A thirsty traveller
and his equally thirsty companion were wandering together along an unknown and
seemingly never-ending country road. Both man and dog were very much in
need of a cooling drink but were none the less enjoying the sights, sounds
and smells of new surroundings when, with breathtaking unexpectedness, it
suddenly dawned on our traveller that he and Buster Brown must be dead.
He could, now he put his mind to it, clearly remember dying himself, and poor
Buster had surely died of old age many years ago. He pondered on
these unsettling thoughts and wondered to where it might be that this unknown
road was leading them. But then, rounding a blind corner, they came upon
a long, high wall to the left-hand side of the road, and this magnificent wall
reflected the sun for it had been built entirely of highly polished marble.
At the crest of a long hill the wall rose even higher to become an archway and,
when at last our traveller got there, he saw that set into the shining marble
of this arch were gates of iridescent mother-of-pearl. Beneath his feet,
now, were paving slabs of gold, and sitting behind an imposing marble desk was
a smartly but darkly dressed man.
"Excuse me, but what
this place?" asked our traveller.
"This, sir, is Heaven," the man answered.
"Wow! Really? Does that mean I could get something cool to drink?"
"Most certainly, sir. Do please go on in. I'll arrange for
refreshments right away. Anything you wish, sir. We have
everything." As the man said this the pearl-lustred gates began to open.
"Come on Buster Brown," called our traveller, turning to his four-footed
companion. "Come on . . ."
"Afraid not, sir!" said the man. "No pets allowed."
Our thirsty traveller hesitated not at all before turning on his heels.
Calling again to his faithful old friend, and without once looking back, he
quickly walked away.
After more long miles,
at the crest of another long hill, they chanced upon a rough dirt entranceway
leading off to the right. There was a wide-open lichen-encrusted farm
gate which looked as if it mightn't ever even once have been closed, but no
or fences were to be seen anywhere around. Beyond the open
gate, sitting with his back to a beautifully gnarled old tree, was another man,
this one casually dressed in a more comfortable country style and
contentedly reading a book.
"Hi there!" called our traveller. "Any chance of some water to drink?"
"Sure! Over behind those bushes." The smiling reader pointed to a
large grouping of beautiful flowering shrubs.
"How about Buster Brown?" Our traveller gestured towards his companion.
"No problem! You'll find a bowl there already."
So they passed through the open gate, our traveller and his dog, and sure
behind those beautiful shrubs, surrounded by birdsong and butterflies, they
found an old fashioned hand pump with clean bowls and drinking mugs set out
on the mossy ground beside it. Our traveller filled a bowl for Buster
then took a long, cool drink himself. The water was sweet and crystal
clear and they both drank deeply before walking back to where their friendly
benefactor still sat beneath his tree.
"Thanks! That was wonderful," barked Buster Brown.
"You're more than welcome," said the man as, very gently, he fondled the hair
between Buster Brown's ears.
"So, what do you call this delightful place?" asked the traveller.
"Heaven's its name," said the man. "What else would I call it?"
"But this is so confusing," said our traveller. "There was this other
man, down the road a way, who told us
place was Heaven."
"You mean that place with gold paving and fancy gates? No, my
friend, for all its grand appearances, that's Hell."
"Okay, I'll believe you, but doesn't it make you mad to know your own
name's being misappropriated by that guy?"
"Not really. In fact it's kind of handy having ol' Nick down there along
the way, screening out all those undeserving folks who'd abandon a weary
best friend to find his own way here, alone."