Jesus closed the door, then turned to me, shaking his head.
“That guy is too much,” he said. “Sometimes I think he’s looking for reasons to keep people out of here. I don’t know, almost two thousand years on the job. I think he’s just a little burnt out.”
He shrugged, and gave me a little tap on the shoulder.
“Come on. Let’s go find the old man.”
We were in a hallway or large foyer, with faded floral wallpaper, a few small tables, a couple of umbrella stands, a few hat racks and coat stands. But no umbrellas, no hats, no coats.
We came out into a large Victorian living room, floored with a dull parquet, worn Persian rugs laid here and there, lots of brocaded armchairs and several sofas liberally dressed with antimacassars and multicolored pillows, tasselled electric table lamps, a large electric chandelier overhead, and a grandfather clock, stopped.
None of the lights were on, but a rippled soft light came through tall stained-glass windows.
“Oh, wait,” he said, “you wanted a cigarette.”
He went over to a low coffee table by the largest sofa, and picked up an ormolu cigarette box and opened it.
“I don’t believe it,” he said. He showed the black inside of the box. “Empty.”
“That’s okay,” I said.
“What are ya gonna do?” he said. “That thing is supposed to be kept filled at all times.”
“No, really, it’s all right,” I said.
“Okay. My old man will have some smokes in his office.”
“Really, it’s okay,” I said, for what felt like the eleventh time.
“All right," he said. And then, "Boy, there’s like no one around. But he’ll be in. He’s always in. Come on.”
He led me across the room to a hallway, a long and wide hallway, down which we went. A pale light came down from skylights high overhead, and dozens of paintings hung on the walls. I don’t really know much about art, but most of the paintings seemed old, meaning about a hundred years old, to extremely old, meaning very primitive-looking rough wooden icons that must have dated from the middle ages, perhaps even the dark ages. Unsurprisingly, most of the paintings seemed to have religious themes.
“Maybe someday your picture will be on this wall,” said Jesus.
“I doubt that,” I said.
“That’s what Saint Augustine of Hippo said,” he said, nodding toward a picture of that doctor of the church. “Oh, hey --”
He went over to a nearby small table that had a carved ivory cigarette box sitting on it. He opened the box.
“Damn,” he said. “Empty again. Oh well.”
We walked down the long hall for several minutes, and then came to another even larger room, this one more sparsely furnished and considerably darker than that other room.
“Okay, across here,” he said.
We walked across the enormous room. My leg was bothering me, especially what with walking barefoot on these hard parquet floors.
Jesus glanced over at me.
“I’m sorry, this place is just too big.”
On the other side of the room was a wide, winding, carpeted staircase, and up we went. On the second floor we went down another hall, this one with no paintings but lots of statues, of saints and the holy family and the various members of the holy trinity.
Which reminded me.
“Hey, can I ask a question?”
“Is the Holy Ghost here?”
He stopped for a moment and looked at me.
“Uh, no, I don’t think so, Arnold.”
We turned into yet another hallway, this one with only an occasional painting, along with a few small tables with vases on them, but no flowers, and finally we came to a large and sturdy door.
“Okay," he said, "you ready?”
“Not really,” I said.
“Oh. Well, just be yourself, Arnold.”
“Do I have a choice?”
“About going in?”
“No, about being myself.”
He looked at me, again nodding his head slightly.
“Okay. Look, let me just go in and let him know you’re here first. Do you mind waiting just a minute?”
I wondered if I had a choice about this either, but I said, “No, not at all.”
“All right. I’ll be right out.”
He turned the doorknob, and, without knocking, he opened the door and went in. I didn’t want to seem nosy, and so I looked away as he did so. I heard the door close behind him, and I stood there, waiting.
My leg was hurting. There was a chair way down the hall, but it seemed prohibitively far. And after all, he had said he’d only be a minute.
Five minutes passed. And nothing.
I put my ear against the door, it was a big old carven door; I couldn’t hear a thing.
I waited a few more minutes, and now I had to go to the bathroom.
A couple more minutes. I really had to go now.
I went off down the hall. I came to a door, and I tried the knob. It was unlocked. I opened it.
It was a large office and a man sat behind a desk. He looked up from some papers.
“Sorry,” I said.
“Can I help you?”
“I was just looking for the, uh, for a -- um --”
“Down the hall, then left, turn right, you’ll see one two doors down. Okay?”
I quickly started to back myself out. Despite whatever Jesus had said, I felt very self-conscious standing there in my swimming trunks, barefoot.
“Down the hall, left, then right, two doors down.”
“Thanks, got it,” I said.
I went out.
Down the hall.
But which way down the hall?
I kind of hated to do it, but I decided to go left, farther away from where I had come.
(Continued here. Be so kind as to look to the right side of this page for a complete and up-to-date listing of links to Arnold Schnabel's Railroad Train to Heaven™. A Mickey Most Production.)
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