I won’t bore my dear ideal reader (i.e., myself), with a detailed chronicling of the next twenty minutes or so, if that’s how long it was. Maybe it was an hour. It sure felt like an hour, or more. But I did go down the hall and make a right and then a left (or maybe the opposite), and I did try the second door I came to, but it was locked. I tried to backtrack, but I’m pretty sure I took a left when I should have taken a right (or vice versa).
Five minutes later, an hour later, who knows, I tried my twenty-fifth or thirtieth door, and this one opened. And it was that guy behind the desk again. He was still going over some papers, but he didn’t seem upset at this, my second interruption of his work.
“Hello. You found the rest room okay?”
I couldn’t bring myself to tell him the truth, that I had been wandering quite lost all over this enormous house for the past hour or two.
“Yes, I did,” I lied. “I -- just wanted to thank you.”
“You’re quite welcome. Do you know how to get to where you want to go now?”
“Well, okay, then.”
“Okay,” I said. “’Bye.”
He waved his pen at me and looked down again at his papers.
I closed the door, and set off again down the hall in what I believed to be the opposite direction from that I had taken the last time I left the man’s office.
I went up and down stairways, down innumerable corridors, and even through several more great rooms. I found many locked doors and a few doors which opened onto other halls and rooms, but no bathrooms. No kitchens, either. And needless to say I didn’t see anyone else.
I really wanted just to go outside and pee behind a bush, but I couldn’t find an outside door.
I would have climbed through a window, but all the windowsills appeared to be at least ten feet off the floor. I considered climbing up onto a table and trying to jump up, but my leg was killing me at this point. I think I must have aggravated the sprain when I tried to run up that beach during the rainstorm.
Finally though I saw this big oriental vase. It was about three feet high, just the right height, and it appeared to be empty.
I just couldn’t hold it in any longer, so I lifted my alleged instrument of manhood out of my swimming trunks and held it over the mouth of the vase, when suddenly I heard footsteps, the distant sound of a man’s sandals on hard parquet floor.
I turned away from the sound, quickly stowing away the damned thing, and, looking over my shoulder I saw Jesus rounding the corner into the hallway in which I stood. We were about fifty feet apart.
“Arnold!” he called, almost sliding to a stop on the floor. “I’ve been looking all over for you! What are you doing?”
“Oh, just, um, admiring this vase.”
I patted the gilded edge of its mouth.
“Yeah,” he said, walking toward me down this long corridor. He must have found cigarettes in his father’s office, or somewhere. Anyway, he was smoking. “It’s a nice piece,” he said. “Ming Dynasty, I believe. But why didn’t you wait?”
“Um, I had to go to the bathroom.”
“Oh! I’m sorry, I really didn’t think it was going to take so long. So you found the bathroom okay?”
“But what are you doing way over here in the north-east wing?”
“I got a little lost,” I said.
“Oh, I am sorry.”
“It’s okay,” I said. “So, do I go to see, uh, him now?”
“That’s the thing,” said Jesus. He had finally reached me. He gave me a pat on the arm.
“We talked it over. I know, we talked a little too long. But he’s decided it’s okay for you to go back.”
“You mean I’m not dead.”
“So -- I don’t talk to him?”
The thing is, I really dreaded going in to see him while I was dying to pee, but on the other hand --
“You’re disappointed?” Jesus asked.
“No, it’s okay,” I said.
“Just okay? Arnold, you’re going to live! Be happy!”
“Right,” I said. “It’s just I was a little curious to -- see what he’s like.”
“You’ll find that out someday, Arnold, when you really die.”
“Right,” I said.
And then I was lying on the beach in the pouring rain and that nice young nun I had met that other time when I was swimming was leaning over me and kissing me. She drew her lips away. What was her name? Sister Mary Elizabeth.
“Ah, he’s breathing,” she said.
Kneeling on the other side of me was Daphne, looking down at me, holding her wet hair back away from her face.
“Hello, Arnold,” she said.
“Hello,” I said, the rain splattering down into my face like drops of life.
“You were struck by lightning,” said Daphne.
“Actually I don’t think the lightning struck him directly,” said the nun.
“Near enough!” said Daphne.
“Yes, quite near enough,” said Sister Mary Elizabeth. She looked down at me. She had one of her hands under my my head. “You don’t appear to be burnt at all,” she said. “Do you think you can get up?”
“Yes, I do,” I said.
Daphne and the sister helped me to my feet, and I became aware that a half-dozen or so other nuns were standing around us in the rain, the whole lot of us getting sopping wet.
I found that I was able to walk, even without assistance, although my leg did hurt, but Daphne and Sister Mary Elizabeth insisted on each taking an arm.
Soon everyone was up on their back porch, and I was sitting in a plain white-painted rocking chair.
“You just rest,” said Sister Mary Elizabeth. “We’ll get you some water. Would you like something, miss?” she said to Daphne.
“Oh, I suppose a glass of water wouldn’t hurt,” said Daphne, pressing the water out of her hair with one hand.
What I really wanted, of course, was to go to the bathroom.
(Click here for our next fabulous episode, with very special guest star, Miss Nancy Sinatra. Kindly turn to the right hand side of this page for an exhaustive, if not exhausting, list of links to all other possible episodes of Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven, Fifth Place Runner-Up for the G.K. Chesterton Catholic Memoir Award.)
And now Miss Sandie Shaw sings “Quelli Erano Giorni”: