The Bench

For Briana Y., thanks for the inspiration!

I had been sitting on the bench for so long my butt was numb… That’s the first problem.

The second problem was that I was here at all. Purgatory was totally not what I’d expected. I had been told by my hippie parents that the universe was a continuum, and when I died, I’d be reborn as a turtle or a butterfly or something awful if that’s what I deserved, but I wouldn’t because I was perfect according to them.

They pampered and loved on me, their only daughter, born in the summer of love, gave me everything I wanted, and when I was older and I hit the real world, it hit me hard. So, I hid from life with drugs, all the way through. And then I OD’ed just before my 45th birthday. Which is how I ended up here beside all these other losers waiting on benches alongside the road to the Gates of Heaven, apparently.

What a non-religious love child is doing in the purgatory outside of the Pearly Gates, sitting on an ivory bench, I don’t know. But here I sit, watching angels walk past on the other side of a wrought iron fence that tingles with what I would classify as magic. I suppose these folks would call it God’s grace. Strange, alien concepts suddenly confront me. Each of the angels is ignoring me, impossibly beautiful, with seemingly saccharine smiles on their faces. I’m not sure if I feel like that’s for me. Maybe I am mis-filed. I’m so not supposed to be here.

My butt being numb is really starting to bother me, so I start to stand, wiggling my toes, and a voice peals louder than brass horns, “Please stay seated until you are called. Thank you for your patience. Your approximate wait time is twelve standard heaven hours.” The voice changes as it reads off the time, and I realize that I’m listening to an automated voice.

Well, crap.  I sit back down.

“What’s the punishment for standing up then?”

No answer.

I lay down on the bench, and no voice peals out to tell me to sit back up, so I curl my arms behind my head, and close my eyes. Now all of me can at least be as asleep as my butt.

Another person on a nearby bench starts to say that I am not allowed to do that. “Bite me.”

I must have fallen asleep because the loud angel voice is waking me up; like the loudest alarm clock I’ve ever had, it sounds like it is going off in my head. “Hey! Moon Carlisle, it’s your turn! Our Sainted and Glorious Peter will see you now.  Please report to the gates ahead and on your left.”

It continues on repeat until I stand up and start walking.

Ahead of me, a robed, winged, impossibly beautiful young man who looks like a Versace model stands. I tuck my hands under my armpits. Pretty boys always make me nervous.

“Hey.”

His mouth opens and his voice is like smooth wine and a good smoke. “Please name the reasons you feel you belong in heaven.”

“I don’t.”

“Okay… Why not?” I have his attention.

“Because I don’t believe in God or Heaven.”

His arms spread, his wings spread, and he gestures upwards with his chin momentarily. “Even faced with this?”

“Yes. Of course. I’m being delusional. I’d like to go back now please. I want to be reborn as a puppy.”

“A puppy? Why?”

“They never get faced with drugs. I had a little guy, and he never had to battle with himself whether to take heroin or attend his cousin’s wedding.”

“Sounds like a good idea then.” He nods. My hope spires up.

“I can’t arrange that, but I can do something else that would give you a chance to have a brand new life.”

“Okay. Deal. Do it.”

“You don’t mind where I send you?”

“Sure. But I’m not interested in ever being one of the people in your iron cage here.”

His slight smile shows my words struck a chord.

“Deal.” He touches my shoulder, and I suddenly feel I am falling and falling, the sky spirals into darkness, and I open tired eyes in a dark room.

“Where am I?” My voice is cracked and dry; my lips feel split.

A nurse walks up to me. “Sweetie, you OD’ed. You’ve been out for a few days.”

I laugh, cry a little, and choke on my dry throat.  “Well, now I know how long twelve heaven hours are.”

“What, sweetie?” the nurse asks.

“Nothing.”


 

Republished from Stories My Friends Started, where someone else provides the first line, and you provide the rest of the story.

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