A man and his dog were walking along a road. The man was enjoying the scenery; the broad rolling hills, the clear open skies, and the sweet smells of summer. It suddenly occurred to him that he was dead. He remembered being an old man, lying in a hospital bed, his family gathered around him, and then dying. He also remembered that the dog walking beside him had been dead for many years.
He wondered where the road was leading them. Was he headed for the Pearly Gates, or the other place? What had the sum total of his life added up to, how had the scales of justice tilted for him?
After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall running along one side of the road. It looked like fine marble. At the top of a long hill, it was broken by a tall arch that glowed in the sunlight. Well, if this wasn't Heaven, what else could it be?
So, he stepped up to the magnificent gate in the arch, which looked like mother-of-pearl, and he could see that the street that led beyond the gate looked like pure gold. He and his dog looked around, and he saw a man dressed in a white robe sitting at a desk to one side.
He drew closer and called out, Excuse me, what is this place?
Why, this is Heaven, sir, the man answered.
'Wow, its truly incredible! Can we come in; are we on the ah, Welcome List, so to speak? the man asked.
The Angel opened a huge ledger. Well, that all depends; whats your name?
The man gave his name, and the Angel turned to the right page.
He nodded. Yes, sir, you can come on right in, he gestured, and the gate began to open.
The man smiled. Thats wonderful.
And with that, he started to come in. But, a strange thing happened, his dog began to bark and strain at his leash he didn't want to go in.
The Angel frowned. I'm sorry; sir, but we don't accept pets.
Now it was the mans turn to frown. What, no pets in Heaven? That's doesnt seem right. If hes not welcome here, then I'm not going! Well just keep walking on down this road.
The Angel stepped in front of the man. Now, friend, don't be hasty. This is the Road of Eternity. If you don't come in here, you'll just keep walking forever! Your only alternative is the other place.
The man thought about that for a moment and then turned back toward the road and continued the way he had been going with his dog.
Sorry, Mr. Angel, but Paradise without my dog would be no paradise. And, if the rest of the road is as nice as the piece weve been on, well be perfectly happy out here.
Okay, Mister, its your choice. If you change your mind, you know where to find us.
The man and his dog continued on, and after another long walk, at the bottom of another long hill, they came to a dirt road. Taking the path, they soon came to a shoreline where a small ferryboat was docked. As they approached the dock, he saw a man sitting in a chair and happily fishing.
Excuse me, he called out to the fisherman. What do you call that place over there? the man said, pointing off at a small island just offshore.
Why, that's Heaven, he answered.
The mans brow wrinkled. Well, that is confusing. Just back up the road a piece, a man told me that his place was Heaven.
The fisherman sighed. Oh, you mean the place with the gold street and pearly gates? Nope. That's Hell.
Now, why'd he go and lie to me then? the man said.
Oh, you know them; they lie right up until the last second; hoping to rope in people who would leave their best friends behind. I bet your dog wouldn't go in, would he?
The man shook his head. No, he wouldn't.
There you go. A man will walk into Hell with both eyes open, but a dogs too smart he smells the brimstone, the fisherman replied, getting to his feet. He revved up the little ferry's engine. So, you ready to go, sir?
Can my dog come too?
The fisherman smiled. Heaven wouldn't be Heaven, if we separated best friends.
Travelers to a certain road take note: you might want to take the family pet along; they just might prevent you from making a terrible mistake!
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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