Didn't see that coming

“I didn’t see that one coming,” Jay said, still looking back at Vinny's exit left. Then he snickered. “Oh, my. I didn’t see that one coming!" The angel covered his mouth with one hand. "That’s terrible. Hits a man that he didn’t see coming. Oh my goodness.” He tried to muffle his laughs, but lost control. “I Didn’t see that one coming!” he yelled out. 

Johnson was horrified. “That’s not funny! Who are you? And you, Jesus! Who are you to let this Vinny guy go, and let those two awful folks get in? This doesn't make any sense!"

Olives, Figs and Vines

Judges 9:6-15
Matthew 20:1-16

Johnson T. Patterhorn arrived at what looked like Heaven’s gateway unsure if he was dead or just dreaming. He couldn’t see over the extremely high glass doorways that rose up at the end of a road to an immense wall, nor could he see very far through them. He'd been walking for what seemed hours. Folks milled about in a mind-numbing snail's pace procession, crammed together like backed up traffic. "Who's in charge, here?" he murmured to folks as he tried to push forward. 

As he worked closer and closer to the doors each foot forward seemed to only increase the size of the doors. "What a frustrating operation," Johnson thought. "Extremely inefficient." He was not in a good mood.

Mr. Patterhorn's perturbation bubbled up both from his distaste for delay and the poor timing of his apparent death. He’d just landed the perfect job. For once, people would be working for him. Big salary. Perks. A pretty assistant. Lots of travel away from the wife and two kids. No more reports about his fiery anger, or his "controlling" personality. He'd be handing out the judgments. Finally, they needed him. Nobody wanted the job because of the hours and commitment. Johnson jumped at it before they could change their minds.

Geez. And then he dies and lands in the middle of a muddling shuffling sheepish crowd. All the way back to the bottom of the ladder. Johnson sighed, blew out his cheeks, and shouted, "For God's sake, can we get this line moving a little faster!"

An angel magically appeared in his face, tapped Johnson on the forehead with his forefinger, somehow squeezing his angelic body between Johnson's chest and the fellow's back in front of him. Johnson knew he was an angel because of the name tag attached to his collar. In large gold print the label said, “Your Angel’s Name Is:,” followed underneath by “Jay Teepee.” Odd name, Johnson thought, because the angel looked Asian.

"Glad you showed up," Johnson said. The angel smirked and tilted his head, studying Patterhorn's face.

“That’s an odd name,” Johnson said, pointing at the angel's name tag. It seemed a better remark rather than bringing up the oddity of the angel’s ethnicity. Johnson, though, was dying to know if there was such a thing as angel ethnicity.

“My name is your initials pronounced phonetically,” Jay Teepee politely said. “Johnson T. Patterhorn. J.T.P. Jay Teepee.” He wore a white suit that showed off pinstripes of blue, the exact opposite of Johnson's apparel. Johnson still wore the blue suit with white pinstripes he put on that morning. He looked down and saw that the angel, however, had bare feet.

“Ah,” Johnson said after fully sizing up his angel. “So … You're the one responsible for traffic control?” 

The angel held out his hand, waiting for a handshake, and his smirk widened a bit more. Johnson complied. The angel’s hand felt warm and familiar. 

“You here for my orientation and to help get me settled in? Can we speed this up? When do I talk to the big guy and get a lay of the land? Looks like you could use a fellow like me up here. The customer service sucks.”

“Follow me,” Jay said, his hand on Johnson's shoulder, and then moved his hand to Johnson’s back guiding him. It was more of a push me than a follow me, Johnson thought. The crowd parted for their advance.

Instead of proceeding through one of the huge translucent doors that swung slowly to and fro as people entered through them, Jay directed Johnson far, far to the right, away from the bothersome crowd where a small wooden looking door stood. It had no door handle, and was marked, “Viewing Room.” Alone amid a vast white stone wall that rose hundreds of feet into the air, a green light appeared blinking above the lonely knobless door. They had moved quickly, easily a hundred yards away from front door entrance. Jay Teepee took Johnson’s hand and pulled him through the door. Literally. They moved through it as if they were traveling through a thin column of cloud. 

“Wood is more familiar than traveling through yards of stone,” Jay said, shaking his head in a head bobble, as if that explained everything.

On the other side of the door, only 10 feet away, stood a giant plate glass window. Probably 20 feet wide and 20 feet tall, Patterhorn calculated. The window filled the entire wall and looked out onto a white alabaster roadway that ran left and right. It was bordered on the side opposite the window by a lovely stream. The scene was lit in a blue hue from above, a soothing contrast to the dull white lighting in the viewing room. 

They were alone, the angel and Johnson, looking out at the calm scene. Patterhorn sighed as the minutes went by. They stood silent, waiting for, well, he didn't know what. Johnson, resigned but dutiful, remained at his place next to Jay and watched for something to happen. 

Finally, a lone woman came dancing from the left. Not walking, dancing. Her hands waved in the air. She was thin, dressed in a white pantsuit. Her mouth moved as if she were shouting. Johnson strained to hear her. 

“You can’t hear them go by,” Jay said. “It’s OK. You’re just supposed to see.”

“All right.” Johnson responded. He nodded approvingly, playing along. “What exactly am I seeing?”

“That’s Olivia. She’s been greeted by Jesus, washed and made clean. That's what happens after you get through the doors. She’s now entering the valley, heading down the road, off to the right, which we can’t quite see. That leads into Heaven. She’s thrilled, as you can tell.”

“Yeah, she looks pretty happy.” Johnson watched her go off to the right and out of his sight. “That was entertaining. Why am I seeing this, Teepee?”

"You can call me Jay.“

Johnson slowly copied Jay's smirk, and then started in on a familiar refrain of his.

"Well, you can call me Ray or you can call Johnny or you can call me Sonny, or you can call me RayJay, or you can call me RJ... but ya doesn't hafta call me Johnson!" 

Patterhorn laughed, loudly, and slapped his hand on the window. "I've been waiting to say that for hours!" 

The angel chuckled. "Well, back to your question, Johnson. Olivia led a very confused and wild life. She died from a heart problem exacerbated by drugs. On her deathbed she cried out for forgiveness, and then, well, there she goes. Let in on a technicality.”

“I'll be,” Johnson said, resetting back to a more serious posture, but he couldn't help himself. “Fortuitous. She got in by the hair of her chiny chin chin, did she?” 

“Yes,” Jay said. “One very well-timed hair. Doesn’t seem fair. Life of sin, and then God forgives her because of a 'fortuitous' final plea.” 

“That’s a bit harsh,” Johnson said, surprised. “Are angels always so judgmental? Loopholes are a necessary part of the process, ... Jay.”

The angel harrumphed. "Hmmph."

They waited a few more minutes.

“Next is Figueroa,” Jay said. 

There he came. The man had his hands held in prayer. He was also wearing white. The fit looking fellow was crying, and walking in stilted steps as he made his way past the picture window. His body shook in random tremors. At one point he dropped to his knees and kissed the ground, then stood up, tremors repeating, and shuffled onward.

Johnson thought the man was disturbed about something, then changed his mind. “He in disbelief, isn't he?” Johnson deduced.

“Yes,” Jay said. “Very good. He was raised in a religious home, and lived the bulk of his life trying to do good things. He never thought it was enough, though, for good reason. He prayed every day that God would forgive his trespasses.” 

The angel slowly tilted his head over to Johnson and whispered, “He had an ugly secret that no one knew about but his angel and God.” Jay grimaced as he said it. 

“Well,” Johnson said. “He obviously did enough good stuff to get in, though.”

“No,” Jay said, shaking his head emphatically. “His two or three hour problem every month was so heinous that God should have sent him straight to hell.”

“Really?” Johnson said, sidling up to his angel, finding himself wrapped up in Jay’s disgust for Figueroa. “What did he do?”

“He murdered old people, one at a time for almost 20 years,” Jay said, whispering so quietly that Johnson found himself shoulder to shoulder to hear the words. 

“Nooo!” Johnson said back, also in a whisper. “How’d he get in?”

“Not my call,” Jay said, shrugging his shoulder. “It’s all been erased. He’s as clean as a whistle. But he knows deep inside that he doesn't deserve it.”

“Wow,” Johnson said. “That does appear lax on the consequential side of things.” As soon as he said the words he regretted them. He realized his placement in the viewing room was a probable test of loyalty. "Must be some mitigating factor that we don't see," he quickly added, loudly, slowly eyeing the ceiling for cameras.

“Yes, there certainly must be,” Jay agreed, no longer whispering. 

“Well, as you say, Johnson, God can do what he wants, no matter how ludicrous it appears." 

They stood waiting for a minute or so.

"OK, now, this next one’s important, Johnson,” the angel finally piped up. 

“Oh yeah?” Johnson queried. “I’ve got to pay attention, huh?” 


Johnson waited, and waited, and waited. 

“Nobody seems to be coming.” 

“Yeah. That’s right,” Jay said.

“What’s going on? Jesus got a real barn burner on his hands back there?” Johnson asked, trying to look through the window off to the left.

“Well, I guess it's what I thought," the angel said. "You're still here." He looked over at Patterhorn. "It was supposed to be you.” 

Johnson frowned, looking around, expecting somebody to show up. Jay lifted his hands into the air, and said, "Oh well." Johnson looked at the angel, ran back to where the door should be where they came in. It was gone. He was worried. There must be someone to talk to, other than this Asian peeping Tom with an attitude that just stood there shrugging at him. 

“Let’s go over there, then,” Johnson insisted, poking Jay in the chest. “If I’m supposed to be over there, what are we doing in here?”

“You decided to go in another direction.”

“What the dickens? No I didn’t. I’m right here. It must be some mistake.” Johnson was furious.

“I’ll say!”

“Can’t you do something.”

“That’s why we’re here.”

Johnson stepped back, trying to focus on what happened. “I don’t understand.”

“Oh, look,” Jay said, turning to look out the window. “It’s Vinny. The bus driver.”

A young man dressed in regular street clothes crept along the glass wall, his hands covering his face. He stopped right in front of Johnson, face pushed against the window, blubbering and sobbing, slobbering his tears all over the glass. He looked back where he came from and began running that way.

“Oh, no,” Jay Teepee said.

“Vinny? Who’s this Vinny guy? What's the matter with him. No, more importantly, what about me?”

“Vinny is a suicide," the angel said, his hands on the window, looking back where Vinny had run. 

"He jumped off a bridge because he ran over a person who stepped off a curb at the wrong time. The man he ran over is dying." The angel shook his head. "You see, the man he hit screamed at Vinny as he lay on the ground. The fellow shouted some awful things at poor Vinny. His body lay broken and crushed, but he still managed to call Vinny every name in the book before he passed out from the pain.” 

Jay shook his head. “Vinny has serious love and trust issues. This accident has sent him over the edge. Vinny has run away from Heaven."

"Well, Jesus can fix that," Johnson said. "There's always a way. This doesn't sound like him. He should just do what he did with that Olivia chick, and the Figueroa fella. And me, too. What's the problem here? Why am I not over there? He needs me. I've got a lot to offer here? This is all messed up!" 

“I didn’t see that one coming,” Jay said, still looking back at Vinny's exit left. Then he snickered. “Oh, my. I didn’t see that one coming!" The angel covered his mouth with one hand. "That’s terrible. Hits a man that he didn’t see coming. Oh my goodness.” He tried to muffle his laughs, but lost control. “I Didn’t see that one coming!” he yelled out. 

Johnson was horrified. “That’s not funny! Who are you? And you, Jesus! Who are you to let this Vinny guy go, and let those two awful folks get in? This doesn't make any sense!"

And that’s when Johnson T. Patterhorn woke up. He was in the ER. His wife and the two children were in the room. They touched him from both sides of the bed. Their eyes were red, and the sadness was unmistakable. Johnson was covered in bandages and tied up in traction. He couldn’t move without grievous pain, and even lying still hurt miserably. He coughed out some words.

“What happ-happ-ened?” Johnson said.

“You were hit by a bus, honey. It’s all over the news. I’m so sorry to say this, but you are dying.” His wife covered her face with her hands. 

“We’ve been praying and praying that you would wake up, daddy,” said Johnson’s daughter. She was the younger of his two children. “At least we get to say goodbye. Talk to you one last time.”

“Uh ... bus?” Johnson said, struggling to talk. “Oh no. I am the ... guy who ... Vinny didn’t see coming?” Johnson played back the entire dream he just had. “I need to talk to God,” he yelled. 

"What, honey?" his wife said, sure her husband was hallucinating. He was hard to understand.

“What happened ... to the driver?” Johnson said next.

That made sense. She turned to a man standing over by the door in the hospital room. “He’s that fellow over there,” his wife said angrily. “He insisted on coming to see you. Now that you’re awake, you can tell him to leave.”

“No! ... It’s OK!” Patterhorn shouted over to the driver. "Tell him ... to stay!"

Each word tore at his lungs. “It was ... an accident. Not your fault.” Johnson could see the man’s ashen face. “Really ... It’s OK ... Thanks for coming ... to see me. That's what ... this is all about ...Vinny. You’re OK ... Believe me .. I know God loves you ... You can trust him ... He’d do anything ... to get you ... to join him.” Johnson began spitting up some blood. His whole body began to hurt even more. He was really in terrible shape.

“My name is Matt, Matt Vineyard,” the fellow said, nervous and confused. “I’m so sorry. I don’t know any Vinny.” Then the man's eyes opened, like he remembered something. He fainted. A nurse attended to him. 

“Dr. Chung told us to pray for you,” Johnson’s son told him, crying as he spoke. 

“He’s an Chinese doctor,” Johnson’s wife said. “Jay. Jay Chung. He was at the accident. He held your hand the whole way to the hospital. He’s been wonderful. But he couldn’t save you.” She patted Johnson's hand, lightly. It was crushed, along with every other limb. "He said we need to leave everything in God's hands now."

"Does he have a weird sense of humor?" Johnson said, getting the whole sentence out at once. His face hurt as he said it.

Surprised by the question, she thought about it. "He kind of smirks when he talks, but that's just because he's Asian, I think," said Johnson's wife.

Johnson could feel himself slipping away. “Jay Teepee is ... Dr. Jay Chung,” he said.  Then, with a last plea, he said “Please, Jesus .. don’t let Vinny run away .. and don't abandon me ... to myself." 

Then Johnson T. Patterhorn died.

In the next moment, Johnson stood looking directly into the face of Jesus. Johnson looked to the left and right, and peeked behind. He was the only one there. No family. No hospital room. No large glass doors. No line of folks.

“I’m so sorry, Jesus,” Johnson said, settling into where he was. He dropped his shoulders, and looked back into Jesus' eyes. He struggled for a second or two, and then let go, allowing the holy one see into every corner of his being. In a painful flow of power and restoration, Johnson let Jesus course through his veins. Jesus seemed to be pouring himself into Johnson's body. 

Patterhorn could feel his body healing, amidst the pain, and knew his brain was being morphed somehow, clearing up everything he had ever wondered about. Then he held up a hand.

“Is Vinny OK? Did he get in?” he said, and then apologized for interrupting. "I don't want you to stop, but I'd like to know."

“Matt is OK,” Jesus said, smiling. "Nobody has called him Vinny since he was six years old. That was his mother. She loved him. He lost her the day after Christmas that very year." Jesus stared into Johnson's face until he allowed him to finish his restoration.

And then Jesus said, "Do you want to come with me?”

“I don’t deserve it. I’m not a very nice person.”

“I want you anyway.”

Johnson T. Patterhorn believed him. He took Jesus’ hand and followed him into a stunning white light.

“Is there really a viewing room,” Johnson asked. "And, Is Dr. Chung actually my personal angel?"

Jesus was quiet as they walked. Holding hands was not awkward.

“Well, it’s different for everyone. Angels are amazing creatures, just like you. Whatever it takes.”

“How did you know what would work for me? Why at the last minute?” 

“I don’t give up very easily. You're right. I can fix things. Much more to tell you about the angels and the minutes you speak of. But first, do you want to see the lay of the land?”

(To be continued)

Using Format