It is funny how reality in the hereafter is so different from hype. But of course people are going to different places, including what could be referred to as hell. I thought of the Camp of the Resisters as the most horrifying place I had seen in the hereafter so far. I just hoped few of my outlaw relatives had landed there. It was bad enough to think Terrance was there after all the work I had put in to him. How long he would be there I did not know, or if he would succeed in destroying himself completely as he seemed bent on doing.
I was going to have to go out there again one of these days and see if there was any change in the blank expression on his face.
As I was walking down the street in the city of Phoenix with me hardly even realizing it, my surroundings changed to another place I could not readily identify, but one of the first people I saw that I knew was my cousin Pace from my dad's side of the family. I just ran into him on the street, so I must have been looking for somebody like him, unconsciously.
I was really relieved to see Pace, who was about two years older than I was. We had punched cattle together for our Grandfather McDermott who we called Grandpa Mc. If Pace had stayed out of the Camp of the Resisters there was hope for some of my other McDermott relatives as he drank quite a lot. I think he even died of an alcohol related cause.
"Pace, I am glad to see you! How is your dad?" (His dad Jed was my my dad's oldest brother)
"Okay, I guess. Haven't see him for a while."
What did that mean? I was sure his dad had spent some time in hell. He had been found dead, a suspected suicide in his early fifties. Surely that qualified him for some years there, but how exactly were people sentenced? Did they sentence themselves, or did it just happen? None of that was clear to me yet.
I didn't want to ask Pace too many questions for fear I might offend him. I tried to think of what I could ask him that might be acceptable.
"Is Eddie here? I mean do you see him often?" Eddie was his older brother I knew even better than I did Pace, since he had worked on Grandpa's ranch when I was in my teens. I had also seen him more in later years, since he came home on vacations and stayed longer than Pace ever did when he came, probably because Eddie was single and unattached.
"I see him and Gordon both," said Pace.
Gordon was still another brother who had died in his early twenties, a very tragic alcohol related death.
"Did you have to serve a term in hell?" I said boldly.
Pace looked startled. "Of course," he said. "All of us drinkers are bound to go there, but I am out now."
"Out of hell? What is it like? A prison?"
"Naw," said Pace laughing. "I just sentenced myself to some serious thinking when I got over here. I had already quit drinking quite a few years before I passed. Gordon and Eddie told me what they did when they got over here, so I sort of let them guide me. That's one good thing about having older brothers. Have you seen your sister Coral?"
"Oh yes, she was with me quite a few days, but there is so much to learn. She has a job she thinks is very important that she had to get back to, so I am pretty much on my own now. Have you seen my dad?"
"Uh, no," said Pace, looking at me in a way that I found hard to decipher. I decided to face the worst if I could find it out from him.
"Is he in the Camp of the Resisters?"
"Oh that camp," said Pace. "I have heard of that place. No, but I think he is in a place where I don't usually go."
"Where is that?"
"The hereafter for gay men."
I almost choked. "Is there a hereafter for gay men?"
"I'll say. It is very big. What would your dad be doing there? Was he gay?"
"He certainly never admitted he was."
"I wondered, because Eddie goes over there. He says it is to see some of his buddies, but I think it is for him, too."
"Eddie never admitted he was gay either."
"Country guys are never going to admit they are gay. They don't have a gay community to back them up, so they are going to deny they are gay until hell freezes over."
I sat down as I felt all the air had gone out of my lungs. This was a killer conversation I was having with Pace, the like of which I had never had with any of Daddy's relatives while we were all alive. I just did not know what to say to Pace, where to take this.
Pace seemed to know it was time to go. He got up and said, "I need to go somewhere, but it was great running into you, Shadra. I am sure Eddie would really like to see you. Gordon would, too, although you were probably too young to remember him very well. My two sisters are here, too. And my youngest brother Denny, who died of pneumonia when he was just a little kid. We are all here now but Teresa. She might live to be a hundred the way she is going. She never took up smoking or drinking like the rest of us, who didn't know any better."
"Thanks for filling me in, Pace," I said. "I am glad I ran into you."
I watched Pace go down the street, his tall figure very slender even though he was up in his eighties and his hair had turned snow white. I bet he still looked awfully good on a horse.