I died last week, grateful, clutching a Double Delight rose, two days before I turned 83 — grateful for the years, and that death had come, finally, and harvested me like corn, and that one of my adopted children had come to watch me die.
I am writing this in a cramped little room of white laminate prison walls that feel as though they are pressing in, under way too-bright fluorescent lights, pressing down. The floor under my feet appears to be white tile, or some kind of white laminate.
Here on the way to Heaven or Hell, they segregate us in little rooms so we don’t get assigned to a better or worse afterlife by cheating: looking into someone else’s story of his life.
The entry process, so far, feels like being assigned to seventh-grade study hall, with the bad boys.
Where are the girls?
I am waiting for the Angels to deliver me my test.
That’s right: They give you a test in the afterlife, to determine which Section you will belong to.
And woe betide you if you do not capitalize Angels, or Section.
What kind of an afterlife is this?
Will the rules, for eternity, be just as pointless, niggling and dictatorial as they were on Earth? Why? Why should it be this way?
Oops! Here comes my
Bad-looking moth- O my God, it’s Miss xxxxxxxx from seventh-grade study hall.
She got to be an
But she was a … Sorry! Sorry!
Where did she … go? Floated in and dropped the test on my desk and disappeared.
OK. Let’s do it. I was always good at standardized tests.
Looks like they give you one line to answer each question. With a No. 2 Ticonderoga pencil. “Be sure that all erasures are thorough. Spelling counts. This is your final exam.”
Q: Did you ever have impure thoughts? (Wow! The test talks to you. Cool!)
A: Depends on what you call impure. I didn’t think so at the time.
Q: Did you ever act upon your impure thoughts?
A. Depends on what you mean by act.
Q: Did you sluff off, neglectfully or willfully violate or disregard orders from your superiors?
A: Depends on what you mean by superiors.
Q: Did you overindulge, or indulge at all, in spirituous liquors or other intoxicants?
Depends on what you mean by Yes.
Q: How did that make you feel?
A: It alleviated my distress for a short time, but probably exacerbated it in the long run.
Q: So you know what exacerbate means?
A: Of course I do. I was a newspaper editor.
Q: You were a newspaper editor?
A: I just told you that.
Q: What is, or was, a newspaper?
Jesus H Come on, Madam, or Sir, you’re a fu … a godd an Angel, and you don’t know what newspapers were?
Q: I’m sorry, Sir. I’m a new arrival here. This is the first test I’ve administerated.
A: Administrated, not administerated.
Cheezus H My golly, can’t you spell in Heaven?
Q: Spelling doesn’t count in Heaven.
A: You said it counted on the test.
Q: Oh dear, oh dear. You won’t turn me in, will you?
A: Turn you in? To who? Correctly, whom? For what?
Q: Sssssshhh … Please, Sir, He hears everything.
A: Who’s he?
he, Sir, He.
A: Jesus Christ, just like in the United States. Get me out of here. Is there a test for Hell?
Q: Yes, there is, Sir, and that man whose name you mentioned
administerates administrates it.
A: Jesus is in Hell?
Q: Yes, sir.
A: And all the popes, too?
Q: Most of them.
A: Then to hell with this. Send me down there.
Q: But, Sir. Please, Sir. You’re my first applicant. The Powers That Be …
A: Who are the powers that be?
Q: Why … the powers who took over Heaven.
A: Screw ‘em. Send me to Hell.
Q: But why, Sir?
A: Because I want to shake Jesus by the hand, have a few words with the popes, and meet Mark Twain.