Perhaps hell is the bowling alleys of which we spoke ill, at a time when we were being asked to look forgivingly on all bowling alleys.
Where do you reside when at night you travel to this vast open space - neither warehouse nor amphitheater, neither desert nor field - and trade shoes for other shoes and close your ears to the sharp thunder of wooden bodies crashing into one another, hour after hour.
At night, who comes out to inspect the quiet. In the morning who sweeps the lanes.
In Albany, who traveled to Fall River, and in Fall River, who went back and forth to Ireland.
Whose son are you and who is your son.
A room full of prizes that you do not covet, a room where you can order hot dogs and fries, where you would be sick if you ate, and on Fridays and Saturdays a room where you can drink beer, which you long ago swore off drinking.
Your son goes with you and you are the son of one who was gone decades before he died.
I bowled with him once in Northampton on my birthday. Four years old? Maybe five. I remember nothing but the volume, the sticky soles of the too-tight shoes, and not understanding the rules.
We were neither winning nor losing, nor preparing to win.
A zero-sum theology which asserts heaven and hell exist as equal possibilities.
Only when you believe it is possible to die and still be punished can you speak so disparagingly about bowling alleys.
You who long to be healed.
You who refuse all cures.
All day, waiting to go back.
All day forgetting you can choose when to go back and how long to stay.
Are you working or playing or something else altogether in this bowling alley frequented by Christ and what is not Christ.
Are you winning or not winning in this cavern of shadows, under the watchful eyes of the Father of Bowling, Whose Father is the Father of Games, Whose Father is the Father of Sacrifice, Whose Father is the Father of Fear.
Whose Mother has been away a long time?
I drop Jeremiah off, buy groceries, and go home and cook. Hours later, friends return him. He is happy helping himself to food and telling us about bowling.
I am so happy I don't know what to say.
Did you win I say.
He looks at me as if I am speaking a language that he wasn't asked to learn, as if I am struggling up a varnished trail, dodging murderous balls, begging for mercy.
As if mercy were already given.
He looks at me the way you look at the one who feeds you no matter what.