It's always awkward, that feeling of waking up in some strange place and not knowing how you got there—Like finding yourself naked in a bed with a person you don't remember meeting or awakening to see you've been the victim of someone's cruel prank, tied up crudely in some public place with a God awful haircut and obscene words pasted all over your body. I speak from experience.

The weirdest of the weird ways to wake up though is to open your eyes and realize you're in a waiting room, the kind that are bleached white and overly sterile feeling with outdated magazines to try and distract you, with a cheery nurse hovering over you, holding out a giant card with the number twenty-four stamped onto it, and saying, "Welcome to the afterlife, Mitch Phillips. Please take a number!" Again: Experience. This is just the situation I found myself in, sitting in an uncomfortable white plastic chair in only my bathing suit.

I looked at the card I'd been given and made the face of an utterly bewildered man. I tried to remember what I had been doing before arriving here, but drew a blank. Looking down and seeing my unshapely body exposed, the one that had driven me to build a pool at home in order to escape the embarrassment of public pools, I concluded I must have been swimming. Still, It made no sense.

I stood up and followed after the chipper nurse, in her pure white uniform and sunshine blonde hair.

"Excuse me," She stopped, turned, and smiled, "Yes, I umn… well, could you please tell me where I am exactly? And why am I taking a number? I really don't think I had an appointment for anything…"

Nope. I'd been to the doctor a week ago for a checkup, I didn't do dentists, and I wasn't wealthy enough for plastic surgery.

"If you'll please just have a seat and wait for your number to be called, sir. Everything will be explained to you shortly." She giggled and winked unnecessarily, and though I wanted to question further I decided I'd do as told and wait.

What felt like three days later, but was probably only a few minutes, went by before an oddly calming voice came once again over the intercom and announced that they were ready to see inductee number twenty-four. I made my way to the front desk where a row of women sat in wait, all except one busy. The one unoccupied lady motioned me over. They were all beautiful. They were all blonde. All with perfect bodies. All with… wings. Yes, wings.

"Hi," I said, "I'm number twenty-four."

"Wonderful!" She took the card from me and slid it into a machine like those card-stampers at the library, that make that really cool noise.

"So why am I here? And where is here?"

She pressed her hands together as if she were about to pray, "Well, sir. You're dead. This is the afterlife—or should I say the Eternal Mid-Transit Waiting Station # seventy-seven."

"You're shitting me right?"

She winced, "Please, watch your language." She bit the inside of her cheek as she looked over some sort of glowing screen, "It seems you're waiting for your admittance to heaven. Unfortunately, there's a bit of a backup in good old God Town." She laughed at what must have been some sort of inside joke amongst the angels.

"Okay…" So I was dead. Great.

"So we're going to allow you to return to earth for the time being, in spiritual form of course. The wait shouldn't be too long, but you never know." She rapidly keyed in some unknown information onto her Celestial Computer Terminal, "It says here you died in your pool. We'll send you back to that vicinity, but you won't be able to leave."

Type, type, type.

"We'll send down a messenger to bring you back when your Heavenly Chambers have been prepared. And if at any time you abuse your privileges, as in scaring the living, we will have to bump you back down the list. Best behavior equals a quicker ticket to your final destination. Understand?"

"Not really, but okay." Did they actually expect this all to sink in so quickly? This was the most ridiculous thing I'd ever heard. Sadly, it was true.

"One more thing. Try to keep your emotions in check. The spiritual form lets off an extreme chill when the emotions are overly stimulated."

"Okay, so—"

"Have a nice trip!" The broad cut me off. I was then surrounded by light, reminiscent of some cheap effect from Star Trek, and felt myself being tugged downwards, upwards, and sideways all at once. Next thing I knew…

…I was gazing up from the bottom of my clear blue pool at kicking legs and happy goggle-clad faces. My two daughters were playing marco polo. Janine shouted "Fish out of water" and laughing, then arguing, ensued.

I swam up from the water and floated right out and into the air. I saw them debating whether or not Kelly had cheated. I saw my wife trying to nap in her favorite chair, one eye open to keep watch over the girls. She looked happy. How long had it been since I had been gone?

"Mom, Kelly won't play fair!"

"I didn't cheat!"

"Girls," My God, how good it was to hear her voice, "Settle down and play nice or we're going inside."

Judging by the trees, beginning to drop their leaves, it was the onset of fall. I had died, I think, in the last days of spring.

So, I was a ghost. Not how I imagined things would be. I thought I'd be chatting with Gandhi and Mother Theresa by now, playing poker with Abraham and Moses.

I drifted slowly back down into the water, out of sight from the world I had left behind. I didn't like this at all. I didn't like feeling like a peeping Tom just by watching my own family.

I was pretty sure this was what the lady had warned me about—getting worked up. Didn't they realize that was so much easier said than done?

I could see the frosty waves seeping out from me and billowing up like icy clouds. The pool was filling up and its clearness evolved gradually into a thick whiteness that I could not see through, but only make out vague shadows moving around.

"Mommy, the pool! Look!"

"What in the world…"

Voice from my past—they made me sad, but I was smiling nonetheless.

"Daddy would have loved to see this, don't ya think mommy?"

"I think daddy sees it."

I could just barely make out my wife's face, peering down into the giant ice cube. I could have sworn she was staring right at me, as if she knew I was there. Maybe that was just wishful thinking.

"Mommy, can we go ice skating!"

"Ohh, yeah!"

"Mommy pleeeaaaaase?"

Life's a strange thing, and the afterlife is even stranger. So is a pool that ices over in southern Georgia at the end of a long, sad summer.