StoryRhyme After Dark: Paradise Lost

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Paradise Lost
By Harry Buschman


I had a box of hymnals in the trunk of my car to deliver to Pastor Gregory James Coots of the Full Gospel Tabernacle, a church in Paradise. Paradise New York, that is. Paradise is a small town just north of Schenectady. I always disliked Schenectady... Mainly because it's hard to spell and it's off in a place you don't want to be in winter. Not that you'd enjoy being there in the summer either, but you do have to go there if you're on your way to Paradise. I sell bibles and hymnals to churches, and while I admit it's not much of a job, it's the only thing like a job I could find with the economy in the shape it is.

You run out of super highways when you get north of Schenectady. The roads get narrower and twistier and the paving goes downhill from concrete, to macadam, to dirt with oil spread on it to keep the dust down. I figured I must be getting close so I began looking for the sign to Paradise.

In the gathering dusk I came upon a crossroads, (maybe that's a little too poetic, but that's how it seemed to me at the time). I had to make a decision. There were three choices for Paradise, straight ahead, to the right, or to the left. There should have been a sign. They told me back in Schenectady there would be a sign. "Just follow the sign," they said.

But there wasn't any sign... And I hate when that happens.

I rolled my window down and stuck my head out. Sure enough, there was a sign, but it was face down by the side of the road. I got out and turned it over and there in the dim light I read the oil stained message, "TO PARADISE, Population 176." Some damn fool had knocked it down and driven over it, and now I didn't know which way Paradise was. I had three choices, two of them were wrong and somehow I felt the odds were against me. I only knew that Schenectady was behind me. Much as I disliked Schenectady, it seemed a better choice than Paradise, wherever the hell it was. It's tough if you don't know where Paradise is, so I turned the car around and started back to Schenectady, rationalizing my decision every mile of the way.

There wasn't much going on in Schenectady by the time I got back. The only two things open that I could see was the hotel and the bar next to it. I parked in the deserted street in front of the bar and went inside... The bartender was sitting on a stool watching a basketball game from the west coast.

"Double Beefeater Martini on the rocks with a twist," I said.

Without taking his eyes off the basketball game he made the Martini and put it on the bar in front of me.

"You know how I can get to Paradise?" I asked.

"Sometimes there'll be a sign," he answered. "Otherwise it's pretty much up to you..."

(c) 2012 Harry Buschman
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