8 Jun


pearly gates photo: Pearly Gates pearly_20gates.jpg  The day Marcus Grimpot didn’t wake up was a mixed sort of day, generally speaking.

His housekeeper came in for her two hours, dusted here and there, sprayed polish into he air so that it seemed than she’d done a lot more than simply depress an aerosol button, made a cup of tea for herself (not for Marcus because he was a coffee man and the sod could make his own) and left half an hour early in the certain knowledge he wouldn’t notice and so wouldn’t dock her pay.

She was right, but for the wrong reason: This was the day when Marcus Grimpot didn’t wake up. Nor ever would. Even as she slammed her way out of the rectory he was approaching a set of pearly gates with suspicious caution.

Then the window-cleaner called. He charged rather a lot bearing in mind he had a dreadful head for heights and avoided climbing his ladders whenever he could get away with not climbing them, which was for most of the upstairs windows at the rectory. Which is why he completely failed to notice the immobile state of Marcus Grimpot when he completely failed to clean the bedroom windows.

Note to self, he thought as he lit a tipped cigarette and inhaled deeply before coughing into the wind, note to self: once a window’s got dirty it stays that way and never seems to get any dirtier, so why bother if the rev. wants to pay me anyway?

But Marcus was as unaware of that window cleaner as he was of everything else, because he was dead. Kaput.

Yet Marcus had not always been a corpse. Only yesterday, for instance, he’d been pontificating at supper when his nephews had popped in like they did once a month or so because everyone thought at his age he ought to be dead and they felt obliged to check on his state of health and absorb his latest pontifications.

It wasn’t until he was fast asleep that he hit that moment of a man’s life when time stands still. It has to, because he’s dead.

It happens like this. The heart beats its regular rhythm and then, quite spontaneously it stops. The brain knows it’s stopped so the brain grabs hold of the moment and won’t let it go. The brain doesn’t actually want to die – it’s the heart that does that. So the moment’s held and the brain dreams on.

I suppose it’s a dream though there’s no life to view it. But in that precious moment, held tightly in a cerebral grip, it proceeds anyway. And let’s be plain about it: it is all in a moment. A stretched-to-breaking-point moment. The time it takes for a heart not to beat.

House keepers and window cleaners are of no consequence, so the slammed door and the drifting spiral of cigarette smoke mean nothing. The moment’s all that matters, the moment of death.

If I’m dead, thought Marcus Grimpot, if I’ve cast off Shakespeare’s mortal coil I should imagine I’m on my way to Heaven. After all, hasn’t my life been no more than a happy preparation for Eternity? And I should imagine I’ll meet my maker … he’ll be pleased to see me ….

And Marcus Grimpot found himself swimming on a liquid sort of road between the stars.

I’ve lived a well enough life, he thought, proudly.

He didn’t want it to happen but it did happen anyway. A voice, still in that sacred moment but also in his head, boomed at him.

“You abused your privates too much,” it pronounced, like the sound inside a hollow drum. “You know you did! Back in your years, a long way back in your years, pounding away for pleasure… what would you mother have said, eh? And your father – he’d have taken his harsh leather belt to you and scarred you if he’d known what you were doing with your wrists… And that’s what God’s going to do to you when you get there! He doesn’t want snotty-nosed wretches with wasted semen dripping onto the mud in his Heaven… yes, you remember, dripping onto the mud, oceans of it, drip, drip, drip…”

I was only a kid! he yelped, still well within the Moment, It’s what kids do, experimenting, and anyway I remained celibate all my days! I never touched a lass in love or anger, never whispered her name in a spasm of orgasm, never promised to love her forever… instead I loved my Lord….

And he had! He knew it. But the voice hadn’t finished with him, and it was still in that precious moment so it boomed on. Of course it did!

“You watched the girl, the Jayne girl, from behind your curtains, as she walked mini-skirted, flouncing, hair shining and blowing, past your house and you felt the excitement in your loins, the wretched, bestial excitement…”

Lord help me, it was only once! And she was a gift from my God, beauty incarnate… of course I looked and of course I wanted her … but I was in control, I tore my eyes from her and read a few chapters of Exodus instead of doing what I felt truly urged to do… my life was pure, I know it was, my thoughts and my life…

“But your thoughts were the colour of sin and that was never pure!”

I was lost… It was chaos, the savage beating of my heart, the things I saw, the hopes I fancied I had…. but I was just a man, and weakness was my name… Yet I fought against satanic desire, and was victorious…

The gates faced him. They were as he’d dreamed them, pearly white and almost glowing, and no man had wrought them save he himself, in this precious moment. He grabbed a golden chain and pulled until it broke with a tinkling bell-sound.

Beyond the gates were lovers kissing, hands being held, naked bodies, yes, naked, being touched, erections admired, bosoms breathed on, and in the distance, children running and chasing and hollering like children do.

“Who’re you?” demanded a voice, a crusty old man garbed in white with a whiter beard standing and frowning beyond the gate, and facing him squarely. “There’s no place here for you! Get thee to the other place and grovel with its licentious inmates! What makes you think … why should you believe … why should it cross your mind….”

But every moment has its space of time, and is gone, suddenly, flickers out, becomes one with the vast array of moments that have done likewise since the universe exploded into being, and this moment did just that. And with it went the stretched dreams and thoughts, and anyone watching (a house-keeper, say, or a window cleaner) might have seen the single tear as it oozed from the eye of a dead priest at this moment’s ending.

The Reverend Marcus Grimpot was no more, and with him flickered his Heaven and Hell, his maker and creator and all the fancies in his Moment.

© Peter Rogerson 08.06.15


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