Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Short Story: The Waiting Room and the Judge

Spencer Tracy - Father Flanagan

by Ronald Nitke

“What just happened?” My eyes widened. “This is really bizarre. Where the hell am I?”

I suddenly realized I must have said that out loud, yet I was certain my lips didn’t move. I know they didn’t.

The person next to me turned, as if I had said something. I couldn’t make out a face. It appeared to be a man. Then, the face began to form.

I could see it was a strong and confident face with the kindest, most compassionate eyes, like a warm fire on a cold day, looking right at me.  Actually it felt more like he was looking right through me, or maybe he was looking into me, deeply into me.

He didn’t speak or make a sound, but his deep eyes spoke volumes of infinite wisdom and untold secrets. 

I thought I should be afraid, yet I wasn’t.  I knew I could trust this face.  I would have spilled my guts to him.  It was a face I knew; but how, and why?  

And then, I realized … it was Father Flanagan.  There he was, sitting right next to me on this bench, wearing the traditional cassock and biretta.  I knew that face well.  But, how could that be?

An enormous room began to materialize all around us.  It was without visible boundaries, sanitary looking, but really comforting and pleasurable, exceptionally pleasurable.  Occasional soft hues of greens, blues, and purples shimmered in and out further enhancing the otherwise extraordinarily soothing whiteness. 

There was music, soft and classical, like from a concert orchestra, sounding very distant, but at the same time, engulfing and particularly calming.  Birds were singing, complementing the music as if they were part of the ensemble.  I couldn’t see them or the source of the music. 

Father Flanagan was in black and white and assorted shades of gray, strangely unaffected by the other shimmering colors. 

My feet were melting into very thick plush carpeting.  It was pure white and cloud-like, reminiscent of wading in a lily pond on a warm summer afternoon.  I could see my feet, but I couldn’t feel them.  I wasn’t wearing shoes.  

In fact, I realized I wasn’t wearing anything at all.  The abrupt awareness of being naked was unsettling, but Father Flanagan simply nodded his head and suddenly I was cloaked in a soft white gown. 

Then, the aroma of warm chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven began to fill my senses.  My taste buds came alive with anticipation.    I wasn’t hungry, nor was I eating them, yet the flavor overtook me.  Then I wondered, could I be dead?

Father Flanagan finally spoke, “Well, no you’re not really dead,” he kindly answered.  “Perhaps from the form you just left, but you are far from being dead.  There is still much to be done.”  It was Father Flanagan!  It was!  The voice was unmistakable. 

The image of Spencer Tracy in his famous role was perfectly clear.  I must have seen Boys Town forty times.  I loved that movie.  But he was in black and white, just like I remembered him.  And, how could he know what I was wondering?

Then color came to his face, and we were no longer on the bench.  He was now dressed in an immaculate white suit.  It looked like Irish linen, very expensive, very comfortable, and very elegant; collar loose, no tie.  The shoes were Berluti. 

The desk between us had a surface that sparkled and shined as if it were crystal.  I could see the bench where we had been, but it seemed far away now. 

There were other people sitting there now that I didn’t remember seeing before.  Unlike me when I was there, they all appeared to be clothed.  I could hear distant murmurings but the faces and images were fading away into the distance. 

It was just the Father and me now.  We were alone.  I could have sworn we had been over there on one of those benches, but now I’m not so sure.  I don’t even remember coming into the room.  

I thought I was standing, and then I suddenly found myself sinking into a lavishly overstuffed guest chair at this crystal desk, facing an incredibly well dressed and ageless Father Flanagan.  His eyes were soft and consoling.  They never left me.

Did he just say from the form I just left?  What does that mean?  My form is just fine -- well maybe I can’t completely feel it, but it looks just fine.  

Maybe I am dead. How can that be? I feel pretty good. In fact I feel outstanding, I’ve never felt better. I don’t remember being sick, or in an accident, or even being old. Shouldn’t I know if I were dead?

The words, “Are you St. Peter?” finally escaped from my trembling lips.

“No, but I can get him for you.”

“Oh no, please don’t, I’m good.”

My anxious eyes scanned the vast room, on guard for a sighting of the legendary gate keeper. I knew my heart must be racing, although I couldn’t feel it. I tried to be calm, but I’m sure he noticed that I was squirming in the overstuffed chair. It was so soft; it had to be filled with a high quality goose down, or something even more glorious. I could have just melted into it.

“I’ll just stay with you, if that’s all right. Do you know how I got here?” I asked awkwardly trying to hide my fidgeting.

“Most people don’t remember how they got here. They don’t know if there was some kind of accident, a heart attack, an illness, or if they just sat down in their favorite chair and went to sleep.

If you don’t remember, that’s a good thing and it’s not important. If you did remember, well then, that would just be something you would have to deal with before moving on. It’s all part of the transition.”

“Transition?” the word echoed in my head.

The crystal desk that was completely bare just moments before now held a very ornate gold nameplate. I know it wasn’t there before. The word “before” haunted my mind.

I had always had a good sense of time, and now it seemed like it was standing still. And yet it seemed as though this all had taken place in the blink of an eye. I couldn’t even be sure that my eyes were blinking.

The name plate (the one that I’m sure wasn’t there before), was modest in size, perhaps eight inches long and the name ‘Fr. Flanagan’ was in raised gold lettering. “Should I call you Father, or maybe Saint something?” I asked.

“You can call me Father, if you want, but really you can call me whatever you like. For now, I am only here to be your guide and help you get ready for your judge.”

Holy cow, he just said, ‘judge.’ There really is a judge? “What about all these other people?” Now there were many benches, rows and rows of them, with many people -- hundreds, maybe thousands. They were fazing back into view. “Are they waiting for you too?”

“Yes and no, but perhaps not exactly in the sense you may be thinking.”

There he goes again with what I’m thinking. How can he always know what I’m thinking? It’s like he knows the answer before I even know what the question is going to be.

He went on to say, “You see, some people are welcomed by their family members first, that is, if they’re available. And, some see others they have known. Usually someone they have trusted, or admired. But mostly, whatever or whomever they see is for their own comfort.

“What do you mean, if family members are available?”

“Oh, you are such a curious one, aren’t you?” he said with a grin and low chuckle. 

“Of course, this is all new to you. You’ll see how all this works very soon. Some family members may have already returned for unfinished business, or new business, or even on to new adventures or assignments. Some stay longer for other activities, but many are here to study. The possibilities are unlimited.”

“What do you mean returned? Returned where? Do you mean like reincarnated?”

“Maybe, but you wouldn’t normally remember anything, or even want to. You’ll soon learn that the soul remembers all of its lessons. For some, it can just be a fresh start.”

“You said, “study”. Is there a test? Will I have to pass a test? Will I go to hell if I fail?”

“Those are all good questions. The good news is, there really is no hell, per se. That’s just a marketing tool used by many religions. However, I must say, it does have an influence on many souls, often for the better.” He said with a wink that produced a small twinkle in his right eye.

“Actually, what you’re seeing here, including me, is just a reflection of your own conscience, or your own mind, if you will. It’s that part of you that can’t be accessed in the three-dimensional world. You needed to see this image. It’s what you can understand now. It makes sense, and it’s comforting for you.

Some people might see Mother Theresa, or Jesus, or Buddha, or their grandmother, and some even see Moses.” The Father paused and looked off into space, “But he usually seems to look like Charlton Heston. And, of course, many are welcomed by some of their family. Anyway, you got me.”

“Is this heaven?” I wasn’t so sure that I was all that comforted, but I was still savoring the flavor of those heavenly chocolate chip cookies.

“On the surface, and I use that term loosely, heaven is usually not what most people think it is. When you can get inside yourself, truly deep inside yourself, that’s when many can discover that what they’re finding there, really is what they think it is, and even much more.”

I felt like my head was spinning, I needed to change the subject, “So then, are there angels here?”

“Oh yes, of course.”

“Why can’t I see them?”

“You don’t see them right now because they are in dimensions that are still beyond your abilities. Usually you won’t see them at this stage of transition, unless they want to be seen, yet they are all around us.

They sometimes appear as what you might perceive as shimmering colors.” He paused a moment. “Very beautiful.” He sighed. “I love seeing them pass through like that. But of course, they’re generally not really visible, until you achieve access to at least the sixth dimension.

They can sometimes be seen on Earth, but all too often, the human memory can’t hold a clear image, if any image at all. But the sense that something was there is very real, even if it was no more than a little puff of wind. The human mind as it exists on Earth can no more comprehend this than a monkey can perform algebraic equations.

You wouldn’t remember this, but when you first went to Earth, you needed others to care for you and see to all your new needs. Then you learned to communicate in that world, on that level, and later advanced to crawling and walking, and so on and so on.

Now that you’re back here, and once you’ve re-adapted to some of the higher dimensions, you will become aware of much, much more.”

“So what happens now?” My curiosity came out uncontrollably. “Is this really heaven then? Am I going to go to heaven? Are there really pearly gates and streets paved with gold?”

“Oh, I suppose some might see pearly gates and gold paved streets, and maybe even angels with harps riding on clouds. We’ve heard it all, but those are only preconceived images from some of the teachings on Earth. That all makes fine material for books and movies -- something visual, something the three-dimensional world can grasp.

Here, we’re not bound by those limitations, and we really have no need of pearly gates or that kind of opulence, and even less use for gold. That’s all good stuff for the human theater. You might say our medium of exchange here is simply love. Gold and silver will buy you nothing.”

“But what about this fine crystal desk and that linen suit you’re wearing?”

Then, as if the room and desk had never existed, I suddenly found us both standing in a trickling stream. I could feel the gentle coolness on my bare feet. We were both in bib overalls and well-worn straw hats. The music and the birds were still with us. The swiftness of these transitions was making me dizzy.

He spoke again, “Perhaps this makes more sense.”

I followed him out of the stream and we strolled up a grassy knoll and sat under an ancient oak. “Am I going to have to take a test?” I asked, hoping the good Father wouldn’t pick up on my thinly veiled impatience.

He did, of course, and he still hadn’t answered my question about heaven. I wondered if I should have gone to church more.

“Church serves a fine purpose for many people. There are so many of them now, all claiming to be the right one,” he sighed, completely ignoring my question of tests and heaven, moving right on to the invasion of my thoughts about church.

He paused a moment, chuckled, and said, “I suppose they have to claim something impressive to sound credible. The sad part of churches is that there is so much reciting and repeating of words and verses written by others, which in and of itself, can be some pretty good stuff, but it doesn’t take the place of the individual souls putting some energy into looking inside themselves for what they are seeking -- what everyone is seeking.”

“So then, is this heaven?” I asked again.

“Well, not just yet -- not exactly, anyway. You still have to get past your judge.”

“How long will all this take?” The thought of the judge concerned me.

“How long will it take, you ask? That would be a time and space reference so many of you like to bring up when you arrive. It doesn’t work like that here.”

“Are you telling me that time and space don’t exist here?”

“Oh, absolutely they do. It is certainly most essential in the world you just came from. People need to get to work on time. Deliveries need to be made on time. Kids need to go to bed on time, come home on time. The news comes on at six. There are countless things connected with time. Your world revolved around time and most people never seem to have enough of it.

We around here find amusement in its peculiar measurements. The New Year starts eleven days after what’s called the winter solstice, the shortest day for light in most places. Wouldn’t you think that would seem a more likely time to start something as significant as a year rather than waiting eleven more days?

Most of you have gotten the seasons down pretty good, but then, there is the day itself. You people have it starting in the middle of the night in total darkness, long before the first hint of light. And everyone seems to be okay with that.

And then there’s the thing about space, everybody wants their own space, or more space. This is my room, this is my house, this is my yard, and this is my city, state, or country. It goes on and on. There’s no end to how time and space set so many limits on that world. It is much less of an issue here.

So yes, time and space do exist here, as surely as a two dimensional shadow exists on Earth, and with about the same importance. What was too complex to grasp on Earth will become easier to comprehend.” His voice was assuring and as kind as the aroma of the orange blossoms that now drifted through the air.

“So, will I be seeing the judge soon?” I was slightly emboldened by all these new enlightenments.

“Well, you don’t exactly see the judge. It’s not quite that simple. Every soul goes to Earth to learn their own lessons from the moment they separate from the sea of souls at birth, until they return, after their reconciliation.”


“Yes, reconciliation; you’ll work that out with the judge.”

“Can’t you stay with me to help? You did say you’d be a guide for me.”

“I have guided you this far, answering many of your questions and even more. Remember, I am only a reflection of you. But, I’m afraid you’ll have to face your judge alone.”

He raised his right hand and a holographic kind of image of me began to form, first as a child, then quickly moving to the teenage years, then a young adult. “You can review your life right here.” He said. “This is merely an oversimplified preview.”

I could see the house where I lived as a child, and where I played, and the friends I played with. It was all flashing before me as quickly as lightening, but still with intense clarity.

“Wow, this is amazing! So are you my judge then? Will there be more than one judge?”

“There is only one.”

I nervously brushed off some of the dried grass from my feet.

“The reconciliation part is where you may really notice the time as you came to understand it on Earth. Here’s how it works. You’ll see your entire life and how your decisions and choices have affected others, both good and bad.

Some of the results may really surprise you. You’ll see that things are not always what they seem. You will sort of earn credits for all the love and good you brought into the lives of those around you. Those credits will offset the not so good times, the times of greed, anger, apathy, self-indulgence and other ego-building energies you have used.”

I must have frowned, because he calmly said, “Don’t look so worried, everybody has to go through this.”

“So then, everybody gets through this step?” I inquired hopefully, with a certain amount of anxiety.

“Well, it’s much more than a step, and for some it can be very difficult. Unfortunately, some souls find themselves hopelessly mired in their greed and self-indulgence. The reconciliation can seem to take a very, very long time.”

This bit of news shocked the little bit of confidence I was gaining. “So then, there really is a hell of some kind, but I just can’t understand it. Is that what you’re saying?”

“No, there still isn’t a hell,” was the polite reply. “For those souls that don’t love, whether they can’t, or just choose not to, they will simply cease to exist, but that’s exceptionally rare -- the history books and newspapers may suggest a few.

Like the seeds that are thrown into the fertile field, not every one of them will blossom, but usually sooner or later nearly all do. Virtually everyone has something to work with. The soul has incredible powers of reconciliation.”

“Can’t you be my judge? You seem so nice, and so patient.”

“Oh me, heavens no. I’m not qualified for that. But I will tell you this. As you go through the review of your life, the selfish and self-indulgent parts may seem like an eternity, but they are tempered with the good parts of your life.

For some, it may take what you might think of as years and years, and maybe even centuries to fully reconcile. You will be your own judge.” He paused. “Oh, just one more thing, if by any chance you had the sensation of tasting cookies when you were on the bench you should do well.”

So, we were on a bench. I didn’t imagine that. I wanted to thank him, but then without warning, he was gone and a thousand images of me at various stages of my life instantly appeared and the review of the holographic scenes began, and we all started to examination our life.

Then I heard distant voices, very faint. “I’m afraid he’s gone now.” Followed by, “Doctor, this is really strange, but when I removed his shoes and socks, he had pieces of dried grass on his feet. Didn’t they say he had been in a wheel chair?”

Ronald Nitke
About The Author

Ronald Nitke has a B.S. in business administration, and has worked many years in corporate and forensic accounting. After serving aboard the USS Sanctuary 1967-1969, he was a logger in Northern Wisconsin.

In addition to writing several short stories, he is completing the final edits for a fact-based novel involving his forensic experiences. 

He and his wife Charlene, by way of Arizona, California, and Alabama are currently living in Appleton, Wisconsin, and restoring an 1880’s farmhouse. They share their space with a Golden Retriever, Lady Grace, and a Shih Tzu, Dixie Belle.

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“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck


CJ Heck said...

Thank you for allowing me to post your wonderful story, Ron. It is a pleasure to showcase such talented work.

Anonymous said...

Love this story. Very talented author.

Holliehox said...

Great story Dad! You write beautifully. Where can I find more?