literally. I’d guess 45 minutes. I finally begged Miss P. to escort me back to my boo dwah and said, “Sorry.”
She said, “Morphine does that. I’ll bring you a prune bomb with supper.”
I didn’t like the sound of that. But she toddled me back to bed, added a fresh clear bag going into me, disposed of the stale yellow bag coming out of me, said, “Here, take this,” and gave me a little pill whose color I couldn’t see, drew the curtains around my bed, and I slept until it was dark. And quiet.
Till it wasn’t. I woke scared, thinking at first it was just Rip Van Wheezer snoring. But then I realized it was cop cars’ sirens getting closer, closer. I panicked, thinking Bad and Badder had found out the truth, whatever that was, and then I realized uh-oh, I know the truth, and it was why “WOLFF” looked so familiar on first sight and why he hated me, and then I could’ve really shit my pants, except I didn’t have any pants and I didn’t have any shit.
The sirens stopped. I waited with my heart a-thumpin’. But no heavy broganned steps on the floor. So I surrendered myself to the close and holy darkness of the night and the pill, and I slept.
When I awoke, the sun was blazing through the window, the bells of all the churches in downtown wherever the hell I am were ringing, the sky was blue as ice and mother Mary’s gown, so it was good day Sunday, good day sunshine.
My dear Scarlet Pimple Nell came in with breakfast and I wept with love: four strips of the thin and crispy, two buttered toasts, and a fried egg in a pair tree. Grapefruit juice. “You are a sister of mercy,” I told her, and she smiled and her pimples got all rosey.
I finished it and slept again. Dr. Wheezenstein had been rolled to elsewhere in the castle. I woke up and it must’ve been almost noon. A big tall black lady with a bosom and a Bible, the one or rather two larger than the other. A silver cross she wore, borne high on fields of maroon velveteen.
“Would you like to pray with me?” she said.
“Fuckin’ A,” I said. Except I really said, “Yes I would, sister.” Sister?
So she bowed her head and started rambling on in Baptist or maybe Methodist about Lord, your servant Stephen is so sorry for his sins. Well, some of them I was sorry for. Some of them I rather fancied. But she was rollin’ and I didn’t want to ruin her ride.
When she was done, she opened her eyes. She took my pale soft white hand in her big callused Negro hand and said, “Stephen? Would you like to pray, too?”
Sonofabitch but I did. So I did. The morphine or Dilaudid or Bladder-Eze must’ve kicked in because I just rolled like a Pentecostal preacher on whites. I prayed for Crow and Bird and Drummer, but especially the Drummer. I prayed for my mom and dad and Jane and Ann and Anne and everybody I’d ever hurt or who had hurt me. I prayed for the nurses and the Wheezer and for every hung-up person in this whole wide universe, as the chimes of religion rang their tolls outside.
She looked very pleased, as only a very large black lady who would be wearing a very large fine hat if she was in church and not hospital can look pleased. “You’ve made a good prayer, Stephen.”
“Stevie,” I said. She was my new friend. Her and Susie and Pimpletta.
And then I said, “Sister. I’m a Catholic. Can you please send a priest up here, if you can find one?”
She beamed like a chocolate sun.
“Honey boy, you are in St. Clare’s. I can find you a Franciscan friar before you can sneeze ‘Please’.”
“Please,” I said without sneezing.
She bent down and gave me a hug that smelled like lavender and Vicks and left.
I must’ve slept again but not long because when I awoke there was an old geezer in a “CINCINNATI REDLEGS” sweatshirt sitting in the chair by the bed, reading patiently in the Gideon Bible they must’ve left me in the drawer.
I coughed by way of saying hello.
He smiled. He looked the grandpa I had that I couldn’t remember. Both grandpas, actually.
“Stephen,” he said, his voice all honey and butter. “Mrs. Brown said you wanted to see a priest.”
“Yes,” I said.
“I am Fr. Phillip,” he said. He held out his hand for me to shake, and I did. I noticed it was all boney and broken, as if it had fractured long ago and never healed right, and I felt guilty, because if that had happened to my hand, I’d never play my Ricky or my Leo or my Martin again.
Ricky. Martin. Leo. What have they done to you? Who are they?
I shook my head to clear out the fumes of sleep and bacon. “Yes, Father.”
He waited. Patience is a virtue, find it where you can.
“Father, I’d like to go to Confession. And then I’d like to take Communion.”
“I know,” he said, smiling, wise and kindly as the grandfathers I had never knew.
He took out a slim silk stole. He kissed the back of its neck and put it on. Deep purple against his sweatshirt’s Redleg red.
He said something in Latin, I guess. Then he placed his crooked hand over the top of my bandaged one and leaned forward, as if waiting for the first nail.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” I said, and I almost cried, for then I knew that I had. “It has been…oh, shit…sorry, Father, forgive me…since last Good Friday since my last Confession.”
I paused. He waited. Silence, like all the rest of nature, abhors a vacuum.
I cleared my phlegmy throat. “I have…”
But if you think I am going to write down what I told him, and he told me, fuck off. That’s between me and him and Jesus and Jesus’ dad. Suffice it to say I was forgiven. I prayed the Our Father and the Hail Mary with him—Ave Maria, gratia plena—and he said, “Steve, you’ve made a good Confession. I have absolved you of your sins. You must not do these things again. Beer and wine are God’s good gifts to us. You must honor God by not using them overmuch.”
He really said “overmuch.” That killed me. A good killing.
“I know, Father.”
“The girls…” He shook his head. Then he smiled. “But maybe like the Magdalene, you will be forgiven much because you have loved much.”
“Father…” Then I could say no more for almost a minute. That’s a long time. “I don’t know why I am crying so much, Father.”
He smiled again like dawning sun gleaming off snowy fields.
“It’s God’s love. It’s your reconciliation with God.” And he winked, bless him forever.
“And it’s also probably the morphine.”
And then he gave me the holy bread, and I ate of it.
And then he blessed me.
And then I slept.