Impact, page 1
A Short Story
By Z.J. McBeattie
Copyright 2014 Z.J. McBeattie
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, corporations, institutions, organizations, events or locales in this novel are either the product of the author's imagination or, if real, used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
By Z. J. McBeattie
A pang of dread swept through fifty-nine year old Betsy Walsh when the mousey little woman in front of her said, “Oh dear me.”
“I’m sorry?” Betsy replied.
“Well, you see,” she said, “I’m afraid your file has been flagged. You need to go to the thirty-ninth floor, room five.”
“Are you absolutely sure?” She looked at the woman’s nametag. “Are you sure Charlotte? I was told this would be the last step.”
“Yes, well, you came from the nineteenth floor and they don’t have access to all the information. Confidentiality issues, you understand.”
Betsy folded her hands in her lap and rubbed her right index finger over the knuckles of her left hand nervously. She knew this wasn’t the time or the place to get upset. “Can you tell me what that room is for?”
“Oh yes, that’s where the impact review is conducted.”
“Yes, your impact on the world. Just take the elevator up and follow the blue line.”
“Very well, thank you for your help,” Betsy said politely and got up. She had never expected Heaven to be this bureaucratic, first the huge line on the fifth floor for the lengthy identification process. Apparently identity theft was a bigger problem in the afterlife than it was down on earth. Then there was the three hour orientation on the sixteenth floor, followed by the individual assessment on the nineteenth floor. She thought Charlotte would arrange for a relative to meet her in Heaven.
Betsy got into the elevator and pushed thirty-nine. Hopefully the lines would not be long. The impact review just had to be some kind of mistake. She counted off all the good things she had done for others: the fundraisers she had hosted, the hundreds of hours of volunteer work, not to mention the thousands of dollars she and her husband Ted had donated to all those charities.
Exiting the elevator, Betsy followed the blue line down a long hallway to room five. Like all the other rooms, this one had a bit of a smell to it and looked like it could do with a fresh coat of paint. Looking around, Betsy could immediately see that the fifty or so people in the room were definitely the type of people who made an impact on the world. She sat down relieved and waited to be called.
After many people had already been called and others had come to take their places, the double doors leading to the interview rooms opened. “Betsy Walsh, please follow me,” a young man with long greasy hair, wearing a wrinkled tan linen suit, called out. He was not the first person working in the center who Betsy thought could use a shower.
“Have a seat,” he said once they were in the small room. “My name is Ronald.”
Betsy sat in the chair putting her hands in her lap, already rubbing her knuckles in frustration.
“So Ms. Walsh, you probably know we are going to be reviewing your impact.” As he opened a thick file in front of him, Betsy was happy to see that they had kept such good records of all the wonderful things she had done. She relaxed a little and put her hands at her sides.
“Disposable diapers?” the man said looking at her questioningly.
“No, my children wore cotton diapers,” Betsy said confused.
“Not your children. You, you wore disposable diapers.”
“That’s probably true, though I can’t say I remember. My mother could answer that question. She’s here right?”
“The 1988 Amendment to Article 5 holds the child responsible for the impact of the disposable diapers worn,” Ronald said as if that explained everything and then continued on. “Hum, not a lot of bathing as a child.”
“Says here you didn’t bathe a lot as a child. That’s good, although, it appears that you more than made up for it once you hit your teenage years. One hour showers?” he said almost horrified.
“I’m confused. What exactly are we reviewing here?”
“Your impact on the world.”
“What exactly do showers have to do with my impact?”
Ronald leaned back in his chair, shaking his head. “Seven hundred and fifty gallons, on average, that’s how much water your one hour showers in that fancy bathroom of yours with the high pressure spigots used. Seven hundred and fifty gallons. And you showered everyday, sometimes twice a day.”
Betsy’s finger was now scrolling up and down her knuckles. She didn’t know what to say. “What about the thousands of dollars I donated to cancer research?”
“Admirable, but this is your impact on the environment check.”
“Do any of the good things I did count for anything?”
“You mean like driving your kids and their friends to private school and all their soccer games using an average of sixty gallons of gas a week in that gigantic SUV? Or do you mean the air-conditioning you left on all summer because you liked to come home to a chilled house?”
“That’s in there?”
He patted the file. “It’s all in here. Look, I’m going to cut this interview short. Just between the diapers and your water consumption, I’ve got to reject you.” He picked up a big stamp and slammed it down on the folder. “Are you listening to me?”
Betsy couldn’t believe what was happening. She was being rejected from Heaven. Never in her wildest dreams had she ever conceived that this would happen. Her eyes started to water. “Am I going to hell?”
“No, of course not.”
“Then what’s going to happen to me.”
“You’ll get sent back down to clean up the mess you made.”
Betsy wiped her eyes. “Reincarnation?”
“Some call it that. Please go to the second floor and follow the green line to room eight. You know how they say, ‘What kind of planet do you want to leave your children?’”
“Well, you will be one of the children. Good luck Betsy.