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“Join with Computer Audio or Test Speaker and Microphone? I never remember which is the right choice.” Why didn’t Derrick prep even just a little bit for this meeting? While it wasn’t his style, this was the big one.

The exit interview of all exit interviews.

“Can you hear me?” Derrick asked tepidly. There was no response, even though Zoom said there was another participant in the room. “Jesus fucking Christ this thing never works,” Derrick blurted out.

“Hey! Watch your mouth!” boomed a voice, confusing Derrick because he actually hadn’t even put his headphones on yet.

“Sorry,” replied Derrick, abandoning his posture and realizing he was already playing from behind. “I guess it’s on. Can you see me?”

“That’s a silly question Derrick. I hope that was a joke, maybe. If so, I very much enjoyed it.”

Derrick felt a light thaw of the room. The voice continued, “Let me turn my camera on for you. I am sure you are curious.”

Derrick’s screen flashed brightly. Blindingly so.

This wasn’t white. It was more than white. It seared like rubbing your eyes after cutting jalapeños… in a solar eclipse. Seconds passed as Derrick’s eyes searched for anything to grab hold of. And then, finally, a silhouette. “This was what all the fuss is about?” Derrick thought for one second before he worried about having his mind read. Could God do that? It had been a while since he read the Bible. “Stop showing your hand, Derrick,” he silently reminded himself.

Sitting there across from him, on his MacBook Pro screen, atop a throne, surrounded by white clouds and a gate, sat God. Derrick couldn’t discern if it was real or a virtual background.

Quick backstory… Derrick died three weeks ago, when a New York City hot dog cart rolled off a curb, causing a scooter to veer into a hansom cab, crashing exactly where Derrick was crossing the street. Most dead people had their call at the Pearly Gates within a few days. God had to read the file, check some game tape, talk to a couple references, and prepare an offer.

But recently the whole COVID thing had complicated a timeless process.

Not only were the deaths piling up quicker than usual (especially in America), but the Pearly Gates had to reconsider their in-person safety guidelines. Yadda yadda yadda… now things were taking three weeks. Today was finally Derrick’s day.

Derrick’s life (and death) was plagued with terrible timing, and not getting a true face-to-face with God was just another example.

Now, Derrick sat drying his clammy hands under the desk, appreciating the distance of the virtual meeting. He remembered professional interviews, where he’d sat on both sides, and waited for God to formally kick things off.

He assumed that the all knowing wouldn’t miss much, and that Derrick’s best strategy would be to show up on-time and look heaven-casual. He didn’t want to play hard to get, but also couldn’t seem too eager. Derrick took stock of his life so he could be prepared for God’s famously challenging introspective quiz.

“How are you feeling?” God began.

“I’m doing alright, I guess. Sucks to be dead and everything. I wasn’t exactly ready for the finality,” Derrick replied. And then added, “Do you know the answers and just want to hear them from me? Like a high-stakes lie detector or something?”

“I’m sorry to hear that. I hope you know it wasn’t anything personal, ripping you from your unfinished life like that. If it makes you feel any better, some people were truly devastated to lose you.” An unsettling silence sat between them. “I don’t want to make excuses, but it’s all a complicated algorithm. Keeps us moving forwards though.”

“I guess we all answer to someone, right?” Derrick offered diplomatically. God laughed, a real laugh… not a hearty laugh but an I-guess-I-never-considered-that titter, like a Steven Wright audience.

Derrick wondered if he’d just scored a few points or if this was even a points based system.

“Well, we’re here today to find you a new final, Derrick. I’ve done my diligence and have a few questions for you, before we make a determination. And my apologies about the format of today’s meeting. We just want to be hyper-vigilant about the spread of COVID. Lot of VIPs up here, as you probably would imagine. So that’s the sitch, today.”

“Lot of VIPs up here” was the exact heaven-casual tone that Derrick had been striving for. Damn, God was good.

“I was really careful about wearing a mask and everything,” Derrick offered. He really hoped this was a points-based system.

“This is not a points-based system,” said God. God was definitely fucking with Derrick a little, but also wanted to be forthcoming. “But that’s good to know, nonetheless.”

God was negging him. Derrick was floored. His friends would never believe this. He tried to record the Zoom, but it required permission from the host. That was going to be an awkward ask.

For the next 10 minutes, God and Derrick went back and forth reviewing why Derrick rigged his high school class election so that he would lose, why he stopped being an organ donor, and why he released his family’s cat into the wild. (Because he didn’t realize the responsibility, because he didn’t want the responsibility, and because cats suck.)

“Okay my last, and most important question: Why do you think you’d be a good fit for heaven?” God asked.

“We certainly have the best of the best among our ranks, so I guess what I’m trying to figure out is what you would bring to our organization.”

Derrick couldn’t believe that even up in heaven, interviews still consisted of the same cookie-cutter questions. God allegedly created the world in six days, but over the course of millenia, still hadn’t found a better closer.

Luckily for Derrick, he’d bombed lots of job interviews, and had heard this question many times. It was the hanging curveball he was waiting on. “To distill my essence down to one thing is complicated, but I think I’ve always been best at bringing people together. Even in my last moments on Earth, I brought together a hansom cab driver and an inattentive scooterist. And though in that case I was the unfortunate landing spot for momentum, maybe I can catalyze momentum for all those VIPs up there.”

“Thanks Derrick. We’ll have a decision in 10 minutes,” God offered before the window reconfigured and Derrick was thrust into a breakout room with a few others waiting on their fates. Derrick muted his mic and turned off his camera. He was really tired of Zooms.

Josh Bard

Josh Bard is a guy. A sports guy, an ideas guy, a wise guy, a funny guy, a Boston guy, and sometimes THAT guy. Never been a Guy Fieri guy, though.

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