When you die an angel reads out your statistics and fun facts. Seven men loved you (you knew of one and only suspected two). Forty fantasized of you. You died owing debts to nineteen people, mostly borrowed loonies from childhood. The man who stole your television lived only a block away. You were your father’s favourite, just like you thought, but not your mother’s. You should have tipped a little better.
You achieved about half of your opportunities. That research position: the angel looks up from the list and congratulates you. You did some good work. On the other hand, “You missed out on a really nice but hard to find marriage”.
You spent four years in total on your phone. You tell the angel that doesn’t make sense. He pulls down a chart and keeps talking while you stare at it. Unfortunately, it all adds up. Meanwhile, he is going through your most embarrassing moments. Almost nobody remembers them. The one party, the one that made you switch schools, is barely a footnote.
Your daughter is set up for a happy life. Her mental health is fine. Here you ask the angel to go into detail. He quickly explains how mental health actually works, while glancing at his watch a few too many times. You don’t really get it but you’re too polite to tell him that. He returns to his speech.
Your favourite food would have been Korean barbecue if you had ever tried it. You did not unlock enlightenment, losing you some points. If you had played the lottery, you would have won the year your daughter turned eighteen. The angel reassures you that this path would have led to the annihilation of your soul, so you shouldn’t feel bad about missing it. The angel does not explain.
People did like you. They thought you were kind. They did not think you were annoying. However, they did not think about you that much.
In the end, you get a B+. You can rest here for a while or you can go back and try for an A. You take only a short nap, then you head back through the door. While your soul spins apart you repeat to yourself: Tip better. Tip better. Tip better.
Conor Barnes is a Canadian writer living in Halifax. His poetry has been published in Modern Haiku, Frogpond, and Puddles of Sky Press. His fiction has been published in White Wall Review.