I don’t know how I found myself in this courtroom, packed with dead relatives. But I see their faces as ghostly blurs as I sit on the witness stand, testifying on my own behalf. I must’ve died. When? How? Why? Now these questions aren’t important. The only question that seems to matter is this one: “Do I deserve Heaven?” And it ain’t going so hot. (Contrary to popular belief, the path paved to Hell is cold like the heart of Florida’s governor Rick DeSantis, and this courtroom is only one floor above the pit of Eternal Damnation.)
My teeth chatter as the judge prods me to answer the question of the prosecutor, who happens to be Satan: “In 1993, why didn’t I see Whoopi Goldberg’s film Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit in theaters when my Granny invited me?”
“And I remind you that you’re under oath,” says the judge, who if I didn’t know better I would say is comedian Gilbert Gottfried. In fact, it is. The shrill voice is unmistakable.
I know the answer to the question at hand.
“Because I had already seen it,” I lie.
“Who did you see it with?” Satan asks.
“Objection!” shouts my public defender. “Relevancy!”
“Overruled,” says Gilbert Gottfried.
“I must’ve seen it with my parents. I don’t really remember.”
“Must’ve?” questions Satan. “Did you or did you not see it with your parents?”
“Objection! Badgering the witness.”
“Sustained,” says Gilbert Gottfried.
Satan asks, “Was Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit as good as the original?”
“Yes,” I answer. “It was.”
A collective gasp from the courtroom seems to suck out all air, as well as my soul.
“Order! Order! Order!” Gilbert Gottfried pounds a gavel. “I will clear this courtroom if there are any more outbursts!”
During Satan’s closing arguments, I know I don’t stand a chance. He says, “Anyone who has seen both Sister Acts knows there’s no comparison. The original outshines the sequel in every way. The only person who would say otherwise hasn’t seen Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. Or they’re lying! Any which way, the defendant has committed at least the crime of perjury, I believe, for which they should forever freeze.”
I look to the juror’s box. It’s made of jurists who are all Granny. All twelve of them are pulling out pieces of Werther’s Originals from their purses, unwrapping the candy, and throwing pieces into their mouths to suck. Granny can’t even look me in the eye, my act of denying her the opportunity to spend a day at the cinema with her grandchild being such a betrayal.
“Fine!” I shout. “You want the truth? I’ll tell you the truth. The ‘Christians’ at Granny’s Church of Christ spent that summer before fifth grade berating me because I was raised Catholic and had received First Communion that year. I sat through their Church of Christ Bible Study while the teacher asked me how could a wafer truly be the Body of the Christ? How the hell was I supposed to know? I was like ten years old. Stupid Church of Christ. I didn’t want to sit through a movie with Granny and laugh at nuns because then it would’ve felt like I, too, was a common Protestant!”
The foreperson of the jury spits a Werther’s Original into a tissue paper, wads it up, and puts it into her purse. Granny then rises and says, “I have heard enough. For lying to Granny, in addition to being raised Catholic, the defendant is found guilty, Your Honor.”
As I’m handcuffed by the bailiffs, who are snowmen, and then dragged away, I question for the first time if I spent my life in a way I would not regret.
Hell is a theater with the air-conditioner blasting in February while Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit plays in a never-ending loop, as you wear only an oversized t-shirt.
Yes. I have regrets.