Heavenly Hell

by Jeff Goode

copyright © 2007

(BEFORE THE PEARLY GATES. SAINT PETER, openly flamboyant and flanked by two hunky ANGELS, awaits the arrival of the newly-deceased.)

(Enter RICHARD, in a hospital gown, fresh off his deathbed.)

PETER. Hello, welcome!

ANGELS. Welcome!

RICHARD. Where am I?

PETER. Oh, don’t be naïve. You know where you are.

RICHARD. No, I don’t. The last thing I remember, I was lying on my deathbed…

PETER. Surrounded by your children–

RICHARD. Surrounded by– Oh…

PETER. –And your youngest was saying, "Daddy, you look kinda green" and "Why’s that machine beeping like that?" and then (wrapping up quickly) everything went blurry and then dark, then a bright bright white light beckoning you to the hereafter and yadda yadda yadda BOOM here you are!

RICHARD. (sinking) Yeah, it’s all coming back to me now.

PETER. I thought it might.

RICHARD. So this is the Hereafter?

PETER. This is the Pearly Gates. The Hereafter is just the other side. Which, I guess makes it the Thereafter.

RICHARD. And you are…?

PETER. Saint Peter, of course. A pleasure to meet you. Really, I mean that, I’ve read your file, you’re an amazing specimen of piety.

RICHARD. Hold on. You’re Saint Peter?

PETER. In the flesh! Well, in the spirit, actually. (whispers:) But they both sound kinda naughty, don’t they?

RICHARD. But you’re…

PETER. Mm, yes?

RICHARD. I thought you would be…

PETER. Taller? Darker? Handsomer?

RICHARD. No, I mean — and I don’t mean any disrespect–

PETER. None taken.

RICHARD. –I didn’t expect you to be…

PETER. Go on, say it.

RICHARD. Well… "Differently-persuaded." …Not that there’s anything wrong with it.

PETER. No, of course not. What’s a little abomination between friends? Or between an apostle and his creator.

RICHARD. So it is an abomination, still.

PETER. I prefer to think of it as a FAB-omination.

RICHARD. …Uh, okay.

PETER. Something wrong?

RICHARD. Well, no offense, but… I thought they didn’t let people like you into heaven.

PETER. Jews? Oh, we’re still on the gay thing.

RICHARD. Yeh, no, not the Jews.

PETER. Cuz we don’t. The Jews are out. Three strikes policy.

RICHARD. Then how did you–?

PETER. Well, that was the original plan, anyway. But then how would that look: Jesus up here. All of his apostles down there.

RICHARD. Because they were all Jews.

PETER. No, because they were all gay! Try to keep up.

RICHARD. What?! They were ALL–

PETER. Oh, come on. We quit our jobs to follow a gorgeous, long-haired Galilean around the countryside in togas. And the only woman in the group was there to give pedicures. The straightest guy in the group was Judas, and that’s only because he was a lousy kisser. I mean, seriously, you don’t need a candelabra to see this one coming.

RICHARD. I guess I just thought… I mean, I don’t personally care one way or the other… Not that I’m judging…

PETER. Careful there. Thou shalt not lie. (shrugs) Not that it matters. This doesn’t go in your file.

RICHARD. My file?

PETER. That’s right. Once you’re dead, your case is closed. So this part doesn’t count against you.

RICHARD. It doesn’t?

PETER. No, it wouldn’t be fair. (There tends to be a lot of screaming in this part.) So we score you based off of where you were ten minutes ago. And, let me tell you, mister, you’ve been an exemplary man. Married your college sweetheart. Five children. Deacon of the church. Didn’t turn away from God after your wife’s tragic death.

RICHARD. I knew that was a test!

PETER. And you passed. With soaring colors! Was that too gay? I’m trying to tone it.

RICHARD. I passed? I’m in, then? That’s it?

PETER. What did you think, we were going to torture you first? No, that’s not how things work. Torture was back there. Now, it’s just eternal life! Or more torture. Depending.

RICHARD. That’s great!

PETER. So, welcome to paradise. Here’s your key. Harp. Photo ID. And you’re good to go. Can I get you anything else? Tea? Halo? Wings? ‘Nother harp? Latte? You name it.

RICHARD. Well… I’d like to see my wife, of course.

PETER. Oh, um… I dunno about that.

RICHARD. Please tell me she didn’t go to the other place.

PETER. I’m afraid it’s worse than that.

RICHARD. Worse than hell?! But she was such a devout person. Prayed all the time. In fact, the last week she was alive, she went to church every day.

PETER. You don’t have to tell me. She was tossing up Hail Mary’s practically 24/7, that last week. One of the cleanest souls ever to come through here.

RICHARD. In fact, she died on the doorstep of that church! You can’t have sent her to hell.

PETER. No, no, don’t worry, she’s here.

RICHARD. Well, then I’d like to see her…

PETER. You say that now, but…

RICHARD. You’re not gonna let me see my own wife?

PETER. Oh, certainly, if that’ll make you happy. But I don’t think it will, trust me.

RICHARD. Why wouldn’t it make me happy? She was the love of my life. After she died, I never remarried and was miserable without her every waking moment of my remaining twenty years.

PETER. That was a test, too, by the way.

RICHARD. Well, so what’s the hold up?

(Enter DANA.)

DANA. Richard?


DANA. I’m so glad to see you.

RICHARD. Oh, I am, too. It’s been hell living without you.

DANA. I know. I’ve been watching. But you’ve held up admirably. Congratulations. I hope to see more of you, now that you’re here. We’ll have to go for a latte some time.

RICHARD. A latte? Dana, It’s me, Richard, your husband.

DANA. I wish it were that simple.

RICHARD. Dana, what’s wrong? What aren’t you telling me?

DANA. Richard… I’m married.

RICHARD. Yes, I know. You’re married to ME.

DANA. Uh no. Not anymore.

RICHARD. What do you mean, "not anymore"?

DANA. There’s someone else.

RICHARD. I don’t understand. You married someone you met in heaven? Is that allowed?

PETER. No, of course not.

RICHARD. Then I don’t understand.

DANA. Do you remember Tony?

RICHARD. Tony your high school boyfriend? Tony the guy who beat you so badly you had to go to college out of state so he wouldn’t find you. And when he did find you, he stalked you all through our senior year. And when you and I got married, he crashed the wedding and tried to stab the priest? And then followed us from city to city for the rest of your life, and on more than one occasion threatened our children, and then eventually caught you outside the church, and shot you dead!

DANA. I thought you’d remember.

RICHARD. You’re married to HIM??

PETER. Oh, here comes the screaming.

DANA. I know it sounds strange.

RICHARD. Strange? It sounds completely fucked up. He killed you.

(Enter TONY.)

TONY. Hiya, Richard.

RICHARD. How can you remarry anyway? Is that even allowed?

DANA. Actually, we were already married in the eyes of God.

TONY. And in the eyes of Padre Tio.

DANA. We drove down to Tijuana after our high school prom. I would have mentioned it before, but I didn’t know if it counted. Turns out it did. I can’t believe I never told you this. So, you see, Richard: Tony was my first.

RICHARD. And you were MY first. I didn’t date anyone in high school. I didn’t go to prom. Or Tijuana. I met you my freshman year of college, and realized you were the only one for me. I saved myself until our wedding night.

DANA. I know, but what we did that night… was commit adultery.

PETER. (jumping in, quickly) For her. Not for you. You’re fine.

RICHARD. So now you’re married to him?

TONY. Yup.

RICHARD. I don’t understand. He killed you. Why is he even here?

TONY. I know I did. But in prison I met a really great chaplain and started going to services. I converted to Christianity on the anniversary of her death. Although converted is probably overstating it considering I didn’t really have a religion before that. I’m a changed guy, Richard. I started doing charity work. Helping with the Scared Straight program. By the time I died, I was a deacon of my church. The prison church. That’s something we have in common, Richard. We’re both deacons.

RICHARD. Yeah, you and me and the BTK killer.

DANA. He’s really much nicer now than he was in high school.

RICHARD. Yeah, but what about me? Do I get to marry someone else in heaven?

PETER. No, you’re married to her. That’s forever.

DANA. But I can never be with you. Sorry.

RICHARD. I wasted my whole life. Waiting for you.

PETER. That’s good. That’s why you’re here. If you HAD remarried, and never repented of it, you might have gone to the other place.

RICHARD. What about her? Doesn’t she have to repent for marrying me?

DANA. Why do you think I spent the last 3 weeks of my life going to church?

RICHARD. You were repenting of ever marrying me?!

DANA. It’s nothing personal, Richard. I was repenting everything.

PETER. She was very thorough.

DANA. I’m sorry, darling. What we did was wrong. And I’m sorry I did it. (to Tony) I’m still sorry.

TONY. Hey, you’re forgiven. Don’t beat yourself up.

PETER. (cheerily) And now you’ve both died with unblemished souls! And you can enjoy living together forever in eternity. Just not together.

RICHARD. Watching my wife schtupping the thug who murdered her?

TONY. The REPENTENT thug who murdered her.

PETER. Whatever makes you happy.

TONY. I know what makes me happy.

DANA. Aw, honey. (kisses him)

RICHARD. Am I the only one who sees that this is wrong?

PETER. Oh, it’s not wrong.

RICHARD. Of course it’s wrong! I was a GOOD Christian my whole life. I didn’t have extra-marital sex. I didn’t have pre-marital sex. I lost my virginity to this woman on our wedding night. I stayed true to her my whole life. Only to get to heaven and find out I’m screwed out of eternal happiness because my wife was a BAD Christian, but now she’s sorry.

PETER. Would you rather be in hell?

RICHARD. I am in hell.

PETER. Now, I wouldn’t talk like that. This isn’t hell. It’s more like a nightmare. A recurring nightmare of watching your wife get nailed by her ex-boyfriend, over and over again, forever. That’s gotta be rough.

RICHARD. And this is your idea of eternal happiness?

PETER. Well, now, Richard, nobody ever promised you eternal happiness. What we promised you was eternal LIFE. Well… (looks at his watch) …Good luck with that.

ANGELS. Right this way, sir.

TONY. It’s really good to see you.

RICHARD. Fuck off.

(ANGELS escort RICHARD into heaven with DANA and TONY. SAINT PETER smiles and waits for the next arrival…)