Goodbye, Farewell, and Thanks for Having Me

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By Martin Smith.


Last night, my pop, Jack Declan, dropped by for a visit.

‘Hello, my boy,’ he said. ‘I’ve been waiting for your REM cycle to kick in.’

‘Hi, Pop,’ I said. ‘How’s Heaven?’

He sat grey-haired and stooped at the end of my bed, peering over his glasses with his sparkling blue eyes. His cheeks were flushed as if he’d faced a stiff headwind when sliding down the balustrading on the stairway to Heaven. He looked much better than when I last saw him, ashen-faced in his open coffin.

‘Excellent, my boy. It’s everything your nan and I prayed for, and more.’

‘How’s Nan?’

‘She’s great. She sends her love. She’s flat out most days with her University of the Afterlife courses and the vibrant arts scene up there. Last week, we saw Olivier and Gielgud in a charming little production of Macbeth.’

‘That’s good to hear. Tell her I miss her.’

‘I will.’

‘Any particular reason you, pardon the pun, popped in?’

‘Just passing through, my boy, and thought it would be nice to catch up. I won a leave pass from The Almighty.’

‘How’d you do that, Pop?’

‘I beat him in a game of soccer.’


‘That’s right. You won’t believe this, but he’s a huge Manchester City fan. Whenever he’s out and about, pressing the flesh and mingling amongst the multitudes, he’s decked out in the sky blue. He even wears shorts on balmy days. You’ve no idea how pale and hairless his legs are.’

‘I’d have thought rugby would’ve been his game of choice.’

‘Don’t believe the rubbish those rugby union prats spout, my boy. It’s soccer, not union, that’s played in Heaven.’

‘So, Pop, how’d you beat him? I’d have thought he’d be impenetrable as a keeper.’

‘He played striker in a five-a-sider. Said he needed a run.’

‘But how’d you beat him?’

My pop sat straighter and flashed me the toothy smile that won him my nan’s heart.

‘Team selection, my boy. I picked a champion team as opposed to his team of champions. And the key to my success was having that vital first pick.’

‘Who’d you pick, Pop? Beckenbauer? Maradona? Pelé?’

‘I was tempted, but they were unavailable for selection, so I went left-field and chose Elizabeth I.’

‘Elizabeth I?’

‘Yep, I sure did. You should have seen God’s face. I reckon he hadn’t been that confused since he created Adam. He had no idea, unlike me, that under all those petticoats and gowns and stern demeanour, Lizzie has a killer left foot. I knew I had him flustered because he took William the Conqueror with his first pick. He’s a renowned whizz on the pitch, but I knew his weakness.

‘Then we went pick-for-pick, like the old schooldays down on the oval at the beginning of recess. I selected the Red Baron because of his superior aerial skills, and God picked Henry VIII. I selected Pavarotti as keeper, given his girth and ability to hold a tune if we won and needed someone to lead a rousing rendition of our team song—though I was tempted to go for Demis Roussos. God then chose Charlemagne. I cursed under my breath because old Charlie’s a gun defender, and I would’ve chosen him with my last pick. I regrouped though, and when I called out my last selection, I knew I had old Jehovah rattled. He gagged on his white beard when I said “Jesus”. I figured the father had taught the son all he knew, so we’d get some insight into The Almighty’s game plan. And rattled he was, for he rushed his last pick and selected Louis XIV.

‘St Peter tossed the coin. God called correctly and elected to defend the Pearly Gates end. His team wore sky blue, and I decked out my team in celestial white. We played a thrilling match with all manner of heavenly strikes raining down upon the net, yet Pavarotti and Henry made some outstanding saves. Old Henry was particularly vocal when any member of either team approached with the ball, threatening to behead anyone who landed the ball anywhere near the net.

‘The score was nil-all at full time and remained so after overtime. Then came the penalty shoot-out. Both teams netted their first four penalties; only William and I remained to fight it out. Now, Willie may have conquered England, but he sure as hell couldn’t conquer his nerves, and he sprayed his shot wide of the net. I stepped up to the penalty mark and placed the ball down. I looked up and all that stood between me and a much-valued leave pass was a flushed Henry Tudor muttering under his breath and pretending to sharpen an invisible axe in his pudgy hands. I’ll admit I was nervous. To get my leave pass, I needed to win the game. A loss or tie, and God would have condemned me to the menial task of polishing his studded boots for eternity.

‘I decided to aim inside the right post, so I closed my eyes and visualised my strike. Taking a deep breath, I opened my eyes and tried to stare into Henry’s eyes to avoid giving him any hint as to my intention, but I succumbed to his steely glare and snuck a peak at the right post. Henry chuckled and crouched, and I knew my shot and my leave pass were doomed. I approached the ball with neither confidence nor hope.

‘Then Providence stepped in, for a maidenly call came from the stands, and as Henry turned and sized up the offending lass in the crowd as a seventh wife, I squeezed the ball past his girth and into the back of the net.

‘God’s team sank to their knees in despair as the stands erupted in a flurry of waving white and the roar of thunderous applause, and while Lizzie lifted her skirts and danced a victory jig and the Baron performed celebratory loop-the-loops and Jesus raised his arms and gave thanks to his Father and Pavarotti burst into a prolonged high C, I jogged over and shook God’s hand.

‘He shook his head and said, “I can’t understand how I lost, given my four kings.”

‘“Ah,” I said, accepting the leave pass he handed me, “you may have had four kings, your Almightiness, but I had a flying ace, the King of Kings, the Virgin Queen, a Jack and the world’s greatest tenor, and a royal flush always beats four kings.”

‘Boom-boom, my boy. Gotta rush. I need to check in on your mum before this leave pass expires. See you in Heaven.

‘Goodbye, farewell, and thanks for having me.’


 Eight-year-old Martin Smith


Martin Smith is a writer of short fictions of humour. Having spent a working life crunching numbers, he retired to the Bellarine Peninsula in 2013, where he lives and writes in a beach house at Queenscliff. When he is not banging away on his keyboard with thumbs and index fingers or reading snippets of his scribblings to his beloved Rose, you’ll more likely than not find him walking the beach barefoot at low tide or downing a double scoop of Peppermint Chip at the local ice-creamery. He plans to publish two collections of stories of humour (This Laugh’s On Me and The Cannibal’s Guide to Health and Wellbeing) in 2023.

Martin joined Geelong Writers in 2022. He is a member of The Seaside Scribes, a writing group that meets at the Queenscliff Neighbourhood House every second Tuesday.

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