Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Reincarnation of Arnie Dorris

Arnie Dorris hated his name, and he more or less hated his life. Arnie was short for Arnold, and he had never heard of anyone with the first name of Arnold who had been anything in life but the subject of mockery and distain. It’s not like he could fall back on his middle name, Butts, or his last name either. Worse, he had started going bald when he was a teenager, so he looked a lot older than he was. By the time he graduated from High School he had lost half his hair, and to add insult to injury, what he had left was going grey. He started college looking like a professor, and the only woman he could talk into going out with him was Leigh Anne Worsley, who talked incessantly. She was the soundtrack for his life from the time he lost his virginity in his freshman year, to the time he graduated. He tried cheating on her, but even the drunk women weren’t drunk enough to sleep with a twenty-one year old who looked fifty. When she turned positive on a pregnancy test, Arnie Dorris knew he would have to marry her, because there really wasn’t any way on earth anyone else would marry him. Standing at the altar, Leigh Anne turned to him and said, “Oh God everything is so beautiful, I can’t believe we’re getting married this is the best day of my life I can’t believe we’re going to have kids I hope we have more than one don’t you want more than one I hope we have a little girl because I always wanted a little girl…” Arnie Dorris saw his life unfold in front of him like a very straight, very narrow, and very, very, very long road stretching into the grave.
Three kids and twenty- two years later, Arnie suddenly realized his oldest was the same age he had been when he became a father. None of them turned out to be college material, and the two oldest took turns coming back home to live. Leigh-Lee, the youngest, never left home, and like her mother, never stopped talking. The two were like twin song birds who sang at the same time, with no pause for breath. Arnie was nearly forty-five, they were mired in credit card debt, his career had plateaued out and he realized that when this amount of time had passed again, he would finally look his age, if not older, but no one would care anymore, if anyone had ever cared at all.
Arnie took his pistol out of its locked case, dusted it off, and walked out of the house. He walked down Baker Street with the gun in his hand, but no one noticed him. He walked all the way down to 42nd street, walked up to the bridge, and climbed up to the very top of the huge steel frame. In high school, everyone he ever knew had climbed it, and he had a sudden epiphany; that it was very likely most of them were lying about it, and always had been lying about it. Arnie realized that he, too, could have been one of the guys that had climbed to the top of this bridge, and he took could have bragged about it, but no, he had to tell the truth, and it was at this moment he realized his entire life had been the truth, and his lack of imagination had always hurt him.
Arnie put the gun to his head, jumped, and pulled the trigger.

There was a loud noise and Arnie wondered why he was wondering at all. Was this Death? He felt like he was falling, but shouldn’t he have hit the water by now? Arnie looked down and saw nothing but blackness. He looked up and saw the bridge, but it was just there, not falling away from him, not moving at all, but he felt like he was falling. Oh. Death was a little weird, he got it now, and Arnie waited for something to happen. Finally, after what seemed a long time, Arnie looked at the gun in his hand, and realized he might only be partially dead. Partially dead? That reminded him of the first time Leigh Anne had told him she might be a little pregnant. You either were or you were not. Maybe he was dying, and this was his brain’s last attempt at life. That made sense. He was dying and soon he would be dead, it just took longer than he had thought it would, like a trip to the dentist’s office.
Arnie waited.
After a while, Arnie got tired of waiting and begin to wonder if there might be something wrong. He held the gun up in front of him, let it go, and it hung in midair.
“Okay, hold on, we’re working on it” a voice said.
“Working on what?” Arnie asked.
“Quiet, we’re trying to sort this out.”
“Oh. Okay.” Arnie said. But after a while longer, he was getting bored. “Uh, shouldn’t I be dead now?” Once he said it, Arnie realized that he was likely already dead. Was this some sort of judgment? He broke into a sweat, or he felt like he should have broken into a sweat, but he didn’t. All that porn he watched. And the time he went into the Smith’s house while they were away, and looked through their computer and found their personal videos…
“We have a problem”

Arnie found himself in a deck chair on a ship, with a drink in his hand. The sun was shining, the breeze felt quite nice, and his body was not his own. He was young, strong, and he felt real energy again.
“Comfortable?” asked the woman next to him.
“Very.” Arnie laid back and enjoyed the view. “Where am I?”
“Technically, Arnie, you’re hanging in midair, one hundred fifty feet above the Flint River. But when you tried to shoot yourself the jump caused your hand to shift, and you missed your head entirely. “
“That figures.”
“But the bullet went about three thousand feet away, dropping as it does when bullets are fired, it went through a window, and smashed into the skull of a man named Nathan Busby” the woman said.
“I didn’t mean to hurt anyone!” Arnie protested.
“At the moment of his death, Nathan Busby was attempting to rape a women who had spent her entire life in service to God, and I, as her Guardian Angel, was sent to protect her from such events. “ The woman sighed deeply. “I screwed up, Arnie. I got caught up trying to play peace maker at a marriage just down the block, and I wasn’t there to help her when I should have. Your bullet hit right in the nick of time, and by all rights I should be fired and you should be dead, but God is merciful and he has decided to give us both another chance. “
“What does that mean?” Arnie asked.
“For me it means I go on protecting the woman I was charged with protecting but no more side jobs, no matter how much I want to help. But for you, it means you can start your life over again. You didn’t like this one. You can either fall to your death, and suicide is not looked kindly upon, Arnie, even if you did help me out, or you can choose to be reincarnated.”
“You mean I can come back as someone else?” Arnie asked.
“That’s it.”The woman told him. “The caveat is you will not be allowed to use your memory of this life in any way that might reveal how you came to have these memories.”
“But I could make a killing on the stock market, right?” Arnie asked.
“There are some drawbacks to free will, but yes, you can use the information, but not in any way that might reveal how you came to have it. You won’t be able to speak it, or write it down, or say it aloud accidently when someone can hear you. But you’ll remember who you were, and everything you knew in your former life.” The woman sighed again.
“Do I get to chose who I come back as?” Arnie asked. Oh boy, he thought, this could be great!
“Nope!” she said. “Luck of the draw, you might come back as anyone, anywhere, and you have to live with it. You get what everyone else gets once they are born and we owe you nothing else from that point.”
“But you’re a guardian angel.”
“She didn’t get that making a killing on the stock market.” The woman said solemnly. “That’s something you might want to think about, also.
“Oh.” Arnie said. ‘Well, okay, let’s do it.”
“You sure?”
“Yeah, I want to go for it!” Arnie knew he could remember most of who won the World Series, the Superbowl, and …everything went black.
“Mooo!” Arnie said, as he hit the barn floor. “MOOOO!” Arnie was surrounded by cows in a barn. His mother nosed him towards her udder and Arnie screamed. “MOOOOO!”


  1. Replies
    1. It was udderly mooving, you have to admit. That is a possession story, by the way.

    2. Who was possessed? Any one of them could have been, except Leigh Anne, I think.