There’s a hot wing stand on the edge of Heaven. It’s right where the queue is longest, when you yearn for that final taste of home. The logo is a cloud with a chicken exploding out of it. Rumours say that Michelangelo painted it, but that could just be nonsense. The hot sauce is to die for though, and that’s the truth. There’s no writeup in the Michelin Guide as no one ever goes back, but it’s a nice touch to finally comprehend the pointlessness of a five-star review (as you wait in line for your soul to be judged). Irony seems more delicious when you’re dead.
The proprietor’s doing time for not flipping sides in the cosmic war between angels and demons quickly enough, unlike the wings, which are always charred to perfection. He has a tired smile that urges you towards the Family Bucket, even if you’ve come alone. It’s good to share; a final reprieve for some, who might have been lacking a few points on the compassion-o-meter.
There’s something sad about the way he hands out the orders, wiping spotless hands against a golden apron, glancing wistfully at the tacky décor: plastic clip-on wings, neon halos, and a stack of Happy Birthday party boxes (bought cheap) but never to be used, as that’d be in poor taste.
Your favorite record plays while you wait, but never Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell. It’s popular, yet inappropriate considering the circumstances. All orders are freshly prepared, meaning you’ll have plenty of time to read the signs— airport-like pictorial information, clearly stating what can and cannot be taken inside. It’s amazing what some family members will pop in your coffin— an ill-conceived afterthought for the onward journey. The Egyptians got it right; Aunt Dot, not so much. Still, there are bins you can place your celestial contraband in, beneath cardboard plates smeared with ClippedWingTM sauce and flimsy white napkins. It’s all good.
No money changes hands, of course, just a good deed for a good meal— the simplest transaction of your life. Stories are sometimes enough to tip the balance in your favor, and entering the afterlife, licking rich umami twang from your fingers, is probably the best any of us could hope for.
Go in your sleep. Go for wings. Then just… go.
Once you cross over there will be an eternal feast, exactly as promised for a life well lived, but you’ll never get a meal quite as good as the one you ate leaning on the bar of the hot wing stand on the edge of Heaven.
Zoe Davis is an emerging writer and artist from Sheffield, England. A quality engineer in advanced manufacturing by day, she spends her evenings and weekends writing poetry and prose, and especially enjoys exploring the interaction between the fantastical and the mundane. You can find her work in publications such as: Acropolis Journal, Livina Press, MONO., Hungry Shadow Press, and Idle Ink. You can also follow her on X/Twitter @MeanerHarker, where she's always happy to have a virtual coffee and a chat.