ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Books, Literature, and Writing

Lord, Lord - an Excerpt

Updated on April 27, 2017
Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran is a writer & former newspaper reporter/editor who traveled the world as a soldier's better half. Her works are on Amazon.

It may not be the Heaven we expect.

“This is it.”

“This is what?”

“Heaven.”

I looked around the tastefully decorated office with its Persian carpets over heart-of-pine floors, highly-polished mahogany furniture, Waterford crystal lamps, and oil paintings by names like Renoir, Degas, and Monet. This was Heaven? I wasn’t buying it.

I’d been a late bloomer in high school, something of a slut in college, a 30-something bride, then a small town newspaper reporter (that means you do everything). After all that, I was more than a little skeptical by nature. So I asked the woman sitting across from me, “If this is Heaven, where are the puffy clouds, harps, and streets of gold?”

“Oh, that stuff is just for the tourists,” replied the large, black woman in the teal, tunic-style pants suit. Her skin was the color of warmed pancake syrup, and her hair was piled on top of her head in an impossible-to-follow pattern of intricate braids.


“Tourists? In Heaven?” I asked.

She nodded in response. “Lots of them.”

“How can you be a tourist in Heaven? Aren’t you either saved or damned?”


“Yes, but for those who are damned, He likes to break it to them gently.”

Her nodding continued while I let this information sink in, which was not easy to do. I noticed that I was dressed for an ordinary work day: nice jeans, oxford shirt, and raw linen blazer, hair loose around my shoulders, minimum jewelry and make-up. OK. Nothing extraordinary in my physical description. But my mind was going a hundred miles an hour. My five senses were lagging behind like they were trying to run in loose sand on the beach. I was in Heaven, as in actual Heaven. Seriously?

Slowly, my thoughts began to move in a specific direction instead of just colliding against each other as if they were being thrown inside some kind of superconductor. Out of chaos, a single one emerged. As I formed the words, the woman’s nodding slowed to an eventual stop. “OK. If I’m in actual Heaven, then why don’t I get the clouds and harps tour?”

She smiled. “You aren’t damned,” she announced matter-of-factly like it was the morning line on a race at Santa Anita.

“Thank God,” I said, instinctively. My attention drifted from the warm face that was fixed on mine. I began surveying the impressive room for a second time until I was brought up short by the woman’s response to my comment.

The shock sent my head swirling back to face this woman like a hinge breaking loose on a heavy screened door. I tried to speak, but no words came out. I cleared my throat of a massive lump and tried again. Minimal volume squeaked out. “You’re . . . God?”

“No. But I’m authorized to speak for Him at this level.”

“And what level would that be?”

“Introductory.”

“Introductory,” I repeated, trying to make sense of what I was hearing, processing one word at a time. “To what am I being introduced?”

“Eternity.”

I heard the word. I absorbed the word. The meaning of the word slowly dawned on me.

“Eternity. As in, I’m . . . I’m . . . deceased?”

“No, you’re dead, dear.”

The announcement had the exact effect on me that you would expect. I swallowed another lump in my throat and tried to focus my blurred vision. I steadied myself by grasping the arms of my chair with every ounce of strength I could muster. “What happened to breaking it to folks gently?”

“Like I said, you’re not da - ”

“Damned. Yeah, you said.”

Again I surveyed the room to get a bearing on my new surroundings. I would have sworn on a stack of Bibles - appropriately I guess - that I was sitting in the Dean’s office of an Ivy League University, not stepping over the welcome mat into Heaven.

“Deceased, passed away, crossed over, bought the farm. That’s all for the tourists too. You’re dead. It doesn’t have to be sugar-coated for those who will be staying here and are not just passing through.”

I nodded to indicate understanding. But understanding would not come. Fight or flight was setting in, and I became more desperate by the minute. At this point I was way passed simple unbelief. “Are you telling me the truth, or are you just saying what you think I want to hear?” I asked with all the cynicism of the reporter I was . . . once was . . . used to be? Like I said before, I’m a hard sell under the best circumstances, which apparently these were not.

The woman let a smile slowly take the place of the patient countenance that had been her most frequent facial expression during our brief exchange. “I am telling you what you want to hear. At this point it is the easiest way for you to process what has happened to you. That doesn’t mean it is not also the truth.”

I squirmed in my seat. This was some dream I was having. But it didn’t feel like a dream. It felt real – too real. Like everyday life in high definition. Finally, some reasoning solidified in my brain, and I came up with a legitimate argument – one I’d bet my life on – so to speak. I sat up straight and looked deliberately into the dark brown eyes of this imposing woman in order to state my position.

“You know; I was raised on the Bible. The Holy Bible - The King James Version - Southern Baptist in the deep South when you didn’t go to the movies on Sunday, dance, or wear pants to church. And I don’t recall hearing anything about ‘tourists’ in Heaven.”

She also straightened in her high-backed, executive chair, nonplussed, and answered my argument with intelligence along with a full measure of graciousness. “Well, the brochure for eternity is just like the brochure for anything else on earth. It’s trying to attract prospects. Let me put it this way. On earth you were a prospect for Heaven. Here, you’re a customer.”

“You don’t say.” I stood, although I had no idea what made me think I could accomplish erectness under my own power. I was drawn to the closest window like a flower innately reaching for the sunlight.

The office I was in was part of a large, weathered-brick building that sat along a tree-lined avenue. Based on the view, it could have been spring in any small town in America. This picture could only be described as something right out of Norman Rockwell.

Wait a minute. Wait just a darned minute. I turned on my heels to confront my new companion. “A brochure? Did you call the Bible a brochure?”

She shrugged with exaggeration then relaxed back into her chair. “Semantics. I meant no disrespect.”

“Semantics?” I let that revelation sink in.

“And by the way,” the woman continued. “With all due respect to your Southern Baptist brand of religion, the King James Version is no more authoritative than any of the others. It’s not the translation that gives the Bible authority.”

“Oh yeah? What does?” the tone in my voice had its hands on its hips. She just smiled. “What He says to you through what you are reading.”

OK. That was profound. But I wasn’t giving in that easily. The tone in my voice repeated my previously stated, Oh yeah? “What if I’m not reading? What if someone else is, or it is being preached, or just quoted?”

“Then its meaning is up for grabs.”

“No sh—ah, no kidding?” I returned to my Corinthian leather, winged-back chair to dwell for a moment on the essence of what she’d said. I was sitting opposite this woman who I realized looked vaguely like the lady who used to keep house for my granny in Savannah. I leaned in and placed my hands on the edge of the desk to make the space between us more intimate. The woman leaned in also.

“Let me understand this. The Bible is a recruiting tool for Heaven?” I asked.

“Well, actually for God; but yes, for all intents and purposes, the answer to your question is yes.”

“And folks who are going to end up in Hell, get to be tourists in Heaven first?”

“Some. Not everybody. It’s kind of a sliding scale of eventuality.”

“And I’m dead.”

She reached her hand across the vast desk to cover mine like a blanket on a cold night. “Bless your heart,” she said, definitely sounding like Granny’s housekeeper.

I'm going to be terribly disappointed:

“Are there really angels?” I asked, taking the Limoges teacup being offered to me. “I’m really going to be disappointed if there aren’t angels. I was looking forward to those.”

“I’m an angel,” she smiled. She had a soft grin that lit up her wide face and put a twinkle in her eyes.

“Am I?”

“No dear. You are still you. You’re just here with us now.”

I kind of sulked for an instant, when another option occurred to me. “Do I get to be an angel later?”

This self-proclaimed angel paused from sipping her tea, set her cup back onto its saucer, and pursed her lips as she formed her answer. “On earth I would ask you this question. Why would you want to take the pay cut?”

Her answer got my back up, so to speak in the vernacular of my recent past. “What’s wrong with being an angel?”

“Oh, nothing. It’s just not what you are. You’re made in His image, remember?”

“That’s what I’ve been told.”

“Well, we’re not. We have an important role to play; don’t misunderstand. ‘The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.’ Revelation 22:6. But, you know, it’s not the same. We minister. Y’all, primarily, get ministered to. Do you see the difference?”

I concentrated on her features and asked, “Have you ever been to Savannah, Georgia?”

Her previous grin widened. “I remind you of your granny’s housekeeper, don’t I?”

“Spit and image.”

“She always made you feel welcome, didn’t she?”

I nodded, remembering. “Her name was Mary Esther. She always had sugar cookies, warm out of the oven, for me when I got to Granny’s, no matter what hour we drove in from Atlanta.”

“I know.”

“Is she here?”

“Of course.”

“But you are not her?”

“No, dear. I’m Michaela. I’m your one angel welcoming committee.”

It all started coming back to me, like a show I’d watched on television the night before. But this wasn’t an episode of “NCIS”. This was beginning to seem really real.

“I was in a car wreck.”

“You were?”

That question caught me off guard. “What do you mean? You don’t know that? Don’t you know everything?”

“Not nearly,” Michaela said with a quiet laugh.

“Well, I was.” I perused the room once more. “I guess that’s why I’m here.”

“Well, to tell you the truth, Liza, that is not at all why you are here, but we’ll get to all that later. You should eat something now. It tends to help folks settle in at this point.”

Michaela moved her hand, covered in dark jeweled rings on each finger, to press a button on the side of the desk. A door opened behind her, and a slight, older, Asian man brought in a large tray, and set it down on the table beside my chair. The tray was laden with a variety of finger foods, presented on small, delicate china plates – ivory with pale blue flowers around the edge, with folded linen napkins, and sterling silver flatware.

As I looked more closely, I realized it was a sampling of all my favorite foods placed on my own wedding china pattern: shrimp cocktail, skewered steak and mushrooms, medium hot wings, brie cheese, veggies and dip, a fresh fruit salad with no pineapple, chocolates, and petit fours-sized cheesecakes – the good kind that required no toppings. The man made a second trip carrying a tray with a tall goblet of fresh-squeezed orange juice and a small pot of coffee, a saucer of heavy cream, and a crystal bowl of sugar cubes.

“Would you prefer sweet tea, ma’am?” the man asked with an old world accent.

I looked into his wide eyes. “Any hard liquor in the house?” I whispered.

“That’ll be all, Numah. Thank you,” Michaela said, dismissing the man with a smile and a wave of her hand.

“Eat something, dear. You need your strength.”

“And why would that be, Michaela? Why would I need my strength right now?” I asked, rising to my feet and beginning to pace the length of the hand-knotted, silk rug. “I’m dead, remember? I’m in Heaven - and apparently not on the six-days, seven-nights tour. What else do I need to know? Is there some kind of twelve-step plan for entry into eternity? Or do I just have to complete the orientation, and I’ll be directed to my mansion just over the hilltop?”

“No, dear, mansions over the hilltop are just for the – ”

“- tourists. Yes, I know. Or at least I’m starting to understand.”

“Liza.”

I stopped pacing and turned to the sound of Michaela’s patient voice. “Sit now, dear. And have something to eat. It will do you good.”

I returned to my place opposite her desk, settled myself into the firm chair, and took a bite of shrimp that tasted as if it was fresh off the boats docked at Tybee Island. My mother had a house there or used to before she passed. The cocktail sauce had just the right touch of horseradish, not too much, not too little. I’ll bet Michaela made this herself. No, Mary Esther would have made it herself. I’ll bet angels don’t cook; they probably just speak things into existence.

“No dear, only God can do that.”

“Only God can do what?” I asked.

“Speak things into existence,” Michaela answered.

“Did I say that out loud?”

Michaela just smiled.

Whoa. I’d better watch what I think around here.

“No, you don’t have to watch what you think. You can think whatever you like. You’re redeemed, remember? It’s like Mark Twain said. ‘Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.’”

I have an angel who quotes Mark Twain? I shook my head, trying to take all this in: I’m dead. I’m in Heaven. And I’m one of the redeemed. Does that about cover everything?

“It does indeed.”

I shrugged. “If you say so, Michaela.”

“No. If He says so - and in your case, dear, hallelujah, He does.”

***



On Amazon by Kathleen Cochran

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

      I can tell from reading this again that you've done some more work on Chapter One and hope this also means you've dived back into LORD, LORD with motivation, intent on finishing the novel.

      You have a great premise, an engaging style and an intensely interesting story that I'm dying to read the rest of soon. It would be a crime for this one to languish unfinisned--what a waste! While I love reading your hubs, I really, REALLY want you to finish writing LORD, LORD and publish it. Your story of Liza needs a big readership, and I feel confident it will gain those readers...when it's completed and published. It's the type of story that pulls the reader in and compells her/him (though your target readership will likely be female) to keep turning pages long into the night to find out what happens.

      If you haven't completed it by November, have you contemplated signing on for NaNoWriMo 2014 as an impetus?

      Good luck with this GOOD novel, Kathleen. (And send me something to read soon....)

      Voted Up, Awesome and Interesting/Shared

      Jaye

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      I thoroughly enjoyed this read and you certainly have a very natural writing style. Looking forward to more now.

      Enjoy your day.

      Eddy.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Jaye: I have the first draft finished and I usually spend about a year on each of three drafts. I've been slowed down by a seasonal, part time job, but my goal is to go back to school on this book this fall. I'm also very driven to take my time with this book. I feel like my other two have gotten me ready to write this one. After this one, I may be out of ideas!

      Eiddwen: I've made it all the way to Wales (on my travel wish list!) Thanks for the encouragement. I'm looking forward to more of this book too!

    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Really good read - Can't wait to read the rest. Love your writing style, and the story so far is intriguing.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      mperrottet: Thanks. With my other two books, I put an excerpt here on HP only after they were finished. I thought I might generate some interest ahead of publication with this one. I can't wait to see it finished as well.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      Oh, I love this, Kathleen! What great writing and so interesting. I know your novel and look forward to reading more.

      Your hard work will pay off.

      God bless you

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Cochran 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thank you, Faith, for the encouragement. I think I wrote the others to get ready to write this one. First draft is done. I usually do three. The second draft is the most time consuming so I'm at least a year away from publishing. Keep me in your prayers to keep at it.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Very interesting premise. Read the first ten pages. Planning to read the rest soon. I agree with all the other comments. :)

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Cochran 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      phdast7: I'm in my third edit and have two proofreaders waiting for chapters. It's time to be finished with this book but life keeps getting in the way! Thanks for the encouragement.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 2 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Hooray! I'm so glad you're back at work on this one, Kathleen. Keep at it until this "Lord, Lord" is on bookshelves, real or virtual.

      Voted Up+++

      Jaye

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Cochran 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Jaye: You are such an encouragement and such a thorough proof-reader. Let me know when you are ready to read some more chapters - after the holidays! Merry! Merry! to a great HP friend.

    • serenityjmiller profile image

      Serenity Miller 2 years ago from Brookings, SD

      Lovely start, Kathleen. I appreciate the subtle interjections of theology along with the unfolding of the narrative. I would be interested to see where this goes. Thanks for sharing!

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Cochran 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thanks. The whole thing is out at readers now, so you may be seeing it on Amazon by the end of the summer. That's my goal anyway. I've been reading "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed and am amazed at how we've approached the issue of losing our mothers in similar ways, but in two entirely different story settings. I'll admit. I didn't start out to write a theological book, but it's turning out to include several issues in it. There are Christians who will argue some of the doctrine, but I figure, they are welcome to write their own book. I'm just telling a story, not writing a seminary textbook!

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Cochran 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      "Lord, Lord" is back from a couple of very dedicated readers, and I'm spending the summer on their suggestions. This book may never be finished! But from their ideas have sprung some amazing developments in the story. I'm as interested as anybody in finding out how this book ends.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Cochran 21 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      After all the wonderful encouragement from my friends here on HP, "Lord, Lord" has finally been released on Amazon. Thanks for all the kind words to keep me going, and I hope you'll find it worth the wait.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Cochran 15 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      "I won this book on goodreads and I absolutely loved it. Wow, talk about a different take on what heaven could be like. Although not exactly biblical it was not not too far fetched that it couldn't be plausible. For a woman who was a mother and was murdered; and taken away from her family so soon, I felt empathy with her and the mystery of who done it kept me glued to the book until I had read in just a little over a day. This book is highly recommended by me for anyone who likes a good mystery or needs to understand the need for forgiveness."

      A Review Posted on GoodReads.com

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 15 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      What a great review. :)

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Cochran 15 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I needed it after being told by a close friend (who was kind enough to buy and read the book) that I should republish under a new pen name because my late mother and granddaughter (when she's old enough to read it) wouldn't think kindly of how I portrayed people in the book.

      I ask you this: how do you write an interesting book with no conflict? But I'm kicking myself because this is exactly why I wrote under a pen name in the first place. I should have stayed hidden. It's not as though the people in my life are buying my books in droves anyway!

      Sorry. I'm venting.

      I return to one of my favorite quotes. "If you don't like how I described the character you think is you in my book, you should have behaved better!"

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 15 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Venting seems pretty called for here...and who are they to say what your mother or grand-daughter will say, already said. Sounds like they might lack the courage to write anything honest.

      And I cannot think of an interesting book of any kind, that has no conflict, nothing intense to say. I like your coat. Reminds me that one of my boys (about 12 or so) once said to me, You embarrassed me by correcting me in front of company. My response, You embarrassed both of us by talking like a rude brat in front of them. You don't and I won't. Sigh....If everybody would just do things our way. ... :)

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Cochran 15 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      If only . . . !

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 15 months ago from Texas

      Kathleen, all I can say about this is "Extraordinaire" I half way expected you to wake up from a dream. You are probably the only person who could imagine what heaven is like.

      One thing is missing, the name of your character.

      I also like phdast7 response to her son about embarrassment.

      Blessings Kathleen

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Cochran 15 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      You find out later, but thanks for your interest. I'd love to know your thoughts if you read the book. phdast7's responses are usually the best part of anything I write!

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 13 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      You are being too generous Kathleen...although I do make some pretty good comments every now and then. :)

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Cochran 2 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Shyron: I hope you got to the part where you learn the main character's name. One thing I've learned after four books is not to give away too much too fast. Believe me, it takes as much patience for the writer as it does the reader!

    Click to Rate This Article