Thursday, February 28, 2008

Two themed stories by Charlotte Jones

Two stories
by Charlotte Jones
Theme: How People Go to Hell!

Order Up

Maxamillion looked down in dismay. In his left hand was a plate with two fried eggs, a slice of ham and some hash browns. In his right was a pitcher of coffee. A stained white bib apron covered his jeans and flannel shirt. He shook his head, as if to rid himself of this reality.

“Third booth on the left,” the gum-smacking waitress said. She wore a pink shirtwaist dress with a ruffled white apron. A nametag was pinned crookedly above her left breast and indicated her name was “Angel.”

Max shook his head again, then delivered the food to the booth where a man sat who smelled like he hadn’t had a bath in a week. As Max filled the empty cup, the man slid a twenty toward the end of the table.

“What’s that for?” Max said.

“It’s for you. You’ve been right kind to bring me an extra serving and not charge me for it. You’ve let me sit here for hours in the warmth and I appreciate it since I don’t have nowheres to go.”

Max stifled his revulsion and looked down his nose at the money, which he didn’t touch. “You surely have me confused with someone else.” He glanced over his shoulder and could see the fry cook in the kitchen, flipping eggs and scraping grease into the trap. The cook was a kind-looking, white-bearded man who seemed to float while rushing around the kitchen. Orders were lined up on the counter waiting to be served. Weird images flew into Max’s head – the icy road, the looming tree, the car spinning. He decided to talk to the cook.

Max pushed open the swinging door into the kitchen and the smell of stale coffee, day-old French fries and raw onions overwhelmed him. “There is some mistake!” he said to the cook.

“Not really,” the cook said, not looking up from his duties.

“I – I don’t belong here,” Max said. “Something is really wrong. I have a PhD in economics. I run a multi-million dollar corporation. How did I end up in this diner, for Chrissake? Serving breakfast to the world’s vermin?”

“Suit yourself,” the cook shrugged and gestured over his shoulder with a wave of his spatula toward a swinging door marked “EXIT” on the opposite side of the kitchen.

As Max hurried through it, the flannel shirt was replaced with a white shirt and bowtie, his jeans and apron with an expensive-looking tuxedo. “Where have you been? No tips for you!” screamed the maitre d’.

“My chateaubriand is overcooked!” a customer whined. “Garçon! This wine has turned!” As the door quit swinging, the voices on the other side faded away.

“It’s too bad,” Angel said as she smacked her gum.

“Not really,” the cook said. “His kind never learns how to serve others on earth. He’s not about to learn here OR over there.”

“Too bad he didn’t recognize heaven when he saw it.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” God said as He threw on another batch of hash browns.


The All-Seeing Psychic’s Blind Spot

(Exodus 20:5) - "You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,"

You might say I’m an all-purpose psychic: I can read palms, tarot cards, crystal balls, examine the color of your aura, tell you where you will find true love, how you’ll make a million dollars, tell you when a spouse is cheating on you. I can even tell you where the remains of a murdered loved one are and we can contact any dead relative through a séance so you can tell them you love them or do whatever it is you need to do to get closure. But there is one thing I can’t do. I can’t read my own future. Can’t contact my own dead mother. Not sure I really want to anyway.

Mom, being a devout Catholic, swore to me on more than one occasion that I was doing the devil’s work and then she’d fall on her knees, recite her rosary and beg the Lord Jesus Christ and his mother Mary to save me. And this would typically happen in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner. I, being so very mature, would find some way to go into a trance and announce that I could see she was headed straight for hell. It was all a joke, of course. After a few years of this, my husband begged me to let us stay home on Thanksgiving and watch football, so long as I wouldn’t tell him who was going to win. “Don’t you see that I can help you win the football pools?” I said.

“That’s cheating,” he said.

After about twenty years, he’d had enough of me knowing who was calling him before the phone rang, and he left me. It was a complete surprise to me. I never saw it coming. But we did create one good thing out of our marriage. Our daughter. She’s a brilliant scientist – tells me she’s pushing the frontiers of medical research. Who’d have ever guessed I’d have a scientist for a daughter? But I could see it in her the day she was born and made sure she had all the opportunities in school to get the training she would need.

So I don’t know why, but on the tenth anniversary of my mother’s death, I contacted the best psychic I knew and asked for a séance. I’d met her at the last convention. (Psychics don’t actually go to conventions because we already know what will happen.) I’m not sure what I wanted to say to my mother, maybe tell her I was sorry I’d disappointed her so much. See how she was getting along, how she liked her mansion of gold in heaven, all that. A lot of people nowadays don’t believe in an afterlife, but in my line of work, you sort of have to. Imagine what that would do to business if word leaked out you were an atheist or something.

On the appointed day at the appointed hour, I arrived for my meeting. She was an older woman, really into the whole gypsy-looking get-up, like that would somehow give her more credibility. The peasant blouse, the turban around her head, the hoop earrings, you get the picture. She took me behind a heavy curtain, lit the candles and sat down in the chair, instructing me to sit across from her and hold her hands.

She closed her eyes and began to roll her head around. Note to self: incorporate rolling of head into my séances, makes it look more authentic. Then she started moaning, then screaming like she was in some kind of agony. I wanted to say, “Are you okay?” but was afraid I’d break the spell. Finally, she screamed, “Your mother is suffering greatly! She’s in hell and you sent her there!”

I felt like I was kicked in the gut. It never crossed my mind that she had gone to hell. “How could that be? She was so devout, so religious, so damn perfect?”

“That verse in the Bible that says the sins of the parent are visited on the children is wrong. It’s the other way around,” the psychic said. “In fact most things in the Bible are backwards. It’s a sort of code. So sorry, but your mom is in hell and it’s all your fault.”

Tears flooded down my cheeks. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I sent my own mother to hell? Yes, we had our differences, but I didn’t want this. “Tell her I’m sorry, so very, very sorry. If I change my ways, give up being a psychic, will that do anything for her?”

“It’s too late,” the psychic moaned. “Too late.”

Then that got me thinking. If that’s the way it works, I’m a shoo-in in heaven! Sure, I felt some guilt over my mother, but with my wonderful daughter, saving all those people through her medical research, I’m immune now. I can do anything I want!

As if the psychic could actually read my mind, she added, “And there’s more. Your actions were mild and relatively harmless in the grand scheme of the afterworld, so your mother is only in the first circle of hell. But your daughter. Your daughter has unleashed more evil than the world has ever seen through her work creating clones who will never die. You, my dear, you will be the one to pay for that.”

Author bio:

After a career as a management consultant, Charlotte Jones decided to do something more creative with her life and started writing. Her work has appeared in over 60 literary and commercial magazines, most recently: Nerve Cowboy, Apt, Southern Fried Weirdness, and Barbaric Yawp. She says she probably subconsciously writes about hell because she managed to escape a fundamentalist upbringing.

1 comment:

Rhea said...

Well this is my third time trying to post a comment. Wonder if anyone else is having the same problems? Anyway, I liked the readings. I appreciated the themes. It made me smile, and think and smile again. It got my day off to a bright start. Good job. Tone, voice, character, twists-natural yet skilled elements. OOOps maybe I'm posting over and over:-( Well it's worth many comments. Great read!