A light at the end of the dog house

Thumbnail image for al-martinez-photo.jpgIt was not one of your typical near-death experiences; no mother, grandmother or evil step-father smiling and waving at me near the end of a water tunnel. To begin with none of them ever smiled and none of them would be happy to see me. I was a pain in the ass in life and most likely would have continued so in death. What did wait wagging the stub of its tail was a small white dog about the size of a house cat who yapped with joy when I, pissed off and soaking wet, slid into view.

I ignored the shabby little band of ghosts to look around, followed by the poodle, until we ended up at a house in Oakland where I had once lived. It was floating in linen-white clouds surrounded by streams of color fusing into masses of exploding beauty that we are now able to observe through the Hubble space telescope. Then I woke up. In reality the house was nothing more than a shack and it had embarrassed me to live there. But dreams create tangential dungeons and I was locked up in one.

I was still alive in my bed at West Hills Hospital having experienced a TIA or transient ischemic attack. I've had a TIA before. They're small strokes that disorientate and confuse and probably created my near death experience in the first place, although an attack by my angry old friend, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), was the primary reason I was there, doubled over and gasping for air. That and symptoms of the flu. I was a mess.

As I was recovering from my NDE, the nurse came on the intercom to say that lunch was being served. I replied that I think I had died but it hadn't been the right time so I was returned to my room. She said brightly, "There is a delicious white chicken breast on the menu. Enjoy!" Then she clicked off. The chicken breast, which had obviously been cooked with a hair dryer, was so bad that I am at a loss for words, which is unusual. Just let me say that the poor chicken needn't have given its life for that pathetic piece of its body. There is no heaven for dead chickens cooked so poorly.

I was eating the dungeon bread and Guantanamo cold green beans when I noticed the white dog again. It was at the periphery of my vision and disappeared when I turned to look directly at it. What was that all about? Is he a hound from Hell? I doubt it. We have a white poodle temporarily living at our home but he has never paid me any special attention so why would he follow me to, well, the beyond and back? He appeared a couple more times, staring at me through pin-point eyes, his black button nose sniffing the room. I placed a piece of blow-dried chicken on the floor for him but he wisely left it untouched.

My wife, the patient Cinelli, says I am obsessed with death but that's not true. I'm curious about it, but I do not lie awake at night staring into the darkness like the eye of a camera and preparing myself for a trip through Einstein's Time-space continuum. That takes a larger lens. What I must do now is just get on with my life and forget that the little white dog sits in a corner of a billion galaxies. I can see him now. He's waiting.

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