17 Welcome to ParadiseMature

Pastor Luzak had driven Dave, Karen, his brother Henry and niece Charlene to a small cove on the shore of Lake Wallenpaupak. At this point, the Lake was about a mile across. Far out on the water, several boats glided slowly with their sails hanging limp. Fishing lines trolled behind the vessels. 

Domnick had parked outside a small refreshment stand, with a sign on the roof, identifying the place as "Natalino's Landing". There were two other hovercars in the parking lot. A narrow pathway ran from the parking lot down to the shoreline, where a wooden dock stretched out into the water. The five from Zabelton were now fishing from the dock. 

Henry had shown the two kids from the City Building how to bait their hooks, and cast their lines. He'd also warned them to be careful with the hooks, and make sure they looked over their shoulders before casting. 

Karen had been squeamish at the sight of the worms. "You don't actually eat these things, do you?" 

"No." The Motel proprietor had chuckled. Then he patiently explained, "We use them to bait the hooks. Then the fish bite them. Then we eat the fish, after we cook them." 

"Good." She'd said, "They don't look like any kind of meat that I'd want to eat, even after they'd been cooked." 

Henry had also warned them to make sure that their lines didn't overlap with anyone else's. 

Now Dave and Karen sat together on the dock, not too far from the thickly wooded shoreline. Their red and white bobbers floated undisturbed on the quiet water where they'd been cast. Their fishing lines lay a good distance apart, across the top of the ripples. Under the warm morning sun, there was no breeze. The occasional call of a bird sounded in the distance, and the lapping of the water against the dock were the only sounds they noticed. 

Domnick, Henry and Charlene had moved to the far end of the dock, where they were now fishing, a few hundred feet away from Dave and Karen. 

"Charlene and her father keep looking at us." Karen told Dave. "I know the Pastor's an okay guy. He wants to give us a chance. I don't know about anybody else around here." 

"We just have to go along with them Karen. Obey their laws, and...and I don't know what. Forget about the City Building?" 

"Forget?" She asked, "How can we forget? The City of Manhattan Building is our home. That's where we belong. Not here. As beautiful as this all is, we don't belong here." 

"If there were other people from the City Building out here, it would be a lot easier." 

"If our friends were out here Dave, we'd be able to enjoy it. I wish we could welcome them to come out here." 

"We can't." He told her, "It's just you and me Karen." 

She sighed, "Why did you have to pray for me Dave?" 

"Let's not get back to that again, please." 

Karen sighed once more. She gave the reel on her fishing rod a few cranks, bringing her bobber in a little closer. Then she sighed again. 

Dave said, "The Pastor's coming over." 

Domnick had left his gear beside Henry and Charlene. He moved along the dock in Dave and Karen's direction. Then he came over and stood beside them. 

He said, "I've been thinking over what you told me before, and what I saw in that photo you showed me." 

"In the City Building," Karen told him, "pictures like that aren't considered obscene. It shows me involved in what we call 'sadistic recreation', and we are sadistic people, and we consider it a virtue." 

Now the man said, "That's not what I want to discuss. Karen. You said the Lord brought you back, after Dave prayed for you. Now you're here. This is a sign from the Lord that something of great importance is occurring." 

"That's what we've been thinking too." Dave told him, "We and our friends have been trying to figure it out, but up 'til now we've just been guessing." 

"This is what I've figured out." The man told Karen, "What isn't a guess is this. You told me that the Lord spoke to you. What he said to you, are the same words that are found in Deuteronomy chapter 30. They were originally spoken by Moses to the Israelites, after they'd left their captivity in Egypt and were about to enter the Promised Land. 

"That isn't a guess." He went on, "What is a guess, is that your receiving of this message, your reviving, and your leaving the City Building, might be a sign, that the same thing is about to happen again." 

"The same thing?" Dave asked "'Freedom from captivity'?" 

"Yes Dave, Karen. It may be that after 1,322 years, the time for the unsealing of the City of Manhattan Building has come. The Lord might have sent you to us as a warning." 

Karen repeated, "Warning?" 

"That your 'virtuously sadistic' people, might be about to enter our land." 

Then Dave said, "Karen." 

He pointed out toward the water. "I think you've got something." 

She looked where he was pointing. "Where's the bobber?" 

Domnick said, "A fish has taken the bait. Now reel it in slowly." 

She lifted up her fishing rod, and felt a tug on the line. She put her fingers on the crank, and began reeling in the line, feeling an even stronger tug on the other end. She raised the rod higher, and it bent forward toward the water. 

Domnick said, "You've got him now. Reel him in quick." 

She did as he said, and began rapidly cranking the reel. Then the approaching bobber again appeared above the waves, followed by an eight inch long black fish, with a wide round head, that had appendages sticking out from around its wide mouth. 

"It's a bullhead." The Pastor told her. 

She reeled it in right up to the edge of the dock, and lifted the thrashing creature high, while the rod remained bent forward by the weight of the catch. 

"It's a bullhead." Domnick repeated. "Larger ones are called 'catfish'." 

As the bullhead thrashed around, with its tail bending sideways, up and down, Karen told it, "Welcome to Paradise." 

Dave also said, "Welcome to Paradise." 

She swayed the rod, bringing the bullhead in over the dock, where Domnick helped her remove the hook. Then he tossed the catch into a bucket at her side that had been filled with water from the Lake. 

Then he asked, "Why did you both welcome the fish to Paradise?" 

Dave told him, "We're supposed to say that to everybody who gets killed or who we kill ourselves." 

Karen added, "And with the way that fish was squirming around, like some cheerleader who's getting hanged, it was just the right thing to say." 

Across the parking lot from the refreshment stand, a picnic area was set up with tables and benches, and open barbecue pits made from stone, with metal grills across the top. Around 11:30, the Luzaks, Dave and Karen carried their morning catches of fish up from the dock, and into the picnic area. 

Domnick carried the fish that he, Henry and Charlene had caught, on a line with hooks through their gills. 

Dave told Karen, "Like a line of hanged cheerleaders." 

She called out, "Welcome to Paradise, fishes!" 

The fish were put down atop one table, where they were cut open, and seasoned for cooking. While the others prepared the meal, Henry brought a bag of charcoal over from the trunk of the hovercar. He loaded the briquettes into one barbecue pit, tossing them under its metal grill. Then he set the briquettes on fire. 

Once the fish were cleaned, they were tossed on the grill, along with potatoes and carrots that the Luzaks had brought with them from Zabelton. The aroma of barbecuing fish, carrots and potatoes soon filled the air throughout all of Natalino's Landing. 

When the grilling was done, everyone sat at one of the tables, on the long wooden benches. The Luzaks sat on one side of the table, while Dave and Karen sat across from them. Just before they began eating the barbecued fish, potatoes and carrots that were on paper plates in front of them, Pastor Luzak spoke. 

"Would you like to say grace, Dave?" 

They all bowed their heads, while the young fellow from the City Building spoke. 

"Thank you Lord for this food that we are about to receive, and thank you for receiving these fish that we are about to eat, into Paradise with you. In Jesus Name. Amen." 

The three Luzaks looked puzzled, as Dave and Karen began to eat. 

The Pastor asked Dave, "You thanked the Lord, for receiving fish into Paradise?" 

"That's how we say grace in the City Building. Except there we say 'for receiving these people who we are about to eat'." 

He and Karen continued eating, while Domnick, Henry and Charlene had no idea what to say. 

Then Charlene asked, "What do you think Uncle Domnick? Do animals go to Heaven?" 

"I'm really not sure." He told her, "Somebody asked me that once. I told him that I couldn't think of any reason why they wouldn't. 

"Then he told me, 'That means that Heaven is full of flies.'" 

The others laughed. 

Domnick went on, "Yes. Heaven is full of flies; and mosquitoes, gnats and hornets and big hairy spiders. There are snakes and scorpions, and alligators, along with lions, and tigers and bears." 

"Oh my." said Charlene. 

Henry added, "And don't forget about all those giant dinosaurs." 

Domnick went on, "Along with all those thieves and harlots." 

His niece repeated, "Thieves and harlots?" 

"Yes. Jesus did say that they would be the first to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, because they were the first to repent at His teaching." 

"Right." Henry nodded. "There will be thieves and harlots in Heaven." 

Domnick added, "Along with all those warrior guys and girls, and cheerleaders from inside the City of Manhattan Building, who've accepted Christ as Savior." 

Then Karen said, "Amen." 

The Pastor told them, "Heaven should be a very interesting and exciting place." 

Then Karen said, "Oh everything here is just so wonderful. We wish that it was possible for us to invite our friends to come out here and it enjoys it with us. 

"I'm sorry Karen." Henry said, "We are all doing our best to help you both feel welcomed. Unfortunately, we can't do the same for your friends. It's like we've been saying. If they learned about the way things are out here, people would come pouring out of the City Building by the millions, and the world would be turned into total chaos." 

"Mr. Luzak." Dave told Henry, "Karen and I are not the only ones who know it. Right after we came outside the City Building, I was able to call someone on my cellphone. We told her that we were out here, and that there was life in abundance out here. By now the word's sure to have gotten around to a lot of people." 

The Luzaks all looked troubled. 

Charlene said, "Millions of cannibals from Hell, are gonna start pouring out?" 

"Calm down Charlene!" Domnick spoke firmly. "There is no reason for alarm. Just because a few people have found out, it doesn't mean that millions of them are gonna begin pouring out three days later. There may be a small trickle at first, but it's going to take a good amount of time and planning, before any groups of any considerable size, begin to emerge. 

"This is something that has always been expected to happen eventually, and plans have been made in preparation for it." 

Henry asked, "Do you have any ideas what those plans are, Dom?" 

"Well, to begin with," the Pastor told them, "I'll have to go down to Scranton tomorrow. I'll go to Congressman Salinski's Office, and talk to somebody there. What I've heard about the plans is that a delegation will be appointed and sent to the City Building, where they will speak with Government officials. They will hopefully agree to work with us, so that when City People do begin to emerge in large numbers, the whole thing will be managed in an orderly way. That will prevent chaos." 

Henry said, "That sounds reasonable." 

Charlene nodded in agreement. 

"Pastor Luzak?" Dave asked, "Are you going to enter the City Building yourself?" 

"I probably would be appointed as a member of the Delegation, David." The Pastor smiled, "And since no member of the Delegation, would know a thing about what's what inside the City Building, we'll need people to guide us, and those people would obviously be the two of you. The Lord is with you Dave, and he is also with you Karen. He will be bringing you home." 

"It's not that easy Pastor." The high school boy told everyone there. "We were able to get out of the City Building with no trouble at all; but the airlock can only be opened from the inside. It can't be opened from the outside." 

"You're forgetting something." Henry said, "You told us you were able to speak to someone on the inside, over your cellphone." 

"That's right. She was my girlfriend." 

"Then you could go back to the same place where you called her from, just outside the City Building. Then you can call her again, and ask her to go down to the airlock and open it for you, and let the Delegation in." 

"Wait a minute!" Charlene spoke sharply. "You said that the girl you called was your 'girlfriend'? What about Karen?" 

"Karen's my former girlfriend. The girl I called is my present one. It's kind of complicated." 

Domnick and Henry both chuckled. 

Now Charlene gasped. "You mean you're not betrothed? You're both sleeping in the same room that we've rented you, and you're not even betrothed?" 

Karen told them all, "In the City of Manhattan Building, people our age just don't get 'betrothed'. No one is permitted to get married or have children, until he or she reaches 21 years of age. Dave and I won't even discuss marriage or children seriously, until we reach 21." 

"You mean your relationship isn't 'serious'? And you're staying in the room we've rented you? That the Church is paying for?" 

"Back inside the City Building," Karen said, "our relationship wouldn't be more than temporary, but as long as we're living out here, it would be right to call us 'betrothed'." 

Dave asked, "It would be?" 

"Yes Dave." Karen told him firmly, "You and I are betrothed!" 

"Right." 

The End

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