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A cockroach dies and wishes to enter the Gates of Heaven.
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Can a cockroach enter into Heaven? Will Saint Peter allow it? In the tradition of Psalms, Socrates, Solomon, and Seuss, "On how the Cockroach, after having died, and after a short conversation with Saint Peter, entered the Gates of Heaven," tackles the canons of our catechisms, the perceptions of our realities, the emblems around our necks, and, perhaps, the dark recesses of our prejudices. An illustrated dialogue.
"I said what I said, and I meant what I meant, and I said what I meant when I said it" - Saint Peter.
The eNovella Review
On how the Cockroach, after having died, and after a short conversation with Saint Peter entered the Gates of Heaven
Mr Campudoni’s simple homilies, with their stylised b/w drawings, look like static versions of the Soviet-era East-European cartoons they occasionally showed on UK TV back when accountants didn’t rule the airwaves. These stories though are different in that they actually make sense. The deceased cockroach (maybe that great big one I stamped all over during a sojourn in India ) approaches the pearly gates and commences to play with St Peter’s mind in order to gain admittance. In the meantime, St Peter is revealed to be a snobbish hypocrite. In Wendal and His Cat, there is a similar attack on organised religion, and other vested interests, in favour of a mystical, inclusive spirituality.
Although they have a moral, whether or not these stories state their case convincingly depends on how capable the reader will be of suspending their cynicism. It’s a major push sometimes to accept that full-on human beings might actually say something worth listening to, let alone talking animals. And then, the most cynical of us might even question whether a mystical and inclusive spirituality is any less specious than the regimented holiness of the major faiths.
Still, it's all a little bit different from the norm -- a quality always to be welcomed.
‘On How The Cockroach, After Having Died…’ by V. Campudoni
In Kindle chapbook, Short Stories on March 25, 2012 at 12:38 pm
-Reviewed by Ian Chung-
V. Campudoni’s illustrated short story – On how the Cockroach, after having died, and after a short conversation with Saint Peter, entered the Gates of Heaven – is a sort of modern-day Socratic dialogue, in which a humble cockroach is pitted against a sanctimonious Saint Peter. As the proverbial keeper of the pearly gates, Saint Peter offers various excuses to deny the cockroach entry to the kingdom of Heaven, even as he lets through a succession of figures who appear to contradict the very logic of those excuses, e.g. he first insists that to enter Heaven one must be as tall as himself, and then permits someone shorter than him to pass through the gates. Saint Peter’s pompous manner comes across most clearly when he tells the cockroach, ‘I will miss you greatly. Our time together shall not be forgotten. Moments like these are to be treasured like gold, savored like wine, captured like a smile on canvas. […] You have enriched me and I shall never be the same.’ The exchange is later parodied after the cockroach has persuaded him to bring out ‘the smallest, tiniest, portion of bread’, which it then proceeds to lavish with extravagant praise, hailing the moment of charity with the same words that Saint Peter has already used.
As charming as the dialogue between the cockroach and Saint Peter is, the overall story is not without its minor problems. On the one hand, the increasingly ridiculous reasons Saint Peter provides do make for some amusingly polite exchanges with the cockroach. Yet on the other, their repetitive nature also somewhat belabours the clearly evident point being made about religious hypocrisy through the story. Also problematic is the manner in which the cockroach eventually does make it through the gates of Heaven. Proceeding in ostensibly Socratic fashion, the cockroach succeeds in convincing Saint Peter that ‘if the perception that [they] are standing outside of the gates is indeed not reality’, ‘the alternative must be that [they] are standing within the gates’. The trouble is, of course, that the assertion depends on the assumption that perception and reality must always be ‘Completely different’, eliding the possibility of their coincidence. For a story whose exchanges otherwise rely on sound logic, however absurd the premises from which that logic is derived, this sleight of hand feels disingenuous.
Perhaps though, this is simply taking too seriously a story that calls for a healthy amount of suspension of disbelief in the first place. The overall point of the story—exposing the nature of our prejudices and the unreasonable lengths to which we will go in order to justify and maintain them—still remains valid. The stylised black-and-white illustrations also complement the story, being somewhat reminiscent of the kind of comics one might encounter in The New Yorker. It is worth mentioning that On how the Cockroach… might be thought of as a brief introduction to Campudoni’s only other published work, a novel entitled Wendal, His Cat, and the Progress of Man. This was originally issued in print in 1994, but has now been made available for the Kindle alongside On how the Cockroach…
Bonnie Lamer's Book Reviews
Everyone is welcome in heaven, right? Or do we have to meet a physical standard? Or maybe prove that we have a soul? Or practice the right religion?
In his short story, On how the Cockroach, after having died, and after a short conversation with Saint Peter, entered the Gates of Heaven, V. Campudoni points out that there is a lot of hypocrisy in religious standards and who must abide by them and who doesn’t. Once upon a time, the rules were fairly simple. There were givens such as women who wore red were sinners and would not be allowed into heaven. Everyone knew that. Today, there are so many religions and sects that there are a myriad of reasons why people can, or cannot, enter heaven. The reasons even within one religion or sect can change over years or over the course of a conversation if the old reasons no longer apply or the argument is not working. So, in the end, if the cards are stacked against you, can you simply deceive your way in?
This cute and thought-provoking story definitely merits 5 stars. I thank the author for a review copy.
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