A young man in a fedora and a zoot suit marred by tire tracks across the chest shuffled sheepishly to St. Peter's lectern.
"Name?" asked St. Peter.
The young man looked around him. "Man, I ain't been in a line this long since I was holdin' my Ma's hand at a soup kitchen. Promised myself that would never happen again." The young man removed his hat, and gave a respectful nod to St. Peter. "Vincent DiMaggio. Wit' two G's. But my friends call me Vinnie."
"Well, sir, I'm in accounting. I kinda keep books for people who don't like to write things down. You might say I'm a bookkeeper."
St. Peter looked at him over the rim of his glasses. "You wouldn't be lying to me, would you, son?"
Vinnie pulled out the St. Mary medallion, somewhat flattened, from around his neck, kissed it and maked the sign of the cross. "St. Mary, Jesus and Joseph! No sir, I wouldn't lie to you, Pete! My ma had me in church every Sunday. She'd take a belt to my backside for lyin' to a saint."
St. Peter returned his quill to the registry. "Cause of death?"
"I was hit by a car while helpin' out a fellow motorist by the side'a tha road."
"Why are your pants around your ankles?"
"Well, sir, it's kinda'va funny story..."
"We may be in Eternity, Mr. DiMaggio, but as you can see, I don't have all the time in the world. You can pull up your pants now."
"Well, I would, sir, but they'd just fall down again seein' as I don't have a belt. Like I told ya, I was helpin' out a fellow motorist when I got hit by a car."
"So you used your belt to tie up a loose exhaust?"
"Not exactly. I used it as a tourniquet."
"You see, I was on this date. Took my girl Gina to Giorgio's. You know that classy restaurant on 49th? They do it up right. Candles, crystal, the whole shebang. If you ever go there, ask for Lennie: He'll treat you right. Tell 'em Vinnie sent ya. I was having the clams casino, ordered a bottle of their best vino 'cause it was a big night. I was goin' to pop the question, make Gina a respectable woman, seein' as how she'd been my girl for so long. You know I ain't the easiest guy to get along wit', and she's been kinda antsy, ya know."
"The belt, Mr. DiMaggio."
"Vinnie. Yeah, well, I'm gettin' to that. Had the rock in my pocket. Gotta good deal on it from Freddie Goldberg down in the Jewish District. I tell ya, if you ever need a diamond the size of your knuckle, you see Fred. Tell 'em Vinnie sent ya."
St. Peter looked at Vinnie with the patience of a saint. "As you can see, Mr. DiMaggio, we have no need for worldly possessions in Heaven."
Vinnie looked at the Pearly Gates and beyond. He could see glowing figures quietly walking in flowing robes.
"Yeah, well. I had it all set up with Lenny. When he brought out dessert, he called his cousin Vittorio over with his violin. He's the real deal, could'a played in the symphony 'cept for the stint he did in the joint. Violin strings make handy tools. Anyways, I got down on my knee and asked her to marry me, and for a minute it looked like she was gonna say no. She looked like a cat caught up a tree. Then I remembered the ring. Can you believe I damn near forgot the rock? When I opened that box, it was like a firework goin' off. Her eyes got big as saucers when she saw that hunk'a ice. She jumped out of her chair, slid the ring on her finger, and waved it around, showin' everybody in the damn place."
"Watch your language, Mr. DiMaggio."
"Sorry, Pete. Well, I wanted to go home and celebrate, if you know what I mean..."
"We have no need for base physical interaction here."
"No hidin' the salami, huh? That's a shame. Anyway, Gina wanted to show off that rock so I slipped Lennie a fin and helped Gina with her mink coat. We went downtown to Mark's juke joint. It's got anything you could want: cigars, booze, broads and a band that will keep you on your feet till you just can't stand anymore. Knock three times on the back door and tell 'em Vinnie sent ya'. When we walk in, whose there but Big Tony. He's my, uh, employer. Anyways he's sittin' at a table up front near the band, and he asks us to join him. Can't say no to Big Tony. So we go sit with him. He sees the rock on Gina's finger and he's lookin' at me like he's payin' me too much or somethin'. We're drinkin' and dancin', feelin' a little sauced if you know what I mean."
"Those are vices we have no use for here, Mr. DiMaggio."
"Really? We could make a mint bringin' hootch in here. Get it from my friend Angelo. He'll set us up real nice. Of course, I'd get a percentage of the action."
"We have no use for currency, either. I suggest you get to the point."
"That's what I'm getting to. Like I was tellin' ya, we were gettin' a bit lit when Big Tony calls me over and says he's got a job for me. Gotta be done that night. Seems one of our, uh, delinquent accounts was planning a little vacation without lettin' us know. Big Tony says he'll take Gina home."
"And that's when you get into the accident?"
"That's what I'm gettin' to. I went and picked up some muscle, I mean a negotiator, and paid a visit to our client. It didn't take as long as I thought. We convinced him to stay in town for a couple days and, uh, arranged a financial plan that would be mutually beneficial. Let me tell ya, I was tired on the way home. Thought I might not be able to live up to my new husbandly duties, if you know what I mean."
"But you had not yet taken your vows of matrimony."
"C'mon, A guy has needs. Anyway, I'm drivin' out to Gina's place. Got her a nice set up in Jersey, little house on a hill out in the boonies. She don't like it 'cause it's not where the action is, but it keeps her outta trouble. Or that's what I thought. I pull up, and Tony's car is still in the drive. I think what the- Sorry Pete. It don't take that long to drop her off. So I look in the front window, but they're not in the parlor. I can see light coming from the bedroom. So I creep around the house, and look in the bedroom window, and did I get an eye full. Gina's in bed with Big Tony. She's in her nightgown and got my rock on her finger, and Big Tony's got his stinkin' hand on her ass. They looked real familiar with each other, like this has been goin' on for some time. You can bet how pissed I am, and the first thing I think to do is charge in there, kill 'em both. But the dicks would finger me, oh and that would be a sin. So I put my car in neutral and roll to the bottom of the hill, wait along the side of the road. Big Tony leaves and I start to follow him. He's headin' back into the city, so I realize I gotta make my move. So I run into his car."
"You caused the accident?"
"That one, yeah, but not the one that killed me."
"Do you mean to say there were two accidents?"
"That's what I've been trying to tell ya. Big Tony's car goes crashin' down a hill. I didn't want to kill him, just have it out man to man. So I's go runnin' down the hill. Big Tony is gettin' outta the car, kinda dazed. He sees me, and goes straight for my throat. Now, Big Tony has hands like hams, and I can tell from the things he's sayin' he ain't gonna give up the fight without some convincin', so I pulls out my knife and he grabs my hand, and we're fightin' real close, and the knife accidentally goes in the side of his throat. Blood is gushin' like one of those fountains you throw a penny in to make a wish, and Tony let's go, holding his throat with both hands."
"You still haven't explained the loss of your belt."
"I'm gettin' right to it. So I think back to my Catholic school days, Pete. Sure could make those nuns nicer. I mean what's under those habits? I remember learning first-aid and how to apply a tourniquet, so I whipped off my belt and put it around his throat."
"Around his neck?"
"Yeah, right around his neck. Cut the bleedin' right off."
"I couldn't exactly carry Big Tony so I left him there and headed back to Gina's to call this doctor I know. When I get back, I stopped in the bathroom to clean up this new suit. Only she wakes up and sees all the blood and wants to know what happened. So I tell her I mighta accidentally whacked Big Tony, and I can forgive her for her indiscretion, but she gets mad, and says, 'Why did you go and do that for? I had a good thing going.' She was getting gifts and a place to live from me, and gettin' money from him. That why did I have to blow it by asking her to marry me? She coulda been a happy woman, and she starts packin' up her things, puttin' all the clothes and jewelry I bought her into a suitcase. I'm tryin' to talk some sense to her, how we can still make it, but she says I've signed my death warrant killin' Big Tony.
"I'm telling her all this as she walks out the door to get into her car, and I tell her she's not goin' to leave, over my dead body. I get in front of her car wavin' my arms to try to stop her, but my pants slipped down again and when I go to pull them up, she ran right over me. She broke my heart, Pete."
"I've heard this story before, Mr. DiMaggio, only from a different point of view. Please go to the end of the line to the entrance to Hell. Right behind Mr. Antonio Grande. That's Big Tony to you. Tell 'em Pete sent ya'."