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To put it rather bluntly, he wasted eighteen years becoming an adult and in that time he developed absolutely no opinions except for the stray, ineffable few that came inherently with the territory. Pacing with a phantom nothing chasing him he swung the wild church doors from their hinges and followed along the procession of the throng of mourners. Had he known that this particular Sunday was to be a young man’s funeral, he surely would have lingered in bed, but as the case was he had made an egregious error and his moral sense told him he ought to at least reserve judgment and corroborate with the dead’s final wishes.
He surpassed the obligatory grieving widow and then the pallbearers all ripe with flexed dexterity and ample hands. Then he came to his car and hurriedly returned back to the campus where his comrades already occupied four of the five red chairs that besieged a lone table laden with coasters and several decks of playing cards and a thin sheet of glass that seemed inexplicably out of place.
“Donny, where the hell have you been?” Jimmy asked with a smirk because he knew where Donny had been and he liked to make a mockery of it in editorials or in conversation because he worshipped only himself, usually in the mornings or late at night, because he found his reflection irrevocably astonishing at both times in particular. Donny only worshipped on an occasional Sunday morning, but he, like Jimmy spent a great deal of time brooding before mirrors and sluicing obscene amounts of alcoholic beverages so what was his true religion?
“I made a blunder, my friends. They were having a funeral. Who knew they would cancel church for a funeral?”
“Did you know the bastard? Tell me you at least knew the poor sonuvabitch,” Aaron said. Portly and opulent he would make a perfect business man someday. Cruel as a bull whip too and with a perfectly ambiguous smile that begged whether he was earnestly happy or maniacally twitching.
“No I didn’t know him, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave. I did, however, make an important decision, my friends, and I think you’ll all appreciate it.”
“Amen! You mean you can think for yourself?” said Richland. He sniffled then laughed and retracted a cigarette with a plume of healthy smoke that filtered through the air and left only Donny in a spasm of coughs. Richland’s anatomy was an anomaly for a college campus. He did no work and attended no classes and was the smartest man in the dorm rooms and passed with the Dean’s signature every semester. Donny’s translation of him to a real business occupation appeared unlikely, but so did his enviable scores, so he barely degraded him.
“I’ve decided, my friends, that I’m going to Hell, and I’m starting next week.”
“Going to Hell?” That was Connors. He was the youngest and he had a habit of devolving everyone’s blossomed opinions back into withering questions that sputtered to a dry fizzle.
“Yes! I have had enough with this church and this life and this campus and it will take me a considerable time to prove to God I am unworthy of his Heavens, but I’m sure by some venture I’ll convince him to leave me alone. I saw three hundred Mexicans in one church today. Three hundred of the grubby colony, all illegal, I’m sure, and I’ve had enough of their oppressive command over the church. From now on, I spend Sundays here and away from those filthy usurpers.”
“Is that all it took to get you to denounce your God. A couple hundred ugly Mexicans? I would have had my Father pay for them to line the aisles a semester ago, Donny. It’s a lucrative business running a church you know?” Jimmy said.
“Lucrative? I don’t know any bastard that thinks that way. They’re all non-profit. There’s nothing lucrative about them,” Aaron said.
“Ha. You of all people ought to know. What do you think they do with all the money in those golden plates? They make a fortune and dole it out amongst themselves and then pretend to worship some magic man in the sky. It only takes a few dollars to maintain a church and a couple thousand to line their pockets.”
“All the more reason to go to Hell then, my friends. I simply couldn’t take seeing them all there this morning. I couldn’t stand it.”
“Then you should have sat for it. I understand God only likes people who can stand up at regular intervals. Poor old folks,” Richland puffed another haze of smoke.
“Yeah Connors, it’s a damn joke, why don’t you laugh at me every once in a while you thick faggot.”’
“And that’s another thing my friends. I’ve seen some of them there as well. Faggots, in the church. They think they can get into Heaven? What business do they have sullying a grand enterprise like the church? God specifically says they are deadly sinners. How arrogant they are, how I want to go to Hell if they can go to Heaven.”
“If you want to go to Hell don’t you think God’ll just send you to heaven to f*** with you? Just to make you more miserable then you’d be in Hell?” Richland leaned inward eagerly.
“So are we all going to Heaven then?” Connors asked.
“Yeah, I guess by his logic. But his logic is pretty damn good. I don’t want to go to Heaven. There’ll be so many people there to hate. I’d hate to be in Heaven, my friends.”
“Well now you’ve screwed us all, Donny. We’re all going to Heaven and it’s all because of you and you’re little reverse psychology God complex. Now I have to go Heaven and waste my time with the degenerates. I swear to God if a faggot wanders on to my property up there, I’ll shoot him dead in a second.”
“You can’t shoot any bastards up in Heaven. That’s why it’s Hell you sonuvabitch. If it weren’t Hell you’d be shooting them all the time.”
“Then maybe, my friends, I do want to go to Heaven. I’d love to… well maybe not shoot to kill, but maim, perhaps.”
The common room was beginning to inundate with other intellectuals, adorned with freshly ironed blazers sporting defunct curling crests that their father’s father’s had invested in and so they were accepted. A few carried books and a few others carried friends, slumped limply over their shoulders, wearing the distraught façade of animated Saturday nights.
“So we do have a real problem then? We’ve all been duped, that duplicitous God,” Jimmy said slamming his fists against the table causing one of the stacks of playing cards to spill sideways like an escalating stairway.
“Sonuvabitch, I think he’s right. I think we’ve had are Heavens and Hells mixed up this entire time.”
“Mixed up? What’re we going to do?”
They sat in contemplation for a great deal of time. Days surpassed them and eventually Richland’s box of cigarettes ran empty and he purchased another to prevent the vapid air from running wet and sloshy again. When he returned he bore dinners and they ate and thought and routinely disbanded every morning to head for the showers and then returned to skip their classes and muse their predicament even longer while it held them at a paradoxical hostage.
Finally, Sunday morning came with the typically dull pop of a weary college campus. The minister and his colleagues, though, were rather stunned when they entered the chapel to prepare for the early service to find five boys of exhaust and age occupying the first pew with anticipation and money hanging from their every whim.