Wednesday, March 4, 2009

You Can't Take It With You by Michael Pelc

You Can't Take It With You
by Michael Pelc

In the spring of his seventy-second year, while lying in a hospital bed recovering from heart bypass surgery with all sorts of tubes sticking into him and running out of him and with a half dozen monitors attached to various and different parts of his body, Big Ed Darlington of Big Ed's Used Cars had an epiphany. He didn't have any insurance.

Oh, he had health insurance, all right. And life insurance, too. And he even had long term care insurance. On top of that, he had insurance on his car and insurance on his boat and insurance on both of his houses, the one in Jersey as well as the one on the golf course in Florida. But not one of those was the kind of insurance that Big Ed was worried about not having.

You see, there's something about coming face-to-face with death and spitting in its eye that changes a man, that makes him think, that makes him take stock of his life and begin to plan earnestly for the first time about what comes next. So Big Ed Darlington resolved, while he was lying there in that hospital bed with all those tubes and wires and monitors and things sticking into and poking out of his body, that it was high time he took out the one kind of insurance that he didn't yet have in his portfolio – the kind that would get him into heaven.

Now a lot of men in Big Ed's situation make similar resolutions. They give up smoking or drinking or cussing – sometimes even all three. They stop cheating on their taxes and on their wives and on their golf scores. Some of them even start going to church every Sunday. They shock their families in other ways as well, by doing things such as saying grace before meals and kneeling down to pray before going to sleep at night – things they haven't done since they were little boys wearing one-piece woolen pajamas with a button-up flap on the backside. And for the most part, because a close encounter with his own imminent death will do that sort of thing to a man, they actually do mend their ways. For a month or two. Three at the outside. Maybe four at the most.

But Big Ed Darlington was lucky, doggone it. Not three weeks after getting up out of that hospital bed he was run over by a beer truck whose brakes had failed. Killed him instantly, it did. Lucky Ed.

You see, three weeks was just enough time for Big Ed to get his worldly affairs in order, and yet not so much time as to present him with an opportunity to do any backsliding. So, by the time that runaway beer truck with the defective brakes came barreling down Maple Street, Big Ed had already re-written his will, donated his boat and the house on the golf course in Florida to charity, and signed over the majority of his stock portfolio to an orphanage. After all, he figured, you can't take it with you.

So it was that, after a lifetime spent selling used cars with turned back odometers and bald tires, Big Ed Darlington of Big Ed's Used Cars finally had that "insurance policy" he'd been so worried about back when he was in the hospital.

And it paid off, too. One minute Big Ed was crossing Maple Street on his way to deliver some canned goods to a homeless shelter, and the next thing he knew he was standing at the pearly gates of heaven talking with St. Peter. Before long, the two of them got to telling jokes and slapping each other on the back and poking each other in the ribs as if they were lifelong friends and golfing buddies. Then, just about the time Big Ed was getting to feeling real comfortable about being in heaven, St. Peter told a real side-splitter of a joke, something about a guy from Nantucket. Got Big Ed to laughing so hard he thought he was about to wet his pants.

Well a thing like that – a grown man wetting his pants in heaven – can be very embarrassing. So Big Ed took a break from all the joke telling and back slapping and rib poking and all that other male bonding stuff and motioned for St. Peter to lean in close for a minute. "St. Peter," he whispered, "umm … uh … I gotta pee."

"Sure thing, Ed. No problem. Right over there." St. Peter pointed to a large brick building. "Only costs a dime."


"I said it costs a dime. It's what you call a pay toilet, Ed. You are familiar with pay toilets, aren't you?"

"Well, yeah, but – "

"But what, Ed?"

"But I gave it all away. You know, the old bit about 'You can't take it with you' and all that? Well, I took it literally."



"So, you don't have any money with you at all, is that right?'

"Not one thin dime," said Big Ed Darlington, just as proud of himself as he could be.

"Well then, Ed, let me ask you something here, if I might. If it's not too personal, that is."

"Fire away, Pete. Ask me anything."

"Ed, How long can you hold it?"

"Hold it?"

"Yeah, you know, how long can you go without peeing?"

"Oh, I don't know. A while, I suppose. Why? How long would I have to hold it for?"

"Are you familiar with the word 'eternity,' Ed?"

Author bio:

Michael Pelc lives on the west coast of Florida with his wife and a black cat that few visitors have ever seen. His stories have appeared online at Apollo's Lyre, Long Story Short, MicroHorror, Pen Pricks, KidVisions, and Crimson Highway, among others.

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