A Nickel Trip to Heaven
by
Gary Kline

      This is one of the stories that my father used to tell whenever friends and family got together. He was already in his twenties and working when it happened. He was living at home and his mother filled him in of the details as these events unfolded.

      In the early 1920's a couple from Poland, the Gorzynskis, moved across the street from my father's family. They were a childless couple in their late 30's or early 40's when they settled in Toledo. Mr Gorzynski was some type of skilled worker in Poland but his skills were devalued in the US. Eventually found a factory job which he lost sometime during the depths of the Depression.

      Mr Gorzynski became a born-again Communist, something that was very off-putting to his wife who was a devout Catholic.

      ``The Church is the opiate of the people!'' was his only reply whenever Mrs Gorzynski would try to get her husband to accompany her to church.

      After many months of unemployment, Mr Gorzynski found a job as a grave digger on an as-needed basis for the poor or unknown who populated Toledo's city streets, but because of his age and slight stature he had trouble with the work, specially in the winter. He was fired in the middle of February. A day or two later Mr Gorzynski slipped and fell beneath the wheels of a moving trolley.

      There was some question whether the death was an accident or a suicide; but that wasn't what worried Mrs. Gorzynski. Her only concern was that the Church officiate and let him be buried in the Catholic cemetery. And that the priest assure Mrs. Gorzynski that her husband would get into heaven.

      ``Well,'' Father O'Mally told the woman when she went to plead her case, ``I really don't think your husband took his life. I do think he just slipped on the track.''

      Mrs Gorzynski was glad to hear this.

      ``But!'' the priest thundered, ``the fact that George was a fallen man is the problem! That's the problem....''

      ``Vat kind of problem?'' Mrs Gorzynski shrugged, and held her breath.

      ``Well, naturally, given George's loathsome Communism, I shall have to do a great deal of intercessionary work on his behalf. Communists are Athiests and be-loathed by the Holy Father and every other good Catholic. I shall need to pray to God for hours and hours every day and every night until He makes a decision.''

      Mrs Gorzynski looked forlorn and Father O'Mally added, ``But I think we can work out an arrangement where we work together to get George into heaven ... but over time.''

      Hearing this, the woman fell to her knees and kissed the priest's ring.

      He comforted her and said, ``If you pay fifty cents every week I shall do my best and let you know how it is going.''

      When Mrs Gorzynski protested that she couldn't afford fifty cents a week the priest said, ``Now, now! Come. That is only ten nickels a week. You can find nickel or two a day, surely.''

      And that was the arrangement. Mrs Gorzynski was to give Father O'Malley fifty cents every Sunday after mass and the priest would prayerfully intercede with God.

      ``Do you think God vill let George into heaven, Mrs Kline?'' Mrs Gorzynski asked my grandmother one spring day. Mrs. Gorzynski made the rounds of the neighborhood regularly, begging nickels from as many neighbors that would give. The story came to be known as ``Mrs. Gorzinski's Nickel''.

      ``The good father says that he already has George's head and most of his right arm in.''

      My grandmother was empathetic but kept a poker face whenever the two women discussed the arrangement. Because Mrs. Gorzynski lives right across the street she stopped by frequently and kept my grandmother up to date regarding the going's on with the Church and Mr. Gorzynski's chances of getting into heaven. According to what my grandmother told my dad, she found the entire incident riotously funny.

      Now, my grandmother gathered two nickels from her purse and put them on the table in front of Mrs Gorzynski. ``Maybe this will get his left arm in, too.''

      Months went by, and then a year and more than a year and a half. Mrs Gorzynski faithfully paid Father O'Malley each week and each week the priest told her of slight progresses mixed in with some setbacks.

      ``God is having trouble with George's loathsome atheism!'' the priest thundered on several occasions. ``I fear that George has slipped out a wee bit ... and you know we don't want that now, do we?''

      The progress was positive, overall, but as the second Christmas was approaching Mrs Gorzynski was finally beginning to get suspicious. She was in a feisty mood one Sunday as she met with the priest and handed him her ten nickels. ``How far is George in heaven now?'' she said.

      ``Ah, Mrs Gorzynski, I think we've finally got him all within the Heavenly Glory except for his left foot.''

      Mrs Gorzynski stiffened. ``That's enough. George can't fall out and down to hell no more. God can saw off George's left foot if He wants to!" With that she turned and stalked away.