Ink Soup: HEREAFTER: A CONVERSATION WITH HEAVEN'S HEAD HONCHO
by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
SEATTLE, Wash. - I die and wake up in ... some other place. A figure approaches me, a smallish man, bearded, with a fringe of reddish brown hair and a kindly expression.
Hi, I'm Jesus of Nazareth. And you are...?
In my blank astonishment, I mechanically clasp his proffered hand. It is warm, the grip strong.
Don't you know me? I stammer.
Of course I know you, but we like to check.
Clarence Brown, I say.
Yes, I say. Is Dad here?
Dad? Oh, you mean your Dad? Of course. But today is his golf day, I think.
Well, actually I know, but omniscience can be, like, a social handicap, if you know what I mean. It is his golf day, and he just birdied the seventh. When he retrieved his ball from the hole, he noticed that it was dripping wet and dried it with the small cotton towel, 8x15 inches, attached to his bag. Anything else you'd like to know?
Jesus, I begin...
Call me JC, he says, everyone does.
I cannot ...
OK. I'll be back when you can.
Wait! JC, what ... what do I do now, JC?
Do? You've finished doing. This is the place of having done. It's less awkward in Latin. In Aramaic it is downright beautiful. But forgive me, I digress... .
Please don't capitalize. Keep it simple. And forgiving the source of all forgiveness is one of the funniest jeux d'esprit of people like Voltaire, for instance. But don't ask to talk to him. It's his tennis day.
Voltaire is here?
Here? When he's not on the courts, he's chair of UAC.
United Atheists for Christ. We give them a hall rent free, but practically no one ever shows up. Maddy O'Hare is out on the corner thrusting cards into the hands of passersby, but...nothing. Serves them right, say I.
Atheists are here?
Can you think of a better punishment? he says.
I could try. How about being skewered on spits and roasted eternally over hot coals? That's what my first pastor, in the First Baptist Church of Anderson, SC, said would happen to them.
Yikes! says JC. Those Southern Baptists--I think they've been to one too many barbecues. Roasted eternally? That might hurt. We're not for hurt up here. We're for healing. Blaming atheists for their mistake would be like whipping a child for misspelling, say, "Eucharist," which I misspelled for years. I thought it was "youkerist." But who knew Greek? My evangelists, that's who. Especially Luke.
Is Luke here? I blurt, ashamed of the idiotic question before it is fully formed.
Where else? He is Dean of Homeopathic Therapy in the School of Medicine.
People get sick here?
Get sick? Most check in sick. Unlike you.
I'm not sick? Then how'd I get here?
You aren't sick, and what is more ... you aren't here.
You're a writer, remember? Worse, you're a columnist. You will claim to be anywhere, do anything, so long as it doesn't frighten the advertisers and doesn't jump to page eight. Nice talking to you.
Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.