Friday, April 14, 2017

HELLBOUND by Peter Nolan Smith

TS Eliot wrote that April was the cruelest month of all in his epic poem THE WASTELAND.

Those words rang harsh and true in 2011, as Passover and Easter combined to devastate business in the Diamond District. On Good Friday I waited for two customers to come back as promised. I had three Burma sapphires for an English broker and a quartet of GIA certified 2 carat diamonds for a Korean girl. Richie Boy insisted that I call the both.

We needed the sales.

"No one is coming out today."

The Hassidim were celebrating the last days of Passaich.

"Can you do what I ask for once?" Richie Boy was growing weary of my attitude.

A raise in salary and a bump in my commission rate would elevate my elan, however Richie Boy considered my continued employment at his diamond booth enough of a reward for my hard work. This feeling is not mutual.

"I'll call, but both these sales are dead issues," I complained and picked up the phone.

Neither customer answered the phone and I slumped at my desk.

Scratchy music itched the air.

My co-worker at the diamond exchange on West 47th Street was a born-again Christian and Ava was listening to Brazilian Jesus music at a low-volume.

I didn't understand the lyrics, but the word 'Jesus' was repeated throughout the choruses. Ava fervently believed in the 2nd Coming of the Messiah and the Judgment Day was a tangible date in the near-future.

I tapped her shoulder and Ava turned around to face me.

"Do you think I'm heading to heaven?" I was joking with her, for I hadn't worshiped a God since the early 60s.

"No." Ava shook her head vehemently without condemnation. "You're not going to heaven?"

"I'm not?" My concept of the afterlife consisted of coming back as a skinny blonde go-go dancer, so I can control the destiny of men. Ava's version of heaven was the more traditional kneeling in prayer to the Lord, a boring forever without pain and suffering. Hell was lots of both and I said, "What if I repent at the last moment?"

"Then you go to purgatory after you die?" Ava's congregation believed more in black and white than the gray. It was either heaven or hell without a middle road.

"That's better than hell." The fiery pit was legendary for its lack of cold beer, although the only beverage in limbo was a gray flagon of regrets and heaven's fountains are spraying the ambrosia of .

"Only if you truly repent." Ava was asking a lot from an old reprobate.

"And who decides that?" I had a feeling that the arbiter of eternal salvation would not be fooled by my last-minute re-conversion to my old faith.

"God."

My old nemesis.

"He has to have too much on his plate than to bother with me."

"That attitude will send you to hell. God is all-caring."

"What about the Palestinians? He doesn't seem to care for them and they're living on the Promised Land."

"The damnation of your soul is no laughing matter." Ava harbored no sense of humor on this subject.

"Well, could you tell me when the Day of Judgment is coming?" My sins broached the majority of the Ten Commandments, although I honored my parent and have never killed a soul, save my own, and none of my neighbors' wives are desirable.

"What is so important about when?" The Brazilian was puzzled by this question.

"So I can drink cold beer for a month before I go burn in Hell."

"Damned. You're damned, but I'll still pray for your soul."

"Thanks."

Ava was a good girl and a man like me needed a good girl to pray for his soul, for in Hell there will only be bad girls.

Go-Go girls, whores, sluts, trannys et al.

It will be a Hell of an Eternity and I will be in bad company.

So how bad can it be?

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