It had been pretty miserable, tubes stuck everywhere and when they couldn’t find a hole to stick another one in they made one. With no hope of ever getting better it was a relief to see the famous white light. I had no idea what lay ahead but it sure had to be better than what I left. I didn’t expect to be greeted with a parade and marching bands but I didn’t expect what I got either.
St. Peter frowned as he looked at my file. “You haven’t actually been bad or committed heinous sins, but you have been utterly useless, the talents you were given were wasted. That’s a disappointment, after all we had hoped from you.”
“Yes, sir.” What he said was true enough, I hadn’t made the world noticeably better but I hadn’t made it noticeably worse either. What had ‘we’, whoever ‘we’ might be, hoped for? For that matter, what had Adam actually done besides father a few children and eat an apple? I’d fathered children too, and also eaten apples so I didn’t see why he was on my case,
“You should know that I can read your mind, such as it is, but you may have a point. Sadly, the world has many useless wastrels just like you. We’ve talked about it and we’re going to try an experiment with you as our first candidate.”
“Oh, goody” flashed through my mind before I could stop it.
Peter, sensing the sarcasm, frowned and went on. “In your later years you often said that you wished you could be twenty again and know what you knew when you were old. We’re going to see if age and experience actually have any beneficial effect on your type.”
At that moment, a motorcyclist who had failed to check the ‘organ donor’ option on his driver’s license ran into an eighteen wheeler, making an ugly scratch on its paint, breaking a grand total of fourteen bones and putting himself at death’s door. He was to be my second chance; as he slipped away I took over what was left of his body. When I woke up in the hospital, days later, hurting in every nerve and with tubes stuck everywhere I knew exactly what had happened. Peter was giving me a second chance but he was making me pay for it. “The old bastard,” flashed through my mind and I knew that Peter got the message. I wanted him to.
That was the first time.
Twenty years later here I was again, with St. Peter reading his file and shaking his head. Four guys were lined up behind him. Peter introduced them as Michael, Gabriel and Uriel, whom I recognized as archangels, and Lucifer apparently a chastened and forgiven prodigal. I guessed they were there to help Peter evaluate the results of the Second Chance experiment.
“The last time I said that you hadn’t been bad, just useless and a waste of talent. On your second go round you were still useless, but you more than made up for not having been bad before. What do you have to say for yourself?”
I had plenty to say and I was ready to say it loud and clear. I was glad the others were there to hear me. This is what I said:
I was set up to fail from the moment I took over my new body. When I woke up in the hospital I’d been in a coma for several days. I had my old memories and experiences but I didn’t know anything about the body I had taken over. After I’d been awake a couple of days, they gave me a bunch of tests and discovered that I didn’t have any idea of who I was. They attributed this to traumatic amnesia. A day or so later Luther Ambrose, III, Esq, presented his card and told me that his firm represented the Carson estate. He also told me that I was Ronald Springfield Carson, sole heir of the Carson fortune. I had heard of the Carsons, of course, and knew they were loaded. Luther Three Sticks told me just how loaded and I took back all my bad thoughts about St. Peter.
The next day a gorgeous doll shows up at my bedside. “Oh Ronnie, you finally woke up.” She took a hand that stuck out of the cast and said, “They told me that you can’t remember anything, but I know you’ve got to remember Courtney.”
“I don’t know how I could ever forget you, but they tell me I lost all my memory. Would you believe, until the family lawyer came by I didn’t even know my own name? You can help me get my memory back by telling me all about us. I know we must have had some great times.”
And indeed we had. After Courtney came Tiffany and Ashley and Beth and Marge and you get the drift. All of whom tried to help me remember by recalling our adventures together. I always pressed for the details, which they gladly supplied. For them it was a stroll down memory lane..
Well, sir, old Ronnie, had been quite a player. Just after he turned 21, his parents had been killed when their Lear jet ran into a mountain on its way to taking the Carsons to their annual winter holiday in Aspen, leaving Ronnie as the sole heir to the Carson fortune. Having been expelled from four prep schools and Yale, Ronnie entered into possession of his fortune well grounded in dissipation and ready to party and on that foundation had built himself a good life. Not ‘good’ in a Mother Theresa sense, but perfectly satisfactory for Ronnie.
That life was a revelation to me. As a youth I had been shy, polite and deferential around girls; a nice guy, perfectly aware of the tranquility-disturbing effects of hormones on males, but believing that girls were innocent angelic creatures who memorized Bible verses and sold Girl Scout cookies while their minds floated among fluffy white clouds. It was only after my feet had long been nailed to the plank of matrimony that I learned that girls had hormones of their own which demanded attention from time to time. Ronnie seems to have known this from the get go and from puberty had made it his mission to help girls manage their hormones. Although it was essentially doing pretty much the same thing over and over, Ronnie was like a chocolate lover who may become sated at times but is soon ready for more. And here I was with Ronnie’s body, which on the evidence of the photos the girls showed me, was a handsome one, now not only aware of female chemistry but with a ready made harem and plenty of money. This was better than dying and going to heaven, which, in my experience, wasn’t too impressive.
In due course, the casts came off and my personal trainer got the body in shape. With Ronnie’s money and good looks I was a real chick magnet. I remembered ‘Waste not, want not’ from my former life. Guided by that adage, I lived my second life to the fullest. Although I violated only a few commandments, I’ll have to admit to regularly disobeying the one about not coveting your neighbor’s wife. Although when I did covet a wife she always coveted me right back, I suppose it was inevitable that eventually some jealous husband, unwilling to admit that it takes two to tango, would put all the blame on me and shoot me.
I knew that this wasn’t the life Peter had in mind for my second chance. but he knew all about Ronnie Carson before he gave me his body. So there I was, a David surrounded by a bevy of Bathshebas. What did he expect me to do? The first David hadn’t resisted temptation very well, why should he expect me to do better? Instead of leading me not into temptation, Peter chucked me in head first. The evidence is clear that he set me up to fail.
When I finished, the archangels looked at each other. Finally Michael spoke up.
“He’s got a point.” The others nodded agreement. Lucifer winked at me. “I think he’s learned his lesson,” and Uriel said, “I think we ought to give him his wings and be more selective the next time we give somebody a second chance.”
I guess that was the best outcome I could hope for, but I would rather have been Ronnie for a bit longer.