Joe Blow's ComedyDismissing Joe, the angel pushed a button, there was a soft chime and a new number appeared above its teller window...
Joe picked up the questionnaire and shuffled over to the desk to fill out the forms which now seemed to him to be a thick stack of papers. By the time he sat down and started leafing through the pages, it was as if the questionnaire had almost become a book...
"Looks like they practically expect me to write my entire life story..." he muttered to himself...
* * * * * *
The office of the Counseling Angel was a welcome change from the neutral style of the main reception center which resembled a cross between a fairly clean warehouse and the place at an international airport where new arrivals from abroad are welcomed. The office was done in various shades of sea shell pastel with the exception of the desk, which seemed to be cut from a single piece of blood red jaspis. There was a high-backed swivel chair of deep blue behind the desk. Joe could only see the back of the chair, therefore he could not see what embodied the voice which said in a soft voice, "Come in and sit down, Mr. Blow"
There was only one other, small chair in the room, so there was no question as to where he should sit. Once sitting in the chair he found it much more comfortable than it looked. As soon as he was settled in the chair, the blue office chair slowly swiveled around and he got his look as his Counseling Angel. It looked like a small, middle-aged, slightly balding office worker. The angel closed the book it had been reading and laid it carefully on the table. To his surprise it looked very much like the questionnaire form he had just finished filling out -- except that now it really was a book, a rather thick book with the title, "The Life of Joe Blow, Abridged".
"Well, Mr. Blow, as you can see, I've just been reading your life story."
"Bu-, but, I just finished it -- and it's lots more than I wrote," spluttered Joe, "and what's all this about a passport?"
"Passport? Ah, you must be thinking of the Passport to Eternity! It would have been much simpler if you had acquired one before you died -- we cannot issue you one now, that you're dead -- that would be most irregular!"
"So, Mr. Blow, we'll have to see if we can get you a visa -- that's why we had you fill out the forms -- you're wondering how it got to be such a big book on the basis of the few pages you just finished writing. Well, first of all, as you have already noticed, time doesn't really mean very much here in Heaven -- that's why it's called eternity! As to the other, you don't think we don't really know who Joe Blow is -- or was I should say? Of course, we know all about you -- even all the little things you forgot or didn't think to write about -- not that it matters. Most of the icky habits people have as mortals have no influence one way or the other. Nobody cares what people did with their boogers as mortal creatures.
The angel leaned forward in his chair and opened Joe's Book, "You're wondering why we had you go to the trouble of answering all those questions, when we already have all the information? It's quite simple really. The problem is that you never thought much about life while you were alive -- I mean you never seem to have considered the significance of the things you did and said and how they impacted on other people. Why is that important? Because, not having done so, you have no concept or understanding of who you are -- you just let yourself get born and die and come up here expecting us to let you in past the "Pearly Gates" with a drum roll and a sound of trumpets as we announce, 'Da! Da! Joe Blow is coming to Heaven!' -- that's kind of silly, if you think about it, don't you agree?"
Joe didn't quite get the logic of the argument, but he felt it prudent to nod his head in agreement.
"Well, who is Joe Blow? I mean, if Joe Blow himself doesn't know, never bothered to find out, why should anybody else care?" The angel paused to pour a glass of some liquid from a carafe standing on the jaspis table, "Pardon me for not offering you a refreshment, but if you're not really in Heaven, this would have an unfortunate effect on you as your soul is still in an Intermediate State."
"So, just who is Joe Blow? I've read all of this," it tapped the Book lightly, "and I still don't know! He was born and died -- lived a normal life, was baptized, went to church every now and then -- more then, than now, to tell the truth (and we do tell the truth here!). He did some good things, he did some bad things. None of which really has much bearing on the matter."
"For some reason, you seem to have never let yourself hear the Question life was asking of you every day of your life. With every heartbeat and with every breath life was asking 'What?(!)' -- but you never heard it whispering in your ear..."
"You didn't hear the Question and now you have no answers!"
"The Receiving Angel was asking you the Question, did you know that? No, of course not! You just heard questions about passports, name, place of last mortal residence -- to you it was all just some administrative rigmarole and run around!"
While the angel was speaking, it seemed to Joe as if it was changing -- it no longer looked like a middle aged office worker. Actually, he couldn't say what it looked like. One moment it looked like a young girl, then an old man, a child, a toothless hag, a hero, a sulky teenager with a purple punk hairdo and a ring in its nose...
"Soooo, our only recourse to get you into Heaven now is, of course, the Great Dispensation. What the Great Dispensation boils down to is this: does anybody in Heaven know you? Does anybody here remember Joe Blow? Is anybody in Heaven here, in some little part, because of something you did or said back there in, what was the name, Poosah City?
I'm afraid the answer is, no! I've already asked -- nobody here remembers you, Mr. Blow! Not even the Person Himself -- you'll get this officially of course, when we have the Final Analysis. As you know, or should know, nobody knows when that will be, not even the Person. We just thought it in the best interests of all concerned that you were informed of how things are now, considering the, uh, delicate condition you are in..."
The angel lifted its face and, for the first time, looked directly at him. Its eyes were dark, pupil-less pools, deeper than the darkest night...
They looked at him as if he wasn't even there (which if you think about it, was true -- he wasn't really anywhere!).
Joe's his heart nearly hopped up and stuck in his throat (figuratively speaking of course -- being dead, he didn't really have a throat, or heart, for that matter, to get stuck in the throat he didn't have).
"Mr. Blow, my friend, the reason nobody knows you is that you never shared the sorrows or burdens of your fellow human beings. Can you recall ever doing anything to alleviate their suffering? Or at the very least, was there ever a small deed or kind word to let them know that they were not alone in their hour of need? No, you don't recall -- but worse for you, neither does anybody else... that's where the shoe pinches!"
The angel leafed again through the pages and stopped at a passage written in bold letters and underlined in red -- it even looked like it was stained with tear drops -- the angel cleared its throat: "You wrote here that you went to see that movie, 'The Passion of Christ'. You 'cried a lot' and got a 'lump in your throat' when you saw them 'whip Jesus and pound nails in his hands and feet...'"
"Mr. Blow, we've got a couple of problems in Heaven with this. First, you say you feel sorry for what Jesus suffered, but where is the compassion for the fellows who were tortured beside Jesus? Don't you know that they were human beings also? And if not them, what of all the other people who have died in terrible loneliness in all the prisons, torture chambers and abattoirs of human history?"
"Finally, it was just a movie, Mr. Blow! You didn't see 'Jesus'. You just saw an actor in celluloid all smeared over with artificial blood.
"In short, Mr. Blow, you never knew or cared a fig for the sufferings of your fellow man. That is why, in the Final Analysis, the Person will say, 'I never knew you!"
"Salvation is no where to be found except in the context of your common humanity, Mr. Blow. Why? Because human suffering is real, you know the passion of others only by knowing them. It is only through knowing them that the Person can know you..."
"You saw a movie expressing somebody's ideas about what happened two thousand years ago and you cried. Big frigging deal! It was what was going on in Poosah City while you were alive that was important!"
Soooo, my friend, we've decided to give you the ten dollars back you paid for the ticket to the movie and send you down to hell...
In absolute horror, Joe watched as the angel pushed a button on the jaspis desk...
He heard a horrendous blaring of what seemed like horns blowing...
...and then I woke up in bed.
It seems some lovely person down in the parking lot couldn't figure out how to use their car keys and set off the burglar alarm, not once, but three times!
I tell you, nobody has ever been so glad to have been woken up at three o'clock in the morning...