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The Qualtagh Rule

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Martin Davis was just your normal everyday guy. And when his number was up and his name was called, he died, just like normal, everyday guys are apt to do.

And that was when Martin began to get nervous, standing in the waiting room of heaven wondering what the heck he was supposed to now and why the collar of his white suit was itchy. Heaven wasn't supposed to be an itchy place. He had just about resolved to find the courage to scratch his neck when the door on the other side of the waiting room opened and a very small man bustled out.

'Peter!?' Martin asked, surprised. So far heaven was nothing like the movies.

'No!' the diminutive man snapped, 'Peter called in sick today. My name is Deeno.'

'You mean like''

'The dinosaur, yes.' Deeno cut over him, 'Not my fault that some stupid producer decides to call his creation's pet the same thing my mother decided to call me.'

Martin wasn't quite sure how to react. This little man, Deeno's voice was starting to give him a headache. 'Listen, Deeno''

'No time. A whole party of people is supposed to be arriving at any moment. Something about a skydiving convention.' He ushered Martin through the door and into an office. 'So let's get started. Take a seat please.'

Martin sat on the least floral armchair in the room, which happened to be the closest to the large wooden monstrosity of a desk. Deeno clambered up on the chair behind the desk, which Martin was amused to see was stacked with what appeared to be no less than seven Dex phone books. After Deeno was comfortably perched on top of the swaying pile, he stared down at Martin and asked, 'All right Martin, what have you done to deserve entrance to heaven?'

Martin focused on his white sneakers, and traced the faded outline of a grass stain with his eyes while he thought. 'Well,' he began, somewhat lamely, 'I haven't exactly done anything bad. I've tried to attend church. And I volunteered at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving once.'

A loud scratching noise made him look up. Deeno was struggling to write something on a slip of paper with an enormous flamboyant quill that appeared to be taller than him. The absurdity of it made Martin want to rub his eyes. Strange place this heaven was.

A long, noisy moment passed after which Deeno threw down the quill and wiped beads of sweat from his forehead before looking at Martin as though sizing him up. 'That's all well and good Martin, but the true test is something I like to call the Qualtagh Rule.' And then noting Martin's blank stare, he nodded wisely.

'The what rule?' Martin asked.

'The Qualtagh Rule,' Deeno replied with another wise nod.

Martin waited for an explanation, but none was forthcoming.

'The Qualtagh Rule,' he stated flatly.

'Yep.'

'I have to admit, I have no idea what you're talking about.'

'Most people don't.' He took the opportunity for another wise nod.

'Right'.So are you going to explain it to me?'

'Do you want me to?'

Martin rolled his eyes, 'Well considering that its what is being used to test me for heaven, I'd say yes.'

Another wise nod. 'But of course.' Deeno pulled open an enormous drawer, bent to shuffle through it, and promptly toppled off his phonebooks and into the cavernous space. When he reappeared, he had several pictures clutched in his fist, which he presented to Martin with a flourish.

'Your qualtaghs.'

Martin took the pictures and shuffled through them. With each passing one, his forehead crinkled a little more in confusion. Here was a little girl with a lollipop, there was a dark haired women in a bathrobe. Martin looked up at Deeno, resituated on his tower.

'I don't understand. These are all strangers. Well except this woman.' He held up the robed brunette. 'I think she's my neighbor. And this one,' he held up a different picture, 'I'm fairly sure is my mailman.'

Deeno nodded wisely. 'Ah yes, and therein lies the simplicity of the Qualtagh Rule. Because we here in heaven believe that the best measure of the quality of a man lies in how he treats, not his friends, but complete strangers.'

The air whooshed out of Martin as his mind raced back over his life. 'That's crazy!!' he exclaimed, 'Nowhere in the Bible is that written!'

Deeno nodded wisely. 'But it is written on this plaque.' Martin looked in the direction Deeno indicated and sure enough, a small gold plaque engraved with even smaller writing stood gleaming in front of a potted cactus.

'So you're telling me that I am going to be judged on how I treat complete strangers?!'

Deeno shook his head wisely, 'Not strangers, Martin, qualtaghs.'

'What's the difference?'

'A qualtagh is the first person you meet when leaving your house.'

'Same thing.'

'No, if we judged you on every stranger you ever met we'd have to expand the record keeping department to 506% its current capacity. This requires not only more labor, but also more manpower, which we, I'm sorry to say, just don't have. So we use qualtaghs.'

Martin massaged his forehead. His headache caused by Deeno's voice whispered promises of morphing into a full on migraine. 'Ok. I think I understand. So now what?'

'Well, normally you'd prepare a case to present to the Board of Admittance. But they've declared today an unofficial golfing day. So its just you and me.' He took the opportunity for another wise nod, then looked at his watch. 'However, we need to make this quick. I'm expecting''

'A party of skydivers. Yeah I know.'

'Right. Will to direct your attention to the first photograph.' Martin flipped to the image of the lollipop girl.

'Yes, what about her?'

'Her name is Monica Lane. She was your qualtagh a few years ago. It looks like you were seven at the time. And you pushed her into the mud and stole her lollipop. Tsk tsk, that's going to leave a mark.' He pulled out the ridiculous quill.

'I was seven!' Martin protested, 'So I loved candy! And my mom refused to give me any. And there Monica was, holding this bright ball of sugar on a stick. I couldn't help myself! She wouldn't share!'

'Please direct your attention to picture two,' Deeno went on as if he hadn't heard a thing.

Martin shuffled the photo of the girl to the back with a scowl which deepened into a frown when he saw the next picture. 'This is a squirrel'.'

'A squirrel which you rudely kicked, on the way out of your house one morning!'

Martin angrily stood up. 'Oh that is it! I've had enough of you and your stupid Qualtagh Rule! I'm finished here!' And with that he stomped out of the office just in time to see six dazed and distinctly windswept people appear.

'Where are we?' A small blond woman asked.

'Heaven...supposedly.' Martin answered on his way past her.

And that was how Martin Davis, a normal, everyday guy went to hell and found it much more to his liking.





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