Lush is a bit dazed from falling off of his bar stool. Unfortunately, the only thing to slow his fall was the back of his head hitting the ground. When he opens his eyes, he’s still lying on the floor of Flavio’s bar, with the bar stool tipped over next to him. Much to his surprise, all of the guests seem to have resolved themselves into a dew, all of the lights are out, the washing machine is not running, and even the fridge isn’t making a peep. The rest is silence. From his inelegant vantage point, he takes in his surroundings. Something catches his eye. An emergency exit door is open and a bright light is shining in the doorframe.
“Strange. I don’t recall ever seeing that door before.”
He gives himself a pat-down in the dark to assess the damage. Luckily, everything seems to be functioning as intended.
“I do seem to put the ‘dumb’ in dumb luck”, he thinks to himself while scrambling to his feet. Using the counter top as a guide, he carefully moves towards the open door. As he finally reaches the door, the light from the inside becomes so blinding that Lush has to rummage around in his jacket pocket for his sunglasses, an accessory usually reserved for occasions when Lush wishes to disguise a hangover.
He slides the glasses onto his nose and then, for lack of a better expression, he steps out of the darkness and into the light. Perhaps a year ago, Lush would have been more shocked at seeing where he has arrived. However, after all he’s been through recently, it is only with a slight shrug that Lush registers that he appears to be standing on clouds. In the same moment as he recognises this strange fact, he is jerked forward by the ground accelerating beneath him. Lush stretches out his arms to help keep his balance although it seems impossible for him to fall anyway. The thought of turning back towards the door flashes through Lush’s mind but the stairway to heaven only goes in one direction. If anything, the speed of ascent is rising. He quickly realises that there is no escape from the path he is on. And yet, Lush has a choice. Either lean into it and relax or panic totally. Characteristically, our hero begins to weep violently and scream for help.
After what simultaneously seems like an eternity and an instant, the heavenly elevator comes to an abrupt halt with a quick ‘ding’. Indeed, so abrupt is the halt that Lush finally does lose his balance and… begins to float forward gently!
“Where am I? Someone please help me!”
After a brief moment, he regains his footing and has a look around. He sees a long golden spiral staircase that appears to lead up further into the clouds. The song Nomadi by Alice can be heard faintly playing in the distance.
Nomadi che cercano gli angoli della tranquillità nelle nebbie del nord e nei tumulti delle civiltà, tra i chiariscuri e la monotonia dei giorni che passano. Camminatore che vai cercando la pace al crepuscolo, la troverai, la troverai alla fine della strada.
Now, Lush doesn’t speak Italian, nor even understand it, but, somehow, this music gives him an incredible, almost magical, strength. He charges up the stairs and his fear of the unknown begins to drain away. His distress turns to something more akin to curiosity.
The stairs simply end at some point with almost no warning and Lush finds himself at the back of a long queue of creatures waiting in front of a large, golden gate. The queue is made up of all manner of animals. Elephants, dogs, cats, tapirs, humans, rhineroceroses, dolphins, lions, etc. etc. all waiting to see if their name is on the heavenly list. Lush, being a good Englishman, calmly joins the back of the queue and awaits his turn.
A hammerhead shark in long white robes bearing a stone tablet and a chisel waddles towards Lush before coming to a halt.
“Name and domination, please”, says the shark in the manner of one whom has repeated a phrase many, many times before. As Lush is considering what to answer, a voice from off-stage chimes in loudly: “Timothy, ask him what his favourite champagne is.” In response to the sound of the voice, the shark recoils in fear and then groans. However, he complies.
Lush is grateful to whomever it is who directed Timothy to ask him this, much easier, question. Lush has been preparing his whole life for just this situation. Indeed, this brings Lush back to his childhood days at Eton when this exact question would come up during recess almost every day. Much like in West Side Story, there were rival gangs (the Avions à Réaction and the Requins) and much like in West Side Story, most conflicts were solved through the medium of dance. The Avions à Réaction insisted that nothing but Fistall champagne should ever cross their lips, while the boys of the Requins were convinced without a shadow of a doubt that Moët Chandon Johnson is the nectar of the Gods. Given that neither gang would let Lush join their ranks, his opinion in this debate was, of course, never asked for. In fact, were it to be shared, the only effect it would have had would have been to guarantee Lush a beating. Nevertheless, the situation did allow Lush many a day to contemplate this momentous decision.
“If there is nothing dirtier available, I’d always opt for a Piper-Hodensack”, replied Lush, as soon as he had finished with his revery.
“Let him in, Timothy. He is clearly one of us”, booms the off-stage voice again.
Timothy quickly guides Lush past the assembled riff-raff (none of whom are amused by this blatant preferential treatment) and through the gates. Once Lush has crossed the threshold, the shark points towards an elevator and tells him to press the top button.
Arriving on cloud nine, Lush encounters a human-sized baseball bat with arms and legs [perhaps it would be more accurate to call it a bat-man] lounging in a Marcel Teuer Ass-silly chair. At its feet, there are two empty bottles of 1984 Moët Chandon Johnson. Once the baseball bat notices Lush’s presence, it shifts slightly in its chair.
“Just a moment, please. I need to get my wits about me”, it says and takes a deep breath. On the exhale, it rasps: “Okay, I’m back. How may I be of service?”
“Please do pardon my impertinence, but may I perhaps ask where it is that I am exactly. I will admit that I have a suspicion, but ‘better safe than sorry’ and all that”, Lush asks the baseball almost apologetically.
The bat gives Lush a quizzical look.
“Why… Heaven, of course. I would have thought it would be obvious”, says the bat before adding with a sigh of deep sadness: “Especially given all the effort I’ve put in to the interior decorating…”
Lush, realising that he has offended the bat, swiftly replies: “Of course. Please do forgive me for asking. I can be a bit of dolt at times. From that I can assume that you are, of course, God.”
“Yep”, replies the Bat casually. As He says this, He gestures to a hummingbird-angel to bring refreshments for Himself and His guest.
“How grotesque”, Lush thinks to himself, before immediately wondering if the Bat can read his thoughts.
“Yes, I can”, replies the Bat with an awkward smile.
“Don’t worry about it. Happens from often than you might think. I’m not too concerned with thoughts; actions are what count. Cheers, by the way.”
Lush walks up to the chair to clink glasses with God before downing his glass in one. What follows is a bit of rather inane chit-chat on topics ranging from the weather to champagne to the Bat’s favourite topic: Cricket. As time passes, the fallen soldiers do amass on the floor next to their brethren. Eventually, Lush plucks up the courage to ask a more pressing question.
“Perhaps this is a silly question but… am I dead? Or do You have some other purpose for brining me here? Mysteroius ways and all that. Not that I’m complaining, mind you.”
“Dead? Nope. Just sort of thought it might be fun to have a quick chat.”
“Oh, thank G… You. I was a bit concerned there for a second. Well, God, is there anything in particular you wanted to discuss?”
“First things first: We don’t stand on ceremony here. My friends all call me Bruce”, begins the Bat, before continuining: “regarding your question. It concerns your upcoming mission. To keep it brief. Don’t balls it up, please.”
“Ehm… okay. I hadn’t really given it much thought yet, to be honest. I don’t even think I have fully received my mission yet. There was an incident with a bar stool. It seems like you know better than me, in fact.”
“Don’t worry too much about all that right now. Why must you always make things so complicated?”
“Good.”, says the Baseball Bat with a yawn. “Anyway, that’s enough action for me for today. I must turn in. It’s been a pleasure, Lush. We must meet up again some time soon. My people will contact your people.”
“I look forward to it. One final question before I go: How exactly do I get down from here?”
“Say ten Hail Marys and five Our Fathers…and then I’ll call you a cab!” DPFC/MM/ESG/PS