A.J woke gradually, easily and without that gummy taste you usually had in your mouth after waking from a nap. When he realized he was on the monorail at Walt Disney World he rubbed his chin and he was happy he had not been drooling . It had been years since he had been to the Magic Kingdom and he was glad he was back. The monorail car was in was empty and laughed, people were so polite here, at the last stop people saw him sleeping and most likely got on another car. The monorail began to slow and he saw they were pulling into a station the Magic Kingdom station. The doors opened and AJ got to his feet feeling fresh and happy. Stepping out onto the platform he did notice that it was only a one car Monorail but for some reason this did not bother him neither did the fact that as he realized there there only one person at the gate area.
“Hi AJ how was your ride?”
“Good, good.” AJ replied automatically to the tall thin man standing next to the gate. He did double take and then spoke. “Excuse me has anyone ever told you that you are the spitting image of Jimmy Stewart?”
Then from countless movie he heard the man reply in the very imitated ‘aw shucks’ stammer. “I have heard that before.” He said smiling. “Now then do you have your ticket?”
“Yeah I think so.” AJ replied searching his pockets of his shorts came up empty handed. The Jimmy Stewart look motioned towards the shirt pocket of his favorite Hawaiian shirt. AJ felt the pocket then he looked down and saw the gold ticket sticking up. He reached and presented it to the tall man in the suit and tie.
“Oh no, you keep that, just wave it in front of that reader do-hickey there and go right in, I will be right behind you.” The Jimmy Stewart said motioning towards the gate.
AJ smiled and approached the nearest gate and waved it by the reader and then pushed on the turnstile and entered into the park, the flowers in front of the park looked fantastic their colors almost hurt. He heard the Jimmy Stewart impersonator walk up behind him. “So what should I call you?” AJ asked as the man placed his hands on his hips and looked up at the train leaving the station.
“Well oddly enough my name is Jimmy.” He continued with the voice sounding remarkably like the beloved actor. “So I understand you lived in my hometown for a while.”
AJ nodded. “Yeah years ago while I was attending IUP, in fact I had some classes in Wilson Hall where Jimmy Stewart went to grade school.”
“Good old Wilson Hall, sat near the window upstairs, a bit of a draft sometimes in that old building,” He stammered like the original. “well it was new when I went there.” Jimmy said shivering. “It was called the Model School when I went there, and I got my education from a lot of student teachers.”
AJ nodded, this guy was good, he never broke character he must have studied Jimmy a lot for this role.
“Shall we go into the park.”
“Sure Jimmy.” AJ said smiling.
They walked thru the tunnel underneath the train station and AJ noted that the park was not empty at all but most of the people moving around did not look like tourists but Cast Members performing some functions like watering the plants or sweeping the streets and other custodial duties. Jimmy guided him to the steps of city hall and then sat down on a bench outside, AJ joined him easily and happily, they sat for a few minutes and a young lady came up and offered them a ice cold cokes in real glass bottles.
“Thank you darling.”
“Thanks.” AJ said as the girl smiled at him.
They enjoyed the drinks in silence as they watched the Cast Members move around the square, they watched and drank their Cokes with not a word passing between them. It was peaceful and serene. AJ finished his drink and Jimmy took the empty bottle from his hand.
“I am going to walk these empties up the street a bit, can you wait here a few minutes?”
“Sure Jimmy, I can think of far worse places to kill a few minutes.”
“Right you are, right you are.”
AJ leaned back on the bench watching a gardener pick apples from a nearby tree and when the man walked away with a full basket AJ realized he was not alone on the bench anymore. He said “Hi” before he even looked at the man.
“Hello AJ are you enjoying yourself?”
AJ knew the voice but could not believe the company would be so bold, he turned and looked at the newcomer. The blue suit, the pressed white shirt with matching white handkerchief in the breast pocket and the dark tie, it was him. AJ shook his head. “No.”
“Well yes and no.” The kindly voice said coming out of the man.
“You are Walt Disney.” AJ said.
“Well you can call me Walt, but I am not really him.”
“You are not? Well you sure look and sound like him.” AJ said looking down at his finely polished shoes.
“Well he is someone you admire greatly, another creative personality like yourself.”
“I am nothing like Walt Disney, the man built this place.” AJ said motioning around.
“Again yes and no.” The Walt Disney who was not Walt Disney stated. “You see this is your version of Heaven, granted this part you borrowed from Walt Disney World, one of your favorite places on Earth, but with some added features of your own design. Some people’s Heaven looks like their childhood home, some looks like a hotel room, one person’s looks like a bowling alley.”
AJ laughed “That’s funny if this was Heaven I would have to be dead.”
Walt Disney put a hand on his shoulder. “I am sorry to have to be the one to tell you this but you are dead.”
AJ looked at and chuckled, not feeling any fear or even much concern, just really inquisitive. “I feel fine.”
“Of course you do, this is Heaven.” He said chuckling. “Your earthly concerns, worries, fears and weaknesses are gone.”
“I don’t believe it.” AJ countered, but without much conviction.
“Look down at your legs, any psoriasis there, how about anything else you did not like about yourself?”
AJ looked down at his legs showing from his shorts down to his sandals, not a bit of the scaly patches of the condition that had been there most of his adult life. He was amazed also that flabby gut he had carried with him for most of his adult life was gone, instead he had a flat tight stomach. Then he looked at his shoes, he always wore tennis shoes to the Walt Disney World, never sandals because of blisters. That convinced him more than anything that this was not a normal setting. AJ looked back at Walt Disney. “Who are you?”
“I think you know who I am.”
AJ thought about it for a second. “God?”
“Well to your understanding, yes.”
AJ looked up and down at the figure sitting next to him, then leaned back and squinted his eyes and then opened them really wide. “So should I be kneeling or something?”
“If it makes you feel better, but that is not really your idea of God, someone you have to kneel before.”
AJ shook his head. “No, I always thought God was just a really great Creator but not one that did not really need worship, maybe some appreciation for the good job putting it all together.”
“Sort of like when people appreciated your stories, you liked to hear good things and were happy when people enjoyed them, but you mostly did the writing for yourself.”
“Well yeah.” AJ said turning over the idea in his head. They sat on the bench together for a few minutes and AJ thought of the most logical question and for the first time since waking up on the Monorail he got uneasy. It was then that he noticed the sky was darkening and it looked like rain.
“You are thinking about asking the first Big Question, which is why the sky is getting dark and it might rain.” Walt said looking up a the sky. “It is about the only time bad weather comes, so go ahead and ask and lets get this over with.” He said folding his hands on his knees.
AJ nodded, he had never been one to not ask a hard question. “How did I die?”
Walt put his hand on his shoulder. “It was quick and mostly painless, auto accident, no one else was hurt.”
AJ nodded. “Anything I can do about it?”
Walt shook his head. “No, but they were able to harvest your eyes and a nice young man in Kentucky will be able to see thanks to you.”
AJ blinked a couple of times realizing his eyes were still in his head, then remembered this was heaven, no need for the decaying body here. “Well I am glad that my death did some good.”
“That is a very positive way to look at it, but then again you always looked on the bright side of things, that is partially why your Heaven is so delightful.”
There was a long pause as AJ digested the fact of his death then he spoke choking up slightly. “How is Marie doing?”
“You raised a very strong, very positive very caring young woman and she is surrounded by good people who care very much for her.” Walt’s hand rested on his shoulder. “She will be fine.”
AJ got a little choked up thinking about his daughter then took a deep breath. He nodded because he knew that Walt was speaking the truth. “And the rest of my family, my mom and dad, my brothers John and Robert?”
“They are taking it hard but they are strong and will carry on.”
The silence between them was longer this time but AJ was again the one to break it. “Are you sure there is nothing I can do, to comfort them, to reassure them?”
Walt slowly shook his head. “Anything to be done on that side of the grave should be done before you die. You did leave some great and positive memories, stories that people will enjoy for a long time. You were a positive influence on the world AJ not something everyone can say that.”
AJ wiped a tear from his eye.
“Just one more question, will I ever be able to see Marie again?”
“Most assuredly.” Walt said. There was a long pause between them as AJ composed himself and it was Walt who broke the silence first. “in the meantime would you like to look around Heaven it is quite the place.”
AJ wiped his tear and blew his nose with a bandana he found in his pocket. “Well I would like to see Heaven now.”
Walt chuckled and then he looked out at the sky, the dark clouds were gone and the brilliant blue was back. “Lets walk and talk a bit, I have somethings to show you.”
They got off the bench and Walt lead them down Main Street, there was a bakery with the most enticing smells coming from it, then a candy shop displaying all of AJ’s favorite indulgences. Walt slowed and let him look in the window of each shop.
“Wow, this is great.”
“I knew you would like it.”
AJ sighed contentedly as they strolled along, then they came to a street off to the left leading to what appeared to be a residential area. AJ looked up at the street sign, it said one simple word ‘Family’.
“Not the most original street name.” Walt said in a kidding manner.
“This from the name that wanted to call Mickey, Mortimer Mouse.”
Then it dawned on AJ what he was seeing down the side street. “Is that Grandma’s house?”
“Yes.” Walt smiled.
AJ looked at the house across the street from the two story white and gray house. “Is that Grandma Clark’s house across the street.”
“One and the same.” Walt nodded knowingly.
“They are here?” AJ said big fat tears sliding down his face.
“Can I go see them?” AJ said wiping the tears off his face unashamedly.
“Of course, when you want to see more of Heaven come back to Main Street and someone will be here to give you more of a guided tour.”
AJ nodded and ran toward the porch of his grandmother’s house.
He spent time with all his relatives that he seen pass away. He went down to the river with his Uncle Melvin, he helped his grandfather fix a flat on his Scotty trailer, he ate fresh buns from the oven with his grandma Clark and spent long slow summer afternoons playing cards with his grandma Mabel, horseshoes with his uncles and baseball with his cousins. He even got to know his Grandpa Clark who he had heard stories about but never met, he learned all about his time in France during World War One and the difficulties of building damns on the Allegheny river. After some time spent with his Uncle Jim hearing crazy stories about running his gas station he realized he had not seen the rest of Main Street. As he walked Family street towards Main Street he noticed a figure sitting on the bench leaning back, his fingers interlocked behind his head with a fedora pulled over his eyes and coming from under the brim was the tune to New York, New York.
“Hello.” AJ said.
“Hey kid, you have a good time with the family.”
“The best.” AJ said smiling.
The man titled his hat back and AJ was not surprised to see he was talking to Frank Sinatra. “Ready to see the rest of this one horse town?”
“I take it you don’t like it?”
“Oh it is fine as it goes, I can sort of see the attraction of it, but my idea of Heaven is more of a New York Vegas combo.”
“So what are you doing here?” AJ said curious.
“Well as a favor to you, but I am not really here, I mean I am and I am not.”
AJ was confused now. “Walt said the same thing, I think I am missing something.”
Frank Sinatra patted the bench and AJ joined him, then he began to talk in a serious tone. “Okay, this being Heaven we are not really restricted to the regular rules of time and space.”
“So I can be here in your Heaven, at least an exact copy of me is here, and the” and he made finger quotes “real me is in my idea of heaven, singing with Ella, or playing cards, drinking Jack will Jilly and Jimmy.”
“So this is true of everyone in heaven?”
“Sure, your grandmother down there.” Frank Sinatra said motioning down the street. “This is not her idea of heaven, her idea of heaven is different then yours, but now that you have died you, or at least an exact copy of you can now be in her heaven.”
“Huh.” AJ said thinking about it. “So I am in her idea of heaven at this exact moment.”
“You got it baby.” Frank said snapping his fingers. “Hey do you want a drink because I sure could use one, walking you tourists around is thirsty work and there is this bar you have got to see to believe.”
The both got to their feet and Frank led them back to Main Street.
The walked back onto Main Street past a book store and a barber shop, AJ saw that the Mr. Dean was reading the paper and he looked up and waved and motioned for him to come in. AJ pointed to Frank Sinatra and yelled. “Later sir.”
“Take your time, I am ready when your are.” The barber yelled back and went back to reading his paper.
“The Big A.” Frank said pointing the sign above the door to the bar. “Real place or something you dreamed up kid?”
AJ stopped and looked at the exterior of the bar. “The name is a bar that was only a hundred and ten steps from my front door in Philadelphia, but it never looked like this.”
“Wait till you get a load of the interior.” Frank said pulling on the brass handle opening the door wide and ushering AJ inside.
The interior of the bar was perfect properly dimmed lights that were on the edge of cozy, bar stools and tables that were perfectly situated and the bar lining the one wall was warm and inviting. Standing behind it was a figure stocking the shelves as AJ and Frank crossed the room the figure turned around.
“AJ glad you finally made it, MGD or maybe a Rum and Coke?”
AJ looked both ways and found the opening to the bar he ran around and gave his old friend a huge bear hug lifting him off his feet. “You’re here.” AJ said big tears again flowing down his face.
Jamie answered once he put him down. “Where else are you going to find your favorite bartender?” Jamie threw him a dry bar towel which AJ used to wipe off his face.
“Now get on the right side of the bar so I can do some work.”
AJ complied and called for a Rum and Coke. Jamie poured a strong one and then looked at Frank Sinatra. “Jack Daniels on Ice with splash or water?”
“You got it bub.” Frank leaned against the bar. “One of the great things about Heaven the bartender never gets your drink wrong.”
As Jamie got the drinks Frank wandered over to the stage and looked around.
“Who is playing tonight?”
Jamie finished the drinks and then stroked his chin. Well Buddy Holly and his guys are coming over to do a set, of course Elvis will stop in for a bit. Are you going to sing something Mr. Sinatra?”
It was at that point the door opened two new people entered the bar.
“What will it be gents?” Jamie said as the two sat down a stool away from AJ.
“Two Budweiser’s and one for the good Sergeant here.”
AJ looked at the two young men, they seemed familiar and then he was surprised a few seconds later.
“Martian and Houston?”
Martian leaned over to Houston. “Time?”
Houston looked at his wrist which did not have a watch on it. “About thirty seconds.”
“You owe me a beer.” Martian said.
AJ was confused. “Thirty seconds?”
“I said you would recognize us in under a minute, he said it would take you longer as you did not know us very well. I defended you Sergeant, you were always pretty sharp when teaching.”
“Are you guys here all the time?”
Houston spoke up at the point. “No we just stop in to meet Golden Dragons and other guys we served with, have a beer or two and then go back to our personal little slice of heaven. You can join us when any other Golden Dragons show up, if you want to.”
AJ nodded, sure just call me or whatever you do to get a hold of people around here. ”
Martian and Houston finished their beers. Martian burped. “You Sargent will get a telegram, delivered by a big breasted blonde.”
“Really?” AJ said surprised.
The two soldier laughed, the Houston spoke. “How should we know this is your heaven.”
AJ gave both of them a big old hug and the two waved to Jamie and walked out of the bar.
Jamie refilled the Rum and Coke and motioned to the two. “Old comrades of yours?”
“Yeah we served in Somalia together, I did not know them well, I taught security and counter intel classes to the battalion so more people knew me then I knew them. Nice of them to stop by though.”
While they were talking more people had come into the bar, a few of AJ’s uncles, some friends from high school that had passed away. They said hello and welcomed him to the neighborhood. Jamie got everyone drinks but never seemed to be rushed or unable to talk to AJ about his writing or anything else. He was even able to throw a couple rounds of darts with him and still keep all the drinks topped off.
“So when is your shift over?” AJ said after one particularly rousing game of darts.
Jamie laughed. “Whenever I want it to be.”
“Huh?” AJ responded. When he said that Frank Sinatra happened to be walking by.
“Confused by something kiddo?”
AJ stopped for a second then he realized it might have been for more then a second. “A yeah.” AJ said looking around the room looking for something.
“Can’t find a clock, or a wrist watch or any other time pieces right baby?”
AJ simply shook his head.
“Let’s step outside I have something else to show you.” Frank Sinatra lead him and Jamie outside where AJ discovered the streetlights were on.
“Its dark.” AJ stated.
“Yeah its called night.” Jamie said laughing. “Mr. Sinatra do you got this I have a few drinks that need refilled inside.” Jamie said snapping a bar towel at AJ then he grabbed him and hugged him tight.
“Why is it night now Mr. Sinatra and how long have I been here?”
The legendary singer directed him to a bench across the street and the two sat down. “You finally noticed the time thing, pretty observant really it usually takes people a long time to notice it, but you have not even completed the grand tour yet.” Sinatra paused. “This is Heaven, no time, no need to hurry, no need to have clocks because we have time to do everything we want, everything we desire and everything we enjoy.”
AJ thought about it. “So time does not exist here.”
Sinatra shook his head. “No time exists but there is no need for us to count it because it is eternity. You will be as happy in a thousand years from now as you are right now.”
AJ still felt confused.
“If time did not progress in a linear fashion here then everything would be happening at once. While you were sitting down in Grandma Clarks kitchen eating homemade buns, you would also be drinking with Jamie but you could probably not fully enjoy either, so no clocks here, but time does pass,” Mr. Sinatra motioned around them. “thus after hours of being in the bar with your friends it is now night because that is what time you think it should be.”
AJ nodded now beginning to grasp the concept.
“Are you tired or even a little bit drunk?”
AJ took stock. “No not even a little, but I do feel just as good as when I first got here.”
“I am guessing you have not slept since you got here.”
AJ thought about it, no he had not even taken a small nap while sitting on the swing reading at his grandparents.
“You might want to, taking a nap in heaven is a novel experience.” Frank said, then he stood up. “Well kid you think about it for a bit I am going to go back in an sing a bit.”
“Okay thanks Mr. Sinatra.” AJ said waving at the singer. Mr. Sinatra waved back and then passed thru the swinging bar doors. AJ laughed a bit as he thought about it. All the time to do whatever he wanted, no rushing, no hurrying, no deadlines. AJ laughed again at a thought. “No editors or bosses in heaven.”
“No editors this truly is Heaven.”
“Mr. Twain?” AJ said as the man in the white suit sat down next to him.
“Actually up here I just go by Samuel Clemens.” The legendary author said extending his hand. “But you can call me Sam seeing as how you are a fellow wordsmith.”
AJ shook his hand in shock.
“When I was asked to come walk you around I looked up your stuff, I was not fond of the science fictions but I really liked your one short piece titled ‘The Invention of the Boat.'”
AJ just nodded shocked.
“Close your mouth son, unless you are trying to catch flies.” Sam looked at him. “You are not part frog are you?” Sam said with a twinkle in his eye. “I can still see you are in a bit of shock, tell you what lets walk around and I can talk and you can listen.”
AJ nodded again, but luckily his mouth was closed.
“So we are back on your Main Street, he said walking. “I can see you were never really vain about clothes.” He said motioning to the single clothing store on Main Street. “I have been in some women’s heaven where it was clothes and shoe stores for as far as the eye could see. How I ended up in their heaven is beyond me, but I am something of an American Icon or something and one lady in particular was enamored with riverboats so I get to Captain a boat in the antebellum South, but I digress.”
AJ smiled and nodded.
“Ah here is something you should enjoy.” He said motioning to a movie theater. “Here you can watch ever single movie, television show, play or musical you have ever heard of, in fact you can watch things you have never heard in their original language with complete understanding as though you were a member of that time period. I have enjoyed the original Shakespeare on a stage like it was the third night it was performed. I have watch Mr. Kipling read his poetry with complete understanding of his slang and culture references as though I traveled with him to ‘India’s sunny clime.'” Sam said smiling.
“Wow.” AJ said staring up at the marquee which was blank at this particular moment.
“Well give it a try, what would you like to see.” Sam said motioning towards the sign.
AJ thought about it and as soon as he did he saw the words pop onto the marquee ‘The complete Dr. Who, with updated special effects’. AJ looked at Sam confused.
“Oh yeah in this case, instead of the cheap and easy effects that kept the show under budget everything is updated to what you consider the modern era, including it being in color.”
“So I can go in and watch it?”
“Anytime you want?”
“Will you join me?”
Sam shrugged. “Sure I will give it a try.”
Coming out later AJ saw Sam sitting on a bench across the street.
“I did not see you leave.” AJ stated. Sam simply shrugged
“Did you enjoy that?”
AJ nodded enthusiastically, then he thought about it. “How long have you been waiting, I watched every episode, every Christmas Special back to back which should take a little over a month, you waited all this time Mr. Clements?”
Sam laughed and motioned around. “Heaven AJ, no impatience, no hurries, time enough for everything even sitting while waiting for a friend.”
AJ nodded. “So if I sat here waiting for my friend Austin I would not notice the passage of time, I would just be happy waiting.”
“Well yes and no, you see a mind needs to be active and it would seem to you like no time passed until you fried showed up, but most people do not like to waste time, which is a hold over from their time on Earth.”
AJ nodded beginning to grasp the idea. “So you have it on good authority that Austin will be coming?
Sam nodded. “The Methodist pastor who quotes comic books in sermons, most assuredly.” Sam paused. “We could sit here and wait for your friend or we could continue with the tour.”
“Lead on River Boat Pilot.”
They walked a past a few shops some containing games and toys, another was filled with with comic books and then they came upon a small park area. Sam sat and AJ took a place beside him. AJ looked around did not notice anything that grabbed his attention. “What is it you are going to show me now?”
Sam smiled and then put his fingers up to his mouth and let out a whistle. Rounding the corner came five very happy canines running side by side. AJ let out a surprised noise somewhere between a laugh and a scream and got off the bench and got down on his knees. The next then he knew he was engulfed in doggy tongues and jumping fur.
“Girls, girls, girls.” AJ said laughing and trying to look at his dogs.
“Tell them to sit.” Sam stated over his shoulder.
“Sit.” AJ said laughing as two of the dogs had positioned themselves and were licking his ears. Immediately the dogs sat down in a line in front of him, going from smallest to biggest.
“Trina, Taffy, Toby, Tiny and Tabby.” AJ said as he reached out and patted and scratched their heads in turn.
“All your dogs start with T.” Sam observed.
“Just a thing that happened initially and then it got to be a habit.” AJ said playing with his dogs. “Toby and Tater are not here.”
“Nope they are still on the other side.” Sam said motioning down towards main street where AJ had entered Heaven. AJ played with his dogs for a while at least the dogs that likes to play, Toby just sat beside him and watched the other dogs. Toby had been the most messed up dog he ever owned, unsocialized and unhappy most of the time but AJ loved that broken dog more than an other creature he had ever come across and now that dog was back by his side and she had both her eyes again.
“AJ there is more I have to show you.” Sam said placing a hand on AJ’s shoulder and petting Toby with the other.
“You like dogs Sam?”
“More of a cat person, but the merit of a good dog has never escaped me.”
“Sit.” AJ said calmly and happily and the dogs lined up again and posed as if they were on the cover of a magazine. “What about them?”
“They can follow along or you can send them home.”
“Home?” AJ paused ruffling Trina’s ears and looked over at Sam.
“You have a home, right down the road from your grandparents.” Sam stated. “Oh you did not see it yet, Frank was supposed to show it to you. But anyways it is your dream house, ranch style three bedrooms, pool table in the basement with two poker tables and large swimming pool out back.” Sam said reading from a notebook he pulled out.
“You have my house details in a notebook.”
“Special notebook, anything I need to know pops up here.”
“Yep.” Sam said smiling. “So do you want the dogs to come along or wait for you at home?”
AJ thought about for a second. “I guess they can wait for me at home while I finish the tour.”
“All you need to do is tell them to go home and that is where they shall go.” Sam explained.
AJ faced the dogs. “Go home girls.” They jumped up and ran down the street towards the residential area playing with each other as they went.
AJ smiled at Sam. “Lead on.”
They walked further down Main Street and they came to a building that had drapes covering windows and wood door with gold lettering that simply said ‘Supplies and Provisions’.
“Are we going on a trip Sam.”
“Not necessarily. But if and you want to go on a trip you come here.”
“A trip?” AJ asked.
“Go on in and they can explain it to you it to you.”
AJ point his hand on the handle of the double wooden doors. “You ending the tour here?”
“For now, someone else will be along once you are done here.” Sam said reaching out his hand which AJ shook warmly.
“Will I see you again.”
Sam Clements smiled and motioned around. “This is Heaven everything and anything is possible, but to answer your question yes we will meet again.”
Sam tipped a non-existent hat and nodded.
AJ pulled on the brass handle of the door and walked in thru the doors approaching the counter. He looked around and saw no one but noted there was a bell on the counter. He reached out to hit the bell when he heard a voice from behind curtained doorway behind the counter. “Okay I am going I am going.” A large hand moved the curtain aside and out stepped John Wayne.
“Howdy.” AJ said back. The big man was dressed in his very recognizable cowboy gear minus the hat but carrying a large ham sandwich in one hand. “Sorry you caught me at lunch.”
“I can come back later Mr. Wayne.”
“Nonsense, lets get the show on the road, he snapped his fingers. “I know you want to be a Deputy U.S. Marshall chasing a bank robber, ending with a shoot out with a corrupt cattle baron.” John Wayne said pulling out a western belt with a six shooter in a holster from behind the counter.
“I don’t get it what is it you do here?
“You have never been here before?” The Duke asked surprised.
AJ shook his head.
John Wayne slammed the leather belt down, then yelled over his shoulder. “You guys lied to me, you said he had been here before.” There was laughter from behind the curtain.
The legendary actor turned back towards AJ with a quick glance over his shoulder he started to talk. “You can’t lie in heaven, it is pointless, unless.” And John Wayne held up a finger. “it is for a joke.”
“Good to know.” AJ said nodding and smiling.
“It’s not that I hate wearing the cowboy gear but I am much more comfortable in this, with that the Duke’s clothes changed into khakis pants and a blue pullover golf shirt in the blink of an eye. “Let me get one of the other guys out here to explain things to you.” John Wayne said taking a bite out of his sandwich, then around mouthful he yelled “Leo you are up.” Then he vanished behind the curtain. AJ leaned against the counter and wondered who was coming out next.
The curtain moved again and out stepped Leonard Nimoy smiling and chuckling. “It is so rare we get to play a joke on anyone here thanks for being patient with us.”
“No problem Mr. Nimoy but I am a little curious what it is you do here at Provisions.”
“Well do you like everything you have seen in Heaven so far, your family, your friends, your dogs, the movie theater.”
“Oh yeah it is all great.”
“You were a reader were you not?”
“And you also loved movies, television shows and the like, most of them fictional.”
“Yeah, almost every story is some sort of fiction whether it is science, historical, whatever.”
“And you were also a writer?” Leonard Nimoy said reading from the clipboard he had brought with him.
“Yes, not read by many people but I enjoyed writing.” Shrugging as he said it. He looked at Leonard Nimoy who nodded sagely.
“Well we are here to prep you, to equip you and then to send you off.” He then pointed to the right wall which shimmered and then changed into a double door, wood, painted green with brass trim and carved with an intricate geometric design.
AJ looked at the door and processed his emotions, no fear, just curiosity an overwhelming sense of curiously. “What is behind that door?” AJ asked without taking his eyes off the door.
“The question you should be asking yourself.” Leonard Nimoy paused and AJ turned to look at him. The actor had lifted with both hands a large old fashion control panel with large mechanical knobs and buttons on it and placed it on the counter top he pushed a few buttons with heavy clicks and then changed a few switches. “Is what is behind all these doors?”
AJ turned back towards the door and watched it change from the green wooden door to a metal door that would fit in perfectly with the original set of Star Trek, then he heard some more switches being thrown and the it changed into a animated cartoon door that would fit into a Looney Tune feature , then the door changed again to a wooden drawbridge. AJ’s curiosity was just as strong with every change. “Okay what is behind all of these doors?”
Leonard Nimoy threw two switches and two buttons and the drawbridge disappeared and the plain blank wall returned. “Those were doorways into worlds, worlds where you can go on adventures, save the universe, fight the bad guys and return children to their parents from evil pirates.”
“You mean those are doorways into fictional worlds, like Narnia or Middle Earth or”
Leonard Nimoy interrupted him. “A galaxy far, far away, over the rainbow or the Oregon Trail, or even live and fight alongside your own creations like Leo Grant and the crew of the Arrogant Lion or Mrs. Emily against the Opposition.”
“Way.” Mr. Nimoy replied chuckling.
AJ thought about it for a little bit but then asked. “But won’t it seem kind of pointless, the point of the stories are struggles, the possibility of losing it all in the fight that makes those stories seem so important.”
“When you walk through those doors you will forget about Heaven, it will be as if you are whatever character you are portraying, be it a Halfling in your story of the Four Kingdoms, or a crew member on Deep Space Nine or a Time Scout in a Robert Asprin story. You will be uncomfortable and get bitten by bugs and fight with the possibility of losing but when the story is over you can return here and have the memory of the adventure.” Mr. Nimoy said smiling.
AJ stared at the wall that contained the doors he must have stared at it for a good five minutes turning over all the possibilities thinking of all the chances to do things he had dreamed of, fighting dragons, slaying vampires, flying spacecraft, exploring the surface of Mars, the list was well maybe not endless but very, very, very long.
“Did you want to try it out, maybe a short adventure somewhere, you decide the parameters and the extent of the adventure, long or short, hard or easy, it is all up to you.”
“Just like a library the stories are limitless.” AJ mumbled to himself.
“Just like a library.” Leonard Nimoy said smiling.
“I would like to go.” AJ paused for a few moments. “I am not really sure.”
“Totally alright, I can understand it is a bit overwhelming, take your time.”
AJ rubbed his chin. “Can I go outside and think this over.”
“Come back any time.” Leonard Nimoy said waving as AJ left the building.
AJ turned towards the left where he had not been yet and saw that the Main Street ended in Cinderella’s Castle, just like Walt Disney World. He sat down on a park bench and watched some people milling around Main Street, friends and family members going in out of shops and stores. He found a bench and soaked in the sunshine on his face by closing his eyes.
“You were never really totally at peace on the other side were you?”
AJ knew the voice, Walt Disney’s voice, but here he was something more Creator, God, the Almighty, the Alpha and the Omega. “I have a question for you.” AJ said opening his eyes and facing the kindly older man.
“Not everyone gets to ‘It’ but most do, eventually.”
“So you have an answer?”
“You will have to ask the question to find out.” Walt said pulling out a bag of popcorn from somewhere and offering it to AJ.
AJ took a small amount of popcorn and munched on it thoughtfully. “I always heard that you should never ask a question that you did not want to know the answer to.”
“That is wise.” Walt said chewing some popcorn.
“Will it change how I view heaven if the question I ask is answered.”
“You have to ask the question to find out.” Walt Disney replied.
“Maybe I will ask it later.” AJ said haltingly.
“You can ask anytime you want and I will answer.”
“I believe you.” AJ said. The two of them sat on the bench munching on popcorn until the bag was empty then Walt gave him a bottle of Coco Cola and the icy cold beverage hit the spot.
“Would you like to look over the lands.” Walt Disney said motioning towards the castle at the end of the street.
“You mean I get to take a tour of Walt Disney World with Walt Disney himself.”
The man smiled at him. “This is not just the Magic Kingdom, this is every ride, attraction and amusement that has ever been or we wanted to put into a park.”
“You mean the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse and Tarzans Treehouse are both here.”
“Yes, and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is right alongside the Winnie the Pooh Ride.”
AJ decided to tease the Creator. “What about 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea surely you don’t have that.”
“That and the Journey to the Center of the Earth along with some other Jules Verne inspired attractions that never made it off the drawing board.” Walt said motioning around. “But here there is no budget and no need to show a profit with ticket sales. Or even needs for tickets at all.”
“How about sore feet?” AJ asked teasingly.
“Not possible here in heaven and very, very short lines.”
Well Mr. Disney I would love to see your park.” AJ said standing up suddenly with the same energy that he felt when he got here, days or maybe it was weeks or months ago. Heaven was a place of no pain, no worries, and time enough for everything. The question of Why? What was the reason for all of creation could wait.