What is Heaven? Is it a wondrous, otherworldly paradise where everything’s perfect and no one has any worries? Or is it a mirror of our own world, only more surreal, and more forever?
Goldie Goldbloom‘s short story “The Telephone of the Dead” begins with Marnie Gottfried receiving a call from her dead husband. She’s just returned from burying him in Israel. So, of course, she doesn’t believe it’s truly him. But he calls again the next day. And the next.
The story moves both forward and backward in time. Marnie reminisces with the reader about the early days of her relationship. At the same time, she’s getting hints of what the Afterlife is like from her husband’s passing comments.
“Telephone” is sad, but it’s also darkly comic. Sometimes Marnie ends up talking by accident to other dead people. Apparently, there are no telephone operators in Heaven. And Marnie’s husband keeps asking for details about paying bills and how the children are doing–a sign, she thinks, that even in the Afterlife, not everything is perfect.
Marnie wrestles with understanding why her husband wanted to be buried in Israel. After all, they were never particularly religious. Over the course of the story, however, Marnie gains a new understanding–not just of the religious beliefs that her husband kept from her, but of the parts of ourselves that we keep secret from each other.