Gray Matter

file3951306369420Leroy knew he was dead, dead as a frickin’ sail-cat. Why, his busted up body lay right there with the whole top of his head caved in, blood and gray stuff smearing the trunk of a big old oak. No way a body could still be breathing after taking a hit like that.
But the peculiar thing was that he could see himself. And his black Thunderbird. She wasn’t the waxed and buffed beauty he’d slid in outside Dale’s Hideout; she now rested belly-up twixt him and the highway, as banged up as he was. His pride and joy. How long had it taken him and Betty to make her purr like a kitten and look as pretty as a shiny new dollar? Three years? Four?
If he’d had lips to do it with, Leroy would’ve smiled right then and there as he recalled the countless nights him and Betty had spent out in the old shed after they’d both gotten off work, him with his head under the hood and Betty handing him tools. Him telling her about the dumb shit the guys at work had done and laughing about it, and her smiling that funny little smile of hers.But there hadn’t been any laughing going on earlier tonight. A damn fight, that’s what had been going on. And all because of his so-called best friend. Matt had told Betty about Leroy grabbing that waitress’ tit at The Main Street Diner when they’d had a bite of lunch between jobs last week. And Leroy knew why he’d tattled on him: his best bud wanted in his wife’s britches. No better way to get another man’s wife in bed than to piss her off at her husband.
But all that didn’t much matter now because he was dead.
But he wasn’t gone.
Things started going dim. A gray mist rose up from the ground, hiding his lifeless body and wrecked Thunderbird. He looked up—How in hell was he seeing without eyes?—and saw that same murky charcoal crowding out the night stars and crescent moon. Then it floated in on all sides, pressing softly against every square inch of him.
And for a time, it was just him and the gray.
Then it gradually begins to drift away, and Leroy was sitting on a gray bench in a gray room, his body once more his. But it wasn’t like his old body. Why, he could see through his damned hands that rested on his damned knees, and through his damned knees to the damned gray floor. The body he now owned was no more substantial than the mist that had born him away from the place of his death.
Death . . . he was dead . . .
But he wasn’t scared, and that kind of surprised him. But he did feel anxious, like he had things to do and places to go, and needed to get whatever this was over with so he could be on about his business. His transparent fingers drummed on his transparent knees.
And in time—a minute, a day, a year?—the wall in front of him rippled and rolled and a dark-haired woman dressed head-to-feet in white stepped into the gray with him. She had the most beautiful face he’d ever seen; it shone with goodness and purity and love. Leroy had seen that face countless times, seen it on statues, in pictures and books: The Virgin Mary.
And everything clicked into place.
Being raised a good Catholic boy, he knew exactly where he was: Purgatory.
He would’ve grinned then, but didn’t think it would be the proper thing to do. But he felt like grinning all the same because he knew he wasn’t long for this place, that soon he’d be moving on to bigger and better things because Betty and Mama and all his family and friends would pray him right on into Heaven. After all, he’d always been a good man, didn’t lie or cheat or steal, took care of his family and helped his friends, went to Mass every Sunday morning even if he was hung over as hell—pardon his French.
He stood as the Blessed Virgin approached. The grin was tickling his lips again, wanting to be set free. Then he saw the awful sadness in her eyes and the grin slinked away into hiding.
Something was wrong here.
Saying nothing, Mary pointed toward the gray wall she had passed through moments before. Again, it rippled and rolled, then smoothed out. And upon its surface images began to take shape.
Leroy as a child, tearing apart his sister’s Barbie doll, laughing at her tears.
Leroy in grade school, picking on the littler boys, poking fun at the plain-faced girls.
Leroy in junior high, chanting “Red on the head like a dick on a dog” to fiery-haired Alice McDonald whose face turned as red as her hair.
Leroy in high school, calling Jackson Phillips a pimply-faced nerd, and Julie Jones a fat hog, oink, oink.
Leroy in his senior year, meeting Betty when she’d transferred in from a school out of state, and falling in lust with her luscious lips and nice round ass.
Leroy on his best behavior until he got a ring on her finger a month after they’d graduated twelfth grade together.
Then a grown-up Leroy, always too busy to help his widowed mama when she called, leaving his sister and brother-in-law to see to her.
Leroy out drinking with his buddies while Betty sat at home alone. And on the nights he was home, working on that Thunderbird expecting her to help him, never asking if there was something she’d like to do instead. Inside their house, flipping through the channels and picking something he wanted to watch. Inside their car, him always tuning in his favorite radio station.
And there was so much more. Nothing major, just a mountain of little things—ending with when he’d latched onto that waitress’ tit, and she’d cussed him and pret’near cried and he’d laughed—that showed him how selfish and mean-minded he had been. So what if he had never lied or cheated or stolen? He’d still hurt a whole heap of people and hadn’t given it a second thought.
So what now?
Who cared enough to light candles for him? To have Masses said for him? To pray for him?
Sighing, Leroy sat back down on the gray bench. Might as well get comfortable. Looked like he was gonna be there a hell of a long time.

23 thoughts on “Gray Matter

  1. Hey, Mary, just curious: now that the shackles are off and Betty can reclaim her life and get a taste for freedom… does she go wild and end up in Purgatory beside him? I think that would be a “hell” of a place to reclaim lost love. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

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