A newspaper flashed the portrait of a suited black man in front of city hall. A splash of orange juice swapped out of the glass. Danny licked his finger. He caught a visual snapshot of the yellow morning light shining at the cross beams of the wooden window. The brown leather briefcase rested on the center prep table of his home kitchen. The sturdy feel of the thick leather handle was the first tactile feel that he consciously took in. The kitchen was newly built. Family vacation photos, portraits, and cooking utensils crowded the wall.
"Honey, I love you," said Bethany. Her body was sprawling with grown boobs, love handles, and locks of blond hair falling out of the pony tail in a mad mess. She was wearing tights under a skirt. A white robe with red jelly stains and yellow splotches hung over her wide loose t-shirt. The neck opening of the t-shirt had slid down one shoulder to straddle the biceps left and neck right.
Her two-hand full boob had slipped out of the neck opening of her t-shirt. The little bundle in her arms had a mole like face. The eyes were pinned closed by just too much skin and fatty cheeks. The little hands with the tiny fingers held onto the boob and slowly squeezed open and closed. The rhythm of the little one was like a fairy tale of a long lost time before the rush of urban, professional living.
Danny pulled himself away from the deeply blue eyes of Bethany. Her eyes had opened up to swallow his attention. He had counted the lines and the little dot in her iris and fabled at the pureness of the blue. He had to pull himself a second time to make long strides towards the heavy farm house style wood door.
The gray pavement of the sidewalk passed under his rich-brown, polished leather shoes. The hard heels gave clacking sounds on the floor like high heels. In his mind, he previewed the meeting with his boss and the subsequent pitch session with the design team. He had to remember to get flowers for Maggie, his secretary. He took a quick look left and entered the cross walk. The zebra stripes on the floor made his subconscious flash childhood memories, when he had tried to only step on the white. Yet, his legs were so short as a little boy that it was really hard.
A shock wave hit his lungs from a burst of adrenaline. He couldn't move at all. Frozen, standing middle in the street, he saw a yellow Volkswagen Jetta from another decade make a left turn toward him. The engine screamed aggressively and pronounced its underpowered weakness. His mind projected that the car will hit him at the current trajectory. His mind suggested that the driver would stop now. The mind updated its projection that impact was imminent. The mind could not decide if he were going to be violently thrown into the air or disintegrate. The car continued accelerating straight toward him. The mind decided that any such driver behavior was completely surreal. Perhaps, this was a dream.
He heard the loud cracking sound of his shins. He felt himself violently thrown on his back. With his eyes closed or open, he could not tell. The pain radiating over his whole back was so intense that he could not breathe, think, see, or hear anything. Every sensory input and activity was suspended by the purity of sharp pain. There was a tiny little bit of peace in the intensely, crucifying pain. It was the peace of being freed from his schedule pressure, family responsibilities, and chronic aches and pains.
"The medics will come soon. Everything will be alright once the top notch surgeons get me under the knife. I must have been out for at least 5 minutes. The average response time in my upscale part of town is 8 minutes."
The sharp pain began to be nuanced by a tingling, vibrating kind of feeling. That new feeling felt relaxing and healing. His mind loved it. He relaxed into it. Slowly a first weak breath entered his lungs. He could feel the rib cage lifting. He sank deeper into the tingles. It started feeling kind of cozy. He almost smiled. Random yellow and orange shapes were drifting, growing, and shrinking behind his closed eyes.
"How come nobody has asked me yet, if I were okay? Where is all the screaming that should come with a dramatic car vs. pedestrian accident?"
The intense back pain had lowered to let the sense of the rest of his body filter in. His slacks were thrown above his knee. Behind his calf, he could feel something itching and poking him like grass at the park near the house. He used to have nice family picnics in that park on big blankets with their baby on the back and the funny sailor hat on.
"Hold on! Concrete does not tingle like grass. I must be in a hospital after some time in coma. Had it been hours or days? That explains why nobody is trying to get my attention."
His stomach turned into a hard clump at the thought of being severely damaged in an ICU. A brief flash of his possible life as a cripple with months of rehab popped into his mind. He did not want to face that and kept his eyes close. Three deep breaths and, he was ready to face the truth. His wife must have been sitting on a boxy hospital chair next to him for a long time.
He slowly parted the lids to get a little glimmer only at first. He wanted to let reality in as slowly as possible. The sky was blue with a few light clouds. He craned his neck left and right. He was in a big meadow with wild flowers. There was a tree line and mountains around him. He realized that he could move his neck fine.
"Is this some kind of state between life and death, where I have to make the right choice to come back to life?"
He stood up. His body was completely fine. Actually, his body felt as fit and healthy as a teenager's. Blue bell shaped flowers grew on long stems next to him. Another grass had clusters of white flowers. One of the mountains was so tall that the peak was barren beyond the line of vegetation. Strangely, there were no buildings, roads, or trail markings anywhere around. That's a rare sight in this world that is civilized all over. He would have thought that he was in the Alps based on the lush vegetation and temperate air. Yet, the Alps were thickly colonized since the Romans had crossed them.
The sound of a helicopter came closer. The booming sound curled his blood a bit, because it reminded of war and action movies. It was definitely a big, heavy duty helicopter like a Black Hawk, not a flimsy civilian research one. A sparkling white helicopter appeared over the trees. The long sleek body and rotors set inside of the back wing suggested that it was a high speed military type. Yet, it was white.
The high wild grass was flattened in a circle under the landing helicopter. The wider circles of grass fluidly waved up and down like the ocean. A tall, trim man stepped out of the helicopter. His feet did the thing, where they appeared first and then his body hopped out. The man wore a dressy white suit with silver reflective sun glasses. He carried a white brief case. His hair-sprayed hair waved under the rotor wings. He made a straight run for Danny.
Danny looked at the man quizzical. The man had a beaming smile of the most suave sales person ever.
"Danny, it's a pleasure meeting you. I have awesome news for you." The man had set the brief case down and pointed with both index fingers at Danny. "You have been accepted into heaven!" The man gleamed the happiest, most charming, and disturbingly slimy smile at Danny. The man waited for the news to sink in and expected Danny to smile. Danny followed the social cue and smiled. Danny still didn't know if this was one of those life and death decisions, a dream, or something else. "All you have to do is sign here to accept your 10 day heaven trial." In one smooth motion, the man pulled a piece of paper out of the brief case, flipped over the brief case to offer as a solid board for Danny to sign.
Danny stared at the elegant, gold sparkling pen in his hand. "Sure, heaven sounds good. Hold on, why is it a trial?"
"Well Danny, we want to make sure that you are really happy with your choice, when you sign on for eternity."
"Why wouldn't I like it in heaven? It's heaven!"
"It's just regulation. We have to give you a trial first. Just sign the trial now and the permanent thing in ten days. It's no big deal. Haven't you had to sign a lot of proforma paper work in your life."
"Hold, on why do I have to sign anything for heaven? Isn't this some kind of biblical thing..."
"Sign the fucking thing already." The man's eyes bulged with anger. The frowns on his forehead appeared like the cracked lines of lightning.
Danny quickly signed. The man switched like a two face to beam his big white teethed smile. The man gave Danny a side hug, "awesome bro, you are one of us." They both walked to the helicopter.
With big noise cancellation mufflers over his ear, Danny looked at the forests and meadows passing beneath them. The rotor noise made conversation impossible. So, Danny sank into his own thoughts. A giddy feeling tingled in his stomach, when he realized that he was going to heaven. He had made the jackpot. Then, he realized that he hadn't been in church in years. He remembered his vote on abortion. He remembered firing a secretary for losing a client. After she was fired, he had re-read the e-mails and noticed that he had made the mistake that cost the client. He never spoke up or apologized to the secretary, who was stained with a termination for reason. His ears turned burning red. How could he have made it to heaven? He had heavily argued to anyone interested that god didn't exist. He had banked on god not existing. He thought to himself that he better leave the skeletons in his closet and enjoy the lucky break. That's how he had lived his whole life.
With slightly shaky legs, he stepped out of the helicopter. He vowed to himself that once he was inside, he was inside. He only had to keep his shit together for the beginning until nobody would bother checking his background again.
They were on a green lawn. A white fluffy cloud stretched from the lawn into the far distance in the sky. It was the road to heaven. It looked like a long straight walk. The man guided Danny forward to the cloud. The first step onto the fluff on the cloud was bizarre. At first the foot sank through the cloud like bubble. And, then there was a sturdy floor. It was like standing in a bubble bath tub. It was a little disconcerting not being able to see the feet knees down. The instinctive fear of a hole or tripping over something made Danny step cautiously.
The two walked past the guards at the base of the cloud road. The guards were big bulky six feet tall line backers. They were armed to the teeth. Their heavy body armor made their silhouette appear like big bulky pigs standing. They were gas masks. The big glass shields reflected the sun light. The long snout of the gas mask made them look like ant eaters. They had compact back packs. They were sparkling white. Even their assault rifles and grenades hanging from their vests were sparkling white.
"Sir, why do the guards face the inside and not the outside?"
"Danny, if you were a guard of heaven? Would you not find it much more enjoyable to look at heaven than anything else?"
"Sir, guards don't usually look where it's pretty. They look where the threat is."
"Danny, you worry a lot. Relax, you are in heaven. Everything is taken care of from now on."
There was a funny feeling under the cloud cover. Then, there was a swift motion overcoming Danny's body. There was moving walkway under the clouds. Another funny feeling and, Danny had stepped onto a faster moving walkway. A short succession of faster moving walkways and, the two men were zooming along the road to heaven at 65 mph. The air firmly flushed around their body. The clothes flapped in the wind. Danny stretched out his arms to pretend to fly like a bird. The man handed Danny silver-reflective sun glasses. "The UV radiation is much higher up here."
At 30,000 feet altitude, a compound of white, fluffy cloud houses appeared. They were just like regular houses, only they had fluffy white cloud stuff slapped on everywhere. The man walked ahead to lead the way into a building. There was a little white cube. There was a desk. There was a slightly overweight woman with long, white painted finger nails smiling at boss of them.
"This is Danny. He is a good guy. Take good care of him."
"Welcome to income processing, Danny. We'll first review your earth history. And, then will go through the allocation process to find you a position here."
"Miss, I don't want to be problematic. I am simply asking, because this is all unknown territory to me. Do I get a lawyer for the history review?"
The man smiled big for one last time. The woman waved at him cheerily. Then, he left.
"You worry too much, Danny. We'll take really good care of you. This is heaven. You signed the papers. We won't kick you out anymore."
"Okay. It's not that I have anything to hide or be afraid about."
"Danny, is this what you are afraid about?"
The woman turned a laptop screen toward Danny. There was a photo of his college sweetheart looking up with big eyes. Her luscious, red lips were wrapped around his white hard dick. Her hand was holding onto the base of his dick. She wore librarian glasses and pig tails to spice it up. He recognized the photo. He had sent it to the entire college with the word "slut" underneath it after they had broken up.
"Not my proudest moment, ma'am."
"Everyone has done snafu like that."
"It's no big deal."
"She cried for days after getting her reputation slandered by me!"
"Humans make mistake. They are made in the image of god. Ha!" The woman chuckled at some kind of inside humor of heaven.
Danny coyly advanced, "then what about the secretary that I wrongfully fired. She was unemployed for a year, lost her house, went through depression. At least, that's what the grapevine said."
The woman sternly looked at Danny, "That was messed up. Don't do it again." And, the woman playfully slapped Danny on the wrist.
Danny getting upset, opened his mouth wide to cry out like a PETA demonstrator yelling about tortured animals in research labs, "what is up with that? You'll absolve mass murderers."
The woman's face turned serious. She leaned forward. "That's just the way things are. We have a real recruitment problem. We gotta take what we can get. Though, it's not like they could do anything bad here in heaven. We got these shock collars that everyone has to wear."
The woman lifted a smooth, round, tight necklace up with her index finger. I got one of those for you as well. She handed him a white cable. Danny rolled it around in his hand. Then, he put it around his neck. It clipped in place. The woman pushed a bundle of white clothes with white sneakers across the table. Danny changed behind a white screen. The woman let his old clothes drop through a hole into the ground. The planet's surface eerily appeared through the whole. They were up so high that everything was so tiny.
"Okay, let's move on to the allocation process. You'll be cleaning clouds for the first ten days. All those jumbo jets leave big time stains."
"Sounds good! I sort of had thought that heaven was only fun and play. Though, heaven really turned out to be quite different than I had imagined."
"Do you have any questions for me?"
"Oh, yes! Will I meet god?"
"Kiddo, you can write your name on the waiting list. That list is very long. However, eternity is even longer. I would not hold my breath. As of late, god has been obsessed with designing golf courses in the clouds. Since, 2,000 years that's all he has been doing. That's why the bible ends 2,000 years ago."
The woman got up, turned, and left through a side door. She held the door open for Danny. The court yard was full of other white dressed and white sneakered people, who looked around starry eyed with giddiness on their cheeks. They were holding champagne glasses in their hands. Long strings of bubbles percolated in the tall flute glasses. A wide banquette table carried hundreds of champagne glasses and big piles of strawberries frosted in white chocolate.
There was Cherry, the college home coming queen. Danny excitedly waved at her. Cherry opened her mouth into dramatic and turned her lips into a sneak smile with her eyes darting left and right: "Oh my, if that is not Danny." Cherry had these fully lips, big eyes, and warm-cozy-cheery appearance.
"Danny-boy, what a surprise! I always thought you'd live a long, ripe life. I got in with the biker crowd. You know, I'm a wild girl. And, then there was tight situation that I couldn't seduce my way out of."
"Well, Cherry, I got hit by a car. It only sinks in now that I'm telling you this that I am dead-dead!"
Danny also remembered the big luscious boobs that Cherry carried. He starred down. Zap! The collar around his neck gave a sharp electric zing that made him look up into the sky as high as possible he could.
"Danny, don't feel embarrassed. Everyone at this mixer has tried to check out my girls. They all got stung. The first few, I tried to slap. However, the necklace zapped me for that as well. So, I know how it feels. Danny, I'm so sorry. But, you will never ever see boobs again for all of eternity."
"And, that, Danny, happens when you try to curse here. They just cut out the sound. Only hot air comes out of your throat. They really had to figure out how to make the lot of us fit in with heaven. It's not that we are these perfect innocent people. They simply made it impossible to sin in heaven."
"It still must beat being in eternal fire in hell with teeth chattering, doesn't it?" Danny looked at Cherry with questioning frowns on his forehead.
"You are funny!"
Habits die hard. Danny tried to steal another glance at Cherry's boobs. The zinger surprised him again. An accidental fart escaped his butt. Cherry giggled nervously, "look behind you." A basketball sized cloud grew to water ball size. Danny looked back at Cherry with a gaping mouth horrified by embarrassment.
"That happened to me as well. The air up here is super humid. On a molecular level, it reaches over 100% humidity. You'd think that 100% is water. However, the air here is missing particles for the water to coalesce around. Farts have a tiny specs of fecal matter that will capture the water molecules and turn them into clouds, kind of like the jet streams behind a plane. Even silent farts are super obvious here."
Danny furiously waved his hand through the cloud to disperse it. However, it only kept growing. "How do I get rid of this?"
"Look, somebody is trying to get your attention. That must be your mentor. Hurry on and get over there."
A friendly looking middle aged man waved at Danny. The man was a little on the heavy side. His body looked like a bear. He wore an overall and held two lacrosse ball sticks. Danny slithered past the crowd of white dressed people chatting with each other at the mixer cocktail.
"Hi Danny, I am Eric. We are going to clean some clouds. I am your mentor for the next ten days."
Eric handed Danny one of the lacrosse sticks. It was a five foot long stick with a triangular net at the end. The net mesh was much finer than lacrosse. It was a fine sieve to skim clouds with. Eric walked ahead. There was a maze of single track cloud paths spiraling and meandering in all kinds of directions. Danny felt a little light headed at first for stepping so close to the edge of a 30,000 foot drop. They walked the single track into the distance. Danny watched the mountains, lakes, and ocean beneath him. Tracing the landscape was fascinating and mesmerizing.
After half hour of walking, the path ended on top of a big giant cumulus cloud. The path ended with a dive board. "Oh boy, this is going to be fun," exclaimed Danny. Trying to stifle his voice by clenching his teeth, Eric said sarcastically "yeah right."