“That’s a nice suit,” St. Peter said.
“Thank-you. Who are you?”
“I think you know.”
“Where am I?”
“I think you know that too.”
“I thought it would be hotter.”
“Oh, maybe you don’t know. This isn’t Hell. It isn’t even Heaven. This is more like the trial than the punishment.”
“I’m going to be punished?”
“Or rewarded. Who knows? Stranger things have happened.”
“What are the charges against me?”
“That’s a crime?”
“It is up here.”
“Pretty well your entire life.”
“Can you be more specific?”
“In 1984 you thought Penny Walters was dating you so she could spend time at your cottage.”
“Penny Walters?” David said, and he found himself able to remember Penny Walters in absolute detail: her curly red hair, the thin cotton fabric of her knee-high dress clinging to the double outward bend of her hips, the smell of coconut sunscreen. An aching affection filled his heart and it felt wonderful and joyous and redeeming. An instant later it was horribly gone.
“She would have loved you forever,” St. Peter said.
“In 1999 you fucked over Lewis Marshall.”
“Lewis Marshall,” David said, and suddenly he was able to see his first boss out of law school: the white untamed hair, his three-piece suits with the bottom button of his vest undone, the Old Spicy aftershave smell. Feelings of safety and comradely affection filled David’s heart — then one second later, they disappeared, and his heart was a hole that all the world’s oceans couldn’t fill.
“He had a five year plan to make you a partner.”
“How many more times do we have to do this?”
“These things always come in threes.”
“Go ahead …”
“Yup, okay, you don’t have to say it. I get it,” David said. In obvious pain, he clutched his hand over his heart.
“Okay. We’ll move on.” St. Peter put his hand on David’s shoulder. “Here’s the deal. All you have to do to get into Heaven is get over the gates.”
“That sounds pretty simple.”
“Does it?” St. Peter asked. He pointed towards the top of the gates, which now seemed impossibly tall.
“How high are they?” David asked.
“Depends on who’s looking at it,” St. Peter said.
“How am I supposed to get in?”
“If you wish, you may use any of the methods you see before you,” St. Peter said as he swept out his hand like a pretty girl on a game show.
Leaning against the Gates were three objects: a jet pack, a pogo stick, and a pole used for pole vaulting.
“Here’s the important thing,” St. Peter continued. “You only get one chance. There will be no redoes. If you get in, you get in. If you don’t, you don’t.”
“What happens if I don’t get in?”
“That’s really not what you should be focusing on right now.”
“Solid council,” David said.
“Sixty seconds,” St. Peter said.
Walking three paces, David stood in front of the jet pack. It looked insanely complicated. Small lights blinked from red to green and it emanated a low menacing hum.
David stood in front of the pole. He had never pole vaulted before, only seen it on TV, briefly, before he flipped to something else. While a vastly simpler machine than the jet pack, David believed that the pole would require a higher amount of skill than he currently had.
The Pogo Stick looked ludicrous.
“Is that thing here just because of the threes thing?” David asked.
“Ten seconds,” St. Peter called.
David looked up at the Gates and reconfirmed that were too high to jump or climb. He began to panic, which was not in his nature. It was almost like all three items were selected specifically to make him fail. For the first time ever, he entertained the possibly that maybe this was the point — that the whole thing, all of it, had been planned, engineered to bring out his very worst assumptions about God and the nature of the world He had created.
Kicking the ground with his foot, David saw the most beautiful cloud in the world rise slowly upwards.
“Five seconds,” St. Peter said.
David, slowly, taking his time, walked past the jet pack and the pole and the pogo stick, and put his hand on the golden doorknob of the Gates. Finding it unlocked, he walked inside.
Click here to recommend:
Ways Into Heaven
An online microfiction serial by Andrew Kaufman