Heaven or Earth?
Viola was disappointed when she arrived in heaven and discovered that God wasn’t there. It was a beautiful place, suffused with pale yellow heavenly-light and filled with equally beautiful people laughing and singing. She noticed all that and certainly appreciated it. But she’d been waiting all her life to meet God and also had a number of questions for Him. So, though she didn’t want to appear rude, rather than participating in the sing-alongs, she floated from here to there and asked everyone she met if they had seen God.
They were all heavenly-friendly and smiled and nodded. But then they shrugged and said they hadn’t seen Him. One woman even said ever-so-sweetly, “Why would you need to find God when you have heaven?”
As time—or the endlessness that passed for it there—went by, Viola more and more kept to herself, continued to think about God and declined to participate in what she considered the never-ending and a bit tedious smile-fest around her.
After a long period of non-time passed, as she sat alone on a rock contemplating what to do next, a thin, short, bald man approached her. He extended His hand and said, “Hello, Viola. I’ve heard you’ve been looking for me. I’m God.”
Viola jumped up and shook His hand. “God?” she said. “God?” She squinted to either side of Him.
He laughed. “I know what you’re thinking and what you’re looking for. You expected me to be taller and have more hair, right?”
He nodded. “I tried that look for a while. But people were intimidated. I’m not into the throne-thing either.” He laughed. “In this form, I just talk to people, and I get a lot more out of that.”
“I—I have so many questions for you.” She licked her lips. “Okay. Here goes. How did you make heaven and earth? And why? And why do we have to die to get here?” She paused. “And—and—I don’t want to seem ungrateful, especially after what must have been so much work, but why, oh why, does heaven, which is so wonderful, also seem a little . . . dull?”
God laughed. He slapped his thigh.
Viola stared at him. “Why are you laughing?”
He just shook his head. Then He winked and, with a whoosh, slipped down through the floor of heaven.
Viola stared down at the ground. “Wait. Wait.” But He was gone and heaven was strangely quiet.
She sat back down and frowned, considering what had just happened, and especially what hadn’t. Then she jumped up, slapped her thigh and laughed.
Heaven fell away and Viola was back in her office spinning in her swivel chair. There were a few sparkles in the gloom around her, but, other than that, everything looked about the same as ever. Had it been a daydream? A vision? Was she dead now?
A short, thin, bald man came up to her cubicle and peeked in. “I can’t quite remember after all this non-time which came first, earth or heaven, and I sure can’t tell you which is better.” He laughed. “All I do know is, I prefer it down here.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Charlene Anderson received an MA in English Literature from Purdue University and an MA in Research Psychology from San Francisco State University and spent most of her working life at the University of California San Francisco in grant administration. As a child, she always knew she would write, told stories to her friends, and even invented a pen name for herself, Charles Andrè. So, while working on budgets and submitting grant proposals at UCSF, she continued to write and, in 2001 published a novel, Berkeley’s Best Buddhist Bookstore. When Vistas & Byways was launched in 2015, she was pleased to be asked to chair the Editorial Board. She has served in that capacity ever since.
Other works in this issue:
To John Keats