Harry Dunn sat with his wife, Gina, at their kitchen table. “Gina, I spent the last week casing the bank, and I got it all figured out. It’s a sure thing.”
“Harry, darling, I wish you’d get out of the business. Get a real job, one that won’t land you in Jail or worse.”
“Gina, I’m fifty. I admit I wasted my life trying to make a quick, easy buck and failed. Gina, what is a fifty-year-old man like me going to do? I don’t have an education. I don’t know nothing. All I can do is steal.”
“Harry, I’m afraid you’re going to end up on a slab with bullet holes in you. What would I do without you? I love you, and I don’t want to be a widow.”
“Honey, you know I don’t take chances. You don’t have anything to worry about.”
“The next day, Harry went to the bank and carried out his plan, but didn’t count on the bank guard, who came out of a back room and shot Harry dead as he pointed his gun at a teller.
Nobody saw Harry’s bodily spirit rise from Harry’s body and hover above the scene. “Jeez, I’m dead. Now what?” As he uttered those thoughts, in the blink of an eye, Harry appeared in the middle of a mob of people. He looked around at people as they seemed to wander around aimlessly. “What the hell is this place? Where am I?” he said as he looked around and saw what looked like an information booth. “And there’s a guy sitting there. Okay, It’s time for information,” he said as he walked through the crowd to the booth.
The man, with long, silver hair, dressed in a tuxedo, looked up when Harry reached the booth. “Yes, sir, may I help you?”
“Yes. Where am I? What is this place? I feel like I’m in a giant, black hole. There are no walls; no ceiling, just a lot of black.”
“Sir, you are in purgatory, and this is now your home away from home for a while.”
“Purgatory? You’re kidding. I thought purgatory was a place dreamed up by religious zealots.”
“I’m not kidding,” my friend. This is purgatory.”
“Who are all these people? As far as the eye can see, there are people milling around.”
“They are the once-alive.”
“You mean they’re dead people?”
“You catch on quick. Very good.”
“Then…then I’m really dead?”
“Right. Give that once-alive man a cigar. Yes, you are. You are really dead.”
“How did I die?”
“You were shot while you were robbing a bank.”
“Oh, yeah, I remember. Gina begged me to go straight. I should have listened.”
“Anyway, why are all these once-alive people just wandering around?”
“They’re waiting, and since there aren’t any chairs in purgatory, they have to keep moving.”
“Waiting? What are they waiting for?”
“They’re waiting for me to send them to their final destination.”
“Where are they gonna go?”
“The kind of life a person lived will determine whether he or she goes ‘up’,” he said pointing, or ‘down’,” he said pointing.
“You mean there really is an ‘up’ and a ‘down’?”
“Of course. Do you think you can become once-lived without being rewarded for your deeds?”
“Tell me. What do ‘up’ and ‘down’ look like?”
“Harry, how would you like a tour?”
“Yeah. Sure. I’d love a tour.”
“Okay. Let’s take that elevator over there. I’ll show you ‘up’ first,” he said and led Harry to an elevator. “Press the ‘up there’ button, Harry.”
Harry pressed the button, and after a moment, the door opened. “That was fast.”
“Actually, Harry, the ride up took us ten years.”
“Ten years? It seemed like a couple of seconds.”
“Time is relative, Harry. Well, here we are. Follow me as I point out a few things. Over there is the country club. It’s always warm and sunny up here so a resident can play golf any time he or she wants. Next to the country club is a mall. A resident can get just about everything there. Those are the residences,” he said pointing. Each resident has a choice of a house or a condo. You’ll notice the golf carts coming and going. Each resident gets a golf cart, which is needed to go from one place to another. Theaters are over there, and restaurants are over there next to the theaters. Nice here isn’t it? Now, let’s take the elevator ‘down there’,” he said and they returned to the elevator. Press the ‘down there’ button, Harry.”
He pressed the ‘down there’ button, and a moment later, the door opened. “I suppose that took ten years?”
“Right. Time is relative. Now, step out and look around,” he said and Harry stepped out of the elevator.
“Wow. ‘Down there’ is nothing but a huge hot tub. It’s as big as all of purgatory. And there are people in the hot tub.”
“The once-alive, Harry.”
“Yeah. The hot tub is filled with the once-alive. Why are they red?”
“Put your hand in the water.”
“Okay,” he said, put his hand in the water, screamed, and jumped back holding his hand. “I’m burned. You let me burn my hand.”
“Yes I did, and all those once-alive souls will enjoy hot, searing water forever. How do you like that?”
“I don’t. Let’s go back to purgatory,” he said and they took the elevator up to purgatory.
“I don’t like this whole set up. How do I get out of here? I want to go home to Gina.”
“That’s not possible, Harry, and if it were, you wouldn’t go back to Gina. You’ve been here for over a hundred years. Gina died a while back and is living in a condo ‘up there’.
“She is? Great. Send me up there so I can be with her.”
“Sorry Harry. According to your file, you’ve been bad, so you can’t be rewarded with the good stuff. Now, you have to join all the others and wait for me to summon you,” he ordered, and Harry floated into the crowd.
“After robbing a jewelry store, 45 year-old James Carter entered the confessional in his church. “Father, forgive me, for I have sinned. I robbed a jewelry store and shot the owner. I think I might have killed him.”
“Shouldn’t you go to the police and confess.”
“No chance. I ain’t goin’ back to jail. Jail is hell. Will you absolve me of my sins?”
“Do you mean you don’t want to be held responsible for your sins?”
“That’s right. That’s why I’m here.”
The confessional curtain was pulled open and a man in with long, silver hair wearing a tuxedo faced James, who was startled. “You think you can steal and kill and be forgiven so you can steal and kill again?”
“Well, isn’t that what you do?” sounding as though he expected an affirmative response.
“No, it isn’t. Come with me,” he said, pulled James out of the confessional, and dragged him to an elevator that appeared, and took him ‘down there’ where he would spend eternity.
While teaching speech and English at a community college, Mr. Greenblatt wrote short stories and plays, one of which won a reading at Smith College. After retiring, he wrote short stories, novellas, and plays. Several of his stories were published in on-line magazines, and others were published in print anthologies.