The tale, or Terrible Parable if you will, is about this guy who dies and goes to heaven -- that is why, with a feeble attempt at a classical allusion, the original title was:
Joe Blow's Comedy
To make a rather long story [say,about 45 years] short, Joe Blow died.
He died and went to heaven -- I said went, I didn't say that he got in!
If you've seen the kind of movies and stuff which infect the popular imagination, you might think he stood outside the pearly gates banging an oversized brass knocker for while. Finally, St. Peter comes out, waggles a "no-no" finger at him, trapdoor opens and poor Joe slides down to the Alternative Destination which many assume to be the one more common for the ordinary, flabby human soul.
If you think about it for a while, you should come to the conclusion that, if Heaven is anything, it must be a "user-friendly" sort of place -- however, being a part of a large, in fact what must be an Infinite Organization, one must also conclude that it must be burdened with what, from our mortal point of view, we'd call a beauracracy. In the case of Heaven though, it would likely be known as "The Heavenly Hierarchy".
What it all boils down to is that when Joe got to heaven, he had to take a number and sit and wait like everybody else. Due to the fact that a day in Heaven can be a thousand years and a thousand years can be a day, this can be quite a long time. When Joe went to Heaven it seemed even longer because many of the lower echelon angels serving in Reception had gotten the day off to see the Cherub Races at one of the "Many Mansions".
To make the problem worse, not long before Joe Blow died there had been an earthquake in Iran, mudslides in Peru and an incident of lesser genocide in some third-world country the name of which I don't recall...
True, these "newly departed" were almost all "little brown people" -- however, unlike an earthly hypocritacy*, in Heaven there really are no color lines, so Joe had to wait his turn -- sorry, but no preferential treatment here for a nice, clean-cut Arrogant boy like Joe! Taking his situation into account (being dead), it didn't seem like the best move for him to make a fuss about it, so he waited.
When his number was finally called, he presented himself to the Receiving Angel above whose teller window his number was flashing. Each of the Receiving Angels sat behind one of those irritating teller counters with a glass window between clerk and customer. Well, it looked like glass. However, knowing how notorious Heaven is for extravagant trimmings such as streets of gold, floors of sapphire and kitsch of that order, for all anybody can know the "glass" could have been a thin sheet of crystallum or adamas.
Joe Blow of course was not much concerned with speculations of that sort, he just wanted to get into Heaven. As you may well imagine, dying and the trip to Heaven had been a rather stressful experience. He was looking forward to flaking out on a nice cloud somewhere; to just lay back and sip a cool glass of nectar, or whatever it is they serve in Heaven; listen to some soft harp music and let his soul rest in peace for a while.
Joe didn't know if the angel spoke or not, but he heard the question:
"Passport, please."The angel sighed, that is the angel did what an angel would do if it could sigh, mumbling to itself, "Lord, not another one -- why do I get all these cases?", then directed to Joe, "I suppose that means you don't have a passport?"
"Passport -- your Passport to Eternity, please"
"Well, no, not really -- you mean, I need a passport to get into heaven?""Hmmmn..." hemmed the angel, "planning on Eternal Bliss, a Permanent Visa and/or a Green Card -- well, let's see if we can find you on our Lists. Name?"
"It does make things simpler, there are other Ways, of course -- now let's see...what is your purpose in Heaven, how long do you plan to stay?
"Pur-, pur-, purpose?" Joe stammered, "PL-, please, I just died and I want to get into Heaven...I expect to stay forever."
"J-, J-, J- Joe Blow"The angel, reached up and pulled down from a shelf above its head what looked like a thick sheaf of computer printout stapled together on one side, then started to run a finger down the long lists, slowly turning the pages, while mumbling to itself, "Hmmmn...the people we get nowadays, thinking they can just walk into Heaven, if I had my way, I'd send them all to..."
"Last place of residence as a mortal being?"
"Uh, Poosah City."
The angel put the papers back up on the shelf, "Very sorry, Mr. Blow, but there are no "Joe Blows" in our list of souls who made pre-application for a Permanent Visa. You most likely didn't fill out your forms correctly while you were on the mortal plane, Mr. Blow -- well, you'll just have to fill them out now."
The angel reached under the counter, pulled out a questionnaire, dropped in the box and slid it under the teller window over to Joe, "If you'll be so kind Mr. Blow, you can fill out the forms at one of the tables over there. Please answer all the questions and print plainly in block letters. When you finished, drop it in the slot over there, then be so kind as to take your place where you were sitting before. When your number is called you will go into to have a talk with one of our Counseling Angels. Please don't worry, we usually work these things out, one way or the other..."
Dismissing Joe, the angel pushed a button, there was a soft chime and a new number appeared above its teller window...
[The conclusion of this comedy comes tomorrow]
* "hypocritacy" = a government which is called, for example a "democracy", but in fact is an oligarchy, plutocracy, kleptocracy or other form of systematized injustice called by a feel-good name.