Those pearly gates
Andrew Rebholz | Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Heinrich was a little disheartened when he approached those pearly gates, because he’d spent the entirety of his life making fun of such silly notions. “Son of a—” Suddenly all those jokes at his mother’s pious colloquialisms had come back to bite him in the buns. But then, he quickly came to a fun idea. He asked the angel on duty, “Which denomination was right?” “Catholic,” the angel said. Ha!, Heinrich thought, think of everyone who got it wrong with me! And, waiting for the next bus to Hell, he sat down in the grass and watched the people walking up after him.
A couple of atheists came by, real smarties, trying to argue their case with the angel. Quite obviously to them, this or that wasn’t fair because there hadn’t been enough evidence for this, or they’d heard from some reliable friend that God was dead. “Besides, wasn’t it all based on nurture anyway, how you were raised and what not?” There were a few attempted bribes, and one girl with sunglasses kept checking her phone the entire time she stood before the angel. Many even tried to give the classic “But didn’t I live a good life? I tried my best,” but it did sound more self-consoling than confident. With little pomp or surprise, they soon joined Heinrich in the grass, generally fed up with the hand they’d been dealt. “Typical, utterly typical!” some mustached-professor kept harrumphing.
Then came a bit of an assortment, a motley band of all the other religions who had evidently missed the mark. Someone pontificated on Muhammad, another was talking about Moses, a third extolled the wisdom of Siddhartha Gautama and a fourth had some very interesting words about flying spaghetti. Apparently he had missed the joke. But Heinrich didn’t; he had a good laugh at the reincarnationist’s expression when he realized he wasn’t due another round, and the Jew who incredulously muttered “Wait, so Jesus was really … ” An Israelite and Palestinian bonded over how they’d always wanted to try bacon, which was a bit of a touching moment for everyone present. Soon, most of them joined Heinrich in the grass, away from the door.
Then, there came the different Protestant factions, which Heinrich enjoyed most of all. One man really snapped at the angel on the topic of transubstantiation, another woman seemed more interested in why women priests weren’t fair play. Somebody came up railing against the papacy, and the angel kind of just smiled and gestured to the side. Soon, many were alongside Heinrich in the grass, still muttering about how Scripture did or didn’t say such and such, and how it was probably just as raucous and uncomfortable as Simpson’s-Heaven in there.
Thinking the show over, Heinrich barely paid any attention when the Catholics showed up. Very confidently, smiling to themselves and seeing the rejected masses they’d expected, they strolled up to the door and shined their teeth at the angel. The first guy, some priest, was almost dancing with pride when he got to the doorstop. “I am so excited to see you!” he nearly sang. “Been waitin’ my whole life for this.”
The angel smiled. “Oh, I’m sorry. You’re not on the list.”
Smiles from the new group disappeared, and shoulders suddenly sagged. One after another, the Catholics were turned away from their own door, and Heinrich couldn’t believe his eyes. One was saying, “But Christmas and Easter! … ” Another kept mentioning how they’d gone to confession once a “frickin’” year. Some lady was very concerned about that one time she gave a hungry lady five dollars. The angel would smile, and just sadly shake its head. Heinrich stared with jaw-agape, wide-eyed and wonder-filled at the many now joining him in the grass.
The grassy area was full of mumbles. “Oh, how unfair it all is! I thought verbally picking a side and publicly being a nice person were supposed to be enough. Should I tell the angel that all my friends seem to think I’m alright?” A multiplicity of voices carried on about how they’d been quite civilized and successful in their pursuits.
The shocked Heinrich was astounded by it all, and said, “Well, it’s almost as if we could all work on improving our character,” and he was so shocked by his own words that he sat up awake … because the only thing more despicable to the reader than reality is a dream-cliche.
Andrew is not sarcastic. Coy to a fault, he enjoys talking without being heard. He can be reached at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.