Sunday, April 22, 2007

Beetcause of You

In response to the email that Karen sent out last week, her dad penned the following story:

     A certain elderly person eventually passed from this life and found himself at the so-called Pearly Gates. There he was confronted by St. Peter, who asked him to account for himself.
     “Well, I guess I’ve led a reasonably decent life,” the balding, salt-and-pepper- haired late departed said. “I’ve been a faithful husband, a good provider, a tolerant and loving father, a—”
     “Say again,” St. Peter interrupted abruptly. “A what father?”
     “What do you mean?”
     “Your documentation” (and he paged through his celestial laptop) “indicates that you were an abusive father.”
     “I may have yelled at the kids more than I should. Spanked, perhaps, on occasion….” His voice trailed off in embarrassment.
     “No!” St. P. thundered. “Abusive in the worst of ways.”
     The late but clearly not lamented old guy wondered what St. P. knew that he could not recall. Had he buried some horrible behavior deep in his brain, actions that were now to be recovered memories?
     The recently departed remembered that, always had. “But it was decades ago.”
     “Yes, but for them: The horror, the horror.”
     “Why are you channeling Joseph Conrad.”
     “Sorry,” St. Peter said. “But you have some explaining to do. Why, why did you force them to eat beets? Make them stay at the dinner table for hours until your patient, loving and ever-sacrificing wife and their mother finally persuaded you to relent? The experience has scarred them all for life. If you hadn’t done that they could have been somebody. They could have been contenders.”
     “Why are you channeling Marlon Brando?”
     “Sorry. He knocked at the door here a few years ago. No dice.”
     “You know how sometimes you do irrational things?”
     “Are you referring to me?” St. Peter said with a scowl.
     “Well, not you perhaps, but most people.”
     “OK, I’ll give you that.”
     “That’s my defense.”
     “That’s not much of a defense.”
     “Let me ask you something,” the not-so-dear departed said, “are there any foods you don’t like?”
     “Well, in my condition I don’t eat.”
     “Before. Before you got this job.”
     “Mollusks. I hate mollusks. Especially oysters. Slimy, disgusting things.”
     “Let me tell you about those children who hate beets. They looove oysters. One time in Boston we came upon a cart selling oysters near Fanueil Hall and they couldn’t get enough of them, grabbing at them and sliding them down their throats like there was no tomorrow. And if I recall correctly, that was before the beet incident. And their loving mother, who despises oysters, just smiled tolerantly.”
     “Good woman that.”
     “Yeah, but my point is, they’d eat oysters, which should turn them off, but not beets. You can buy Gerber beets as baby food.”
     “Trust me, even Gerber doesn’t sell processed beets.”
     “How do you know that.”
     “I know,” St. Peter said, pointing to his laptop. “Celestial Wifi, super-duper-broadband. “So give me the real explanation.”
     “Well, heritage.”
     “Our people—not yours: you split—come from the shtetls of Eastern Europe and the ghettos of Western Europe. We had almost nothing to eat, and when we did it was often beets. Beets to make borscht. Beets to color and flavor horseradish on the special nights like seders when we ate brisket. Pickled beets. Yumm. So they needed to eat beets to be aware of their background, their origins.”
     St. P. paused briefly. “That’s a lot of B.S.” he said.
     The recently departed bowed his head. “I thought I’d give it a try.”
     “I don’t think you’re qualified to get in here,” St. Peter said. “By the way, do you know how you died?”
     “Heart attack.”
     “Do you know what brought it on?”
     “An email from my daughter.”
     “Bad news?”
     “She said she had, after all these years, eaten beets. And they aren’t so bad.”
     “Why would that give you a heart attack?”
     “It was yellow beets.”
     “Yellow beets? Yecch. Who ever heard of such a thing? Clearly the product of vile genetic drift.”
     “Don’t they sound just awful? I’d never, ever eat them, not in a million years.”
     “As I said, you can’t get in here, given your horrible record.”
     “So am I going to hell?”
     “Worse,” St. Peter said decisively. “I’m sending you back. Given your delicate condition you must completely change your diet. You will be a vegetarian. And a staple of your diet will be yellow beets.”
     A look of horror suffused the face of the newly now-non-departed. “Anything but that,” he pleaded. “Hell is other vegetables.”
     “As you are channeling Sartre,” St. P.’s voice echoed as he vanished in the misty clouds, “you will learn that there is truly No Exit from this fate of yellow beets, no matter how much Nausea you experience.”