“Perfect Paul”

Sweets from a Stranger coverA comedy. “Just take it from me,” the narrator says, “that Paul was perfect” (68). And he is, nauseatingly so; and so we cheer when he dies in a bike accident on page two.

The bulk of the story is therefore concerned with Paul’s afterlife. Too perfect for Up There, he gets sent to Uppermost, where he spends his time hobnobbing with historical greats (Einstein, Churchill, Chaplin, Shakespeare, and so on), and then showing them up with his perfection. Trouble comes to paradise when Paul takes it into his head to redesign the Pearly Gates: the Council of the Great Architect are unmoved. In fact, they consider Paul a potential menace, and sentence him to be returend to life as a middle-aged school teacher, with no memory of his time in heaven. This is, perhaps, intended as the worst punishment a child reader could imagine. Who wants to be perfect, the story asks, if this is what it gets you?

Mischeivous fluff. Why Fisk scrubs most specifically Christian terminology (heaven, hell), but keeps phrases strongly associated with Christianity (Pearly Gates) I don’t know. But the story is worth it for moments like this, in which Sir Christopher Wren, who turns out to be an aging hippy, offers his opinion of Paul and his plans for the Gates:

“Frankly,” Wren confided to his old friend and associate Hawksmoor, “this kid Paul bugs me. Domes I dig. Cupolas — right on. But pre-cast concrete, modular construction … that Paul’s too far out for me, man.” (79)

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