I wouldn’t blame you if you thought of me as a real pathetic guy, but I have to admit being a Sunglass Salesman was completely satisfying. Someone’s got to do it. And to be clear, I’m talking about affordable sunglasses, the ones you see at gas stations, the ones you sit on or misplace and have to buy all over again. I loved seeing people try on the various styles: Sporty, Bling, Polarized, Cat Eye, Aviator. They seemed so hopeful, looking into the mirror. Hopeful that my sunglass rack held the exact fit and style their face was designed for. I felt I had something to do with it when they found the one that fit—made me feel connected, sort of touched my heart.
I know everything I say is like total loser mode, but I guess that is sort of the point. I mean if I wasn’t such a bum on earth I wouldn’t be here in the upper realm of heaven with the rest of these bozos. You should see this crew. All those regulars at the laundromat, those guys got in! We are all really close. We love taking nature walks and when we bounce on the trampoline we laugh and shout, Hallelujah! Hallelujah! We do everything together. We eat what we want and only sin when we feel like it. What’s great is when you do sin in heaven it is immediately forgiven. No one holds anything against you.
Sometimes Jesus joins us for a game of ping pong. He says he models his game after Forrest Gump. We laugh. But truth be told, he’s pretty good. Maybe the one thing I could do better than most on earth was play ping pong. I don’t know what it was, I just kept winning. I don’t think I was the most talented, but I could get into the psyche of the other player, especially if he was ahead toward the end of the match. “Looks like you got this game in the bag,” I’d say and smile. “Man, am I gonna lose.” There was something in the way I said it that made them think deeper, until the depth of thought turned to paranoia or straight over-confidence, which would inevitably be followed by defeat.
But it’s not easy getting under Jesus’ skin. You can’t be bothered if you don’t care if you win or lose. When Jesus does lose, he gets mad and all, but seems to be ready to make up for his loss by challenging Saint Peter to a sprint. Saint Peter is slow, always was, always will be.
When my wife died she went to heaven, sure, but to a lower realm of heaven. A fine place, I’m sure, but lacking the perks of our upper tier. I’m not bragging or anything, I’m just saying she wasn’t half bad on earth. I was terrible, and got to the upper tier. She wasn’t so lucky. She was a good mother and a respected member of the community. When I caught wind of her death I walked to where I could see her. I can’t technically cross over to her side, it’s all roped off with those long maroon sagging sausages you find at movie theatres, but we can still converse and maybe even steal a kiss.
“How are you?” she asked. She looked good, like she did when she told me she was pregnant.
“Great,” I said, because I was great.
She told me she missed me. She told me she wished she could have done it all over again.
“Regrets?” I asked.
“Well,” she said. “You know, I wasn’t appreciative. You were a wonderful lover.”
I forgot about that part of life. You know, the sex part. I forgot what it was all about. It’s true, I could hold my own in the sack. But what was there to do now, being roped off and all?
I walked away feeling good. What feels better than your old lover’s regrets? What satisfies more than hearing someone admit they were wrong about you? While I was walking, the gang met me and asked if I was interested in sinning. It had been awhile, and it seemed to them that it was our time to come up with something. I was feeling pretty good so I agreed.
We walked over to Jesus and asked him what he thought of the idea. We like to include as many as possible when we’re sinning. We’re not exclusive about it. He said he was tired from all the ping pong and foosball, and that he had some business to take care of, something the Holy Ghost had to speak with him about. We didn’t pry, we wanted to, believe me we love good gossip, but we also understood that Jesus was sometimes a real private guy, one that doesn’t just tell you all the secrets.
So we congregated at my place. I built a fire in the fireplace and we ate some apple pie and croissants. We sat in a circle and told stories. Then I said, “Well, how should we sin?” Everyone seemed sort of exhausted at the thought. We wanted to sin, we did, but we also wanted to relax and laugh and warm ourselves near the fire. Then we heard a knock at the door. Three solid knocks. I got up and answered the door. Sure enough it was Jesus with a bundt cake and a vegetable platter. Everyone cheered. We ate.
Jesus said, “So have you figured out a way to sin?”
“We got into other things,” said a woman with bangs.
“It’s not as easy as it seems,” said a friend.
“I want to,” I said.
“I want to, too!” said another.
But then I broke out the wine, vintage Shiraz. The wine in heaven is wonderful. We drank and drank and drank. Jesus out-drank everyone, like always. He was laughing and we were laughing and then I thought of a sin. I remembered all the murder of the world.
“How about murder?” I said.
“What about it?” said a friend.
“Murder…to kill,” I said. “Remember?”
Everyone went silent. They were thinking of what it meant to remember.
Jesus left the room and came back with a serrated sword. He held it up and said, “Who’s first?”
I said I was. Truth be told I was a little drunk. He handed me the blade. I looked at it wondering what I should do next.
Jesus said, “I don’t have all night.”
Without another word I sliced off his head. His body fell. We laughed at the severed head on the ground. It sat there, eyes blinking rapid fire.
“No fair!” they said, and each one took their turns slicing off parts of Jesus: limbs first, then other parts like ears and nose and pinky toes.
When we finished with our sin we took the leftovers of Jesus and stuffed them into a grocery cart. Everyone here has at least one grocery cart. They come in handy and sometimes we sit in them and race down steep hills. I wheeled the cart over to the river, everyone was singing some drunken song,
Sin! Sin! Sin! Who doesn’t love to sin?
If you don’t love to sin, then be sure to step right in!
If you don’t dare to share, then be prepared to care!
These weren’t the true lyrics to the song, but like I said, we were drunk and when you have just killed Jesus you don’t always remember words to hit songs.
When we got to the river we dumped his parts in. Rainbow trout rose and chewed on his flesh. They seemed grateful. Their scales sparkled every color of heaven.
Oh, what a sin! we thought. We were so proud to come up with something. But what an exhausting night. A night we didn’t care to repeat for at least another month.
The next morning we gathered at my place for Bloody Mary’s to relieve our hangovers. When we felt almost back to normal we walked over to the trampolines and leaped and yelled, Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Then we took a long nature walk. We talked about our night of sin. It was a wonderful sin, we all agreed. As we walked out of the woods I remembered my children. Wondered when they would die. Part of me hoped they were as useless in life as I was, so they could enjoy the upper realm of heaven. But deep down I knew they were better, they probably followed the example of others, people who knew how to achieve the things beyond a Sunglass Salesman. Like, maybe they figured out how to rise above their circumstances. I laughed at the ambitious twenty-somethings. I laughed and sang a little tune I learned, a tune only known by those of us who have achieved the highest place of eternity.
We, me and my friends, held hands and skipped over to the game room to play ping pong. When we got there we found Jesus, nearly put back together. We laughed because he wasn’t quite right, not yet: his nose was his eye, his ears were his feet, his fingers were his teeth, his heart was his head. But I knew, by the look of him, the way he was holding his paddle by the armpit that he was looking for a rematch.
JP Vallières is the author of the novel, The Ketchup Factory. Some of his work can be found at Tin House, Santa Monica Review, Passages North, and a forthcoming at Shenandoah. Find out more at jpvallieres.com.
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