The sirens preceded me.
It was after midnight and raining when she called. “Can you come,” her voice was calm but unsure.
“Alice! Why? What’s the matter?” I asked. “Please just come,” she begged and hung up. I quickly
dressed, found the car keys and told the dog to go back to bed.
It had been nine years since I had officiated at Alice’s wedding to Phil. A small wedding at the Town Line Diner, just her parents, with a cousin as her maid of honor. Phil had his bowling team. His best man, Roy, was the team high bowler. “He once threw a 300,” Phil said, as he popped the top of a celebratory beer.
It was the kind of wedding party that I typically officiate as a notary public. Alice and I had had a short relationship. She knew that I didn’t approve of Phil. He just seemed to be kind of out of it. Kind of spacey if you know what I mean, and emotionally fragile. But he was a bowler, and I guess that says something on his behalf. I mean, you got to be on the ball to bowl, heh? At least
Alice found him striking. But I digress.
Anyway, Alice and I didn’t see much of each other after the wedding. Just occasionally when it was mutually therapeutic. We’d meet for a drink or two on a night when Phil was bowling and…well, you know how old romances never die. But this call was urgent. Something was wrong. I heard the sirens before me.
The ambulance was parked on the street. I got to the apartment just as an EMT was leaving, shaking his head, leaving the door open behind him. I went in. Phil was sitting stone still in an armchair. The television was tuned to some religious channel, and Phil was in a trance. “I can’t shake him out of it,” said Alice, “he just sits there mesmerized.”
“What did the medic say?” I asked. “He just smirked and said he’s seen a lot of this lately. Something about spaceships and televangelists.” Alice answered, fumbling with the TV remote. I recognized the voice on the TV. “Hey, that’s Harvey Halley. He was in my class at notary public school. What’s he doing now, pretending to be a preacher?” I was incredulous.
Halley was saying something about what he called the “pre-after after life.” I turned to look at Phil. His eyes were glassy. He was transfixed by the droning monologue of the televangelist. Halley continued. “In the pre-after, you will leave the living body and transcend to the then and there,” he droned. I turned to Alice. “It looks like your Phil has transcended,” I said.
“What will I do now?” she turned to me. “Has the rent been paid?” I asked her. “I think so,” she said, “Phil pays all the bills. They’re all in his name. That’s why I married him.” “I had warned you about bowlers,” I said. “But, but, what can I do,” she began to cry. “Get your things,” I said, “pack up, you’re coming with me.” “Just leave him?” she begged doubtfully. “Yeah, I told you not to marry him. It’s over. He’s transcended.” I handed Alice her coat.
I turned to Phil. “Alice is leaving with me,” I said, “I’ll leave the door unlocked and ask Roy to look in on you from time to time,” I told him. Alice looked at me. “Roy hasn’t been around for a while,” she said. “Nobody knows what happened to him. He’s the one who told Phil about that televangelist.”
“Bowlers,” I shook my head and we left.