Paul Simon and me

paulsimonandmePaul and I go back a long way. Some of the first songs I learnt on guitar were Sounds of Silence, Homeward Bound and the lesser-known Sparrow (something of a theme of mine over the years.) I’m pretty sure that Paul doesn’t know that I exist. We don’t have a whole lot in common (nationality, fame and wealth for starters.)
I’ve been listening to his excellent new album So beautiful or So What for a couple of weeks now. Paul Simon’s amazing – nearly 70 and still as good as ever.
One song that’s had a bit of a hammering on the iPod is The Afterlife. Every time I hear it I can’t help but think of the similarity between the idea in the song – that the afterlife is simply a queue or a waiting room – and one of my short stories Running out of time:

Still I thought it was odd there was no sign of God
just to usher me in
You got to fill out a form first

And then you wait in the line…”

In my story Zachary is late for a job interview, gets totalled by a truck and finds himself in what could be an interview for the Public Service or interminable self-improvement group therapy:

‘Hi. I’m Jeremy, your new Case Manager. Before we start I need to tell you that our core business is Customer Satisfaction. I’d appreciate it if later you could complete this Customer Feedback Card regarding my performance.’
‘Um, sure. Where do I go for the interview?’
‘Counter A. It’s not far.’
Counter A isn’t too onerous. Zachary has to complete a D43 form with questions like previous addresses, religious beliefs (Zac just puts a dash here), DOB and DOD.
They proceed to Meeting Room 102 where they are expected. Zachary sits in the last vacant space in the circle of stackable chairs…”

I’m not accusing Mr Simon of plagiarising my concept. The theme of heaven-as-a-waiting-room is at least as old as the Kabbalah and the basis – I think – of Becket’s Waiting for Godot.

Running out of time was written while I was living in Japan in 2008 and an early version was read by Cath Kenneally on her Writers’ Radio program in 2010. It will be first published in print when the anthology Short and Twisted 2011 is launched in Melbourne next month.

Great to know we have at least one thing in common, Paul…

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