a nearly satisfactory hypermegaultraquantumcompumultiversalnet creation

Light at the End of the Tunnel

"Another one?" asked Fred, with a heavy sigh. "How many kids did we have again?"

"Fourteen," replied Martha. "You were Catholic. I was Italian." Martha shrugged, then grinned. "We were doomed from the beginning, Right Said."

Fred lost his grumpy face and smiled. He loved it when she used her nickname for him from their last summer on the earthly plain of existence.

He broke into his 'I'm too sexy' dance. How the kids had cringed when he'd danced in front of their friends to that song. How Martha had rolled her eyes then laughed.

"Who's coming up this time?" said Fred, breathing a bit heavily after his final, fancy-footed flourish.

"According to the postcard we got from on high? Looks like Mary Beth."

"Which one was she again?"

"Loved to play the saxophone. Married Bill Knopski from down the street. She's the one who broke her tailbone during little league practice in fifth grade?"

"Oh yeah! That's right. Poor kid couldn't play outside that whole summer."

"Looks like this one'll only be a near death experience, not the big one."

"Well I suppose that's good," said Fred. "But I hate getting everyone together just for a false alarm."

"Come on," said Martha. "You haven't seen her in almost thirty years, and you know how happy she'll be to see us all again. Now you go round up her favorite aunts and uncles and I'll go get the kids."

An hour later, over a dozen people were standing in a very large room that housed the exits of thousands of long tunnels. At the end of each exit shown a great white light shining down.

"I can never remember," said Fred," are we supposed to be in front of the great white light or behind it?"

"Wouldn't do much good to be behind it," replied Martha. "Poor Mary Beth won't be able to see anything beyond the great white light."

"Right. Right," said Fred, moving from behind the great white light to in front of it.

After a couple of minutes, Fred started making shadow puppets on the sides of the tunnel.

"Behave yourself, Fred! What would Mary Beth think if she saw your T-Rex coming at her like that. Poor thing is going to be confused enough as it is."

"Yes, dear," replied Fred. He glanced around to see who was at the tunnel exits nearest theirs.

"Bob!" exclaimed Fred, to a person at the tunnel next to his. "How's it going. Who's coming up?"

Turning, Bob said with a nervous smile, "Belinda, my second wife."

"Well that's great. Musta been a while since you've seen her."

"And a good thing, too!" yelled a voice from somewhere within the group of thirty or so people huddled around the tunnel's exit. "That little hussy-"

Bob leaned toward Fred and whispered, "My first wife, Karen, isn't too happy about Belinda making it up here. After her death, she thinks Belinda made her move on me a might too soon. Gonna be a bit messy for a while."

"Fred! Pay attention! Here comes Mary Beth!"

"One of the kids. Just an NDE. Good luck, bud," Fred said quickly to Bob before focusing on his own tunnel.

"Alright everybody," said Martha. "Smile and wave."

Everyone started smiling and waving for all they were worth as they saw Mary Beth rise slowly toward them, then, just as slowly, fall away from them.

"We love you, Mary Beth!"

"Good job wearing your seat belt!"

"We miss you!"

"Everything's okay!"

"You still have a lot of life to live."

"Be good!"

"You still owe me five bucks!"

This last earned Jeff, one of Mary Beth's younger brothers, a quick slap to the back of his head from Martha.

"Behave yourself, Jeff!"

"Moooooom-" began Jeff.

Martha was about to say more, but a ruckus broke out at the tunnel with Bob's family.

"One year! You didn't even wait one year. Not one single year!"

"You stole him from me first!"

"I never! You said-"

Bob was trying to hold two women back. He briefly caught Fred's eye, gave him a 'what can you do' look, then returned to the matter at hand.

"Good thing I never married anyone else," said Fred to Martha.

Martha looked up at him. "Who else woulda had ya, Right Said."

"Don't do the dance!" yelled their kids as Fred started dancing with glee.