A dim-lit bar with greasy burgers and three choices of beer—two are Budweiser variations. A jukebox is playing George Jones.
Heaven, I am convinced, is a place with a jukebox.
It’s quiet tonight. The folks here are mostly out-of-towners. Take me, for instance, I’m an out-of-towner.
The woman sitting beside me is from Atlanta. She lost her husband a few years ago to a work accident. She starts talking about Heaven.
This is not typical barroom conversation. She’s had a little too much to drink. The server has to call her a cab.
She asks if I believe in an afterlife. Before I can answer, the bartender answers:
“Honey, nobody wants to hear about Heaven,” the bartender says. “Why don’t you go wait outside for your cab.”
But it’s too late. We are talking about the afterlife in a saloon. The conversational train cannot be stopped.
The man beside me is a mechanic for factory equipment. He repairs the things that make things.
“Yeah, I believe in it,” he says. “I think going on to Glory is different for everyone.”
A waitress speaks. She’s late-forties. I understand she has a bachelor’s in literature. The money in food service is better.
“Heaven’s real,” she says. “I just know it. I’ve seen it. When I was a little girl, I had an experience, I almost died. I saw things.
“Heaven’s all around us, all the time. Our dead loved ones are in the room with us right now. We just can’t see’em.”
She lost her mother to lung cancer. Her mother was sixty-one.
Everyone has lost somebody.
The busboy-slash-dishwasher enters the room. He’s early twenties. His brother joined the Marines a few years ago. His father abandoned him when he was a teenager. He and his brother practically raised each other.
“I WANT Heaven to be real,” he says. “But it’s too good to be true, man.
“If Heavens is real, then that means miracles, and God, and all that stuff is true, too. And I just don’t know…”
We at the bar COULD try to answer this, but it wouldn’t be right. That’s not how this works. Everyone has a right to their idea.
The woman from Atlanta asks me what I think again. I stumble over my words. It sounds like I’ve got a mouthful of Corn Nuts.
Nice going Mister Author.
In hindsight, I wish I would’ve said something smart. I should’ve told them about Granddaddy who once told me a story:
“You know all them religious people?” Granddaddy once said. “They’re always talking about Heaven, but a lot of’em wouldn’t give a dollar to a hobo.”
Oh, to watch him whittle a stick again.
He once told me there was a big supper in Hell. A grand supper with every kind of food you could imagine. A long table with sweet potato pie, collards, big drumsticks.
“But there’s a catch,” he said. “The people around Hell’s table have elbows that won’t bend.”
He said nobody can feed themselves, they can only hold food at an arm’s distance, and supper goes to waste.
And well, there you have it. The elders have spoken. Eternal Damnation is life without fried chicken.
Then, Granddaddy went on to say that Heaven will be the same as Hell. Identical. Same table. Same supper, same sweet potato pie. Same locked elbows.
Only, in Heaven people don’t need elbows that bend because they feed each other.
I wish I would’ve told that story to my friends at the bar. But then, I was too busy eating a burger my doctor told me not to eat. Or maybe I was too busy thinking about people who have crossed The River. Good people. People who I miss.
We helped that lady into her cab. She’s going to be just fine, she just misses her husband is all. I don’t envy her tomorrow morning.
Yeah. I believe in Heaven.