PREVIOUSLY ON BOOKSHELF Q. BATTLER AND THE MEANING OF LIFE…
PART ONE – Dead by an electrified toaster pastry!
PART TWO – Awake in a 1930’s speakeasy surrounded by dead celebrities!
PART THREE – A beloved deceased female celebrity from my generation who died too soon is bringing me free drinks!
PART FOUR – And William Shakespeare has been appointed as my spiritual guide!
AND NOW BOOKSHELF Q. BATTLER AND THE MEANING OF LIFE CONTINUES…
“You always wanted to be a writer, didn’t you?” Bill asked.
“How did you know?”
“I read your treatment for Attack of the Killer Mutant Fish,” Bill said. “A solid effort for a ten year old with a notebook and a pencil. Tell me. Why didn’t you achieve your dream?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Same reason why so many wannabe writers never make it. Not enough publishing houses to accommodate everyone. Readers only have so much time and so much money to spend that even if you do get published, your work might get blown away in the breeze, lost in a vast sea of writers trying to make it big.”
“Sounds like a bunch of excuses,” Bill said.
“Few of us will be lucky enough to remain at the top of the tenth grade summer reading list four hundred years after we kick the bucket,” I said.
“Touche,” Bill replied. “But despite being aware of all the obstacles, you did, as a young lad, try to become a writer anyway. Why did you stop?”
“Fledgling writers don’t make much money,” I said. “I wanted a big house, a fancy car, an awesome wife, the whole nine yards…”
“And did selling out your dream provide you with all of those things?” Bill asked.
“I spend my free time writing a book review blog in which I never write a book review,” I said. “What do you think?”
“Could be worse,” Bill said. “Last week I had to advise some poor schlub who hanged himself after he couldn’t take one more lonely night of writing Firefly fan fiction.”
“So what are you saying?” I asked. “If I become a famous writer, then I’ll find the meaning of life, and then I will be allowed into Heaven?”
Bill slapped his knee and erupted into a hearty, robust laughter. The inhabitants of the bar – Lincoln, Albert, Eddie, Cleopatra…everyone, they all laughed too.
“I’m afraid it is not that easy, my new friend!” Bill said.
The waitress returned with another martini for bill and a scotch on the rocks for me.
“This is what I recommend for people when they’re told that finding the meaning of life isn’t that easy,” the waitress said. She then sauntered away and greeted John Wayne as he entered the room.
“Well, Howdy Pilgrims!” John yelled.
“Howdy, John!” the deceased historical barflies retorted.
“Few people ever come close to touching the dreams that dwell within their hearts,” Shakespeare said. “Do you think a deity would ever be so cruel as to make the meaning of life and the attainment of a dream one and the same?”
“Ummm.” I thought about it for a moment. “Is this a riddle?”
“No,” Shakespeare said. “The meaning of life is not discovered through dream fulfillment. Alternatively, following one’s dreams does not lead one down the path toward the meaning of life.”
“You’re getting awfully meta, dude,” I said. “Are you going to ask me what a tree sounds like if it falls down in the middle of a forest with no one around to hear it?”
“CRACK! BOOM!” the waitress yelled over from the bar, where she was busily setting drink cups on her tray.
“The meaning of life does allow a person to be content,” Bill said. “Find the meaning of life, and you will know a brief feeling of contentment.”
“Contentment?” I asked.
“Satisfaction,” Bill said.
“Happiness?” I asked.
“Eh,” Bill replied. “I wouldn’t go that far. No one is ever truly happy.”
“Seriously?” I asked.
“Seriously,” Shakespeare said. “It is human nature to always want more, no matter how much you may already have. Thus, even people who look happy and act happy, even those who think they are happy, are not truly happy.”
“So a brief moment of contentment is all we can achieve?” I asked.
“Yes,” Shakespeare said. “And God, he’s giving you a second chance. Find the meaning of life and you will find your brief moment of contentment.”
“Why am I so special that God would give me a second chance?” I asked.
“I was actually wondering the same thing,” Bill said. “No offense, but you look pretty mediocre. Is your cousin a congressman or something?”
“Huh,” Bill said. “Well, the Lord does work in mysterious ways.”
Bill looked at an old clock hanging on the wall.
“It is time to return you to your world now, Mr. Bookshelf,” Bill said. “But you can’t be sent back without someone on the other side to welcome you. Tell me, if you were to return to your life, would there be one person happy to see you?”
I thought about it. And thought. And thought. Five minutes passed. I had nothing.
Bill looked at his pocket watch. The waitress sauntered over and handed me a bottle of Goldschlager.
“If it’s taking you this long to think of someone who misses you on the other side, you’ll need this,” the waitress said.
“Booze with flecks of gold in it?” I asked.
“Makes your pee shiny,” the waitress said. “It’ll be a nice distraction from your shell of a life.”
“I’m sorry,” Bill said. “But if you cannot think of anyone from the physical realm who is lamenting your loss, then I must inform you that you will remain trapped in this room forever.”
I snapped my fingers.
“Wait!” I said. “I thought of someone!”
“Then you may return to your life,” Bill said. “But know this, good sir, if you do not seek out the meaning of life, you will not get a second chance at Heaven.”
“Wait,” I said. “Odds are few people have ever found the meaning of life, yet most people are decent human beings. You’re telling me all those people end up in Hell?”
“Not Hell,” Shakespeare said. “Just Second Class Heaven. You see there’s a First Class Heaven, akin to being served at a Rodeo Drive boutique, and then there’s Second Class Heaven, which is like being served at Wal-Mart.”
“Takes you forever to get your halo there,” the waitress said. “And when you do, its usually scuffed and second hand.”
“I understand your confusion,” Shakespeare said. “You see, to us First Class Heaven folk, Second Class Heaven is so blasé that we rarely even refer to it as Heaven at all. It’s just a place where God sticks all the people who never earned eternal reward or punishment.”
“The catch-all kitchen drawer of the cosmos” the waitress said. “You know, that drawer where you put your batteries, your rubber bands, loose screws, spare appliance parts, crap you don’t know what else to do with but feel bad throwing away…”
“I get it,” I said. “Well, it looks like it’s second class for me. I have no idea where to begin searching for the meaning of life.”
“Don’t worry,” Bill said. “You’ll find a clue in a most annoying manner.”
“Thanks Mr. Cryptic,” I said. “So how do I get back?”
The waitress sat on my lap. It seemed a tad forward, but who was I to argue with a beloved female celebrity from my generation who passed away too soon?
“Close your eyes, honey,” she said.
I closed them. I was back in the darkness, where I saw absolutely nothing, and felt only a pair of juicy lips pressing themselves up against mine.
Will Bookshelf Q. Battler make it back to the physical world? Find out next time on Bookshelf Q. Battler and the Meaning of Life!
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Drunk guy photo courtesy of a shutterstock.com license.