Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pat goes Wilde!

Pat drains the last of his scotch—a very expensive single malt of course—and rises slowly from the desk in his study. He walks into his bedroom, changes into his pajamas, and pads into the bathroom to brush his teeth. He pops a couple of Ambien when he is done brushing, along with some Maalox, and then returns to the bedroom to crawl into the bed that has been turned down by the housekeeper. Pat's wife is away visiting her family.

As he is drifting off, he thinks to himself, "Well, no spirits so far. It must have been that potato salad, after all. The whole episode was kinda funny, now that I think about it."

Deep in the night, Pat is half roused by a hand stroking his forehead. "What does that woman want now?" thinks Pat through the fog. Then he remembers that his wife is not there. Suddenly Pat is very awake.

"WHAT THE HELL!" exclaims Pat as he jumps out of bed. He looks over and can make out the form of a man, lying in the bed, dressed like, say, a nineteenth-century English gentleman, perhaps even a bit of a dandy. "Who are you?" demands Pat. "And what do you want? I'll have your arrested."

"You could try, I suppose," replies the gentlemen, with a definite brogue, "but it wouldn't do you any good."

"And why is that?"

"You see, I'm here, but then again, I'm not." The gentleman with the brogue is playing with Pat.

"We'll see about that." Pat picks up the telephone, but before he can dial, the man says, "I am the first spirit who is sent to you. Just as the spirit of Jerry Falwell foretold."

Pat slowly puts the telephone receiver back into the cradle. Now regarding the man with a mixed sense of curiosity and dread, he says, "That's impossible. Falwell's ghost was just indigestion."

"Ah, yes, but it was much more than that. It was a warning, an entreaty really, that you listen to me and to the two spirits who will follow me."

His voice shaking a little now, Pat asks, "What do you want?"

"Spirit of Jerry already told you that. I want to warn you so that you may change you ways. I was sent to talk to you about your hatred of homosexuals. You do hate them, don't you?"

"Oh, yes, with every fiber of my being do I hate them!" affirms Pat.


"Because my Jesus hates the gays!" thunders Pat.

"I don't recall Jesus saying anything about hating gays," replies the man.

"He must have," spits Pat, "and anyway there's plenty of gay-hatin' in the Old Testament. St. Paul was down on them, too."

"It says not to eat pork in the Old Testament, too. But you tucked into a couple of nice-looking pork chops for dinner. And shellfish. You love lobster, don't you, Pat?"

"Well, yes, but somehow that's different. And remember St. Paul."

"Sometimes the biggest homophobes are latent homosexuals, Pat. You undoubtedly know the rumors that the Apostle Paul was gay. Well, I can confirm them." The man smiles at Pat.

"You don't know that," Pat replies, his voice really shaking now. "You still haven't told me who you are."

"Oh, I do too know that. And for the record, I am, or rather I was, Oscar Wilde."

"He—you—was a homosexual!"

"Yes, I was gay, although I have often thought that a curious term, somehow inapt considering how society treats us so-called 'gays.' And I suffered for it, too, with two year's hard labor on conviction for 'gross indecency.' I never did figure out how I was harming anybody. There were a lot of Old Testament-type Christians in nineteenth century London, too. England seems to have mostly grown out of it, though. Alas, I was just a hundred years or so early."

"Is that why you were sent? So you could testify to me?"

"Partly. But also because I wrote a novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Do you know what it's about, Pat?"

"It's about a man who was able to make his portrait age instead of him. The portrait took the heat when he killed people and he debauched a young woman."

"That's right. Have you considered the parallels to your own life, Pat?"

"That's preposterous!"

"Really? What about your diamond mining adventure in Africa and paling around with the brutal Mobuto Sese Seko? No to mention ruining a young woman recently."

"Do you mean Monica Goodling?"

"Of course. She went to that pseudo-law school of yours and learned to ignore constitutional law to follow a 'higher power,' and look where it got her. Disgraced. You should be ashamed. And by the way, Pat, have you looked at the portrait of you that hangs in the hall recently?"

"Oh my God!" Pat races out of the bedroom and into the hall. He switches on the light and looks at the portrait of himself. What had been an extremely charitable rendering of Pat—for which he had paid a handsome sum—was now contorted and bilious.

Pat turns to Wilde, who has followed him into the hall, and bellows, "You did this! I'll kill you!"

Wilde replies, "Sorry, not possible. And you did this to yourself."

Pat lunges at the portrait and tries to scratch the paint off the canvas.

"I wouldn't do that, if I were you, Pat," says Wilde, "you remember what happened to Dorian Gray when he destroyed the picture of himself?"

Robertson emits a strangled cry and then sobs, "Yes. I remember. But what am I going to tell my wife?"

"I recommend the truth," says Wilde. Then, Oscar Wilde simply fades away.

The next thing Pat remembers is awakening in his bed, kicking and flailing his arms, with light streaming in the window, the bed covers tossed about, and his pajamas torn. He is sweating and breathing heavily. He gets out of bed and goes to his portrait in the hall. It's there and it looks just as it had the day it was painted, except for a series of deep and frantic finger-nail gouging. Pat sinks to his knees, weeping.

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