Monday, February 11, 2013
All Dogs go to Heaven
The evil one departed, and Peterson, Champ, and the Spirit in White all walked together into Glory.
It was a Tuesday afternoon in the dead of winter. I sat at an empty table in the dark corner of McKinley’s Pub, sipping a beer while watching this evenings players stroll in.
Old Man Peterson slowly shuffled in first. He sat at the end of the bar next to the brick wall. He liked it there, the boiler for the apartments above the bar was on the other side of that wall and it was always warm in the winter. It was a nice cozy spot for Peterson to curl up and take a snooze in the hour between finishing his last beer of the evening and his being tossed out into the cold by McKinley himself.
The far end of the bar was the perfect place for Peterson, no one else would have to smell him. The regulars knew enough to hold their breath as they walked passed him on their way to the Men’s room. He looked like a pile of old rags with his worn-out dirty clothing that may have been blue or maroon at one time long ago, but after years of not being washed they were trapped halfway between brown and charcoal gray.
A cold blast of air rushed passed me as the door opened and Big Mouth Charlie hurried into the bar, slamming the door behind him. “Holy crap!” I just saw a brass monkey chasing his balls down the street. Ha-ha-ha. How ya doin’ McKinley?”
McKinley just stood behind his bar and continued cleaning glasses. A pronounced frown came to his face as he nodded hello to Charlie. I knew McKinley was praying that more customers would soon be in his bar, or Charlie would talk his ear off in no time.
Cold air continued to announce the arrival of the remaining players for the evening. Richard, the lonely businessman who was dressed in his $1,000 pinstriped suit; closely followed by the almost pretty, twice married, and now “it’s complicated” Amanda, who last, but not least, was followed by Arnie the bogus Viet Nam Vet.
Arnie, of all the players on my stage this evening you are my favorite. You are so full of crap. Arnie my dear boy, making up war stories, making yourself the star of every veterans magazine article you ever read. These things don’t make you a Veteran, even if your friends at the bar half believe your tall tales. Just like you my dear boy, many good men were rejected as 4-F by the draft board. Arnie, you couldn’t get over it. You made up lies to fill in the void in your life. Now you can’t stop living the lie.
McKinley cracked a smile as Arnie sat next to Big Mouth Charlie and the two of them proceeded to talk and bullshit each other into oblivion.
Richard pulled a $50 bill from his wallet, and Amanda pulled her bar stool closer to his. Richard bought Amanda a drink, and Amanda thanked him by placing her hand upon his upper thigh.
I looked at the clock on the wall. There was 25 minutes left to go, and all my players were on stage playing their parts perfectly. Oblivious to what was waiting for them.
McKinley picked up a scrap of paper and held it out to Amanda who raised her open hand to McKinley as if pushing him away at the same time she bobbed her head up and down as if to say “I know, I know.” McKinley gave her a stern look and placed the slip of paper next to the register as Amanda leaned over and whispered in Richard’s ear. Richard smiled broadly and mouthed the word, “SURE.”
Amanda got up and went to the Ladies room. Richard got up precisely 1 minute later and headed for the restrooms as well, but he also entered the Ladies room, not the Men’s.
“Peterson. Peterson!” Barked McKinley, “Time to take out the trash.” Old Man Peterson maneuvered his arthritis-riddled body off his bar stool and headed to the kitchen. There were two bags waiting for him; one filled with garbage, and another, much smaller bag, filled with the left over and half eaten sandwiches from McKinley’s Tuesday $5 lunch special. Peterson took out the trash, and secured the precious bag of food under his coat. Then he walked back out into the bar to be met once again by McKinley’s stern voice, “OK, that’s it Peterson. Finish your beer and go home. Peterson looked McKinley in the eye and smiled an unspoken Thank You.
Richard was the first one back to the bar from the Ladies room. He sat back down, unnoticed by Big Mouth Charlie and Arnie the Phony Vet. Amanda emerged some minutes later and rejoined Richard at the bar. She pointed to the register and handed McKinley a $100 bill. McKinley went to the register, tossed the slip of paper into the trash, and returned to Amanda with a twenty, and three ones.
It was time for Peterson to go home. His beer was empty and he had a precious cargo of food to carry home. There would be no snooze by the warm wall of the bar for him tonight, because I shield good people from unnecessary pain whenever the plan allows.
Old Man Peterson didn’t see the handsome young couple that pushed their way past him into the bar as he was shuffling out. No one in the bar saw them, except me.
They came to my table and sat down. The pretty young woman looked at her watch. “Less than one minute to go. “
The handsome young man interjected, “I only see five of them, and three of them are ours. I was told it would be three and three. What’s up?
“Don’t worry. You will get your three. We don’t cheat or lie, that’s your domain.”
With a roar louder than a hundred dragons, with a blast of heat hotter than a volcano, the old apartment building boiler on the other side of the brick wall exploded, and five souls made a painful transformation from flesh to spirit.
McKinley, Richard, Arnie, Big Mouth Charlie, and Amanda found themselves standing in a surreal field of mist. Before them they saw a man in pure white robes, and he started to speak to them.
“Rupert McKinley. You have given half your till to the mission across the street from your bar for 30 years. You give back at every opportunity, while others only take. Come to me. “
The handsome, yet evil, spirit couple from the bar waited patiently, hidden in the shadows, as McKinley walked towards the Spirit in White. The mist surrounded McKinley and he disappeared into a bright light.
“Sergeant Arnold Prinlow.” Arnie’s ears perked up. The spirit was calling him Sergeant. Arnie started to cry as the spirit motioned for him to come closer.
“Arnie, my dear Arnie. You are not well. Your mind is not whole, but your spirit is strong. All the good work you did at the Veterans Hospital for so many years shall be rewarded. Come and enter herein, and forever be called by the rank of Sergeant.
The spirit dried Arnie’s tears with his robe and Arnie walked on into the mist of eternal peace and joy.
The spirits eyes turned to flame. He looked at Amanda. “Harlot! Harlot with AIDS who knowingly spread this plague to all who were weak willed!” The Spirit clenched his fist and Amanda burst into flame, and she fell through the mist. In an instant she was gone from sight.
Big Mouth Charlie started to tremble and he jabbered senselessly as he seemed to melt into a ball of sweat.
Richard looked up. He was still dressed in his suit, and he was carrying his briefcase.
“Do you think I don’t know what’s in the briefcase Richard?”
Richard dropped the briefcase as if the handle was burning his hand. The briefcase hit the mist and popped open. The papers held within it started to float upward and spiral into a tornado of whirling paper blades.
“You loved money so much! You have been embezzling from countless thousands of investors for decades!” The Spirit in White thrust his fingertips at the paper tornado and it engulfed Richard in its swirling mass of sharp edges, slicing into his flesh, inflicting ten thousand cuts. Richard screamed at the top of his lungs as he fell through the mist and plummeted into the eternal darkness below.
“AND YOU! Your name is too bitter on my tongue to ever be spoken.”
Big Mouth Charlie was whimpering and shaking like a leaf as he crawled to the feet of the spirit. He started to beg, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. The little boy grew up fine. He is fine. I didn’t do any permanent harm to him, he’s fine.”
“One little boy? No. No, buy my count there were 23. You are an abomination. Fine! FINE you say? You destroyed those little boys. Each of them has grown into a monster just like you. Just like you they are defiling little boys, destroying their lives, creating more monsters. You will pay for all of them. Every generation of them!”
The Spirit in White motioned with a broad sweep of his arm and the evil spirits emerged from the shadows.
“Take him, he is yours.”
No sooner had the Spirit in White spoken than the evil young woman morphed into a hideous creature with nails like iron claws and the teeth of a saber toothed tiger. She pounced on Charlie and tore him into bloody shreds of flesh as together they sunk through the mist into the eternal darkness, with Charlie’s screams of agony slowly fading away into the abyss.
“That’s three for me and only two for you.”
“My you are as observant as you are evil, aren’t you? Why not stay a moment and watch?”
The Spirit in White slowly passed his hand over the mist and it cleared away. Looking down into Peterson’s apartment the specters could see him opening the bag of sandwiches from the bar. Peterson slowly peeled back the slices of stale bread, and removed the meatloaf within. He crumbled the meatloaf into the bowl of his dog Champ. Like Peterson, Champ was very old and afflicted with arthritis as well.
“AWE that’s so cute, but it’s still three to two!”
The specters looked down once more and saw Old Man Peterson in bed asleep, with Champ comfortably snuggled in at his feet.
“Still three to two.”
The mist drew together once more and Old Man Peterson stood before the specters. The Spirit in White held out his hand, and Peterson walked to him.
“So big deal, three – three. It’s a tie.”
“Wrong again.” The Spirit in White pointed with his finger, and there in the mist was Champ, young and filled with joy as he ran to be reunited with Peterson.
The Spirit in White smiled at the evil one and softly said, “You lost. Now go back where you belong.”