On the Ballot is the Incumbent, and a Few Others

“Listen,” the angel tells Wendell, “it’s an easy decision. All you do is sit down with him. If you like what he has to say, you help him out. If you don’t, you’re free to go.”

“But I’m still dead?” Wendell says.

“You’ll have to talk to the big guy about that.”

“Fine. Take me to him.”

“Right this way,” the angel says pivoting on his left foot towards the ordinary oak door behind his wings. “There are a few ground rules,” the angel says leading him down a long corridor.

“Rules?”

“Yes. Never look directly at the light, and never, never under any circumstances mention the smell.”

“What do you mean?’

“Here we are. Right through there, he waits. Good luck.”

Wendell clutches the door handle with his right hand turning it ever so slowly. He inches the door open just enough to stick his head in.

“Hello?” Wendell says.

“Come,” God says, his voice echoing.

Wendell pushes the door forward a little further until he can slide his body through. The room is grey, but with the bright light of God it looks nearly white. There are no walls or furniture or even a discernible floor.

“Sit.”

A chair appears a few feet in front of Wendell.

“Door.”

“Oh, sorry,” Wendell turns back to shut the door before taking the seat God has offered him.

“I was told you wanted to speak with me,” Wendell says, looking down at his feet.

“Yes.”

“Wh- what can I do for you?”

“Job.”

“A job? For me? I just got here; I was kind of hoping to take it easy, you know. I’ve been working non-stop for as long as I can remember. With all the elections I ran, and dealing with lobbyists… It’s just time for a break. You know what I mean.”

“No.”

“Well, I guess not. You don’t really get to stop working, do you?”

“No.”

“But thanks for the offer, I mean, coming from you that’s really something. Out of curiosity, though, what kind of job is it that you’re offering?”

“Campaign.”

“Campaign? Are you running for something?”

“God.”

“God? You mean you’re running for God?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t understand. Is this an election year?”

“Yes.”

“How often do you have to run for God?”

“Eons.”

“So, you want me to run your campaign?”

“Yes.”

“This is a little odd. You mean, that you, God, have to run for God after a few eons?”

“Yes.”

Wendell stands and the chair fades away. He paces around the room. The light follows his movement.

“This isn’t why I died, is it?’

“Yes.”

“You killed me, just so I could run your reelection campaign? Is that it?” Wendell says stepping closer to the light with his chin in the air, but his eyes closed.

“Yes.”

Wendell steps back and, for the first time, he notices a smell. He turns his head towards his armpit and takes in a few breaths thinking it might be him, but the scents don’t match up. He glances toward the light and remembers what the angel said.

“Who are you running against?” Wendell says.

“Lucifer.”

“Just the two of you?”

“No.”

“Who else?”

“Jesus.”

“Your own son is running against you?”

“No.”

“What? You just said Jesus.”

“Trinity.”

“The holy trinity? You mean you’re running against yourself.”

“Yes.”

“Okay, this is just a little too insane for me. I ran a lot of campaigns with some pretty shady guys, but never have I run a campaign for a guy against the devil, literally and my candidate’s hippy representation of himself, who he happens to call his son. Oh, and by the way, you had that son sacrifice himself on a cross. That about sum it up?”

“Yes.”

Wendell begins to pace again. He crosses his arms and immerses himself in thought. He stops a few steps from the light and the chair reappears just as he begins to sit down.

“Okay. If I do this, you have to do exactly as I say.”

“Yes.”

“First, we have to work on your one word responses. On the plus side, it shows decisiveness, but on the likeability scale you’re not doing so hot. Second, Jesus has an amazing reputation. So, we need some kind of dirt on him. Something that will make the voters come back to you. I think it would be easier to take out Jesus than Lucifer. People like that guy. Can you handle this so far?”

“I can.”

“Look at that. Great,” Wendell says. “Who’re the voters?”

“People of Heaven.”

“Okay, so we have to get the word out about you. We need to talk about all the great things you did during your past administration.” Wendell pauses. “Okay. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head, so, we’ll have to come back to that. Wait. Are you the same God who created all of us or was that another guy?”

“Same.”

“We could use that. God created you. Vote God,” Wendell says turning his head in the direction of the light. “It’s a work in progress.”

“Let’s take a second to think about Lucifer. Again the people love him. He can and will give the people exactly what they want. So, we need to play up the whole burning in hell thing.”

“Can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Lie.”

“No one actually burns in hell?”

“Not everyone.”

“You mean to tell me that hell isn’t really that bad?”

“Some of it’s quite nice.”

“Shit. Do the people of Heaven know?”

“Some.”

“That screws us. What we have to do is promise them someplace more fun than Hell, and I’ve only been here a day and this place is pretty boring. Are you willing to spice it up to keep your job?”

“Yes.”

“Then we need sex, Hershey’s, devil’s food cake. Okay, maybe not that. But basically we need all the good stuff that we loved on Earth that you frown on here in Heaven.”

The chair reappears and Wendell sits down. He holds his arms up and a table appears with a notepad and pen.

“We have got to write out a plan.” Wendell’s left hand begins to write furiously. He stops occasionally. The light floats quietly allowing Wendell the time, space, silence, to work out his strategy. Wendell writes some more, but finally just lays down his pen, it fades away along with the notepad and table. “Thinking about all this, I don’t think we’re going to win.”

“I know.”

Wendell takes in a deep breath having forgot about the smell. He sticks his tongue out and coughs. He looks at the light, but can’t distinguish any shape.

“Listen, don’t give up. We can think of something. Let’s try a human form. The whole light thing will never sell. We need you to be one of the guys. You need to be just like them. Can you do that?”

“Yes.”

“Let me see.”

Like a light switch being turned off God disappears. Wendell sits alone in the dark.

“God?”

Silence.

He hears footsteps behind him.

“God, is that you?”

He hears something above him and then a quick click. A light bulb hanging over his head is switched on. A woman stands in front of him.

“God?”

The woman shakes her head.

“Alright. That’s good. Okay we can work with this.”

The woman is black. Her hair is long and curly. She’s beautiful. Her eyes are black like night and her features are harsh and well defined. She is thin, but tall. Her breasts are small, like her frame. She doesn’t smile and almost seems distant, as if a ghost.

“Okay. First, let’s make you a man.”

The body of the black woman begins to shift in shape. Her small breasts become the muscular chest of a man. Her bubbly butt becomes firmer and larger. Her distinguished cheeks form into a well-defined jaw. Her hair shortens, and a beard grows.

“Alright, that was weird, but we’re making progress. Now you have to be white. I know we already elected one in the U.S., but let’s not push it. And you need to shave. Let’s make your hair a lighter brown, but not quite sandy blonde. Then age yourself a little. Let’s say late forties. Throw a little gray into the hair. Uhhh. Let me think.”

As Wendell talks God changes himself into what Wendell wants him to be.

“Alright let me look at you.” Wendell steps back and stares at God. “Great. Perfect. Now smile.”

God opens his lips in a forced smile. It is obvious he has never done this before.

“Ugh, Jesus,” he mutters under his breath. “Okay, just relax. Say something.”

“Hello,” God says.

“Okay, you sound like a robot. Stop that. Relax. Can you get a TV in here?”

Behind Wendell a TV appears. Static.

“Turn on…James Dean!”

James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause” begins to play.

“Like that, relax, be cool, be tough, sexy. Be everything he is,” Wendell says.

A chair appears a few feet from the screen and God sits. He looses himself in the film as he soaks up every bit of Dean’s performance. He begins to mimic him. Wendell falls back as God begins to howl. At the end of the movie, God is more relaxed. He is almost too cool.

“Now, let’s change your clothes. I don’t think jeans will do it. Let’s get you a nice suit,” Wendell turns away and turns back and God is wearing a suit. “Alright, there, you look great. How do you feel?”

“Good,” God says.

“I thought we talked about elaboration.”

“I feel relaxed, energetic. Like a new me.” God’s robotic tone worries Wendell. He had worked with stiff men before. Vice presidents who had a shot if only they could loosen up. He was the best at what he did and if anyone could get God out of his shell he would be the one. He would be Professor Higgins to his Eliza Doolittle.

“Alright, God. Are you ready to begin?”

“I am.”

“Okay first, what is that smell?”

This is the second chapter of If Heaven Were a Real Place, a collection of short stories about Heaven and what it would be like after thousands of years of human corruption.




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