U Go To Hell

U Go To Hell
By Angela Rasch

Appearing on a game show seemed to be a way out of my financial woes.

The audience seemed much closer than I had thought they would be. Even the four cameras between them and us — the contestants -- didn’t form much of a psychic barrier. Many of them openly gawked.

“The name of the game is U Go To Hell.” Brad, the smarmy emcee, grinned as if it wasn’t the millionth time he’d tried to make the game show’s name seem like fresh humor. “Each of our four contestants will tell you their real life stories, including their particular idiosyncrasy. At the end of the show the studio audience will vote to determine which three will be forgiven for their transgressions. Those lucky contestants will each receive ten thousand dollars and a shot at our bonus round worth fifty thousand dollars.”

The audience applauded the idea of winning fifty thousand dollars as if it was a heck of a lot of money. Which it was. . .especially to me. I was two months behind on rent and since I couldn’t find work since being laid-off as a real estate appraiser I had no idea how I would avoid eviction.

“One of you will receive absolutely nothing. That is the person who our studio audience will decide is such a complete failure as a human being that there is no possible chance of personal redemption. That person will be told by our audience . . . ‘U Go To Hell’.”

The jackasses who had been lucky enough to score studio tickets laughed like maniacs. Of course they might have been responding to the huge “LAUGH” sign that was blinking alternately in green and red. To assure their cooperation with the “APPLAUSE” and “LAUGH” signs the announcer who had warmed-up the audience had promised that if the audience did an enthusiastic job they would all get free passes to Disneyland.

“We’ll start with contestant number one.”

The four of us had drawn numbers out of a hat. I would go last.

“Contestant number one is Ted. Ted is thirty-two and is currently employed as a bouncer. Ted, you have one minute to describe what it is you’ve done that you would like forgiveness for. After you finish I will ask you two standard questions, which you will answer while you plead your case with our sympathetic, yet discerning audience.”

“Thank you, Brad,” Ted said with a crooked smile. His left eye twitched nervously. “It all started about two years ago. My Aunt Elle asked me to help out in her daycare. I told her I didn’t think it was a good idea. . .but she insisted. Hell. . .she got the whole freakin’ family involved in pressuring me. They said I had to do it because I owed her so much money that I’d borrowed over the years and hadn’t found a way to pay back.”

“You need to get to your sin,” Brad prompted.

He does that every week to the first contestant. I suppose he needs to get things moving faster or they won’t get us all in -- in one half hour show -- what with all the commercials.

“So as I was sayin’. . .I was helping out in this daycare and there was this one girl — she wasn’t a baby or anything. She had to be at least eight or nine. She took a shine to me and every day she pouted until I let her sit on my lap. I’m pretty sure she knew exactly what she was doing, because she would squirm around and get me all excited. . .you know. . .hard. Well one day when she was sitting on me I thought I would teach her a lesson so I rubbed her sort of like she was rubbing me. I just thought she’d get the message and act right. As it turned out I was hauled into the police station and next thing you know I’ve got more trouble than I ever knew existed. I didn’t have to do any time or anything, but now I’m a registered sex offender.”

Several people in the audience gasped. Thank goodness. I’m home free for the $10,000. . .at least. I had been worried that somehow the show’s producers would find four of us with things we did that weren’t really bad. I had been mildly surprised when they accepted my online application. My first reaction had been that they were running out of bad people.

Brad moved in close to Ted. “Do you understand that what you did is bad? And, will you ever do it again?”

Ted closed his eyes and screwed up his face like he’d just bit into a pickle. Then he opened them and stared out into the audience. “I never should’ve gone near that daycare; and I’ll never ever do anything like that again.”

The audience applauded mildly.

That was lame. Even I can tell he doesn’t feel any real remorse.

“Contestant number two is Sarah. Sarah is in the entertainment business as an exotic dancer.”

“That’s right, Brad. I can put on a great show, with or without a pole.” She smiled lasciviously. “But I prefer to have something tall and stiff in my hands. . .when I dance.”

“Uhmmm,” Brad winked at the studio audience, “I think we understand.’

Only on FOX.

“I committed a felony,” Sarah said proudly. “I’ve done my time and paid my debt to society.” She pointed her ample breasts at the front row. “Now I’d like forgiveness.”

“What is it you did?”

Brad doesn’t need to push her. It’s obvious she can’t wait to brag about what she did.

“My private religion demands a certain level of commitment that goes way beyond what the average person is willing to do. Let’s just say I don’t get all dressed up on Sunday mornings and gallivant into some swanky church to listen to some hypocritical jerk squawk at me about fire and brimstone. ‘Ins’ order to properly practice my personal right to a religion of my choice I ‘hads’ to have a human skull.”

Sarah’s skin has the look of tanned leather. She’s obviously lived around a pool and has completely forsaken sun-block. She could be anywhere between thirty and seventy-five and wears enough make-up to cover the faces of half the women in the free world.

“Now it’s important that you all understand this part — because that idiot judge never did quite get it straight. Skulls are as essential to my religion as big-assed, black singers are to a Baptist church. Not just skulls, but babies’ skulls. . .and they have to be from a person who died within the last ten years.”

“No!” a women in the audience exclaimed. “You didn’t.”

“I sure did,” Sarah said. “It sounds sort of spooky, but when you put aside all the gobbledee-gook nonsense, the only thing in a cemetery is dead bodies. So I just looked for a baby’s grave — one that had been dead for at least five years, because I’m no ghoul — and I got me a skull.”

Brad slid into the camera shot to stand by Sarah. “Do you understand that what you did is bad? And, will you ever do it again?”

“Like I told that moron judge -- I’m sorry; and I’ll never, ever dig up a baby’s coffin again . . . especially if it’s under a full moon and it’s practically daylight out.”

And, if you believe that. . .I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

“Our third contestant is Darrel. Darrel is in the construction business and works weekends on a pit crew for a drag racing team.”

Darrel’s face had been obliterated by multi-colored tattoos of geometrical shapes. His forearms were both covered by snakes entwining them as if preparing to strike through his fingertips.

“I’m not sure why I’m even here,” Darrel admitted. “All I did was give people what they wanted. Like the bit. . . . Like the lady to my right. I did my nickel upstate and I’m square with the law. All I did. . .and all I ever did was push a little blow and black tar. Nothing big -- like gang-banging. I busted a few heads when some shorties tried to come into my business. . .but that’s just part of it. Unlike my fellow contester,’ he nodded toward Ted, “…I made sure to never sell to anyone under twelve.” He folded his arms across his chest and stared menacingly at the audience.

I can hear murmurs from the audience, but I can’t hear what they’re saying.

Seemingly unwilling to go close to Darrel, Brad asked his questions from behind his emcee podium. “Do you understand that what you did is bad? And, will you ever do it again?”

“Ya. . .sure. What’ya think . . . I’m a habitual criminal? I’m clean and sober and attending all the meetings to keep me off the stuff. Ya know. . .if they hadn’t gotten the shit off me they’d found some other source.”

All I have to do for the $50,000 bonus is convince the audience my “sins” are less harmful than the others. What a cakewalk. Somehow I don’t think he’s as clean and sober as he’d like us to believe. I’m next.

“Contestant number four is Carl. Carl is an unemployed appraiser who is waiting for the real estate market to come back. Aren’t we all?”

“My ‘offense. . . .’ ” I fought the urge to use two fingers on both hands to signal quotation marks because I hate it when people do that. “My offense is I like to cross dress. In the beginning it was a sexual release, but it’s been years since I’ve felt a connection between wearing feminine things and masturbation.”

“Ewwww,” some woman in the audience said.

“I’m single and live by myself. I confine my dressing to my own home and never allow anyone else to see me.”

“I have to ask,” Brad said. “Do you understand that what you did is bad? And will you ever do it again?”

“No,” I explained. “What I do is perfectly harmless. It is a victimless offense that is only considered bad because we have a patriarchal society that places a high degree of importance on the separation of people into two distinct genders. It’s easy to see that’s wrong by simply walking down the street and watching the people you meet. Or — look at Sarah. . .she’s butch enough for two men.”

“Do you mean to say,” Brad said quickly to avoid a fight breaking out between Sarah and me, “that you intend to go right on cross-dressing?”

“That I do,” I said. “It’s very important to me and there’s no law against it.”

“Do you intend to eventually become a woman?” A large man shouted from the audience.

I shook my head vehemently. “Heavens no!”

“Well,” Brad said gravely, “audience -- it’s time for you to sit in judgment. Press the buttons in front of you for the contestant you wish to go to hell.”

The rest of the show went by in a haze. For some reason my grand plan to win $10,000 -- and possibly another $50,000 blew up in my face.

On the way out of the studio I was accosted by a group of people who had obviously been tipped off by the show’s producers as to what I would be revealing. They carried picket signs that stated in no uncertain terms that I would indeed “Go To Hell.”

The End

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