Debussy never wrote a note that wasn’t perfect. Picasso always drew a perfect line, picked a perfect color. I screwed up daily. I grabbed that ten dollar bill after it flew out of this woman’s purse one day and I was running to catch up to her to return it and I forgot it was a busy intersection.
Well that impressed St. Peter, that and my remarkable hand-eye coordination. At my teletype machine in the army I got up to 128 words per minute, an all-time record. I had also won four straight state competitions in honky-tonk piano, though they don’t play honky-tonk piano much in heaven.
I was an intern for seven years, but they had plans for me.
“We’ve got plans for you,” said St. Paul. Indeed they did.
I ended up under the tutelage of St. Martin, patron saint of musicians. He plays the harmonica.
St. Francis of Assisi judges’ veterinarians, as you might expect.
St. Valentine, of course, handles cases involving love and crimes of passion. He has 38,000 assistants and is still overworked.
You hear a gavel a lot in heaven.
“OK,” Saint Martin says and looks the recently deceased in the eye. “Fourteen months in purgatory, three months off for good behavior.”
At 128 words per minute, I could get testimony down even before it was spoken. You sit in that judgment seat you start to sweat, especially if you’re guilty. We do have dehumidifiers. All records are kept in section “R,” which is the size of Tokyo. Everything there is filed in alphabetical order.
I remember Maxwell, the evil punk-rocker with the purple hair. In heaven we prefer pastels. Maxwell was to be sentenced to the first layer of hell but he accepted a plea agreement and got 187 years in purgatory. I’ve seen worse.
Maxwell was never indicted in Chicago, but in heaven we know things that the police don’t.
When John Lennon came, he signed autographs and posed for pictures.
Then there was the case of Benjamin the bartender, accused of stealing $300 from his employer.
“I’m sorry about stealing that money. I needed some food. I saw that money in the cash register and I couldn’t resist. I know I was wrong.”
“Stealing is always evil.” That would be St. Martin talking. If St. Martin said something wrong St. Julia, his supervisor, would smack him across the head. She was also in charge of cases involving boxers and martial artists.
“I don’t understand why you are assigned to me,” said St. Martin.
“Well, that man with the wings and told me to go to your station.”
“I don’t understand. Archangel Gabriel never makes mistakes. We judge musicians at this booth.”
“Well, I volunteered at St. Teresa’s Nursing Home every Tuesday for 17 years. I played accordion.
“Tim, go through the records. Check. Interview any of the former residents of St. Teresa’s. We must have some of them up here. Damn, I dropped my pen.”
St. Julia smacked him across the head. You don’t say “damn” in heaven. Benjamin’s case was tabled and he was remanded to Limbo.
I’m Tim, by the way.
You get to drink wine in heaven, Cabernets, Pinot Grigios, Merlot, you name it. We even get Beaujolais Nouveau. You don’t let that wine age. It’s flown still fresh from France to New York on special jets. I can’t stand the stuff, but Moses likes it. The plane arrives in New York with fewer bottles than it had when it departed. Moses has been around for a long time, so God cuts him some slack.
Christian Brothers get to bring in their brandy.
Weekends are great up here. We don’t work weekends, and we don’t work on Friday and we get off at 2:30 on Thursday afternoon. Die Thursday night and you’ll be remanded to Limbo until Monday.
I hate going to section “R,” because it’s next to the seventh layer of hell which was occupied exclusively by Attila the Hun and Hitler until a while back when Bin Laden showed up.
We believe in justice in the afterlife. St. Peter handles all the judicial appeals. If there is any question, God makes the final decision.
I found a fresh file of a former resident of St. Teresa’s, and then I found that former resident of St. Teresa’s himself. He had been assigned to work for St. Valentine as an intern. He agreed to testify on Benjamin’s behalf.
“Still,” said St. Martin, “we can’t let stealing go unpunished.”
Bob, the former resident in question, spoke up. “With all due respect, St. Martin, Benjamin made the last year of my life pleasant, not miserable. He has a wonderful vocal range. My will has not yet gone to probate. With your influence I’m sure it could be amended to pay off that three hundred dollars. “
“I don’t know if that’s proper,” said St. Martin. St. Julia smacked him.
“Welcome, Our Lord’s good and faithful servant….” Benjamin got out of Limbo and was dispatched to heaven, kicking and screaming. I’m kidding. We like humor in heaven. It relieves stress.
I love Debussy but I’ve heard “Claire de Lune” 47,000 times. We hear Gregorian chant and Protestant hymns daily. Organ and harp, a little flute. It gets old. I’m waiting for Mick Jagger to die. If he’s not going to heaven I hope he dies at 3 PM on a Thursday, so we can get a few days of entertainment.
Dennis Nau has been writing since 2001. I’ve had a dozen short stories published. My novel, The Year God Forgot Us, was published two years ago. It got good reviews and made me enough money to buy one very good dinner. I’m from Minnesota. I live next to Garrison Keillor.