Of course, Paradise is going to be different for everybody. We get the brochures from time to time that tell you to pre-book your ‘ideal Paradise welcome party’ with ‘fully trained staff who can guide you through your first few confusing hours in the Big Place’. Like I said, time isn’t technically a factor here but it can be hard to stop thinking in such terms. The wife and I have chatted about what we think the Big Place is going to hold for us when we get there, although I can’t imagine it’ll be anytime soon, for her especially. She worked as a nurse for forty years and considers doing nothing her payback for that, and although she got a shed load of points for such heroic and selfless work she’s not amassing any on a daily basis now. She says she’s not bothered how long it takes her to reach the Golden Total, as they say when we get promoted we don’t actually remember our loved ones, so why hurry? I don’t think it’s like we forget everyone though; I imagine it’s more that our consciousness moves onto a higher plane where emotions are redundant, so those we loved, hated, pitied, envied etc in life just don’t factor. That’s what I like to think anyway; it suits my outlook better rather than thinking we just forget each other after all these years of marriage.
Anyway, I was telling you about Marty. Well, Marty was one of those guys who was just good through and through. He worked all his life as a school janitor, but that was just a title, as in reality Marty was a guardian angel to scores of kids who went through the school, especially those who came from difficult backgrounds. He’d spend his weekends fixing their bikes, running go-kart derbies at the local community centre and paying for snacks and drinks out of his own pocket. He also used to tell the parents who were short of money that he’d pay for their kids to go on school excursions, give them birthday parties in the school hall and make sure that they all had someone to confide in if they needed it. It wasn’t just the kids though; he’d help the less educated parents with form filling and run Saturday morning reading groups for those who wanted to improve, as well as helping people apply for jobs and writing them references when required. It broke his heart when the council made him retire at sixty and he had to give up his cottage in the school grounds, and even though local people submitted a petition to keep him in the job the council weren’t shifting. Marty was canny though; he approached a local community group and carried on his work from their premises instead and even from his small local authority flat when necessary.
So you understand why Marty came up here with so many points already banked. But instead of relaxing like my missus has, when Marty got up here a year ago he took jobs as a golf caddy, a hotel porter and a volunteer in a children’s nursery. Therefore, his points were racking up at an astounding rate and I knew he wouldn’t be around here for long. He deserves it, especially when you consider that he shouldn’t by rights have been up here at all yet, only being sixty-three when he passed. He even passed in an heroic way; saving a child from the flat upstairs from his when some youngster decided to shove a petrol-soaked rag through their letterbox and light it. Marty jumped through the kitchen window to get to the child and her mother and had gone back for the little girl’s pet cat when the ceiling gave way and fell on him. Ironically, the bloody cat had already jumped out of the window without any of them noticing and was hiding in the bin cupboard so he technically died unnecessarily, but that was just like Marty; he wouldn’t have been able to live with himself if he hadn’t at least tried for the girl’s pet.
So I have to say I’m not surprised he’s gone up already, I personally wouldn’t have expected anything else. I’m quite keen to move on myself which is why I’m even looking at the board, but the wife is happy to wait a while so I might not tell her, as it would only upset her. Trouble is, she’s happy to browse the shops and chat to her friends whereas people like me and my canasta partner Reg are getting quite bored with it all, so that’s why I’m looking for a job. If I get something that will give me lots of points then I’ll be ‘bye bye boredom, hello Big Place’ and I’d be over the moon. Yes, I’d be sorry to go without the wife; the old girl and me have had some great times together over the last few decades (we managed fifty-six years married on earth before we came up here) but I know she’d be okay without me, whereas I don’t know how much more of all this I can stand.
(C) Sarah Butcher 2014