AN: Is this theologically accurate? Probably not. But I’d like to think it’s a good reminder – we’ve all got that spark of celebrity.
John stepped through the fog that drifted near his feet and looked up at the impossibly large, pearly gates. Heaven was far more beautiful than he had imagined in his time being alive. The gates reflected the perfect, white light that seemed to shine from a sunless sky, making streaks of gold fall onto the cloudy, dream-like surface.
He made his way up to the angel, whom he assumed from his station was Peter.
“Name, please?” a voice echoed out from the being.
“John Barry Dough.”
The angel sighed. John was mildly surprised that an angel could sigh.
“You get admitted into heaven and decide to make quips?” the angel scolded.
“I’m sorry?” John asked, with as much respect as he could muster in the confusion. “My name is actually John Barry Dough.”
The angel’s shoulders went slack and it sighed again.
“Look,” it began, finally looking up to see John. It froze.
The silence drew out between them, the angel looking confused and John looking mortified. He was worried he had offended the heavenly creature. He had always struggled with first impressions, but had hoped heaven would be different.
“No!” the angel cried. “This is such a spoiler! I hadn’t seen the newest episode!”
John stared blankly at the being. “What?”
“Nothing, I’m just — oh my gosh, I’m such a fan! And I’ve been working for the last, uh,” Peter shrugged back the sleeve of his robe to glance at his wristwatch, “Forty years. So I haven’t been able to keep up with the episodes of — ”
“I’ve been dead for forty years?!” John cried. “Where is everyone I knew and loved?”
“Oh, well… no, you haven’t. Time works differently up here,” the angel said, seeming to want to move past the complex topic. “The point is, you’re here now! I can’t believe I was the Peter on watch when you showed up!”
“There are multiple Peters?” John asked.
“Well, title-wise yes, but theologically speaking – wait…” the angel nudged John’s shoulder, “Are you making a joke about how there were so many Johns in your grade school?”
“And your high school class?”
“And retirement home?”
“And cemetery?” Peter paused and considered for a second. “Well, I guess you wouldn’t really know that part. But the others?”
“Uh, yep,” John said, and then immediately regretted making a lie one of his first sentences in Heaven.
“HA! You always were a kidder! You know, I thought that your joke about the coffee maker last—”
“Peter, what’s the hold up? There’s a line forming and wait, oh my Him, why are you hugging John Barry Dough?” asked a tall, striking angel as he walked to Peter’s station.
“ZURIEL! Look! It’s John Barry Dough!”
“I know, Pete, I can see that. Oh for here’s sake, I TiVoed the last episode, but I didn’t know you died, man!” Zuriel said, clasping both hands around John’s right. “C’mon, let me show you to your place! Although,” he added conspiratorially, “you probably will have quite the welcoming party. Most people here watch your episodes live.”
“I’m sorry, I uh… I don’t understand,” John stuttered as the angel led him along a golden cobblestone walkway. “What show are you talking about? Are you sure you don’t have me confused with someone else? There are a lot of Johns in the world, after all, and—”
“HA! Because of all of the Johns in your high sch—”
“We just talked about that!” Peter interjected, almost in the clouds with laughter. “Such a classic ‘John’ moment!”
At this point, Zuriel was leaned over onto Peter, joining in on the joke. John smiled politely and tried his best not to look awkward. Zuriel stretched his back, wiped tears away from his eyes, and exhaled loudly.
“Such a classic!” Zuriel snapped his fingers. “Here you are, John, your new home!”
Where the gates had stood was now a doorway into a beautiful, modestly sized home. It was, however, completely made of gold.
“What the…” John paused, strongly considering his next word, “Mars just happened?”
“Mars!” Zuriel exclaimed, falling into another fit of laughter. “CLASSIC John Barry Dough! You always did have some cursing trouble!”
“We transport differently here, John Barry Dough,” Peter explained once he had managed to control his laughter. “Not quite like that old 2014 Toyota, am I right?”
They made their way up the small stoop to the front door, Peter and Zuriel supporting each other as they giggled incessantly. When they reached the entrance, the angels stared at him expectantly, so, not wanting to seem rude, John swung open the door and gestured them inside. He closed the door softly, and when he turned to look around—
“SURPRISE, JOHN BARRY DOUGH!” a group of glowing beings screamed. Confetti guns and a champagne cork popped.
John jumped in surprise, then forced himself to smile. “Uh… hi?”
The group burst into laughter.
“Looks like he doesn’t know what’s going on! Classic John!” someone shouted. Several others echoed “Classic John!”
John, feeling equal parts awkward, exhausted, confused by this point, lifted his hands up. “Um… thank you all for this welcoming party. I really, really appreciate it, but um… can someone tell me why you all know me?”
The average expression of the group faded from excited to confused. Peter and Zuriel, standing closest to him, gave him a worried look.
“John, you’re a famous character on our favorite show,” Peter explained as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
“Oh, you don’t know?” Azriel gasped. “The top television show in Heaven is Earth: A Human Story! Everyone who is anyone watches it,” he smirked, giving a knowing glance to the group of angels standing behind him.
“Oh, er… so, I was being um… I mean, not to sound ungrateful, but you guys were watching me?” John asked them, feeling the heat rising in his cheeks.
“Of course!” exclaimed Marothe. “You are everyone’s favorite character!”
The angels behind her nodded and murmured affirmations.
“You mean you guys didn’t like Morgan Freeman best? He’s great!” John asked, chuckling nervously.
The group exploded into laughter.
“Classic John!” they exclaimed again.
“I don’t know this Freehand dude,” one of the angels near a window shouted, “but it is so John to deflect attention to others!”
“Amen!” another shouted in agreement. “How about that time he told the boss to give employee of the month to Shirley instead of him?”
This tidbit, which John had to feign remembering, brought on rounds of applause from the group of supernatural beings. Several smacked others on the back, enjoying the fond memory like some humans remember big baseball games or incredible concerts.
“How about when he was on that incredible streak of being at work on time?” another asked rhetorically, as if no one could ever forget.
“Five hundred and ninety-six days!” several yelled together.
“That stupid alarm!” one large angel cried.
“You set it!”
“We all saw you set it!”
“Stupid thing messed up!”
“Worst antagonist in television history!”
The crowd erupted into angelic versions of curses thrown at the alarm clock that had apparently malfunctioned. If John could recall the event, he probably would have guessed he had simply over slept.
“I dunno, remember Candace?”
Several loud groans filled the room.
“Who is Candace?” John asked.
“The cop who gave you that ticket! You weren’t even speeding. You were going fifty-four,” an angel spat in disgust.
“We even clocked the car!” another added. “Don’t have to worry about Candace up here though!”
“Oh gosh, what?” John yelled, horrified. “You didn’t ban her because of me?”
“Classic John!” the group screamed through fits of laughter.
“No, John,” Peter answered, gasping in air between the two words. “She was a terrible person aside from being a horrible ticket-writer. Totally unrelated to you, though I won’t deny we were happy to see her go.”
John smiled nervously at this, unsure how to react to someone else’s eternal damnation.
“Come now,” Azriel said, leading John to a chair in front of a large screen. “We prepared some clips for you to see!”
“I’m really not—”
“Don’t be foolish!” Marothe said. “You have to see our favorite parts!”
John felt that, even though they seemed to be adoring fans, it was still not a wise idea to disregard the wishes of the angels in Heaven. He settled himself into the chair and watched the screen flicker on. He wasn’t sure what he expected to see. What followed was a montage of office scenes and moments stuck in never-ending traffic. He remembered a time he had helped someone with a broken down car. He recognized an old lady he had helped across the street in his youth.
Between the mundane moments, however, were the ones he remembered fondly. His parents showing him how to ride a bike and how to play baseball. His friends building a tree fort and playing with cardboard swords. His more awkward high school years as he tried to find his own personality and way in the world. His years in college, spent too often not going to class. His beautiful wife and his lovely children. His friends and coworkers that brought so many smiles and laughs, even if they also infuriated him from time to time. His grandchildren and, as he was one of the lucky ones, his great grandchildren.
As he felt the corners of his eyes prickle slightly, he saw that the angels were openly wiping back tears as well. He thought he was finally coming to understand his own celebrity.