“Go back, please,” urged St Peter, “You have so much yet to give the world. Soon enough it will find itself bereft of your unparallel generosity of spirit, your acute sensitivity and towering intellect. But that time is not now. Too many people depend on you. And more will come to benefit from your wisdom, your guidance and your drive. Too many hearts will break. Too many lives will fracture. Too little light will be shed where it is needed. No, you must go back. You will be too sadly missed.”
“You mean there’s been some kind of mistake?” Arkwright, a florid man from the North Riding, gave the celestial gatekeeper one of his characteristic beetle-browed glares.
“You’ve been called before your time,” repeated Peter with the patience of a saint. “The world needs you more than we do, presently.”
“I’ve paid for the bloody funeral,” protested Arkwright, looking down askance at his gown and wondering whether Hubbard and Sons, Funeral Directors, Harrogate had cut a few corners on the generous provision he’d made for his send off.
“What you have to offer humanity is beyond price,” soothed the Saint. “You’ve never been wrong in seventy years, have you? They need you.”
“Bloody pencil pushers,” Arkwright huffed, as he turned back and hauled his portly form down into the lower cloud cover. “Need a rocket up their backsides.”
“They’ll only send him back again,” observed the angel Gabriel
“He’s bound for the basement, actually,” Saint Peter explained, ticking Arkwright off the list.
“But if he insists on turning up here, I thought he should climb up twice to hear the news.”
“Isn’t that rather unkind?”
“For the first time in his life, he’s going to put a smile on someone’s face,” replied Saint Peter.
And, yes, how the cherubim chortled.