Authors: Helen Downing
Louise Patterson is back! Now a
long-term resident of Heaven, Louise finds a need to return to the one place
she thought she had left behind forever – HELL. Back in Central City Hades, she
meets Joe who needs a guardian angel. Louise also meets a tall, dark and
handsome stranger who just may change her afterlife. In this compelling sequel
to 'Awake In Hell', you are invited to return to the land of the damned with
Louise as she learns a whole new set of lessons about how to live a good life,
even after you’re dead.
My loving husband, Larry
This is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s
imagination or used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living
or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
Copyright 2014 © Helen Downing
Published by Beau Coup Publishing
Cover by JRA Stevens
For Beau Coup Publishing
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book
contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and
Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No
part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any
information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from
the author / publisher.
Larry – for your understanding
through this whole process. You have to know agape if you are going to be
married to a writer! I will love you in life and beyond.
Gabrielle – you are a great
photographer and a great friend.
Linda and Patch – for being great
kids. I love you!
Mom – for passing on the “writing
gene,” and for giving me the best role model anyone could have.
Dad – for giving me a foundation on
which to build my faith, and for allowing me to take my own path.
Michelle and Diana – for being
those friends who understand they have to share me with my imaginary friends.
Every single reader – for giving me
The old woman wakes up suddenly,
startled perhaps by continued life itself, with no idea where she is. Then it
dawns on her. She’s in her recliner in the living room. Damn, she thinks to
herself, I fell asleep in front of the TV again. She gingerly starts to shift
in the roomy seat as if lubricating her old bones in preparation of getting up.
Getting old isn’t for pussies. She laughs out loud at her own joke. She starts
to rise, sits down hard, and tries again. After the second false start she
almost regrets not allowing her niece to buy her that electric recliner with
the automatic seat that will dump a person out like a giant regurgitating
monster at the push of a button.
When she’s finally upright, she
glances at the television to check the time. Her life has become so predictable
that a glance is all it takes. There is no clock on the TV, but she can
estimate the time based on what is on, and what is happening on the program.
She has become quite the creature of habit in her advanced age, and despite the
fact there is little to no chance that will ever change, it doesn’t stop her
from hating herself for it.
According to undeniable
evidence—first round of Jeopardy—it is around seven-fifteen in the evening.
That doesn’t give her much time. Her husband will be home within the half hour
after his hard day of hanging out with a bunch of other old coots at the lodge
shooting the shit all day. To say she’s amazed by the fact that the same
half-dozen geezers can consistently show up to the same place every day and
still have anything at all to talk about is an understatement. Not that they
need new material. The old favorites: The world is going to hell in a
handbasket, what happened to music/movies/sports teams, what those kids today
are thinking with the way they dress/behave/think/act is standard fare for her
other half and his cronies. If they had their way, John Wayne would still be
riding tall, President Reagan would have been elected King of America, and
Clint Eastwood would have remained a badass before he got old and turned into a
wuss making chick flicks that make folks cry. What happens to men when they get
old? Why do every single one of them turn into Grandpa from the Waltons?
She is smiling to herself as she
ambles into the kitchen. When you are young, you never think about the end.
Sure, when she was a girl she would imagine growing old with her friends and
her husband, but that was more about growing up, not growing old. The fact is,
you don’t think about it because to contemplate aging means facing the fact
that you are going to die. And while every human being spends some time
reflecting on how or when they will meet their personal demise, we spend no
time imagining what it will be like to wake up in a body that doesn’t work
anymore, or to look at a reflection of a decrepit version of what we once were.
Death is a stealthy creature for most of us. It sneaks up behind us while we
aren’t paying attention, then all of a sudden you know deep within you, that
the world has left you behind. And for her, that is not metaphorical. Sometimes
she feels as though she’s the last real person at the party.
Once again she wonders why she’s
been chosen from all those she’s known and loved to be cursed with damnable
longevity. There were those, some of whom she can hardly bear to think about
let alone name, who led incredible lives. Some had families, some had
adventures, and one had it all. In the meantime, she’s lived small and
unimportant. But she’s lived long.
She reaches into the cabinet
underneath the counter for a large pot. Then almost by rote she begins to reach
up into cupboards for spices and into the freezer for meat and tomato sauce,
then one more stop under the sink and she’s ready to begin. As she’s rising
from her last trip around the kitchen, her eyes fall on the now dead flowers
her husband had presented her the previous week for her eighty-ninth birthday.
She laughs quietly as she scoops them out of the vase and into the trash. This
is what I get for living almost a century, she thinks ruefully. More things
that decay and die before I do. Exactly a week ago her husband had come in with
them, at the time in full bloom and color, in a huge bouquet wrapped with a
large red bow. It’s not that she hates flowers, but she doesn’t exactly love
them either. She ended up feeling as ambiguous about her gift as she did about
her actual birthday. And lately about her life.
The microwave starts beeping so she
goes over and gets the Tupperware container now filled with sauce in place of
the block of red ice she has put inside. She pours it in the pot while the
burger is browning in a frying pan on the burner next to it. She lets out a
long tired moan as she lifts the heavy pan and dumps the meat into the pot.
Then she begins to stir and get lost in thought. She remembers a saying. ‘If I
had any decency I would be dead. Everyone else is.’ That thought brings another
laugh to the surface. Who had said that? It was someone famous. That terrible
woman from the Algonquin Round Table. What was her name?
Memory is of course a luxury for
the young. After eighty-nine years, the old woman can barely even remember
those people who have left her long ago. She also can’t remember falling in
love, or the feeling of the first kiss, or anything that felt really good. She
can’t remember doing anything great, and she can’t remember doing anything really
bad either. She is as ordinary as the sauce she’s making. No one ever complains
about spaghetti for dinner, but no food critics ever review it either.
She had only married once, believe
it or not. In this day and age, everyone takes a mulligan on the marriage
thing. If they even marry at all. She had not been too young, but it wasn’t
desperation either. She could have hung on for a few more years for something
better, but she didn’t. She seems to remember that she loved him. They had
never had children. It wasn’t by choice, but it didn’t tear them apart like
some couples. They always felt if it was meant to be, then kids would come. And
kids came. Other people’s kids. Her niece is her favorite. With that face that
reminds her of a long gone sister whom she’s loved with all her heart. She
convinced everyone that she had no biological clock nor any facsimile of one.
She constantly referred to her life as “carefree and unhindered,” and talked
about how she could go anywhere at the drop of a hat or do anything on a whim.
No one ever had the nerve to mention that she had gone nowhere and done
nothing. She imagined they believed she was internally wrecked by the fact that
she was barren. Likewise, she never had the nerve to tell them that she wasn’t
bothered at all.
She continues to stir with one hand
while reaching blindly with the other and begins adding spices without even a
glance. She doesn’t have to measure anymore. She has made this exact dish every
Wednesday for the last fifty-eight years. That was her husband. A Monday is
meatloaf, Friday is Chinese take-out, and Wednesday is spaghetti kind of man.
He was kind but not loving. He was decent but never righteous. He never raised
his voice or hand to her, but he also never went out of his way to compliment her.
He had gone to work every single day for almost forty years, yet never
displayed any ambition. He was a good man with no passion, and that made her
In the beginning they had made love
often. But then it just dwindled from twice a week to Saturday nights to on
birthdays and anniversaries to never. They had never had an actual conversation
about sex in all the years they were having it, and neither one of them seemed
to miss it terribly once it was gone.
The one thing she does remember is
the first day that she realized she was old. Really old. She woke up and looked
in the mirror and saw an old woman peering back at her. Watery light eyes,
translucent skin barely stretched over creaky bones. She started to cry as she
realized her life was now behind her. She had gotten a seat at the table, and
she had been satisfied with meatloaf and spaghetti. Now, every course had been
served and all that was left was to wait for the bill to arrive.
These days she is used to the idea.
In fact, she’s getting a little impatient. She has served her time, now isn’t
she supposed to go on? Move to the next plane, come back as a housecat,
whatever is supposed to happen? Can’t it just happen already? Then she realizes
there’s something heavy in her hand. She looks down and to her surprise she is
adding a new ingredient to her sauce. “How funny,” she says quizzically as she
continues to pour.
After she has administered half the
box into the pot, she replaces the Rat-B-Gone under the sink.
She hears the front door open and
close. “Honey, I’m home!” her husband yells.
“Dorothy Parker!” she exclaims as
he walks into the kitchen.
“No, try again,” he says dryly as
he sits down at the table.
“Sorry, I just remembered the name
of a woman who said something important,” she says as she makes a heaping
helping of spaghetti and sets it down in front of him, just as he lifts his
fork. It’s a dance they’ve been doing for almost sixty years. He asks about her
day before he fills his mouth with a giant bite. She begins to ramble about the
neighbors getting new puppies, shih tzus she thinks, and so that woman who
wears heels even to the grocery store has had to walk them at least four times.
“It’s a wonder she doesn’t have bunions the size of oranges!” she says as she
begins to rinse off the utensils and run hot water in the frying pan she used
to cook her deadly meal.
Within fifteen minutes she hears
his labored breathing. She turns her back to him and starts wiping the
counters. “I also found some adorable sweaters at Walmart,” she goes on, as if
nothing unusual is happening. “I thought we could pick a few up and put them in
the Christmas closet for the girls.” She winces slightly as he crashes to the
floor, turning over the chair with him. He’s convulsing and a weird foamy
mixture of sauce and bile is coming from his mouth. Finally, he stops seizing
and she moves back to the stove. “Now go on, and don’t worry. You’ll do fine in
Heaven,” she says as she sets her own plate on the table across from his now
She picks up her phone from the
counter and dials 911. When the operator answers she calmly gives their address
and tells the woman on the other end that there are two people dead inside.
Then she hangs up and begins to eat. Her last thought is one of comfort,
because if he is going to Heaven, then she won’t have to face him after this
horrible deed. She says to no one in particular, “I have a feeling I will be
going somewhere else.”