John dies and passes on to the afterlife he comes to, looks around and finds himself in what looks like the dirtiest alley of the world’s worst urban center. As he’s trying to come to terms with what’s happening he hears a voice say, “Hey there old friend, fancy meeting you here.”
John looks up and sees his old friend Jack! “Jack, how is this possible? I though you died in a car wreck almost five years ago…”
Jack replies, “I did, and it looks like you died too. Come on, let’s get you some food and I’ll explain everything.” Jack leads John to what looks like a soup kitchen, inside is full of people waiting patiently in two lines. In one line they are grabbing bowls of soup and in the other they are taking cups of fruit punch.
The pair take some soup and fruit punch and Jack explains to John that this is the afterlife. He tells John that the afterlife is divided into multiple circles and that the way to move up is to save enough money. Currently they’re in the lowest circle. It costs ten thousand dollars for a ticket to the next one. Jack then goes on to tell how he was actually on his way to buy his ticket as he found John.
“Now John… It’ll be tempting to spend some money making your time here more comfortable, but I promise that if you do that, you’ll never make it out of here.”
With that final warning Jack bids John farewell with a promise to see each other on the other side.
Soon after John lands a job picking trash out of alleys and after five years of hard toil saves up ten thousand dollars. He purchases his ticket and heads through the gate to the next circle.
On the other side he is greeted by white picket fence and cookie cutter ranch houses, the trappings of middle class suburbia.
A familiar voice flags him down, “John old friend! It’s so good to see you!” Sure enough it’s Jack. The two decide to catch up over lunch. They head to what looks like a back yard barbecue, there are once again two lines of people. One for hotdogs, hamburgers and the like and the other for fruit punch.
The two take their food and sit beneath a tree, catching up. “I’m so glad you made it John, but don’t get complacent now. It’s a hundred thousand dollars for the next circle… As a matter of fact I’m on my way there now. Good luck, and don’t forget my warning from last time.”
The two part and soon after John gets a job driving a garbage truck. It’s a long time but eventually after ten years he saves up enough.
John buys his ticket and heads through the gate. Before him lies an exquisite gated community. Mansions dot the landscape, complete with tennis courts, swimming pools and any other commodity you could imagine.
Much like last time a familiar voice hails him.
“John! I was worried you wouldn’t ever make it! Let’s grab some food and catch up.”
The two head over to an extravagant banquet hall. As before there are two lines, one for all the most lavish foods John’s ever seen: caviar, roast pheasant, braised swan to name a few. The other line is quite simply fruit punch.
They take their food and sit at one of the many tables. Jack informs John that he could stay here if he wished, bit if he could save up one million dollars he would gain entry to the final circle, the closest thing to his notion of heaven in this afterlife.
Once again, Jack bids John farewell, as he’s already got his ticket.
After the meal and much deliberation John decides to follow in his friend’s footsteps.
John gets a job as a supervisor for regional waste management and after twenty more long years of work saves up one million dollars.
He buys his ticket and steps through a gleaming golden gate. On the other side people are walking down a radiant street in naught but pure white robes, whose look and feel reminded John of clouds.
Looking down John notices he’s wearing the same, and that all of his aches, worries, and weariness has vanished.
Of course, waiting for him is his oldest friend Jack.
“Welcome, my dear friend. Let’s grab a bite and catch up, one last time.”
They head to a gilded ampitheater where the most heavenly ambrosia is being served. The smell reminded John of all his favorite foods, the scent of loves past and the whiff of treasured memories.
John pauses however, frowning. He turns to Jack and asks, “Where’s the punchline?” Jack replies, “There isn’t one.”