"Buncha hooey," he said to his buddy Bob in the bar the next day after work. "They got half a dozen stories, and how many people they say got this letter? Been around the world twenty times, I figger a lot. So odds of half a dozen to a lot is good enough for me." He took a swig of beer. "This one said 'Lucky Charm!' at the top in big letters. Yeah, right, lucky if you blow ten bucks on stamps and copies to send it out again in four days. Otherwise it's like they think they're putting a time bomb in your mail. Thanks a lot." He belched to illustrate his disdain.
When another one came the next day, his first thought was Bob playing a joke on him, but the postmark said Bangkok, and he didn't think Bob had ever been to Bangkok. It joined the first in the ashtray.
After a week, Ed was beginning to get truly annoyed. Sometimes there was more than one chain letter now. He stopped burning them, preferring to keep copies around and compare good/bad luck stories. Maybe his odds weren't quite as good as he thought, but hell, somebody had to win lotteries, and somebody had to lose their job, house and wife on the same day. The best stories he related to Bob in the bar the next day.
After a month his mailbox was crammed so full of chain letters every morning that he could barely get them out. He stopped reading them again, and started tossing them right into the garbage unopened.
When Ed got flattened by a runaway steamroller a few days later, Bob shook his head mournfully on his barstool and muttered something about clear warnings.
Ed was still annoyed at his untimely demise when he awoke in a big white sweet-smelling room.
"Ed Gruberman?" said a stern-faced winged figure, its finger in a huge iron-bound book.
"Yeah," he said grudgingly.
"It says here that, prior to your death, you received 539 chain letters, and that you forwarded none of them within the time limits they specified."
Ed shrugged. "So?"
The angel sighed and put down the book. "Ed, you were run over by a steamroller. Don't you think this is a clear sign of something?"
Ed shook his head. "It's still a buncha hooey. God may move in mystery ways or whatever, but if he's usin' chain letters I'd rather stay in the other place."
"So your death has not convinced you of anything?"
The angel broke into a broad grin. "Then rest easy, Ed, for in truth you are blessed! The chain letters were a test of your faith, and you have proved stalwart and true to your beliefs. Many have been tested less strongly than you and fallen, but you have not wavered."
And so Ed lived the rest of his days in a big room in heaven, with an incredibly comfortable couch, the biggest TV he'd ever seen, all the channels he could want, and an endless supply of beer. His story was mysteriously added to the Bible as "The Book of Ed", and became the subject of sermons for years to come.
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The Den of Ubiquity / Aaron V. Humphrey / firstname.lastname@example.org