“I don’t think that I’m supposed to be here, sir.”
Peter looked up from his ledger and stared at the young boy in front of him.
“I’m sorry. What did you say?”
“I am sorry, but I think that I don’t belong here.”
It had been a very easy day so far. Most of the ones who appeared before him belonged here. A flustered housewife who did try to reach her neighbour at work and was in a very bad accident was very sweet about it. The two twins who were on their first ski trip and ended up using the one broken seat on the lift were completely unprepared for this new life. But they were all ready once they understood where they were. They were all prepared for the change.
Who was this kid?
“Son, listen, I am sure you think that you are a bad person and that you deserve to be in the other place, but we are very careful about these things and you are on the list.”
“But, that is the problem. I just don’t belong…here, sir.”
At least he was polite about it.
“Would you wait here a minute, please? I will be right back.”
He was not going to really travel too far, but it was still an inconvenience for him. Who was this kid, anyway? He looked like he was barely old enough to shave or even think about driving a car; why was he doing this. As he passed by the hallway to the inner office, he shuddered a bit. He would not bring this up to the big one up there; not until it was really necessary.
Peter found the door he was looking for and knocked.
“Mary? Are you in?”
A deep silence followed; it did not fool him.
“Mary…I know that you are on today. I need…”
There was a shuffle behind the door; some papers and books seemed to be hitting the floor as she walked over quickly to see who was disturbing her afternoon.
“What? What is it?”
“Are you busy?”
“Does that matter now?”
He could see the mess in her office with the books, other items, and the papers that kept a record of…well, he was not really sure about that (her role was kept mum for most of the staff). The only thing Peter could think of was how she had handled cases like the one he now had on his hands. The new ones always melted when faced with her charms. And her beauty did not hurt, either. Would it work on a boy of that age (he would check on that again)? He had a hope.
“Okay, well, we have a situation at the gate.”
“What else is new?” She was adjusting her hair and makeup in a pocket mirror.
“Yes, well, I know that you are an expert at getting them to just come in and accept what is happening…”
The mirror closed with a sharp click.
“This again? Really?” She shut the door behind her, letting the noise echo out through the narrow hallway. “It is not a skill. It is work.”
She walked quickly ahead of him, with Peter noticing that a long set of strands were loose and waving behind her like a flag. Yeah, she would get the job done.
As he made it to the main gate, he noticed that Mary had slowed down for a moment as she looked over the young man very carefully. This was why Peter thought she was made for these moments. She would prepare herself, choosing her words and gestures very carefully, and then guide the client into the inner corridor. And then it was all over.
They really had no defenses against such a woman.
“My dear child…”
Peter looked over past Mary’s shoulder and could see that it was already working. His eyes were wide and wet, staring almost through her as she came nearer.
“Oh, my…you are…?”
“Yes, yes. But I am more interested in you. What is your name, my child?” She looked back briefly at Peter as she posed the question (should have told her first before coming down that hallway; no matter now; it was all working).
“My name is Tony, Anthony…”
“Ah, like the saint.” Mary continued to smile with that dazzle in her eyes, mouth and hair. Should he really be staring at this, Peter thought? He could not turn away now. And at least no one else was at the gate now. There would be plenty of time to see what came next.
“Saint Anthony. He became a saint in your world very quickly. The fastest one. Your mother and father were very wise to give you such a name.”
“Oh, um…” The boy seemed embarrassed now. “I never really knew my father. My mother was the one who raised us.”
“I see,” said Mary, looking very hard at the boy’s face. “You said ‘us’ just now. Was there more than one of you in the family?”
Now it was the boy’s turn to smile. “Oh, yes. There was me, my younger sister, Shelly, and my older brother, David.”
“Again, good biblical names in your family.”
“Except for Shelly. Don’t think it’s in the Bible.”
“Ah, quite so. Quite so.”
They both laughed for a moment. Peter was impressed by how well she played this one. How long would it take, though? He had other errands to do and did not the higher ups to hear that he was wasting his time on a boy.
“But I still don’t belong here…ma’am.”
It was clear that she was getting annoyed. Peter knew her too well to ignore it. But he really wanted to catch this one.
“I see. I see. You think that you do not deserve to be here.”
“No, ma’am. That is not what…that’s not it.”
“Then my dear boy,” she said, tossing back her head and smiling as deeply and as powerfully as she could, “why do you feel you do not belong here.”
The boy looked at both Peter and Mary staring down at him.
“Because I am all alone.”
They flinched at this. It was truly an unexpected response.
“One moment.” Peter ran back to his ledger and checked over some information. Mary and Anthony could only stare at him.
“My sister… She was…” The boy began to cry again.
“Yes, was taken, too.”
Mary turned quickly on the boy. “You can still come in. Don’t you want to come in?”
Anthony wiped the tears away and looked at Mary’s deep stare.
“Not without her.”
And that was all it took. The boy vanished in a simple whiff of cloud and the ground shook with the effort.
“Damnit. Just damnit all.” Peter slammed the ledger shut and kicked at the now crooked gate.
“We could not even fool a little boy. Must be losing our touch.”
Mary let her hair down and readjusted her makeup.
“You know what you interrupted me doing, right?”
Peter smirked at her question.
“I heard him. You two are really something, you know that? We all took the names from those guys up there, but even I feel…”
“Oh, really, ‘Peter’? Think that the stink of this place doesn’t touch ya? Just go back and do your job.”
She turned and headed back to her space, letting her hoofs clatter on the cracked tiles as she went back inside. Peter watched her go. Maybe they would have better luck with another jealous wife in a traffic accident or more twins who stole from their parents for a trip they did not deserve. It was not very likely with the other names on the list. He did not see anyone who would be able to claim as much as that kid. But at least it was a beautiful day.
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Loved this story! My heart broke for the boy as he was looking for his sister and he just knew she would be in heaven therefore was he being tricked? I say yes! The little boy uncovered the one clue that stumped Mary and Peter at the "gates of heaven". Great story!
Thank you! This one is receiving a lot of praise and I am glad that the people writing back to me seem to understand what was happening. You got the 'one clue' idea right: the boy is willing to give up 'Heaven' to be with his sister (a pure sacrifice). No wonder he beat them at their game. ;)
I love this story for so many reasons. I love how emotional you made me about the little boy, and his reason for “not belonging.” And I love that the story ended with a bigger twist than I was expecting! This was both compelling AND just a fun read!
Thank you. I am a little tired of just going for the twists at the end sometimes, but something about the prompts pushes me in that direction. And I have another story to finish...!
Trapped in Heaven, you really filled in that title, and kept me interested from the first line. I loved the callback in the first full paragraph that built up the tension for the whole story that follows. “I don’t think that I’m supposed to be here, sir.” ... It had been a very easy day so far. Most of the ones who appeared before him belonged here." As someone else mentioned, the contrast of having a average workplace conversation in a situation with such high-stakes, is what really makes this work. And I can't say enough how good this ...
And thank you for the comments! I think I can answer a few of your questions. Peter and Mary are both terrible at their jobs. They are evil...and pretty stupid about human nature. Peter turns to her because she has done this before (the fine art of seduction). If they don't talk them into entering the gates, they are made to look stupid after losing another soul to the other place...;) The boy is still immature and wondering about the loss of his sister. He might just think she should be with her older brother (you can feel guilty without be...
Ooh, I do love a great plot twist! Did not see that one coming at all. Loved it!
Thanks. I think the next one I submit might be a little more straightforward... Maybe... ;)
Wow, what a twist at the end. I love this story. It could use a little editing, but the dialogue is snappy and the pace carried me from beginning to end beautifully. And the story is good. Although I'm dying to know what he did to make them want him.
He was young and innocent and they were evil. And you are right about the editing. I always rush things between work and other responsibilities. Thank you for your comments. These are the ones I can learn from. ;)
You're welcome. :) No one can improve their writing without constructive comments from others.
Super fun to read, loved it!
Thank you very much (pass it along)!
Kendall this was awesome. Even before the twist (which, wow - chef's kiss), I was just totally charmed at the idea of the pearly gates as an average workplace. Mary's exasperation was just spot on. Really fun read. Well done!
Thanks. I still think I should have put in more physical details about the space, but that might have given the game away. I am such a devil... 😈
As far as I'm concerned, you're good without! Heaven or hell, I think the people are the place here.
And forgive me, but what exactly is a 'chef's kiss'?
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary: "The chef's kiss alludes to a gesture associated with chefs when they feel that a dish [or in this case, the writing] has been executed flawlessly."
I could have looked it up, but I am glad that I asked you! A very interesting term (I can see Chef Boyardee giving the air a smooch). Thanks!
I must admit that twist had me reading it again! You M. Night Shamalan’d me good! 👍🏽👍🏽👍🏽
Thanks. I had other titles, but this one just spoke to me and my own warped sense of humor.