Reggie and the Pre-Afterlife Waiting Room
Reggie, who was obsessed with self-improvement, died yesterday. He had been reading a self-help magazine while walking on a mountain trail and was so absorbed in an article he stepped off the trail and into space. The newspaper account said he fell three hundred feet to the creek at the bottom of the ravine.
When he came to, he was standing at a reception desk, which sat at the edge of an enormous waiting room. As far as Reggie’s eyes could see, there were over-stuffed leather recliners, set about in tasteful, comfortable, single and multiple arrangements. Occupying the chairs were people who were engaging in conversation, patiently reading books or magazines, or quietly meditating. Impeccable stained glass connected floor to ceiling. To the left of the desk was an immense set of exquisitely carved wooden double doors, which were closed. Angelic guards stood motionless at either side of the doors. Above the doors was a backlit sign that read “JUDGEMENTS”.
A dour looking woman sitting behind the desk, whose name tag read Trixie, curtly asked Reggie for his name. She pulled his folder and flipped through a few pages before closing it. Letting out a sigh, she glowered at him over her glasses.
“You’re not supposed to be here yet. We’re not ready for you.”
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“What do you mean?” asked Reggie.
“What do you mean what do I mean? You’re not due here for another thirty-seven years, three months, and six days. What are you doing here?”
“I accidentally stepped off a cliff while reading a magazine,” Reggie answered, somewhat sheepishly.
“Well, that was stupid,” muttered Trixie. “Well it doesn’t matter now. Just have a seat and wait your turn.”
“Wait my turn? For what?”
A deep voice thundered down through the waiting room. “Angela Marie Stone!”
“For that,” said Trixie, as she motioned with her head toward the voice.
Angela, an elderly, small framed woman walked by. She wore a blue robe with an embroidered cat above a breast pocket and blue fuzzy slippers. The two angels opened the double doors, which moved without so much as a whisper. Reggie had a clear view of the doorway but was unable to see what was beyond them. As Angela passed by, Reggie saw Trixie give her a wink. Angela nodded at Reggie and walked through the doorway. The angels closed the doors behind her, and retook their posts.
“Why couldn’t I see beyond the doors?”
“Because you aren’t due to go in there yet.”
“Why did you wink at that lady?” asked Reggie.
“Because I know which way she is headed,” answered Trixie.
“Where is that?”
“Now, I would say that it’s none of your business. You know, you’re asking a lot of questions for someone who has thirty-seven years, three months—.”
“Yeah, yeah. So let me see if I have this straight. What you’re telling me is I have to wait out here before I get to go in there to be judged?”
“I can’t just go in and get it over with?”
“Nope, and there are a lot of people ahead of you. It wouldn’t be fair. Besides, I’ve had a look at your record. I wouldn’t be in too much of a hurry if I were you.”
The voice boomed again, “Roberto Esteban Gomez!”
Roberto jumped from his seat, and with a big grin, took a bow. A small group of people clapped their hands and stomped their feet. As he began walking toward the doors, they rose and cheered, “Rober-to! Rober-to! Rober-to!”
“Well, apparently Roberto has made a few friends since he arrived here,” said Trixie, as she flashed Roberto a thumbs up.
“How long has he been here?”
“Not long. Didn’t you see him come in?”
“No. Well what about all the other people in here. You’re kind of backed up aren’t you?”
“Not that it’s any of your business, but we are doing just fine, thank you. Some people are here a day or two early and are happy to wait, and some are just enjoying themselves and don’t want to go in yet. They can go in whenever they feel they are ready. Of course, there are some who don’t want to go at all because of the life they led. Those folks always go in right on time. But let’s get one thing straight. Nobody goes in early. Not on my watch.”
“When is your watch over with?”
“What can I say, I like what I’m doing and I’m a people person.”
“Well, can I go back?”
“Are you kidding?”
“What should I do then?”
“I already told you. Have a seat in the waiting room. We’ll call you when we’re ready.”
The voice rumbled through the room again, “Reginald Allen Clyborne!”
“Hah! How about that! It looks like all my self-improvement studying is about to pay off! You see, Trixie, it’s all about a winning attitude, an inner self-confidence, a can-do mind set,” said Reggie, as he started to strut toward the doors. “I’ll be seeing you.”
“Reginald Allen Clyborne from Topeka, Kansas!” said the voice.
Trixie smirked as she watched a deflated Reggie return to the desk.
“You were saying?”
“Look, there must be some way to make a deal here. My books and magazine articles all say that all I need is the glow of self-confidence and the world is mine for the taking.”
“Does this look like the world to you?”
“Well not exactly, no.”
“Alright, try to get your arms around what I am about to tell you. This is it. There is no turning back, no do-overs. This, my pissant friend, is where the scorecard is added up. It’s our house and our rules. Now have a seat and wait your turn!”
Dejected, Reggie walked to the waiting room and slumped in a chair. The gentle, flowing light from the stained glass softened the edges of everything in the room. He was hoping to find a self-help magazine. There weren’t any.