The Heaven Grift (rough draft)

imageThe woman walked to the curb before the Pearly Gates and sat down.

“Mind if I sit here?” She asked. The angel attendant looked up, confused, at the woman sitting in front of the check-in kiosk. He decided she was addled, sighed, and then went back to his checklist.

“You can’t stay here. Please give me your Passcard. You got here the same as most everybody else,” he answered flatly. “By tears and hearse.” The woman blinked, genuinely put off by his gruff demeanor.

She craned her head to see the angel, energetically avoiding her gaze. After a full minute of silence he glanced up to see her watching him intently. “I thought angels were supposed to be wonderful,” she said when they made eye contact. “You’re rude.” He sighed again.

“There’s no easy was to break it to you,” he monotoned. “You’re dead. You can’t go back. The world will move on without you as much as it hurts your feelings. Please find your Passcard so I can let you through the gates.”

“There’s no easy way to break it to you,” she answered. “But I don’t have a Passcard.” She smiled up at him, challenging and aware. The angel decided she must be in denial. He got about 20 of these airheads a day. They always thought there was a mistake, he was wrong, this couldn’t be happening. As if.

“Ma’am, with all due respect,” his tone clearly expressing that he thought very little respect was, indeed, due. “Everyone that’s not evil gets a Passcard automatically at death. Contrary to what you’ve been told while you were alive, we don’t care what religion, race or sexual orientation you have been practicing. Please rifle your pockets and give me your passcard so I can let you go through to your paradise.” He leaned over the counter and held out his hand.

“I’m not going to give it to you because I’m telling you I don’t have one.” The woman smiled calmly and looked smug. The angel was confused.

“Ma’am, do you know you’re dead?” Better start with the basics, he thought.

“What? I’m dead? You mean we didn’t walk away from the melted scrap that was once our car?” She shot back sarcastically. “Of course I know I’m dead, and I’m telling you I don’t have a Passcard so I’m just going to sit here.”

“If your dead then you were given a Passcard,” snapped the angel. “Please look for your Passcard and give it to me so I can be rid of you.”

“I didn’t say I wasn’t given a Passcard,” she said standing up. “I said I don’t have one.” She looked over the counter to see what she was taking the angel away from. “Sudoku?” She rolled her eyes. “You’re getting bent because I interrupted your Sudoku? I thought angels were patient and wise.”

“I am patient and wise,” he growled sounding far from either. “You are vexing my last nerve. Are you sure you weren’t issued a NoPasscard and are supposed to be on the train going down, down?” That was harsh, and he regretted it, but he was too angry to apologize. She simply smiled and sat back down.

“Ok, we have established that you are dead,” he said, trying to regain control. “That means you were automatically given one unless it’s been established that you were evil when alive. Were you evil?” She shook her head no.

“Ok, good. We’re going somewhere. Do you remember getting an iridescent card the size and shape of a credit card?” She nodded yes.

“There we go, I knew we could get through this. Now, can you give me your Passcard?” He held out his hand, leaning over the counter to reach her. “She shook her head no. The angel gaped at her in disbelief.

“Why in Heaven not?” His lovely, pale skin was flushing with annoyance. She shrugged and turned away. “I gave it away,” she answered nonchalantly. Behind her, the angel blew up in a rant.

“What… wha…? There’s no way!” He stomped and yelled, coming out from the kiosk to wave his arms and stamp at her. “There is no way you could give your Passcard away,” he finally huffed. “Everyone at the station would have had one. Why would they need two?” She looked up at him and smiled confidently. A terrible idea dawned in his head.

“Unless…” He gasped. “Did you… give your Passcard… someone who had a  NoPasscard?” His voice trembled.

“You got it finally!” She sta up straight. “That’s what I did. My husband and I died together in the crash. He was issued a NoPasscard and I was given the go ahead. I love him, so I gave him mine.”

“Why… would you… if he was evil…?” The angel sat down heavily on the curb next to her. “Is he through the Pearly Gates?” He asked numbly. She nodded yes. The angels shoulders slumped and he let out a breath despondently. He would have been the one to let the evil doer through. This fiasco happened on his watch. He failed.

“Why would you do that?” He finally asked. They had sat silently for an age. She looked at the angel in the eyes, smiling kindly now. “Because I loved him, and he wasn’t evil to me.”

Behind them, a buzzer went off in the kiosk and the angel jumped in his skin. “I have to answer that he said thinly. He was sure he knew what it was. He hit the button to speak.

“Yessir?” He asked, trying to sound bored. The voice came over the intercom, static and power shorting the system but the words came through regardless.

“Angel, love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. Let her through.” The Pearly Gates swung open.

Through the gates walked the woman, calm and smiling. She embraced the angel as she passed him. He stood mute, not understanding love, not understanding sacrifice. The gates swung closed when she had passed, and suddenly, for the first time, he realized he was on the outside of them.

Inside, her husband was waiting. “I knew you’d make it through,” he said. He held her, kissing her, willing the unmanly tears that threatened to stay put. “You’re good enough for both of us.”

“Heaven isn’t heaven without you,” she said. “What did you do with your NoPasscard anyways?” He smiled.

“I left it for the kiosk guy. I think he earned it.” Off in the distance they heard the long, mournful whistle of the train that goes down, down, leaving the station.

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher and author. Her first collection of poetry, In Favor of Pain, was nominated for an 2017 Elgin Award. Her latest novella, Bitter Suites, is a 2018 Bram Stoker Awards® Finalist. Currently, she publishes Space and Time magazine, a 53 year old publication dedicated to fantasy, horror and science fiction. For more information visit SpaceandTimeMagazine.com or AngelaYSmith.com.
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