Death and Taxes
Disclaimer: Ok, I am not Catholic, and I really don't mean to offend anyone who is. My idea of Heaven is that everyone gets there in his or her own unique way. If you are offended by anything in this story, I'm apologizing now. I am not anti anything except perhaps, stupidity. If the word homosexual offends you, you probably don't want to read this story either. There is no sex in this so if you want a PWP, you definitely don't want to read this story. If after reading this disclaimer you are still interested· please, read on!
"Okay everyone... line up. Form a straight line. No shoving. You will all get in," the man bellowed as he walked up and down the line. So here we stood, wondering what was going on. One minute we were doing whatever and now we were in this line. I personally couldn't believe I was here. Where were the lights and music? Hell, where were the saints you always heard about? Oops, maybe I shouldn't say that here. That may make someone mad. Oh yeah, I guess I should tell you were I'm at. Heaven. Yes, I am dead. Kicked the bucket, bought the farm, six foot under and all those lovely other metaphors to keep you from just having to say someone died. Hmm... maybe I should tell you how I died. Now, don't laugh because it's quite embarrassing. See, I was being audited by the IRS, blood suckers, and when the nice gentleman, yeah right, who was raking all my deductions over the coals was finished, he told me how much I owed. Well in my shock, I jumped up and went to look at the paper, and I tripped over my own feet and hit the corner of the desk. I think I died instantly, but it's hard to tell. I do remember thinking that old saying about death and taxes. Who knew I would die dealing with my taxes? Oh well, I guess I had the last laugh on them. I am dead and I won't be paying that debt. Heh. Why isn't this line moving any faster? I swear you can't even get good service in Heaven. Sheesh! I swear that I was waiting in that line forever, wondering what the hold up was. It was kind of hard to tell that the line wasn't moving because I could only see about 20 people in front or behind me. We seemed to be surrounded by a thick fog. I couldn't even see my feet. I tried striking up a conversation with the people around me to relieve the boredom, but no one seemed to be interested in sustaining a conversation.
I noticed the man continuing to walk up and down the line. When someone seemed to get a bit out of control, he took him or her to the side and they disappeared into the fog. Since I didn't see them come back, I started wondering about that old adage "The squeaky wheel gets the grease". Deciding to observe a little more before throwing a temper tantrum, I noticed this cute little blonde working her way down the line. She was average height for a woman, making her about 6 inches shorter than me, with pretty green eyes and a wholesome, girl next-door look. She was peering into everyone's faces, seeming to look for someone in particular. As she approached, and I got a good look at her legs through the slit in her robe type outfit, I started praying that I was the one she was looking for.
She came up to me and looked into my eyes, and smiled the most wonderful smile that I have ever seen. It was like the sun breaking through the clouds on a crappy rainy day and shining directly on you and no one else.
"I found you! You need to come with me a moment." She started tugging me out of line.
Now normally, I would be all for giving up my place in line to go with a pretty face, but this was the line to Heaven, and there was no way I was giving up my spot. Nope. No way, no how. I'm sure there are lots of other pretty girls on the other side of the Pearly Gates so I am not losing my place in line just for a little roll in the hay, or clouds as the case may be.
"Sorry, I'm not giving up my place in line." I told her, gently prying her fingers off my arm. This seemed to shock her for a minute, and then she shook her head and muttered something under her breath.
"No really, you need to step this way. I promise, you will still get where you need to go. Just· step over here." She gestured wildly towards the misty area off to my right.
I looked closely at her. There seemed to be something vaguely familiar about her. I decided that this was a test. Didn't Satan tempt Jesus or something? No, I decided to stick with my line a bit longer.
The shorter woman, noticing that I wasn't following her over into the fog, stomped back over towards me and grabbed a hold of my ear and yanked it down to mouth level with her.
"Listen to me," she hissed, cutting of my yelp of protest. "You are in the wrong line. I guarantee that you want to come with me RIGHT NOW! " she emphasized, looking around to see if any of the others in line noticed what she was saying.
She let go of my ear and glared at me, to see what my reaction would be. I rubbed my ear and thought over what she said for 30 seconds before jumping out of line and walking over to where she had been gesturing earlier. The woman ran after me and grabbed my arm, and steered me a little bit to the right and continued to walk me away from the line.
From behind me, I heard some muffled thumps and yells, but the thick fog we were walking through quickly muffled them.
I stopped walking and glared at the smaller woman. "Ok, what's going on? What happened to those people?"
She kept walking. "Those aren't the people in line. Those noises come from the people who decided to be difficult. They are getting introduced to the complaint department." The blonde noticed that I wasn't walking behind her. She stopped and sighed, running her hands through her short hair. It made it spike out in all directions. I thought that was completely adorable and missed what she was saying.
"Huh?" There, my great contribution to the English language.
"I said, you were in the wrong line. That line was for people who committed suicide. Which you didn't. You tripped. Right?" She raised her eyebrow.
"Yeah," I stuttered. "I mean yes. I tripped. Why would I kill myself over a tax audit?" I thought for a minute. "Did the auditor get in trouble?" I asked eagerly.
The blonde rolled her eyes. "Actually, he was so upset at what happened, he descended into an alcoholic mess and lost his job, his house and his family. Happy?"
I was horrified. All I wanted was the little twerp to maybe get a bad review. "No, that's awful." I thought a minute. "Wait, how long have I been standing in that line?"
"Time passes differently here. Come on, we need to keep going." She turned and started walking again. I hurried to run after her before I lost her in the thickening fog.
"Nice evade, but seriously, how long was I in line?" Normally, if I'm in line longer than 20 minutes, there is going to be blood spilled.
"Almost 18 months Earth time," she finally replied.
I stopped short as the shock finally hit me. I was really dead, and dead for quite a while if the time frame the blonde gave was correct. "What about my dog?" Scruffy was a souvenir from a previous relationship, but she was still something to come home to.
"Your ex took her back. Along with your DVD collection by the way." The blonde had turned around and walked back towards me. She gave me a sympathetic smile. "Your brother got your car before she could drive off with it at least."
"I'm glad. Maybe he can get a real job now that he'll at least have reliable transportation. As for the DVD collection, who cares? It's not like I can take it with me." I was relieved that my little brother at least got something before that money grubbing bitch got her fingers into everything. Now that I believe in the afterlife, I know she'll get hers. I smiled slightly.
"What?" the blonde asked noticing my less than nice smile.
"She's going to have to account for a quite a bit when she comes up here, huh?"
The shorter woman actually had a briefly evil look flash across her face that answered my question.
"I thought Angel's weren't supposed to have evil thoughts?" I asked her.
She looked startled for a moment, and then started laughing. "You think I'm an Angel?" She started laughing again.
I'm sure my confusion showed on my face. "Sure, you came and got me out of line, you seem to know your way around, and you've kept up with what's going on with my life. Why wouldn't I think you are an Angel?"
The woman colored slightly. "No, I'm not an Angel." She thought for a moment. "I am a friend though."
"Ok, friend, what do I call you? I'm sure that 'Hey you' wouldn't work very well around here." I glance around at the featureless landscape. "On the other hand·"
She smiled broadly, though I wasn't sure if it was at my joke. "Sam. You can call me Sam."
I stuck my hand out. "Please to meet you Sam. My name is Anne, but I'm sure you already know that." I winked at her.
Sam took my hand in hers, and I felt like I had grabbed a live wire. Images flashed before my eyes and I could almost remember·something. I stumbled back, gasping and holding my hand, staring at the woman in shock. "Some kind of grip you got there, Sam." I joked weakly.
"It's ok. You'll be fine, but we need to keep going." She made as if to grab my arm again. I flinched and I could read the hurt that flashed across her eyes.
"I'm sorry," I apologized to her. "I just don't think I could stand another shock."
Sam smiled weakly at my joke, and I could see my apology had been accepted.
I took her hand again gingerly, waiting for the shock. I smiled brightly at her when nothing happened. "See, all better. Is that where lighting comes from?" I asked her. She laughed and shook her head in the negative and started leading me further into the fog.
We seemed to walk forever, and I could see the fog gradually start to thin out. Finally, the fog thinned enough for me to see that we were in a building. I looked at the long corridor with hallways branching off of it. There were signs hanging down at each junction. If I squinted really hard, I could almost make out what some of the closer ones said. I looked down at Sam to see what we were going to do now.
"Ok, you know how there are many different denominations and religions?" she asked.
"Yes," I answered cautiously.
"Each one of these hallways represents a different religion or sect. At the end of the hallway, that is where you are judged according to your set of values or morals."
I was confused. "So what was that line I was in?"
"Yes. The definition of Purgatory is a place that people go to experience a limited amount of torture to purge sins. What can be worse than standing in a line that isn't moving?"
"One that is playing really bad Musak?" I joked weakly.
"Right. So when someone starts raising a fuss, it's understood that maybe they shouldn't be in Purgatory·" Sam trailed off but I figured out her meaning.
"I'm so glad I didn't throw that temper tantrum after all."
"So am I," she muttered.
"But why was I in that line, and why did you pull me out?"
"You were in that line because while you led a good life, your Catholic values still hold that suicide is a sin. I was able to come get you out of Purgatory because you didn't commit suicide you tripped. Someone messed up."
I must have looked as shocked as I felt. "Heaven messed up?"
Sam blushed. "Well, your angel was otherwise occupied. So they put 2 and 2 together and came up with 5."
I raised my eyebrow. "And how was my angel otherwise engaged?"
"Anyway," she said, changing the subject "it's time for you to go be judged at the end of your hallway."
For the first time, I started feeling a little nervous about what was going on. "Are you coming with me?" I asked her, hesitantly.
Sam looked at the ground. "No, I'm not Catholic. I cannot be judged in your hallway."
"But I'm not Catholic either!" I protested.
"Lapsed Catholic or not, the religion that you hold in your heart is Catholicism. So that is how you will be judged." Sam seemed upset about this.
I could feel myself turning white. "But Catholics hate homosexuals." I turned to her in a panic. "What do they do to homosexuals? Can I convert? Is it too late?"
"You need to go Anne," Sam said sadly, leading me towards a hallway.
"What about you? Have you been judged?" I asked, stalling for time.
"Why not? Can I stay here, at least until the Catholic Church changes their minds? I can chill here with you for the next couple of hundred years."
"I've waited long enough. Now that you are here, I can go to my judgment." Sam looked at me sadly, then turned and started down the corridor to her own hallway.
"Wait!" I called after her. "Why were you waiting for me?" I ran after her. "Sam!" No matter how fast I ran, I couldn't seem to catch up with her slow moving figure. I eventually ran out of breath, never getting any closer, until Sam finally faded from my view. I experienced a pain like I've never felt before once I saw her leave my sight. I could feel tears running down my face. I knew there was more to Sam waiting for me than she explained. Why else would I feel like I was losing my best friend even though we knew each other for such a short time? Why did she come and find me once she figured out I was not where I was supposed to be? Why did she keep up with my life if she wasn't interested in me in some way?
I turned towards my own hallway, with a sign that I could now read that said 'Catholic'. I dragged my feet as I slowly made my way down the hall. I know the Catholic Church's stance on homosexuality. I am an out lesbian, not like I could probably hide my orientation from these judges anyway. I am still somewhat religious, going to church on all the big holidays. I admit that I even went to confession on Ash Wednesday, even though I wonder now if that last confession is going to save my ass from a warm and fiery place. I know that I confessed to living in sin, and to a homosexual relationship, but I think that was more to try and shock the priest than because I felt that what I did was wrong. I did agree that maybe I should wait to engage in more sexual relations until I was in a committed relationship. After all, where did bed hopping get me so far? Maybe this way I could find out if the women I was dating was psycho or at least single before getting my heart stomped on.
As I trudged down the hallway, slowly noticing the statues of angels and gargoyles along the hallway. The further I walked down the hallway, the stronger resemblance to the gothic cathedrals in Europe. I wondered where all the other Catholics are. I mean, it is a large religion, lots of people die every day, where's the line? I was so caught up in looking at all the statues and paintings and mosaics, I didn't even notice when I finally came up to a high desk with 3 bishop looking judges sitting at it until I walked into it.
"Mary Anne Cameron," boomed one of the men. I jumped back and looked at the 3 men in the funny hats looming far over my head in fear.
"We are here to judge your worthiness to enter the state of grace known as 'Heaven'." He continued.
"Let's see here," said the man on the left, looking in a book. "I don't see any mortal sins. I say we let her in." he shut the book, smiled and winked at me.
"Of course you say that. You say that to everyone that comes up here!" complained the man on the far right.
"But it's true. She hasn't committed any major sins that she needs atonement for since her last confession, plus she's spend time in Purgatory. I say she gets to move on." The man on the left shrugged.
"She's a homosexual! She has had homosexual genital action!" boomed the man in the middle, clearly upset that this little fact had been overlooked.
"Ah, but she has been celibate since her last confession. And she said penance for her transgressions." The man on the left pointed out.
The man on the right rubbed his chin. "If she has been celibate, has gone to confession and done penance, I don't see that you have a case to keep this particular petitioner out of heaven."
The man in the middle turned red. "You mean that this, this, this abomination can go where decent people go?" He seemed about to have an apoplexy.
The room seemed to darken with each word the man said. The other two judges started edging away from the man in the middle while he was spewing his opinions on the subject. 3 heartbeats after his last comment, there was a flash of light and a loud clap of thunder. When the spots from the bright light had cleared my eyes, the man in the middle was gone. The man on the left sighed.
"I knew that was going to happen. After all, he did argue to let that one priest through, even though he had molested many children. It was just a matter of time."
The other judge nodded his head and noticed me still standing there. "Hey, why are you still here? Shoo! Go on, you're done. There are lots of other people to judge you know!" He waved his hand at me and pointed towards my left. There in the wall, a brightly lit doorway had appeared, seeming to beckon me. I jumped and shot towards the doorway before the judges change their minds. Right before I went through the doorway I heard the judge on the left say, "They always run. Like we are going to change our minds or something."
I passed into the bright light. I can't really describe the feelings, but I will tell you I felt loved. Oh, and I remembered Sam. Finally. It's a wonder the woman didn't smack me upside the head, but in my defense, I have not seen her since she was 10 years old.
My best friend in the whole world was my next-door neighbor, Samantha Carson. She was a spunky little blonde who followed me everywhere until I finally had to make friends with her or kill her to get rid of her. I chose friendship. That was the best decision I ever made in my whole life.
Sam and I were inseparable in our off school hours. She was over a year younger than I was, so we were in separate grades. But recess and after school was our time. Until I was in 5th grade.
Sam started to slow down my 5th grade year. She was always tired, and we started spending more time inside watching TV. Her mom finally noticed and took Sam to the doctor. When Sam and her mom came back, they came over to my house. Sam ran upstairs to my room and curled up on my bed. Our mom's stayed downstairs talking. I curled myself around my little buddy and asked her what was wrong.
"I'm sick." She said.
"Did they give you medicine? Does it taste awful? This one time, the doctor gave me this stuff that tasted like·"
"I'm really sick. I have to go to the hospital." Sam interrupted me.
I started to get a funny feeling in my stomach. "How long?"
"Until I'm better. And the doctor said that he has to give me really strong medicine, which will make me feel bad and lose my hair. But then I'll get better and be just fine." Sam looked up at me with frightened eyes. "I'm scared Annie. I don't want to lose my hair."
I wrapped her up tight in my arms, "I'll keep you safe Sammy. No way I'll let anything happen to you."
Unfortunately, I was wrong. Sam lost her battle with leukemia 2 months later. The chemo they gave her was just too much for her little body and I lost my best friend to an unseen monster.
I fell down on a manicured lawn. I looked around and saw a large, landscaped lawn with manicured bushes, fountains and pools. People were wandering around in clothes that reminded me of the summer lawn party scene from the Great Gatsby. I think I even saw a croquet game off to the left.
"This is Heaven?"
"Well, at least your twisted view of it." Came a voice from behind me.
I spun around and there was my little blonde guide, wearing a beautiful frock that showed off all of her best attributes. "Sammy!" I cried and enveloped her in a hug.
She hugged me back. "So you finally remembered."
"Hey, you've grown up since the last time I saw you," I defended myself.
"Yes, yes I have. I tried to keep pace with you. I figured you might be a little freaked if a 10 year old came looking for you in that line."
"Have you been watching me my whole life?"
"Yes. I was waiting for you. I wasn't expecting the 'death by taxes' angle however." She grinned. "Only you would be such a klutz as to off yourself in a tax auditors office. I would have expected something a little more dramatic."
I raised my eyebrow. "Such as what?"
"Oh, I don't know. With your taste in women, a psycho stalker, an irate husband or boyfriend."
I blushed. She really had been watching me. "The husband thing was a fluke. I didn't know she was married!"
"Uh huh. The white band of skin around the ring finger of her left hand gave you no clue?" Sammy didn't seem to believe me.
"To be honest, I wasn't paying any attention to her hands," I wiggled my eyebrows at her.
She laughed and pushed me playfully. "You are such a mutt! And let's not even talk about Tiffany."
I groaned at the thought of my most recent, psycho ex. "Let's not."
She looked at me. "What were you thinking when you started dating her?"
"I thought she was smart, funny, and good in bed. I didn't expect to come home and find her screwing her drug supplier in our bed. I also didn't expect to be told that I was so bad in bed that she had to go outside of our relationship to find satisfaction. That was a blow to my ego." I sighed. "Imagine, me bad in bed."
Sam gave me another shove. "You are so full of it."
I brushed imaginary wrinkles out of my 1920's style dress. "I have no idea what you are talking about." I declared haughtily. "I am as pure as the driven snow!"
Sam quickly stepped away from me.
"What?" I asked her as she scanned the skies above.
"Just waiting for that lightening. This is Heaven, you aren't supposed to lie."
"Speaking of which, what was your judgment like? And why couldn't you come with me?"
"I wasn't Catholic, and it was pretty easy. I did die at such a young age, not much for them to judge me on." She winked. "Thankfully, I believed in a much more forgiving faith than your church. I just waltzed right in. Though there were a few questions as to why I waited."
"Why did you wait?" I was wondering that myself.
"No way I'm going to heaven with out my best friend. Besides, I had to make sure that you were going to be here too."
I gave Sam another hug. "Thanks pal. I love you too and I'm glad you are here with me."
"No other place I'd rather be."
I grabbed her hand and tucked it under my arm as we started leisurely strolling across the lawn to where it looked like someone was serving beverages.
"I am curious about a few things you know," I said as we walked along.
"How did you learn so much about what goes on around here when you never have gotten into Heaven until just now with me?" I knew Sammy was a charmer. She had charmed the ice cream man out of treats for both us more than once. But how much can one charm an Angel?
Sam looked abashed. "Well, Angels, they like to play card games."
Remembering the fact that my little Sammy was a card shark from our childhood days, I started chuckling. Between her charm and cards, no wonder Sam had run of the place. The Angels stood no chance against my little Sammy.
"So, you hoodwinked them out of information?" I prompted.
"No!" she protested. "I listened to them gossip. You learn all kinds of things when they are just kicking back and having fun. I did have them teach me how to watch people on Earth in lue of payment on some of their bets, as well as how to age myself. Your Angel was particularly fanatic about beating me at gin. Which is where he was when you took your header into the desk."
I stopped and stared at her. "You mean to tell me that my Angel was playing gin with you while he was supposed to be watching me?"
Sam looked a little embarrassed. "You weren't supposed to die for another couple of days." She clarified.
"What?" I shouted.
"Car accident. Head on collision. But this way, your brother got your car and Tiffany was saddled with your tax bill." Sam grinned evilly.
"How does that work?"
"You left her as the executive of your estate. Except for a few things, like your car and bank accounts, which were left to your brother, she inherits your estate. Including your tax debt."
I just started laughing. "That's too cool."
"Yep, only thing constant in life is death and taxes."