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  The Five People You Meet In Heaven
  The End
  THIS IS A STORY ABOUT A MAN named Eddie and it begins at the end, with Eddie dying in the sun. It might seem strange to start a story with an ending. But all endings are also beginnings. We just don’t know it at the time.
  THE LAST HOUR of Eddie’s life was spent, like most of the others, at Ruby Pier, an amusement park by a great gray ocean. The park had the usual attractions, a boardwalk, a Ferris wheel, roller coasters, bumper cars, a taffy stand, and an arcade where you could shoot streams of water into a clown’s mouth. It also had a big new ride called Freddy’s Free Fall, and this would be where Eddie would be killed, in an accident that would make newspapers around the state.
  AT THE TIME of his death, Eddie was a squat, white-haired old man, with a short neck, a barrel chest, thick forearms, and a faded army tattoo on his right shoulder. His legs were thin and veined now, and his left knee, wounded in the war, was ruined by arthritis. He used a cane to get around. His face was broad and craggy from the sun, with salty whiskers and a lower jaw that protruded slightly, making him look prouder than he felt. He kept a cigarette behind his left ear and a ring of keys hooked to his belt. He wore rubber-soled shoes. He wore an old linen cap. His pale brown uniform suggested a workingman, and a workingman he was.
  EDDIE’S JOB WAS "maintaining" the rides, which really meant keeping them safe. Every afternoon, he walked the park, checking on each attraction, from the Tilt-A-Whirl to the Pipeline Plunge. He looked for broken boards, loose bolts, worn-out steel. Sometimes he would stop, his eyes glazing over, and people walking past thought something was wrong. But he was listening, that’s all. After all these years he could hear trouble, he said, in the spits and stutters and thrumming of the equipment.
  WITH 50 MINUTES left on earth, Eddie took his last walk along Ruby Pier. He passed an elderly couple.
  "Folks," he mumbled, touching his cap.
  They nodded politely. Customers knew Eddie. At least the regular ones did. They saw him summer after summer, one of those faces you associate with a place. His work shirt had a patch on the chest that read EDDIE above the word MAINTENANCE, and sometimes they would say, "Hiya, Eddie Maintenance," although he never thought that was funny.
  Today, it so happened, was Eddie’s birthday, his 83rd. A doctor, last week, had told him he had shingles. Shingles? Eddie didn’t even know what they were. Once, he had been strong enough to lift a carousel horse in each arm. That was a long time ago.
  离开这个世界还剩下五十分钟了,他并不知道这是他最后一次在鲁比·皮尔游走。他从一对年老的夫妇旁走过。轻声地打了个招呼,那对夫妇礼貌地向他点了点头。游客都知道艾迪。 他们来自很多地方,每个夏天他们都会看到艾迪。他的工作服的胸前有一块印着“艾迪 维修”的工牌,“艾迪”写在“维修”的上面。有时,他们会说“你好呀,艾迪维修”,尽管这样,他也从来不觉得好笑。
  "EDDIE!" . . . "TAKE ME, Eddie!" . . . "Take me!"
  Forty minutes until his death. Eddie made his way to the front of the roller coaster line. He rode every attraction at least once a week, to be certain the brakes and steering were solid. Today was coaster day—the "Ghoster Coaster" they called this one—and the kids who knew Eddie yelled to get in the cart with him.
  Children liked Eddie. Not teenagers. Teenagers gave him headaches. Over the years, Eddie figured he’d seen every sort of do-nothing, snarl-at-you teenager there was. But children were different. Children looked at Eddie—who, with his protruding lower jaw, always seemed to be grinning, like a dolphin—and they trusted him. They drew in like cold hands to a fire. They hugged his leg. They played with his keys. Eddie mostly grunted, never saying much. He figured it was because he didn’t say much that they liked him.


  我和楼上的一样   也是难得看

  曰,一次不能超过三千字。。。真tmd终极武器 要你命3000

  "Hey, happy birthday, I hear," Dominguez said.
  Eddie grunted.
  "No party or nothing?"
  Eddie looked at him as if he were crazy. For a moment he thought how strange it was to be growing old in a place that smelled of cotton candy.
  "Well, remember, Eddie, I’m off next week, starting Monday. Going to Mexico."
  Eddie nodded, and Dominguez did a little dance.
  "Me and Theresa. Gonna see the whole family. Par-r-r-ty."
  He stopped dancing when he noticed Eddie staring.
  "You ever been?" Dominguez said.
  "To Mexico?"
  Eddie exhaled through his nose. "Kid, I never been anywhere I wasn’t shipped to with a rifle."
  He watched Dominguez return to the sink. He thought for a moment. Then he took a small wad of bills from his pocket and removed the only twenties he had, two of them. He held them out.
  "Get your wife something nice," Eddie said.
  Dominguez regarded the money, broke into a huge smile, and said, "C’mon, man. You sure?"
  Eddie pushed the money into Dominguez’s palm. Then he walked out back to the storage area. A small "fishing hole" had been cut into the boardwalk planks years ago, and Eddie lifted the plastic cap. He tugged on a nylon line that dropped 80 feet to the sea. A piece of bologna was still attached.
  "We catch anything?" Dominguez yelled. "Tell me we caught something!"
  Eddie wondered how the guy could be so optimistic. There was never anything on that line.
  "One day," Dominguez yelled, "we’re gonna get a halibut!"
  "Yep," Eddie mumbled, although he knew you could never pull a fish that big through a hole that small.
  艾迪像疯子一样看着他。一会,他觉得 在一个满是棉花糖味道的地方变老是多么奇怪的。
  “我和特里萨。 去她家看看,派...对...嘛...”

  TWENTY-SIX MINUTES to live. Eddie crossed the boardwalk to the south end. Business was slow. The girl behind the taffy counter was leaning on her elbows, popping her gum.
  Once, Ruby Pier was the place to go in the summer. It had elephants and fireworks and marathon dance contests. But people didn’t go to ocean piers much anymore; they went to theme parks where you paid $75 a ticket and had your photo taken with a giant furry character.
  Eddie limped past the bumper cars and fixed his eyes on a group of teenagers leaning over the railing. Great, he told himself. Just what I need.
  "Off," Eddie said, tapping the railing with his cane. C’mon. It s not safe.
  Whrrrssssh, A wave broke on the beach. Eddie coughed up something he did not want to see. He spat it away.
  Whrrssssssh. He used to think a lot about Marguerite. Not so much now. She was like a wound beneath an old bandage, and he had grown more used to the bandage.
  What was shingles?
  Sixteen minutes to live.
  NO STORY SITS by itself. Sometimes stories meet at corners and sometimes they cover one another completely, like stones beneath a river.
  The end of Eddie’s story was touched by another seemingly innocent story, months earlier—a cloudy night when a young man arrived at Ruby Pier with three of his friends.
  The young man, whose name was Nicky, had just begun driving and was still not comfortable carrying a key chain. So he removed the single car key and put it in his jacket pocket, then tied the jacket around his waist.
  For the next few hours, he and his friends rode all the fastest rides: the Flying Falcon, the Splashdown, Freddy’s Free Fall, the Ghoster Coaster.
  "Hands in the air!" one of them yelled.
  They threw their hands in the air.
  Later, when it was dark, they returned to the car lot, exhausted and laughing, drinking beer from brown paper bags. Nicky reached into his jacket pocket. He fished around. He cursed.
  The key was gone.

  FOURTEEN MINUTES UNTIL his death. Eddie wiped his brow with a handkerchief. Out on the ocean, diamonds of sunlight danced on the water, and Eddie stared at their nimble movement. He had not been right on his feet since the war.
  But back at the Stardust Band Shell with Marguerite—there Eddie had still been graceful. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to summon the song that brought them together, the one Judy Garland sang in that movie. It mixed in his head now with the cacophony of the crashing waves and children screaming on the rides.
  "You made me love you—"
  "—do it, I didn’t want to do i—"
  "—me love you—"
  "—time you knew it, and all the—"
  "—knew it . . ."
  Eddie felt her hands on his shoulders. He squeezed his eyes tightly, to bring the memory closer.
  "You made me love you—"
  "—do it, I didn’t want to do i—"
  "—me love you—"
  "—time you knew it, and all the—"
  "—knew it . . ."

  " ’Scuse me."
  A young girl, maybe eight years old, stood before him, blocking his sunlight. She had blonde curls and wore flip-flops and denim cutoff shorts and a lime green T-shirt with a cartoon duck on the front. Amy, he thought her name was. Amy or Annie. She’d been here a lot this summer, although Eddie never saw a mother or father.
  " ’Scuuuse me," she said again. "Eddie Maint’nance?"
  Eddie sighed. "Just Eddie," he said.
  "Um hmm?"
  "Can you make me . . ."
  She put her hands together as if praying.
  "C’mon, kiddo. I don’t have all day."
  "Can you make me an animal? Can you?"
  Eddie looked up, as if he had to think about it. Then he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out three yellow pipe cleaners, which he carried for just this purpose.
  "Yesssss!" the little girl said, slapping her hands.
  Eddie began twisting the pipe cleaners.
  "Where’s your parents?"
  "Riding the rides."
  "Without you?"
  The girl shrugged. "My mom’s with her boyfriend."
  Eddie looked up. Oh.
  He bent the pipe cleaners into several small loops, then twisted the loops around one another. His hands shook now, so it took longer than it used to, but soon the pipe cleaners resembled a head, ears, body, and tail.
  "A rabbit?" the little girl said.
  Eddie winked.
  "Thaaaank you!"
  She spun away, lost in that place where kids don’t even know their feet are moving. Eddie wiped his brow again, then closed his eyes, slumped into the beach chair, and tried to get the old song back into his head.
  A seagull squawked as it flew overhead.
  艾迪着叹气,“我只叫 艾迪”,他说。

  HOW DO PEOPLE choose their final words? Do they realize their gravity? Are they fated to be wise?
  By his 83rd birthday, Eddie had lost nearly everyone he’d cared about. Some had died young, and some had been given a chance to grow old before a disease or an accident took them away. At their funerals, Eddie listened as mourners recalled their final conversations. "It’s as if he knew he was going to die. . . ." some would say.
  Eddie never believed that. As far as he could tell, when your time came, it came, and that was that. You might say something smart on your way out, but you might just as easily say something stupid.
  For the record, Eddie’s final words would be "Get back!"

  HERE ARE THE sounds of Eddie’s last minutes on earth. Waves crashing. The distant thump of rock music. The whirring engine of a small biplane, dragging an ad from its tail. And this.
  Eddie felt his eyes dart beneath his lids. Over the years, he had come to know every noise at Ruby Pier and could sleep through them all like a lullaby.
  This voice was not in the lullaby.
  Eddie bolted upright. A woman with fat, dimpled arms was holding a shopping bag and pointing and screaming. A small crowd gathered around her, their eyes to the skies.
  Eddie saw it immediately. Atop Freddy’s Free Fall, the new "tower drop" attraction, one of the carts was tilted at an angle, as if trying to dump its cargo. Four passengers, two men, two women, held only by a safety bar, were grabbing frantically at anything they could.
  "OH MY GOD!" the fat woman yelled. "THOSE PEOPLE! THEY’RE GONNA FALL!"

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