(A bit of chapter 6 from my novel-in-progress, Casey and the Paper)
We stood there against the stone wall, smoking and looking at the Puget Sound. It was nice. I was enjoying myself. If this was the afterlife, I thought, it might not be so bad. My head got to swimming a little bit, so I slowed down and took it easy on the smoky treat.
“My dad used to bring me here,” Hannah said after a minute or so. “We would always do the same thing. We'd go and get a chicken hom bow from that place over there across the street, and then we'd come right here. He'd set me up on the wall and I'd eat my hom bow while he smoked a cigarette and told me stories about his time in the Navy. He was born in the Midwest and had joined the Navy right out of high school, and somehow that brought him out here to Seattle. After he was done in the service, he stayed here and married my mom. Then I came along.”
“Your mom didn't care for chicken hom bow?”
“I don't know. She was gone. She died giving birth to me. I never knew her. My dad raised me on his own.”
“So do you ever catch up with her?”
“Do you ever get the chance to catch up with your mom nowadays?”
Hannah looked at me – looking confused and a little annoyed. “No, of course not,” she said, and turned her gaze back to the water.
I felt really bad, and suddenly it made sense. Her mom was not in the same afterlife as we were, and that probably wasn't good. It made me wonder how one goes about figuring out who is here and who isn't. Perhaps it was a process of elimination – you would go to a gathering of old friends in a common place to see everybody, and you would all be happy and having a good time, and then suddenly someone would say “hey, where's Eddie?” You would all look around and someone else would ask “you mean dirty old Eddie who used to give the finger to nuns outside the hospital and steal milk money from orphans?” And suddenly that knowing look would cross every face, and you all would think to yourselves “aha...I bet I know where that dirty old Eddie is...”
It was like a Russian Orthodox monk friend of mine said to me once, “the first surprise we will have in heaven is finding out who is there. The second surprise we will have is finding out who is not.”
The afterlife could be a real pisser, I guess, if things don't turn out as you expected.