What lies beyond the Pearly Gates?
When he took the corner in his BMW a little too fast, he was far too involved with the conversation at hand to notice. To say the street was slick was an understatement- it was downright slippery out. The narrow city street was a sheet of black ice. He was practically yelling into the phone, trying to clarify his point.
“I repeat, Mr. Thomas, the estate is in probate. That means- rather, what that means, to you, Sir, is----”
He had slid further over than he had thought, and not taking into account the black ice, Leo Smith was now an inanimate hood ornament for one of Chicago’s Streets and Sanitation plows. The numb and slightly stoned bearded driver screeched to a halt as quickly as possible, which sent the crumpled BMW 5 series lurching forward, into the oncoming traffic lane.
Leo blinked his eyes, rubbed his forehead.
“Whoa-- where the hell am I?”
He looked around; at first it seemed that he was in a blizzard, on top of a mountain. Then he realized it was all just clouds and sky. He was on the fabled stairway-- escalator, rather--to heaven.
Behind him, three or four steps down, a man screamed, burst into flames, hopped the railing, and plummeted straigt down. Two decorated angels, stopped in mid-flight, folded their silver-tipped wings, and dropped like stones.
One proclaimed: “We’ve got another Shooting Star—sector 17G. Repeat…”
Leo said to himself:
“Oh, great, they’ve even got leapers up here! This is not happening…”
He tried pinching himself, and to his dismay, he indeed felt it.
“Oh, mannnn--I can’t believe this…”
“That is precisely the first question, young man.”
Bewildered, Leo looked about. Off to his right, he spied a great, liquid, morphing ball of white light, speedily soaring in his direction. It fluctuated, sparked and turned into a large pointing, white-gloved hand.
“This way, please,” It said, from nowhere in particular, while pointing to a neat and well-appointed banker’s desk, poised on a wispy bed of clouds.
Leo blinked, and found that his escalator ride had come to an abrupt halt.
He stumbled off tentatively, found the surrounding cloudscape to be as firm as cement, and seated himself on the customer side of the banker’s desk.
Just then, an angel materialized on the banker’s side of the desk.
“Wow! You look just like--“
“Obi Wan Kenobi, I know, I know. I get that all the time, lately.”
“Wow, George Lucas is a visionary!”
“No, George Lucas is a master storyteller. As a result, everybody your age and younger thinks I should look like Obi Wan Kenobi. That’s the sad truth.”
“Wow! I mean, You look just--“
“I know. Anyway. We have matters of greater—gravity-- to discuss here.”
“Um, yes, I suppose we do.”
“Now then, Mr. Leo Smith, of three thirty-three South Michigan Avenue…you believe you’ve arrived here prematurely, yes?”
“No.” The angel paused. “No, Mr. Smith, you are right on time, the sad fact, sir, is that your string has run out. You were to join us today, as it was written at the beginning of time, when all things had been predetermined.”
“Ah, no. No. There’s got to be some--”
“Mistake? No, I’m afraid not,” said the Angel gravely.
“Well, then, I--uh…well- that is I- do I get one phone call? Because, I was supposed to have dinner with my wife tonight, I was on my way to meet her, as a matter of fact-”
“No you weren’t. You were on your way to have dinner. But it was actually with your girlfriend, wasn’t it, Leo?”
Leo was speechless. His expression said it all.
The angel smiled, in a way that somehow conveyed, simultaneously, benevolence and judgment.
“You’re wondering what comes next.”
“Yeaaah--” Leo exhaled.
The angel licked his lips.
“Well, we’re going to conduct a little interview, here. Sort of a--‘sum-total of your years on Earth’ review. And we’re going to look at the scale when we’re done, and see where your destiny lies.”
Leo swallowed hard. His eyes grew wide. A million thoughts flashed inside.
“Yes, all those things are on our minds.”
“You can see inside my mind, Sir?”
The angel smiled.
“It’s Gabriel. You can call me Gabe.”
“Well. Gabe-- How does it look?”
Gabe said nothing.
A computer with a big flat screen monitor materialized upon the desk.
“You have computers here? Email? Internet?”
“Of course! Where do you think these inventions come from? We’ve had them since before Jesus walked the Earth! How do you think we keep track of so many things? Post-It notes? I think not.”
“If you think that’s incredible, this will blow your mind.” Out of thin air, Gabe produced a small, thin, striped, laminated card, and proclaimed:
“Leo Smith, This is Your Life!”
“On a bar code? You gotta be kiddin’ me! I’m sitting across a loan officer’s desk from Obi Wan Kenobi with a bar code version of ‘This is Your Life’ on Judgment Day? This is heaven, right? ”
“Some call it that, yes.” Said Gabe.
“Whaddayamean, some call it that? Hey, maybe, just maybe I’m in the wrong place here. I’ve always believed in karma, you know, what goes around comes around, and all that? Reincarnation, you know?”
Gabe smiled. Actually, it looked a bit more like a smirk. “Well, as a young and ambitious corporate lawyer… you probably have banked enough Karma to go back as either… a Tapeworm, or as a parasite living underneath the wing of a grasshopper. I can call up KarmaBank, for you, if you’d prefer to deal with them?”
There was a pale, frozen look on Leo’s face. “No, no, no-- that’s OK…”
Gabe then genuinely smiled, and cleared his throat.
“Very well, then.”
He looked Leo soberly in the eye, much like the funeral director who had handled Aunt Gertrude’s burial service last fall.
“This is a complicated matter. I’m sure you would agree that the afterlife means different things to different people. The ‘me’ you see-- this Obi Wan Kenobi-- is your best interpretation of the way I should appear, to make it easier for you. So you can ‘wrap your mind’ around the concept. Some see me as a farmer, or as a king. Some see me as an eight-armed blue-skinned woman. Some see me as a tree, or a great cat, or a star. Many things can be the vision of salvation…or, damnation. But if you were to really see me, you would see everything, rather, all things at once, and the real trick is to see them with understanding. And I do not speak exclusively of earthly things. The universe, is this thing of which I speak. This of course, is not possible given your short time here. There is much you shall learn, with time.”
Leo blinked, then asked: “So you do not reign over Earth alone? Are we not alone?”
The angel laughed, and folded his rough hands across his desk.
“Leo, you could--think of the Earth as, well-- Look at it like… an ATM machine. One of about 986 million billion billions of them. At last count.”
“And we are opening new branches every day.”
“Oh, my God!”
Instantly, and from everywhere at once, reverberated: “YES??????”
Gabe now looked startled.
“Careful! Careful! He’s everywhere here! If you call on him, it better be good!”
Leo replied fright: “Sorry! Really!”
From everywhere: “All is forgiven.”
“Anyway,” continued Gabriel, “We have business to attend to here, and this is taking forever.”
“Forever? But, I just got here!”
“Oh, no. Actually, you’re on our time now. This process is actually one of the most
tedious things for us… In order for your earthly soul to comprehend, we actually have to
slow time down by a rate of over three hundred thousand times for you to be able to even
understand the transactions occurring here.”
“Well, I don’t know what to say. I mean-- am I gonna make it to the Pearly Gates? I
never killed anybody, or drowned any puppies or anything. I think I lived a pretty OK
life-- Live and let live, right?”
“I imagine. Now, let’s see here-- hmm. When you were a student, you tended bar. It
seems that you used to pinch a little extra from the tip jar.”
“Well, I was a poor college student! Everybody did that, for cryin’ out loud!”
“Not everybody, Leo. But now I know you did. And I hadn’t even checked.”
“Hey! You tricked me!”
“You tricked yourself.”
“Well, that wasn’t fair. And-- nobody’s perfect. Um, that is, well, I mean--”
“I know what you mean, Leo… No one is perfect from where you’re from.”
“Anyway, Leo, looking over your records, there really is only one place for you.”
“Yes? And, where would that be?” Leo cautiously inquired.
“Here with us, Leo.”
“Really? I mean- are you sure?”
“Well, yes, as you said, nobody’s perfect, and we’re not really that unforgiving. A lot of
what you fear on Earth is… oh, the nasty stuff constructed by Man, in his nearsighted
quest for power. If you were faithless, and didn’t believe in your heart, you wouldn’t
even be sitting here to begin with.”
“But, I haven’t been to church in-”
“Six years, four months, I know. I really do know all, my friend. Don’t think that I don’t… I’m just a little more patient than some of the veterans around here.”
“So, I guess that would mean I have a lot of offering outstanding,…”
Gabe smiled. “Yes, it sure does. But, no worries. We have a saying up here that’s kinda
funny, regarding mankind, Earth, and the whole crazy ‘goings on’ down there. It goes
like this- ‘Jesus Spends More than he Saves.’”
Leo blinked, not quite understanding whether to laugh or not.
“It’s a joke. What in the world would Jesus, son of God Almighty, need money for? Bwa-
ha-ha ha! Oh, that’s rich… He can create worlds by snapping his fingers….Money? Ha
Ha ha ha…oh, ahh…I crack myself up sometimes.”
Gabe slapped his knee. A tear came to his eye. He blew out a long breath. Leo could
have swore he even heard him cut a fart. Maybe. But he didn’t want to ask.
“We’ve loosened our standards up a bit up here…since going ‘non-denominational’- with
the cosmic spiritual merger and all--“
Leo’s jaw dropped, and Gabe frowned, and his brow took on a rehearsed, tired look.
A flock of forty-some Angels flew by. A resounding, euphoric note was their song.
“Well, you know, it’d be pretty lonely around here if we hadn’t. So, welcome home, my
son! Your Nirvana-- er-- Christian, right? HEAVEN awaits. It’s the… third door on the
left, after the restrooms. If you hurry, you can catch the shuttle service to the orientation
If not, you’re in luck, I’m heading uptown in just about twenty minutes, after my shift
Gabe looked at his wrist, as a watch appeared there.
“It’s Tuesday, you see, ‘open mic nite’, and lotsa folks always show up for that. If you
wanna come with me, you’ll meet some pretty interesting people tonight. Elvis will
probably be playing with Keith Moon, and Johnny Lennon, and the newest member of
our Hard Rock Café gang--John Enwhistle! They really jam- It’s righteous!