The line wends through sections and turnstiles weaving back and forth as far as my eye can see moving painfully slowly advancing one position in line by one position in line. It’s not like I’m in a hurry, I don’t have any particular place to go. But there is only one man on station, well, not exactly a man I suppose, but couldn’t they get a little help?
But the time finally comes when St. Peter calls me over from behind the red line and the sign marked, “Respect the privacy of the individual in front of you, wait here.” He looks at me, then adjusts an earpiece in his ear. His first words to me after a millennium of waiting are, “Remove your cap, please. And face the camera.”
I hand over to him the pamphlet of my life story. He quickly skims through the pages. He grumbles. Shakes his head at spots where he pauses. He looks at me over the rims of his glasses. Looks like he is about to say something but then continues. He writes some things down with a quill on a notepad.
Finally, he puts his quill down and looks me in the eye, and says, “I have some serious reservations about your life story.”
My stomach sinks. Personally, I think my only sins in life were failure of imagination but is that a crime? Does that enter into the calculus of good and evil?
“We will see about that,” he says.
“See about what?”
“Your only sin was failure of imagination.”
“How did you know that?”
“We hear everything.”
He turns to a page in your life story. St. Peter flashes the incident in your mind. “I quote one of your thoughts, ‘God you suck.’ How can we possibly admit you when you clearly don’t respect the keeper of this fine place?”
“I wasn’t disparaging the Almighty. I said, ‘God! You suck.’ not ‘God you suck.’ I was talking about myself in the second person. I was just letting God know of my personal evaluation of my performance that day. I was looking for my glasses while I was actually wearing them. It’s no sin to be mad at yourself, is it?”
“Indeed,” he says with a stern and unforgiving glance. He flips the pages and stops at another clip in your life story. “And here you thought, ‘Jesus Christ you’re a f**king idiot.'” He flashes another incident in your mind. “We just cannot tolerate that kind of disrespect.”
“It should read, ‘Jesus Christ! You’re a f**king idiot.’ I nearly burned my house down that day when I forgot to turn off the burner. I was talking in the second person again. It was self-deprecating. Who does your copy? They missed all the crucial punctuation. I thought you guys were supposed to be all-knowing.”
“All-witnessing. If we were all-knowing, there would be no morality.”
“I stand corrected.” Seems like an awkward time to be discovering that appearances are everything. Something I hated in fake people.
“Do you question our judgment?” asks St. Peter.
I look away in frustration. Only now do I notice that I can see past the Pearly Gates into Heaven. I see Dick Cheney, but he looks only about twelve inches tall. It must be some kind of optical illusion. But if Cheney got in, I should be a shoo-in.
“It’s no optical illusion. That is Dick Cheney and he is only twelve inches tall. There is a little good in everyone.”
“And that is why he is twelve inches tall?” I snicker thinking I am making a joke.
“Really? What happened to the rest of him?”
“He chose to let it go.”
I laugh my ass off and say, “I bet there isn’t a politician or lawyer over two feet in the whole place.”
“We don’t stereotype here.”
I look through the gates again. Mother Theresa is there and she is twelve feet tall. How did she become so tall?
“She had an enormous backlog of goodness and extra credits for inspiration.”
This mental eavesdropping is really annoying.
“I heard that.”
“And that too.”
He looks up and says, “Clearly, the you in you that berates and belittles the you in you that does all the work is a bit of a monster. If you want in, the monster will have to go. It will be a thirteen-inch reduction.”
“You are saying that I will forever be four foot nine inches tall in the afterlife?”
“Yes, if you want to start living an afterlife of pure goodness. No more put-downs. No more self-deprecating attacks. No corrosive oversight.”
“But that is part of who I am.”
“Not for long, if you chose it.”
“Do I have to decide this moment?”
“Yes, that is how it works.”
“I thought God was the one to pass judgment.”
“No, only you.”
Wow. God has outsourced judgment.
“No. This has always been the way of things.”
St. Peter gives me a look over the rims of his glasses.
“What happens if I don’t choose it?”
“You stay out here with the souls that chose completeness over goodness. Which do you choose?”
Jesus f**king Christ. None of my religious training prepared me for this.
“Keep talking like that and I will have to take away another inch.”
Well, at least I can kick Cheney’s ass.
“You won’t want to.”
“Really? I’ve dreamed of that half my life.”
I glance past the gates. My somewhat smaller but not diminutive family beckons for me to come forth, to cross over the threshold of diminutive goodness.
“What happens to the part of me that is rejected?”
“It gets recycled back into the unborn.”
“The goodness comes here and the asshole goes back? I guess that explains why the world is becoming crappier and crappier all the time.”
“There is only so much goodness to go around, but once in a while, two wrongs make a right so there is always hope. I need your answer.”
My whole life and a near eternity of waiting have come down to this one decision. My family waits for me to become only a part of what I was. What a f** ked-up system.
“You judge the Almighty?”
“I choose us,” I say with a tear in my eye as my family disappears.
St. Peter stamps my life story with, “Entrance denied,” and returns the pamphlet to me.
My mean self says to me, Jesus Christ! You’re a f**king idiot.
St. Peter shakes his head in disgust.
“Did you at least get the punctuation right that time?” I say bitterly.
St. Peter shouts out, “Next.”