The Five People You Meet in Hell
In this parody of Mitch Albom's bestseller, the afterlife is infinitely less than it's cracked up to be.
By Rich Pablum
Editor's note: If Mitch Albom’s “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” didn’t exactly leave you pining for eternity, then Rich Pablum’s “The Five People You Meet in Hell” may be your kind of book. Or, as this wickedly funny parody’s flap copy puts it: “If you’ve ever died, expect to die, know someone who has died, raise alpacas, collect Hummel figurines, breathe air, or enjoy line dancing, you must buy this book. You will never think about your thirteen bucks the same way again... If you experience erections lasting more than four hours, please consult your physician.”
For those unfamiliar with the Albom title, “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” tells the story of Eddie, a bitter 83-year-old who feels that his life as an amusement park mechanic is meaningless until a tragic accident ushers him into heaven. There, five people he knew on earth explain the meaning of his life, showing him all the connections that filled his existence with purpose.
Similarly, Edgy Kreep, the protagonist of Rich Pablum’s parable, is a 91-year-old who works a meaningless job at Angeli Pier, a seaside tourist trap that “should have been condemned sometime during the Harding administration.” When a freak accident sends him to “the other side,” Edgy encounters a string of irritating losers and annoying blowhards compelled to explain the meaning of life. As Rich Pablum (a.k.a. author and screenwriter Billy Frolick) sees it, hell in the afterlife is an awful lot like the living hell we endure here on earth, except that every car is a Kia and all the newspaper articles are written by Andy Rooney.
In this excerpt, Edgy has just regained consciousness after his fatal accident...
When Edgy came to, he found he had become the target in a shooting gallery much like the one on Angeli Pier. He was surrounded by plastic ducks. His back was killing him. And a lineup of brats was shooting BBs at his face.
Edgy had a growing suspicion that he was not in heaven. He had yet to see a gate, pearly or otherwise. There was a distinct lack of angels (though there was a hooker named Angel he thought he recognized). No choirs were singing.
Still, he was willing to entertain the notion that his current dwelling was merely a transitional area. Maybe heaven was, as they say, “backed up.” There certainly seemed to be endless requests made by people for entry, not to mention for their pets. Perhaps there was some kind of administrative glitch.
The weird part was that Angeli Pier had deteriorated even further. It was barely inhabited, dark, musty, and smelled like a full clothes hamper.
Some signage he had never noticed before seemed to indicate other changes as well. HELL’S BACKYARD, read one. HELL—2 MILES, said another. H-E DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS IS REAL CLOSE, the third promised.
None of this dispelled Edgy’s faith that he was headed for a peaceful and placid world, a place free of lower back pain.
Crawling his way out of the shooting gallery, Edgy noticed that the kids had disappeared and the midway was empty. Then he heard a voice calling in the distance.
He turned to see a fortyish woman in a yellow sport coat heading his way on high heels.
“C. Alice LeVitra,” she said, extending a well-manicured hand that, fortunately, happened to be her own. “Welcome to Highwater. I’m heading up the Chamber of Commerce.”
“Hold on—did you say ‘Highwater’?” Edgy repeated. “As in ‘Come hell or…”
“Oh, we tend to downplay that whole thing,” C. Alice said. “Why focus on the negative? Highwater has really developed its own identity, and we’re not playing second fiddle to—uh, that other place—anymore. Our schools are top-rated, we have a new ballfield…we’ve even got our own water supply. And the homes are so affordable! May I show you a few?”
“Oh, now I get it—the yellow jacket…the whiny voice…the pushy attitude. You sell real estate…”
“Well, actually, yellow jackets are just the style here. As for the real estate thing, that’s more of a side interest. As I said, I’m very active with the Chamber. I’m all about working to make the community stronger than ever.
“But now that I think about it, there is a fabulous little two-bedroom with a fireplace about two blocks away. Just came on the market today. It’s a fixer-upper or a teardown—it’s up to you, and I can recommend a contractor who is not only good, but fast. We could walk over, or I could drive you…hey, where’re you going?”
Edgy hit the highway. As he walked, he noticed a series of billboards reading YOU’RE GETTING HOTTER…GO TO HELL! On the back of each was a photo of C. Alice and the line, YOU’RE GETTING COLDER…TASTE HIGHWATER LIFE!
Edgy had seen more than one novelty book that made a point that there was an actual town in the United States named Hell. Certain that the billboards were promoting the town, he trudged on.
A bright red Kia slowed to a stop near Edgy. The driver, a middle-aged white man, leaned his head out.
“Whazzup?” he said.
Edgy rolled his eyes.
“Homeboy, I be talkin’ to yo’ ass,” the voice continued.
Oh, brother, Edgy thought, this is even worse. It’s not enough that this guy is driving a Kia, he’s also using outdated urban patois as a way to seem hip.
Edgy began to trot. But the said truth was that, in his condition, he couldn’t outrun a snail, or even a Kia. The car—and it’s annoying driver—drew closer.
“Dude, what’s the four-one-one?”
“Look,” Edgy said. “I need a little alone time, okay?”
“I’m down with that, bro,” the man said.
“Who are you?” Edgy asked, his curiosity getting the best of him.
“Maurice Towne, y’all. But you can call my bad self ‘Mo.’”
“Mo Towne?” Edgy groaned. “God no.”
Mo opened the passenger door and Edgy got in.
By now, Edgy thought he had put it all together. But he needed confirmation.
“So what’s the deal with you?”
“You mean ‘What the dilly-o’? It’s simple. I’m the first person you encounter here. I’m The White Guy Who Insists on Peppering His Speech with Hip-Hop Lingo.”
Edgy gritted his teeth, took a deep breath, then introduced himself.
“Ya got dat right.”
“Do you think you could help me with some directions?” Edgy asked. “I need to, um…get as far away from you as possible.”
“Damn, dat be cold,” said Mo.
“I’m not joking,” Edgy insisted. “You’re seriously giving me the willies, here. If I wasn’t grappling with some major theological issues right now and obsessed with whether I was living or dead and had gone to heaven or hell, I’d knock your block off.”
The car entered the town of Hell, which Edgy recognized again as the Angeli Pier’s midway.
“Oy gevalt,” he said, getting out of the car.
A SPECIAL MESSAGE FROM AUTHOR RICH PABLUM
First, of all, I’m sorry this note couldn’t be personalized. I’ve found that the more I can make individual contact with my readers, the better the —what’s the word…oh, yeah—sales.
That’s why I’m embarking on a national tour this summer to promote The Five People You Meet in Hell. No need to commit to attending in your area quite yet, but keep in mind that it should be quite a scene. We’re thinking of having sushi platters. Do you like sushi? I hated it until I started getting published and going to New York a lot. The town is sushi-crazed, let me tell you. I’m not a big fan of halibut, and salmon can get kind of stringy. But fatty tuna? Yum.
Anyway, I probably shouldn’t even be thinking about the tour when the book isn’t even half finished. I mean, Edgy just got to you-know-where, for crying out loud.
I hope you’re enjoying The Five People You Meet in Hell as much as I sincerely think you should if you believe in love and the human spirit.
If you don’t believe in those things, you deserve whatever horrible crap befalls you. Not that I’m playing whatssisname or anything. I got enough trouble trying to figure out where to find edible sushi in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Rich Pablum lives in Idaho, where he covers competitive yawning for the Edison County Courier. He is researching his next book, “Ventriloquism for Dummies.”
Copyright © 2005 by Rich Pablum. Reprinted by permission. Excerpted from the book The Five People You Meet in Hell by Rich Pablum published by Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. (Available at your local bookstore and at www.simonsays.com. ISBN: 0-7432-7960-3, $ 12.95 )
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