By Stanley Elkin
Killed in the course of a mindless holdup, kindhearted Ellerbee reveals himself on a whirlwind journey of a distressingly accepted subject matter park Heaven and inner-city Hell, the place he learns the reality approximately God's love and wrath. Reprint. NYT.
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You don’t come empty-handed to a sick person,” her sister said. “She got it at Kroger’s on special. Ninety-nine cents with the coupon,” the manic-depressive said gloomily. ” Ellerbee, who did not want to flaunt his own gift in front of her sister, quietly put the dressing gown, still wrapped, on her tray table. He stayed for another half hour, and rose to go. “Wait,” Mrs. Lesefario said. ” Ellerbee said. ” “On the fancy box. ” “0h, your stitches. Sorry. ” “I’m a would-be suicide,” she said. “I tried it once, I could try it again.
It was the first time he had been touched there by a woman in sixty-two years. He had Free Will, he had Free Will. But beneath her hot hands his penis began to smoke. “Oh God,” he screamed. “Leave me alone. Please,” he begged. They gazed down at him like teammates over a fallen player. “Faker,” one hissed. “Shirker,” said another scornfully. “He’s not dead,” a third cried. ” “World without end,” said another. “Get up,” demanded someone else. “Run. Run through Hell. Flee your pain. ” They started to lift him.
Of the damned, jumping about in the heat first on one foot then the other, would manage to stand with their backs to each other and perhaps get out a few words-a foul whining. But even this was rare and when it happened that a sufferer had the attention of a fellow sufferer he could howl out only a half-dozen or so words before breaking off in a piercing scream. Ellerbee, constantly nauseated, eternally in pain, forever befouling himself, longed to find something to do, however tedious or make-work or awful.