Last night I had the strangest dream: I had died and gone to heaven, and instead of being welcomed at the Pearly Gates by Saint Peter, I was greeted by Pat Boone — and he wasn’t even dead yet.
I immediately asked for God.
“Sorry,” said Boone. “You can’t see him. Nobody can.”
I said, “You mean he’s like Greta Garbo?”
“No, more like Howard Hughes.”
Noticing my confusion, Boone added, “Picture yourself in a hospital emergency room. It takes an eternity to be seen, right? That’s what it’s like here.”
“Look,” I said, “all my life I’ve prayed to God; even confessed my sins to one of his representatives before the guy got excommunicated. Now that I need him, you say I haven’t got a prayer. Well, I’m not moving till hell freezes over. You should be moving heaven and earth for me.”
Just then, I awoke with a start. My REM sleep stage had buckled under all those idioms and my bladder was overflowing with Sprite. Maybe a trip to the loo was all I needed to purge Boone from my dream. Or at least replace him with Carly Simon.
No such luck. As I was dozing off again, I heard a cheerful, “I’m back!”
“Leave!” I yelled. No reaction. Maybe an insult would help.
“By the way,” I said, “I couldn’t stand April Love and I hated Love Letters in the Sand.”
“Well, ain’t that a shame,” he fired back.
“Actually, THAT one I liked … but Fats Domino did it better.”
Yikes! My dream was getting weirder by the second. Here I am at the Pearly Gates talking to an 88-year-old rocker-crooner who isn’t even dead yet. Wasn’t Boone a health nut? For all I know he could still be singing … or at least humming.
Little did I know the best was yet to come once I shushed Boone on his way. No, I never got to see God, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t converse with me. Come to think of it, he sounded a little like Lloyd Robertson.
Here’s the thing: I knew God wasn’t going to give me much time, so I got straight to the point.
First question: Was he pleased with how society has evolved: how people today are so politically correct; how reputations and jobs can be lost over accusations not tested in court? I asked him about poverty; about child abuse, about the Canadiens’ rebuild.
It was the child-abuse question that struck a raw nerve. “You know,” he said, “if I came back today in human form, I’d probably get arrested for child abuse.”
Really? How so?
“For letting my son, Jesus, die on the cross.”
“Do you regret it now?”
“How could I? You’re here, aren’t you?”
I said to myself, under my breath, “Ya, but so are Donald Trump and Céline Dion.”
“I heard that,” God admonished.
When I detected a little laugh in his voice, I couldn’t resist asking if most gods had a sense of humour. His reply surprised me.
“Does the Pope poop in the woods? Didn’t I create Don Rickles?”
“Actually,” God added, “you’ve got quite the sense of humour yourself. Remember when you were thinking about reincarnation?”
“Do you remember praying that you wanted to come back as Warren Beatty’s fingertips?”
“Yes, but I was serious!”
Sensing God was in a jocular mood, I told him I had the perfect joke for him. Yes, I realized he already knew the punchline because God knows everything. But remember, this is a dream.
“Let’s hear it,” he says.
“This young man arrives at the Pearly Gates …”
God quickly interrupts.
“Was Boone there?”
“Irrelevant,” I snap. “Please just listen. So Saint Peter asks the man why he thinks he deserves to go to heaven. The man answers that he’s lived a good life; he attended church regularly, he visited priests while they rehabilitated, played bingo during his wife’s six pregnancies and obeyed all God’s Commandments.”
“That’s all well and good,” said Saint Peter. “But have you ever done anything really COURAGEOUS?”
“Yes,” the young man said. “I saved a woman who was being attacked by two gang members. I jumped out of my car and scrambled down a steep embankment. Then I pulled both guys off her. One was scared and ran away. The other guy wasn’t afraid because he had a knife. It was a bloodbath.”
All Saint Peter could do was shake his head in awe.“When did this happen?” he asked.
“Oh, about 20 minutes ago,” came the reply.