“Have you seen these?” he asked as he forked it over.
I looked down to read TICKET TO HEAVEN printed on paper meant to mimic a Monopoly note of tender. I stuttered a thanks, just relieved he didn’t proselytize his cult of Christianity. The man asked if he could leave more on the counter and I consented.
This vessel of Christ, deep in his 40s, came here often — the tiny town gas station I cashiered at. My perception of him felt mixed: Ever nervous and off but also inoffensive and mild. I knew he was lost in the land of God but beyond that didn’t care to ink in the details of his private life. Single men that old, that far in their faith, are depressing wells to fall down.
As soon as he left I trashed the fast passes for salvation. Then when I pissed I used one to wipe the grease beneath my nutsack. The oil off my ass. I took one home, blew a load, then used it to scrape spent seed from skin. These useless papers finally found a purpose.
As I cleaned the station’s shitters I found chick tracts left behind. The apparent idea being to take a dump and accept Christ at the same time. These tracts were illustrated booklets that lead you down a path of admittance: you’re a liar, a thief, an adulterer, and considering that, do you really think you’re going to heaven? I threw these cheap cartoons to the trash, their pages mixing with paper towels used to scrape shit stains off toilets.
One night a scruffy man in his early 20s came in ranting about how he used to be a bad person. That he was so evil he worshiped Satan. He spoke with wide-eyed intensity, the kind that pings up and unspools whether an audience is receptive or not.
Soon he spoke of the Lord. Took on the character of one who swapped coke for Christ. A cannonball from one addiction to another. I took news of his conversion with my usual approach for anyone off groove from reality — popping probing questions to make him rant more.
Behind the former Satanist walked up a short man in his 50s. The two were together and with a few words I took them to be on a missionary tour. Sifting through America to spread the good word. The older man payed for his gas then got to the business of why he was here.
“Do you like amazing true stories?”
“I guess,” I replied with feigned interest.
He handed me a small packet of printer paper stapled together. Told me it was his life story.
That night I read his tale of witnessing three miracles. The first was a golf ball that dropped from the air at an impossible angle. The next two he didn’t bother to detail but he took them as signs from God. A private cable that told him to exit his former life. To scatter forth and infect all with the fervor.
I thought of the young man traveling in tow, that former Satanist. Of how this meant the golf ball prophet had accrued his first disciple. I suspected these pages were meant to cull more.
I watched the local news as they ran the story of a man who drove into a small, marshy lake to kill himself. With the report they flashed a photo of this person. It was the tall man who gifted me a ticket to heaven. I was shocked but felt little. Just wondered why he did it. What questions the god in his head refused to answer. What hole his faith failed to spackle shut. Perhaps he just wanted to meet his maker.
I wondered if he kept a ticket to heaven on hand as his car sunk into water. As he slowly drowned in the dark. No one there to stop nor guide him. No bright lights from above nor menacing coals below. Just a cold lake that crushed his lungs. I wonder if he thought this act might send him to hell. If he knew his ticket was no more than a cheap piece of paper.