Gentle and Patient reader, if you remember Jimmy and Sally were last seen being talked to by a very thin man wearing a top hat, who may not have even been a man at all, but rather a living skeleton, in the Young Adult Section of the Grove of Suicides.
You may also remember that our favorite children had been trapped for years in the afterlife due to a misunderstanding over the fundamental nature of how coupons function, a paperwork mishap, and the general slowness of the After Life Judicial System. Being dead for so long isn’t something Jimmy and Sally were used to. Yet, here they were, still dead years after they died.
They had been dead so long this time that everyone they knew back on Earth had expired. Neither Sally nor Jimmy knew this, of course. Those on the other side of the veil experience the passage of time differently than the living; that is to say they have no real concept of it. It’s always “now” in the afterlife. There is no tomorrow and all the yesterdays are fuzzy and blend together. It’s a lot like not being able to remember what you had for breakfast last Wednesday, but instead of breakfast, you can’t remember who you were, where or when you lived, or who loved you the most.
Jimmy and Sally stood in front of the tall man with the clipboard. Jimmy tried to look him in the eye and say something horrid but when Jimmy’s eyes met the tall man’s gaze Jimmy felt an entirely new feeling. He didn’t have a name for it, so he just lowered his eyes to the ground and looked at his ghost shoes.
Sally was scared for the first time in her life or afterlife. If she had a body it would have trembled at the sound of the thin man’s voice when he said her name. She didn’t have a body though, so she looked to see what Jimmy was doing instead and decided to do that.
“Listen to me, children. I have good news and bad news, do you have any preference as to which you’d like to hear first?” said the man. His voice was kind and nothing to be so afraid of, not just by monster voice standards, but by human voice standards. It sounded like putting on a big sweater and eating a hot bowl of soup on a cold rainy day.
Both children refused to look up from Jimmy’s shoes. That way they could pretend the nice-voiced man was just that: a nice man, and not a suspected monster of some sort.
“Very well, bad news first it is then.” A smile may or may not have briefly appeared on his face before he continued. “The bad news is that you’re going to get to go back to Earth and finish living your lives.”
Jimmy held Sally’s hand, gathered up all his courage, and looked up at the Skeleton Man. “Ho-how is that the ba-bad news?” he said through chattering teeth.
“That’s wha-what always happens to us.” Added Sally, tightening her grip on Jimmy’s hand.
“Well, kids, there’s been a bit of a mix up. You see, after your parents refused to revive you, Jimmy’s Grand Father stepped in and tried to straighten things out. He forgot to sign a few papers and well, arranging your release took longer than anticipated. About 75 years longer.”
The man looked at Jimmy. Jimmy looked at Sally. Sally looked at Jimmy and shrugged her shoulders before returning her gaze to the bony gentleman before her.
“So, our parents left us here and Jimmy’s Grand Father saved us?” Sally managed to squeak out between waves of horror and shame.
“That’s correct. You’re a lot smarter than your file indicates. Maybe your time here has done you some good after all. Jimmy’s Grand Father did save you but…”
“Everyone we know is already dead?” Said Sally. “And when we get back to Earth, the only people we’ll know is each other?”
“That’s about the long and short of it, cupcake,” Confirmed the man.
“Excuse me, sir, ” Jimmy said for the first time in his life (or after-life), “Ca-can we hear the good news now?”
“Hmmm, that’s the first time you’ve ever used your manners, isn’t it young man? Not so bad is it?”
“No, sir. I think I might be able to get used to it.”
“You’re an interesting pair, that’s for sure. According to your file, I thought you’d be trying to knife fight me by now. I think you might have learned something here in spite of yourselves.”
Jimmy smiled. He felt good about being nice. He didn’t know why though, it never felt good before. “I’ve been dead too long,” he thought. He figured he’d snap out of it as soon as he was made of solid matter again.
While Jimmy was tying to come to terms with these strange new feelings that were a result of using his manners, the old man continued to speak. “To answer your question young man, the good news is you’ll be alive! Being alive is a fantastic thing to be. You won’t have an easy go at it considering, but you’ll eat and breathe, and if you’re lucky you might fall in love. You might do that if you’re unlucky too, heh heh.”
The old man turned his attention to his clipboard and made some scribbles on a sheet of paper. When he was finished, he waved his hand at Jimmy and Sally and they faded away.
It was rough at first, being alive again that is. They were both still little kids, despite being dead for over 70 years. They had no parents. No home. No friends. No jobs. No money or extra shoes, either. They had each other, a switchblade, and a straight razor.
At first they ate out of trash cans and slept in jungle gyms at local parks. They occasionally found work as chimney sweeps. When they were a little older they would sneak into school and learn all kinds of things. Some of it was even useful.
When they were a bit older, they used the computer lab in the library to forge the documents they would need to exist. They used these documents to get proper library cards. They used the library cards to check out interesting books, instead of the boring ones school gave them.
The years passed and somewhere along the way they learned to be not just nice to each other, but kind. There’s a difference. Most people are nice to others because they have to be. People tend to be kind to each other because they can’t not be.
As they learned to be kind something strange happened. They grew fond of each other. This fondness blossomed into affection, which turned, in time, to love.
When they were old enough to need jobs they joined the Air Force because they don’t ask too many questions and make you do the least amount of push ups. They eventually married and had two kids of their own. They somehow managed to raise them correctly and eventually they grew up and had kids of their own.
The years flew by and Jimmy and Sally found themselves not only happy, but content. Having one or the other is usually more than enough for most people. Having both was far more rare. Somehow Jimmy and Sally knew this, somehow they had learned to see just how lucky they were.
Then came the day for Sally to pass over to the other side again. This time was for real. A year later Jimmy joined her. They left behind two children and six grand kids, who all lived full happy lives of their own.
Sally woke up yelling “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, ” over and over again as tears fell off her face and onto her pillow. She sat there weeping for what seemed to be far too long, but then again a crying child always feels that comfort is too slow to arrive.
Eventually her second dad came into her room and sat down next to her.
“It’s just a bad dream,” he said as he rubbed Sally’s back. “Everything is OK, cupcake.”
Sally sniffled and burrowed into her dad’s chest and thought about her dream. He kissed the top of her head in the most calming manner he could muster.
“It was just a bad dream, kiddo,” her second dad whispered again, but Sally knew it was more than a dream. She wasn’t sure what it was, but it was more than a dream that was for sure.
Sally managed to calm herself down and fall back asleep. When she woke up she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was different. She wondered if Jimmy had shared the same dream. It sure felt real enough to be shared.
When Sally came down to breakfast that morning, she did so without being yelled at ten times. She decided not to wear her pink coat today and even combed her own hair.
Her parents were too busy getting ready to go to work to notice the differences, but they did notice that having Sally around this morning wasn’t as horrible as it usually was.