Chin-Chin at the Pearly Gates


"Listen," he said.
      "I'm all ears," I assured him, smilingly.
      "You're time's up, that's the first thing."
      "I figured that," I said, really just to say something.  The conversation was surprisingly phatic for such a penultimate tête-à-tête. 
      "We do have some welcoming gifts.  We'll get to that."
      "Gifts?"
      "The finished The Last Tycoon.  Tickets to the Celtics/Lakers game.  That toy rocket launcher your father broke on Christmas morning.  Instructions on how to contact all the girls from your past.  Um, this week we're offering gift baskets with all the world's cheeses, smoked eagle, dates."
      "Hey, tell me, did my ex-wife go to the nasty place?'
      "There is no nasty place.  Our little secret."
      "Huh."
      "Yes, it's really just so the clergy has something to talk about.  Now—"
      "Where's God?" I interrupted him.
      "Oh.  Well.  Not quite there yet, Pilgrim."
      "He is here, though.  Presumably."
      "Most assuredly so."
      "Biggest office."
      "Something like that."
      "Sign on the door says, 'The Doctor is Always In.'"
      "Heh.  You will have your little joke."
      "Say, is that a unicorn?"
      "Yes.  Mr.—"
      "Have you seen any of the films that depict you?"
      "Of course, yes, lets—"
      "Edward Everett Horton."
      "I get that a lot."
      "You really do—"
      "I know.  Please let's move on."
      "Ok."
      "Now, soon you'll be following all these others here.  That's your line there."
      "Everyone is in hospital gowns."
      "We've found that it's comforting somehow."
      "Huh."
      "So, you'll follow them—"
      "The woman there, handing out poppies from a tray—"
      "Grace Kelly."
      "You're fucking kidding me."
      "Not at all."
      "Pardon my Franklin Mint."
      "All words are beautiful, sir."
      "Ok."
      "Now—"
      "Grace Kelly."
      "Yes.  Once you get in—if you get in—you may kiss her if you like."
      "Pull the other one."
      "Please.  You may kiss anyone here.  And etc."
      "Etc.!  Fucking Et Cetera!"
      "Quite.  This is paradise."
      "Huh."
      He was scribbling with a quill pen in a large ledger.  They had that right, the ledger.  However, I thought the quill was a pretentious touch and was about to tell him so.  But, he spoke first.
      "Now, Mr. Dylan, I think you'll find Heaven awaits you.  You may be more famous here even than you were down in the kiddie world, what we sometimes call The Shallow End.  Your work is honored here.  Appreciation that goes beyond simple fawning.  I believe Mr. Joyce and Ms. Woolf and Mr. Coltrane have planned a little surprise party for you tonight.  Not a word that I spilled.  Ok?  Ok, I believe I've finished here.  Just put your Bob Zimmerman underneath where I've written."
      I didn't correct him.  Hell, it was my first time here.  
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