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Heaven’s Gate

By Susan Jacob, Special to the Independent

Mickey Rooney, born Joseph Yule Jr., was born on Sept. 23, 1920, and died on April 6, 2014. He began his career as a child actor. He performed in over 300 films. Rooney’s personal life was tumultuous. He was married eight times. His first wife was Ava Gardner. He died owing back taxes.

Mickey Rooney finds himself awake outside in the fog.

He hears a voice calling out, “Mr. Jules, Mr. Joseph Jules, I can help you over here.”

Mickey moves toward the voice. “I beg your pardon, are you talking to me?”

An elderly man with a long white beard is seated at a desk. “Have a seat Mr. Jules.”

“What?” answers Mickey. “You have me mixed up with someone. Wait, where are we?”

The elderly man points to a seat. “Make yourself comfortable and I will answer all your questions. May I call you Joseph?”

“I am Mickey Rooney for God’s sakes. Don’t you recognize me?”

“I am St. Peter, Mr. Jules, or one of them anyway. Sit down and try to relax. You are at Heaven’s Gate.”

Mickey moans, “Oh dear God no, oh my God.”

“Well yes, exactly.”

“How did I get here? Oh never mind. Do you know what I had for lunch?”

“Excuse me?”

“I wish I could remember what I ate that knocked me out after lunch. You see, I have been so careful not to fall fully asleep. I just knew this would happen. It was the turkey sandwich, right? “

“Joseph, you passed away peacefully in your sleep. It was a blessing, really.”

“Call me Mickey, O.K. Pete? You guys must have a file telling you about me.”

“Mr. Yule, sir, you must understand that we have been receiving guests for more than 10,000 years. Billions are here, people from all times and all places, the world over. Our files, as you call them don’t include, what you call….”

“Stage names.”

“Yes, correct. We have your given name and your life story.”

“Oh Jesus, of course, my life story.”

St. Peter places Mickey’s Book of Life in a film form before him.

“You are here to stay Joseph. Please consult your story and select a time, people and a place in your history. Where would you like to spend eternity?”

They examine the scenes together.

“I see here my old lady is fighting about my burial. Can we hang out and see what happens? She hates me you know. They all hate me.”

“You must select a time and place carefully. We have found organizing people by familiar family, friends and location is most comfortable for them. It is a sort of neighborhood. We do require organization. You must understand.”

They return to viewing the book together. “Could you say I made it to heaven, Pete?”

“Well, Joseph you could say you made it to Heaven. It all depends on your perspective. Where will you reside Joseph? With whom will you share eternity?”

Mickey grimaces and bends to look for his audience.

“Jesus Pete, you are right. Some of my life could be hell. Oh sorry for the Christ reference. You must be one of his guys.”

“Well, Joseph that young man was a few thousand years after my time. St. Peter is a job title we use for Americans.”

“Gotcha. Well, Pete, I am afraid to ask, but are my wives, the seven who come your way? Around here close?”

They look over and see a group of women waiting, none too happy. He hears their voices and sees their faces one at a time and then together.

“You can make peace here Joseph. You have all eternity. Did you know that Cain and Able finally made peace?”

“Wow that’s biblical. That would make a great movie. No hurry, right? I have plenty of time, right? You did say eternity. ”

“True enough.”

Mickey continues flipping through each stage avoiding the faces of the love gained and lost. He stops suddenly, seeing himself in uniform. He hears the sounds of applause and laughter. He also hears the sounds of gun shots and screams. Tears appear.

“Pete they liked me fine in those days. Nobody wants to live in the war neighborhood. Jeez, too dark, really terrible. I guess you heard.”

“That I did. We all worked overtime.”

Tears streaming, Mickey searches his life from boy to old man and back again. His wives, children, love, pain and loss are all present.

“Pete, I got trouble everywhere. I don’t want to go. I can’t see my fans. I only see all those dames whose voices kept me awake for years. They haunted me and now it’s not a dream. It’s is like I woke up to a lynch mob.”

A petite young women steps forward. “Mickey, I have been waiting for you honey.”

“Mom, is that you Mom? You still want me right?” Mickey, a small boy now, embraces his mother. “I made some kind of heaven after all.”

Mickey and his mother walk away together. In the distance we see her grab him by the ear and pull him along.

“You will set things right. Do you hear me young man? How dare you keep me from my grandchildren? How ungrateful can you be, after all I sacrificed for you?”

“Oh, hell.”

Author Susan Jacobs is a student of local film instructor Christine Fugate.

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