“Did your hear the story about the man who got kicked out of Heaven,” asked Isaiah. Greg sat on the lawn chair beside the old man’s rocker. It was a beautiful summer day, not too hot. A breeze blew across the porch smelling of four different kinds of green: the green of the freshly cut grass, the green of the bushes next to the porch, the green of the open field surrounding the house, and the green of trees bordering the field. When the breeze relaxed a little, the porch was taken over by smells of the house and the kitchen.
Greg smiled, “That sounds like the title to a fiddle tune. No, I haven’t heard about the man who got kicked from heaven.” Isaiah gave a tired laugh. Olivia, his wife came out the door onto the porch
“Pick these beans for me.”
“ That’s women’s work,” snapped Isaiah, the mirth of a moment ago gone. “ Take those beans, back inside.” With a hard look at her husband, she set a bowl and a plastic bag of green beans on the table next to his rocker and walked back inside. Isaiah broke the tension with a wink at Greg. “ She’s jealous cause she can’t be out here with us.” He whispered. “She’s stuck in the kitchen alone. I always pick her daggone string beans. She knows that.” Isaiah pulled a green bean from the plastic bag, picked off the ends and snapped the bean in two before dropping it in the metal bowl. It fell with a dull thump.
“ Let me help,” Greg said pulling his chair closer to the bowl. The aluminum chair leg dragging against the concrete floor of the porch- one of summer’s sounds.
“ Suit yourself,” Isaiah said blankly though he appreciated the companionship. “ Just don’t go too fast. If we get this done too soon, then Olivia will always expect me to get it done fast. I don’t usually have young strapping fellows hanging around getting stuff done in half the time it usually takes. She’ll start getting ideas and I’ll get sent to the old folks’ home.” Greg laughed and joined in snapping the green beans, listening for the plunk as they fell into the bowl. The breeze picked up, blowing green smells onto the porch again.
“ So the man who got kicked out of heaven…” Greg reminded him.
“ Yes, the man who got kicked out of heaven.” Isaiah gathered his wits and an audience of unseen hundreds as he picked the green beans methodically, one by one. “You see there was this man. He was a good man. He meant well. He did right by his neighbors and his kids and his God.” He snapped a bean in half. He raised his volume tauntingly and pointed his voice toward the door. “ He even did right by his wife, even though she was cruel and contentious.”
“ Are you picking those beans!” snapped Olivia’s voice from within. Isaiah winked at Greg. laughed.
“ Well he tried to be a good man, but it wasn’t easy. And he was a praying man and prayed and prayed so fervently, that one day, God sent an angel to him and the angel said, ‘The lord has heard your prayer and he would like to show you a secret.’ The man was filled with awe and greatly humbled. The angel took his soul on a journey.
“ I am going to show you the difference between heaven and hell,’ said the angel. And the angel swept the man’s soul to the gates of Hell. At first, the man was fearful. He could hear people just wailing and screaming in agony. The man had covered his eyes and was scared to look until the angel laid a hand on him and said ‘ look and see!’ So the man looked and saw a really nice banquet hall. With a great big table set for thousands and thousands of people- The man saw a place setting with his wife’s name about forty two seats in from the left end-”
“ Are you done with those beans, yet?” came the iron voice from the kitchen. Greg laughed and Isaiah grinned and nodded with satisfaction. There was an audible plunk in the bowl.
“And the table was set with all sorts of food. Every type of delicious looking dish you could imagine- no green beans, of course.” The sound of stifled laughter came from the kitchen. Another plunk. “It was just one fantastic banquet and if a dish ran out, then it just filled up automatically. And they had wine and drinks flowing from fountains on the table and sweet fruit growing from trees overhead, and – well the place was just extraordinary.”
“ But people were in agony?” Greg prompted.
“ People were in sure agony. Just a-wailin’ and a-screechin’. Crying and yelling. Some just crying at the table. Some screaming at each other and all of them looked starving. Those that hadn’t ripped their clothes away just had them hanging off, they were so skinny. Even with that big feast, they were all starving, but they were already dead, so they just kept starving. Some even took to biting themselves or each other, but that didn’t do any good either, just gave them more to cry about. And the banquet table sitting right there in front of them full of delicious food.”
“Why couldn’t people eat the food on the table?”
“Well that’s what the man asked. ‘ Why don’t the people eat the food on the table?’ and the angel said ‘Look and see.’ So the man looked and saw each person had a golden spoon in their hands, at least those who weren’t using it to stab themselves or each other. And the angel said “ only what is eaten from the spoon will satisfy these souls.’ Before the man could ask why people didn’t use the spoons, he saw that in Hell, whenever someone tried to put food on the golden spoon. It grew long. Too long for anyone to reach it to his own mouth. And so the people in Hell, could not feed themselves. Oh how they were tormented. The angel drew the man away and took him to heaven.” Another plunk in the bowl.
“Now, before they even got close, they could hear the laughter and sounds of good cheer. And when they got to Heaven, the Angel said ‘ Look and see.” So the man looked and saw another banquet table identical to the one in hell. Full of wonderful food. And all the people had those golden spoons just like they had in hell. Except here in heaven, the people were using these long spoons to feed each other. Some man put his spoon in some mashed potatoes and held that long spoon to the old lady across the table and she ate it and smiled and said thank you and told him how good it tasted and reached her spoon to feed him some of the same and they got to remarking about how good were the mashed potatoes and just raving about how great the Cook was and talking about the good memories they had about mashed potatoes and then the fellow next to the old lady got involved and they went on and fed him. That sort of thing was going on all over the table. People were just sharing and cooperating. Sometimes someone found a new dish on the table she hadn’t ever tried before. She would say,’ What is that in the blue bowl?’ and some lady who’d tried it already would say “ Oh darling, you will just love it. Here have some.’ and she would dip her long spoon in the blue bowl and take it to the first lady and they would laugh and rave about how wonderful the food was and praise the cook and go on feeding each other.” The breeze rustled the near empty plastic bag. “And the people in heaven just kept on eating ’til they were full and then they sat with each other and talked and laughed and played cards and jammed on tunes and then they went back to the table for more of that good food. It was just pure heaven, because that is where they were.” The green beans did not make much of a sound as they fell in the bowl but they added a new green smell to all the others. Greg put the broken ends of the green beans into the empty plastic bag to weigh it down against the summer breeze. Something inside him already felt warm and full.
“ So how did the man get kicked out of heaven?” he asked.
“Well, the man got carried away. He ran in and grabbed a golden spoon and joined in the feast. You would too if you saw how much fun folks were having.”
“Was the man dead? How could he join the feast in heaven.” Isaiah looked directly at Greg.
“ Oh, you can join either feast at anytime. You don’t have to be dead. Everyone is invited.” He gathered up the wasted ends of green beans in his lap and handed them to Greg who put them in the empty bag. “ We were working too fast,” he remarked in a low voice. “ But this man was real excited and dug in to a pot of – wouldn’t you know it- green beans. He said ‘ Here, these are good. Who wants some?’
“Naturally several folks looked over and accepted his offer and he reached his spoon over to them and fed them. Before they could respond, he reached for a stewed pork and pushed it to this little girl’s mouth. It was a bit too much and too fast. You know, you have to be gentle when you are feeding others. So the girl missed a bit and it fell to the floor. The girl started laughing because mistakes even happen in heaven. But the man got upset. ‘Oh no!, I didn’t do it right.’ So he reached from the same dish to feed her again. Meanwhile he’d waved off several other spoons offered to him. He was intent on feeding others. ‘ Now you must try more vegetables.’ He said.’Everyone has to have their vegetables!’ By this time, folks in heaven were getting a bit put off. The angel came and got the man and brought him back to Earth. ‘When it is time,’ said the angel, ‘you will learn to enjoy yourself and so let others enjoy themselves too.’ Then it flew away and left the man back home with his wife-”
“So the angel put the poor wife in hell” Olivia came out of the door. She picked up the bowl of snapped green beans. She looked at Greg. “ The surest way to go to hell is to listen to an old fool.”
Greg laughed. Isaiah grabbed her hand as she turned to leave and gave it an affectionate squeeze. Something like a smile formed in her eyes and she pulled her hand away to get a green bean from the bowl and put it in Isaiah’s mouth. Greg smiled as she took the bowl back into the house.
“ The beans in heaven were better cooked!” Isaiah said chewing the fresh green bean.
“ Guess, where you must be then,” she called from inside. Greg laughed again. Afterall, he was their audience while late afternoon blew green on the breeze blowing across the porch.