IN ONE YEAR AND OUT THE OTHER
HALO, GOODBYE - a novella
Downtown Press Anthology
December 2004
ISBN 1416503307

available at

Amazon or Barnes & Noble

HALO, GOODBYE

Out with the old, in with the new, and on with the party!

Maybe it's just another midnight...or maybe there really is magic in the air when December 31st becomes January 1st, and confetti kisses and champagne toasts kick off a new year, a new romance, a new look, a new attitude.

From Kathleen O'Reilly, a New Year's Eve to die for. When Madelyn Arbrewster ends up celebrating her first New Year's Eve behind the Pearly Gates, it's not quite what she's expecting, having to watch her fiance (well, not anymore) find new love. But every cloud has a silver lining, and sometimes it just takes a bit of divine intervention to find it.


 
   

New Year's Eve used to be my favorite holiday, the operative word being 'used to be'. My first kiss came on New Year's Eve. New Year's Eve was the first time that Jeff whispered, "I love you" in my ear. My first marriage proposal was supposed to be on New Year's Eve. Unfortunately, a bad thing happened on the way to the engagement.

I died.

I know what you're thinking: "Ewwww, she's a dead person." Well, shame on you. You shouldn't judge until you've met a real live, dead person. We're not all freaky.

My name is Madelyn Arbrewster, late of New York City . Current address: #37 St. Peter Place and my townhouse here is sooo much nicer than the East Village studio that I subsisted in. My new place has lots of space with a really nice music collection as an added bonus. The Beatles (John and George, live from St. Paul 's Pavilion), two of the Brothers Gibb, Jimi Hendrix, and Jeff Buckley. Even better, most are autographed.

Sounds perfect, idyllic, divine, right? Yeah, I know. And Heaven is more than just great music. Before I died, I had heard all the imagery: A place with clouds and little angels that run around with harps and halos. Let me be the first to correct the mis-stereotype. In actuality, it's a huge metropolis with Starbucks on every corner (all free), eternal 90% off sales, and twenty-nine hour days. At first, the time thing really confused me. Why 29 hours? Why not, for instance, 42? But after a few months, I began to understand that five extra hours was the perfect amount. Not enough to cram in another project for the day, but just enough to have some quality goof-off time.

Yup, heaven is a truly a great place, and I mean, I'd be a total wuss if I had complaints, wouldn't I? So I don't complain.

It's been almost two years since D-Day (New Year's Eve is in three days) and I've made a few friends since I've been here. Oscar is probably the person I trust the most. On most mornings he comes over for his daily whine. Oscar still has death-issues; I'm supposed to be helping him work things out, but tell me this, if Freud can't help him, why do they think that I can?

So at 10:45 , when the doorbell rings (church bells, v. grandiose), it doesn't take divine intervention to know who's behind door number one.

"You get your assignment yet?" he says. "This is –bleep– ed." Then he gets his snarly face, which signals the onset of acute rage. (There's no high-blood pressure issues here -- HELLO? Dead already.) "I hate it when they –bleep– ing do that!"

Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention the one little drawback. There's a serious Big Brother Thing going on here. The Angels of the Fourth Celestial Order decreed a LONG time ago that there would be no swearing in heaven, because the Big Guy would take offense. Ergo, as what happens in decrees, swearing was outlawed. It's only the spoken stuff, though. Big Brother hasn't gotten as far as actual thought-censorship, so most of us don't have an issue with this. Oscar has issues with everything.

However, I am well-adjusted, calm, and even-tempered. I smile nicely at him, with just a hint of moral superiority and remain silent.

Oscar crosses his arms across his chest and because he knows what I'm doing (and best of all, he knows I'm right), he takes a deep breath and forces the calm to move in. Oh, Oscar's nice enough to look at, with dark hair and dark eyes, (a Puerto Rican-Scottish mix, which explains lots of his personality quirks), but he's also heaven's leading candidate for irredeemable man. There are women who might be willing to dream the impossible dream, but my feet are planted firmly on the uh…ground. I had never been friends with a guy on earth, but in heaven it seemed to work out. One day at a time, that's my new motto.

"Did you get your notice yet?" he asks, looking a little friendlier.

Much better. See how nicely it goes when we follow the rules?

"Not yet," I answer, although I wonder what's taking so long. Everybody gets a couple of years to adjust to their new way of life, and then we get thrown tasks. An assignment of some sort: counseling, gardening, music appreciation, or needlework (and yes, the projects actually get finished up here. I was the world's best procrastinator when I was alive. Not anymore. No, siree! I've got all the time in the world).

When you get the assignment, it sorta the angels way of stamping you 'Team Player.' Since Oscar now has his assignment, and I do not, I'm thinking there's a big flaw in the system. However, 'God only knows' is more than an expression up here, it's a way of life. Besides, secretly I think I've figured it out. I think my assignment is to help Oscar deal with his anger. I had five sisters; I've dealt with the worst in human nature. To me, Oscar is a walk in the park.

"What're you supposed to do?" I ask, more than a little curious.

"They want me to –bleep–ing set up some woman in the City for New Year's Eve. Tell me how the –bleep– I'm supposed to that from up here? For two years I'm waiting for something to do, something important, something monumental, something to justify my death, and now I get this??? They want me to play –bleep-ing cupid! Can you STOP THAT?"

"It's the rules, Oscar. Live with it, sport." However, in deference to his hellish temper, I adjust the music selection on my stereo so that Miles "Choke A White Man" Davis is playing. I think Miles solves many problems. I spent the first three months after my death listening to Blue in Green, and eventually I found much tranquility.

As the strains of soothing music wash over the room, he collapses on the couch. I take a seat in my counselor chair (it's actually a Barcalounger, but I take my roles seriously). "You don't know that your assignment's not important. I mean, what if you bring about world peace? Who is she? Maybe she's a UN delegate or something," I say, trying to be helpful and thinking that a bowl of dark chocolate truffle ice cream would be nice and helpful, too. And, Holy Ben & Jerry's, there it is! (Neat trick, aye? Heaven.)

"Christine D'amore," he says, and then poofs up a cup of ambrosia.

"Porn queen?" I mutter between bites. Just FYI, you can actually scarf cold stuff very quickly up here with no icky brain-freeze.

Oscar shakes his head. "Says in her bio she's a publicist."

"Do you know who you're supposed to set her up with?" I ask, being the kind, considerate, "The Doctor Is In"-type friend. Told you I was good at this.

"Martin Coleburn," says Oscar, checking his parchment.

Coleburn? What a coincidence . "Not on 13th street ," I say, still wearing my perky, heaven-smile.

"Yeah." Oscar looks at me, all weird-like. "How did you know? "

How did I know? See, Martin Jeff Coleburn (don't ever call him Martin – it's a family name) was my fiancé, the boy I decided to marry when we rode the cross-town bus home together from the Dylan Thomas School of Advanced Environmental Studies and I dropped my Walkman in the seat behind me. It broke and then, miracle of all techno-miracles, he fixed it with a rubber band. Together we rode the C train and ripped CDs (not at the same time). My own metropolitan love story.

Sadly, I still love Jeff and miss him lots (mostly late at night when the ambrosia wears off, and you're all alone in your bed for your required twelve hours of sleep), and I wonder how my Jeff is holding up. He was really broken-up when I died. Matter of fact, I was, too.

"Jeff's first name is Martin," I say, but I'm still thinking this is a huge misunderstanding. Actually, it's completely impossible. Jeff would never do that to me. Not in a million years. And it's only been two. The whole thing's completely inconceivable. I scarf down the last scoop of the ice cream, and then promptly poof up another one.

"Oh, sorry kid," he says, his dark eyes full of pity. "But people move on. Even boyfriends."

"He's more than my boyfriend. He's my fiancé," I say, and pause dramatically waiting for trumpets to flourish.

Silence.

Nada.

Zip.

I repeat the magical words, just in case God missed the cue. These are words I've said it to myself so many times (I died before I could say them to an actual living person). I've been practicing up here, late at night, when nobody but Big Brother could hear me, but it's not the same, not the same at all…

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