Jerry Jones sat in a stiff, straight-backed chair opposite a rather plain, non-descript desk. Might have been a piece of furniture you'd see in the office of junior high vice-principal. Drab, faux panelling and red shag carpet completed the small room. 70's flashback. The decor was bad enough, but Jones had no idea how he got there. Couldn't seem to remember a thing.
As Jerry was about to get up and find out what the heck was going on, a door opened behind him. Before he could turn, a tall, lean man walked past him and sat in a chair behind the desk. The newcomer placed a clipboard on the desk and removed a pen from a pocket in his jacket. He was dressed very well. Suit. Tie. And a surprisingly familiar fedora. Which was methodically removed and placed carefully next to the clipboard. Jerry was staring into the pale, intelligent eyes of Tom Landry.
Jerry opened his mouth to speak, but Landry's raised hand silenced the Cowboys' owner. The former coach flipped some pages on the clipboard, scanning them intently. Satisfied, he locked his fingers together on the desk and peered at a startled Jones from under his brow. "Welcome, Jerry," Landry said plainly.
"Welcome to what?"
"Why, the after-life, of course," Landry answered. "You're dead." Jerry laughed heartily. "You don't believe me?" The former coach responded with raised eyebrows.
"What do you think?" Jones grinned. "This is just a wierd dream. Probably a reaction to that breakfast burrito I found in the trunk of the limo this morning."
Landry sighed. "If this was a dream, you'd have all your hair." Jerry felt the top of his head. Nope. "If this was a dream, you'd have a Super Bowl ring on every finger." Jerry checked his hands. Nope. "If this was a dream, you'd be John Holmes below the waste." Jerry made a quick feel. Nope. "If this was a dream, I'd be Barbara Eden.....And naked." Jerry double-checked. Nope.
"It's not always Barbara Eden," Jerry corrected. "Sometimes it's Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island."
"Don't forget the recurring one with Lee Marvin and Scatman Crothers dressed as go-go dancers."
"Not fair," Jerry complained. "That only happens when I have late-night Thai."
"And finally," Landry concluded, "if this was a dream, would you be talking about your dreams?"
Jerry thought for a minute. Nope. He wouldn't. "Ok. For argument's sake, let's say I'm dead. How did it happen?"
"I was struck dead by a bolt of lightning?"
Landry shrugged. "I know it's a cliche, but you can't argue with it's effectiveness. Besides, the Big Guy gets a kick out of it. Aside from a nice BLT and the occasional game of Twister with the guys from his car club, it's the one thing that still makes him giddy."
"Well," Jones shook his head thoughtfully, "I'm still not buying it, but at least I made it to Heaven in my dream. I mean, I'm talking to Tom Landry. Tom Landry. Surely, the elevator went up."
"Not so fast, slick." Landry raised a hand. "You're in the Classification Center. It's not Heaven, but it's still a nice place. There's a lounge, a gift shop and a cafeteria that serves the best tuna sandwich you ever had. I like the way they have the celery chopped in big pieces. Gives the sandwich a crunch."
"Great. Can't wait for lunch," Jerry said sarcastically. "Now, where am I again?"
"The Classification Center," Landry repeated patiently. "The newly-departed stop here to be evaluated before they're shipped off to their final destination. Be it Heaven or....."
".....Hell?" Jerry finished Landry's sentence.
"We prefer to call it The Abyss," Landry corrected. "Or, in moments of levity, Cleveland."
"I'm actually a little relieved," Jones admitted. "It's not exactly the way I pictured Heaven being decorated,"
Landry smirked. "This is the way Heaven is decorated."
"Not at all. The Big Guy really liked The Brady Bunch. Kind of had a thing for Florence Henderson." Landry rubbed his neck. "Whatever the reason, he went crazy with the shag carpet and formica."
"Who can blame him?" Jerry said. "Carol Brady had it going on."
"Also," referring to Carol Brady, "a semi-regular in the twisted realm of your subconscious." Landry flipped through the papers in the clipboard while Jerry examined the decor of the small room more closely.
"So, coach," Jones chuckled, "is this your job up here? Pencil-pusher?"
"No," Landry sighed. "Someone higher up thought it would amusing if it was me handling your case---with our history and all." Jerry winced noticably. "And, please, don't let the fact that your ultimate fate lies in the hands of the man you fired cause you concern." Landry needled.
"About that," Jerry began nervously. "You do know that was Schramm's decision, right? I wanted to keep you for at least....."
".....another week?" It was Landry's turn to interrupt. Jones shifted uneasily in his chair. Landry let him squirm for a few minutes. A little humility will do him good. Finally, "Apparently, they've given me free reign in this matter." Landry smiled mischeviously. "Looks like your butt's in my hands. Figuratively, of course."
"You know...Uh...It doesn't have to be figuratively. I'm willing to go the extra mile."
"Stop it. You're embarassing yourself. Besides, I haven't been dead that long."
"You're still a darn, good-looking man."
"On that demented note, let's get down to business." Landry shuffled through the papers that encompassed Jones' life. Frowning now and then. Smirking here and there. Even dry-heaving once or twice. The whole time, Jerry's chewing his nails and tugging on his ears. Basically, he was a nervous wreck. After what seemed an eternity, "Alright, then."
"So, what's the verdict?" Jones tried hard to be nonchalant. It didn't work.
"I need a shower," Landry confessed. "A long, hot shower. Followed by a thorough delousing."
"Seriously. I've read autopsy reports that were less disturbing."
"What?" Jerry threw up his hands. "I'm not getting in, now?"
Landry scratched his nose. "You have to understand the situation up there. Since Al Davis arrived, the Big Guy's had his hands full. It's just been one coup after another. When Al doesn't get his way, he whines and complains and gets everybody all worked up. It's a mess." Tom shook his head. "On top of that, we have Gary Busey and Nick Nolte on the short list. No telling what kind of shenanigans they'll get into. Quite frankly, they give the Big Guy the creeps." Landry paused. "I hate to say it, but you're too much of a wild card to be trusted without some kind of assurance."
"I'll do anything, Tom," Jerry pleaded. "Anything!"
Landry leaned back in his chair and folded his arns across his chest thoughtfully. "There is one thing you can do that will prove your worthiness. It'll show you've grown as a person and have the inner goodness to enter The Golden Gates."
"Name it!" Jerry slapped the desktop.
"Become John Mara's Guardian Angel."
Jerry's jubilation disappeared. "Excuse me?"
"You must become John Mara's Guardian Angel." Landry smiled. "For the rest of his natural life, you will protect him from evil, see that no harm ever befalls him and make his Earthly existence joyous and prosperous. You will grant his every wish and fulfill his every desire. If you accomplish this, you will have proven you deserve a place in Paradise."
"Let me get this straight," Jerry said. "I must become John Mara's Guardian Angel. John Mara. The man who has been a thorn in my side for years. The man who has gone out of his way to make my life miserable. The man whose very existence has given me ulcers in places I never thought possible. That John Mara?"
"And if I refuse?" Landry glanced meaningfully downwards. "So, either I accept your offer, or I burn in the fiery Abyss for all eternity."
"That's the deal."
Jerry Jones sat for a minute, thinking. Then, suddenly, he rose and walked towards the door.
"Where are you going?" Landry asked.
"To the gift shop."
"The gift shop? Why?"
"To stock up on sunscreen and Bermuda shorts," Jerry resigned. "I'm gonna need'em."