This is for the louse who dared me to write a high school romance.


Heaven is not a place on Earth. Earth would be a much scarier place if it was.

- William 'Billy' Deleon

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When William 'Billy' Deleon died, even his minister didn't believe he would go to heaven.

It's not that they thought he was a bad person, per se, but well, the facts were a bit hard to deny, weren't they? Not even his closest and dearest could deny that William Deleon had lived 35 years and wasted every moment of it raising hell and drinking the town's booze supply dry. William Deleon was drunk and high for more years of his life than was strictly legal, in fact, and his legacy consisted of only three things: His son, his ex-wife, and his Iron 883 bike.

Not a sterling recommendation of a person. Small wonder then, that they had a hard time deciding what to put on his headstone. The usual 'Rest in Peace' looked terribly awkward on the headstone of someone who used to drive past the town at three in the morning, screaming bloody murder and whipping his jacket in the air. 'Beloved Father' would be a lie of such immense proportions that lightning would strike them dead for it.

Something generic but well-meaning like "Heaven, the treasury of everlasting joy," would make Billy roll right out of the grave and curse their pompous asses. Besides which, saying Billy was going to heaven would be another lie.

The question of just what to put on the headstone of such a man confounded both minister and dearly beloved for three whole days. Doubly confounded, because unlike other dead, they couldn't guess what Billy would want for himself. Well, they could – had he been alive, he would simply piss on the stone and call it settled – but you can imagine how well that'll go down with the funeral guests, not that there were many beyond his dearly beloved.

It was his son, Jonathon, who finally came up with something suitably crass for dead ol' Billy, and accurately captured their feelings.

They buried him down at Westerly Town Cemetery, row 3-2, in the second cheapest coffin they could find with the third cheapest headstone available. A total of four people were present at his funeral: His son, his ex-wife, his mother, and his minister. A squirrel was also in attendance, chewing a nut thoughtfully on the tree above his grave. On his headstone, written in italics and Vivaldi font, was "Finally."

Everyone agreed that his epitaph was perfect.

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Except for the minor niggling fact that Billy woke up in heaven after all. His first thought when he realized he'd woken up in heaven was that he should have made a bet with someone about it. He could have betted a clavicle. He would have an extra bone now if he did. His second thought was: "Oh shit!" while his third thought was, "Well hell, they lied."

Yes they did, and through their teeth too. Billy quickly found out that heaven was not that nice a place.

In fact, heaven was a terrible place, with everything in varying shades of white and beige and every other boring color you can name. No chrome masterpiece here, no sirree. Somewhere down the line someone had hired a little girl to be heaven's interior designer, and now it looked like something a little girl would sprinkle on her Mother's Day card. All glitter and gross.

Now, Billy had never been the religious sort. It was hard to be religious and be true to himself, and sometime around '85 he'd realized that while he may be a compulsive liar to everyone else, he just couldn't bear lying to himself.

He knew this much though: Drinking, gambling, drugs, adultery, and tattoos? He was never getting an invitation to the post-Judgment Day party. So what the hell was he doing in heaven?

Of course, as his guidance counselor – the fancy name for newbie tour guide – told him, it really wasn't that complicated. Some time ago, someone had come up with the ultimate way to punish evildoers. You see, bad people hate being made to do good things. They lie, cheat, and desecrate public facilities. They do not like to live in a city where everything is goddamned white, where there is no leather, no junk food, no video games, no pillories, no Nazis, and perhaps more importantly, no HBO.

Instead, the good guys went to hell – where they got cigarettes and succubae and 70% cocoa chocolate. Not to mention as a one-time only offer sir – free subscription to CSI and every episode of it hereafter ever made.

The logic was surprisingly sound. Surprising because Billy wasn't used to logic being so logical that even he could understand it. Sound because, if bad people are to be punished, what better way to punish them than to make them spend six hours a day reading self-improvement literature? And what better way to reward a lifetime of goodness than with the best imported cigars? Say amen everyone, and raise your hands.

And thus, Billy found himself cloistered away with all the murderers and liars and cheaters and burglars in heaven, where they had to do community service and better themselves every day.

He was given a three-room apartment, and you'd think that angels wouldn't lie to him, but they did. Three rooms included, in no particular order: The toilet, the bedroom, and the 'room' inside his wardrobe. He spent six hours a day on weekends at the Bettering Center – what else? – bettering himself, and on weekdays he'd be up at the Archive Center – again, what else? – archiving human records.

As Billy liked to tell his friends at the Drinking Center where they drank pink punch with suspicious golden flakes in it, it's like he died just to get a white collar job. Get it, white collar job? Har-di-har. By Satan's blue balls, the place saps the humor right out of the man, and he said as much.

Then they drank more pink punch and went back to living out eternity in heaven.


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