Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have died in a freak accident.
You don't need to know how, but if you insist, let's just say it was automobile- or electricity-related, perhaps with Mick playing superfluous guitar in a thunderstorm while traveling across America for the band's always reasonably priced ZIP CODE tour. And then ... bam, Mick and Keith both dead, something so senseless it makes you think, "Life, right?"
Anyway, Mick and Keith are on their way to heaven, flying high on a winged tour bus, where the wings are actually two bright, red tongues, flapping toward the outermost skies. Keith, doing some drug or another, looks at Mick. Even from this great height, their fierce yet brotherly competition shows. Their proximity to the afterlife renders, by divine intervention, both their accents momentarily comprehensible. Every word ends in "ah," like an aristocratic Juvenile.
"Well, this is disappointing, yeah?" Keith says, briefly looking up from his "stash."
Mick preens, wears a half-shirt and remains very famous.
"Not how I figured we'd go at all," he says. "Can't believe you didn't go first. Let me do the talking. I'm sure Marge put in a good word for me."
Keith rolls his eyes. The bus approaches a cloud. Angels of indeterminate sex and ethnicity flit to and fro, as members of the 27 Club—both famous and those barely clinging onto the roster's Wikipedia page—frolic like children, unfiltered cigarettes dangling from their lips. The air tastes like malted-milk-ball dust and honey, and harps play selections from She's The Boss.
The bus vanishes, leaving Mick and Keith alone among the delightful masses. They are suddenly young again, looking as they did at their moments of highest grace—Keith in his finery from the inside cover of Beggars Banquet, plus a head scarf, and Mick in a Studio 54 white suit, accompanied by the beautiful shadow of Jerry Hall.
Keith and Mick find themselves standing before the 12-foot St. Peter, a circle glowing around his head, as advertised. Peter's hands are clasped, and his eyes somehow gaze more heavenward. An oversized royalty check for "Bittersweet Symphony"—made out to every person ever, living or dead, except Allen Klein—flits in the air behind him, serving as an entrance banner for the pearly gates. A dog-eared copy of Faithfull rests next to Peter's clipboard.
"Keith! Mick! Come on in," Peter exclaims.
Mick and Keith glance at each other. Keith's headscarf droops into a frown.
"Really?" Mick says. "Both of us?"
Peter beams down at them, literally. A cherub clad in a factory-distressed Steel Wheels shirt flaps anxiously toward Mick's pouting face. He hands Mick a note. The note reads, "Yes, both of you."
Mick looks nonplussed. Keith looks at Mick, glaring.
"This is your fault, isn't it? Had to take that bloody medal. Had to be so nice about that bloody awful 'Moves Like Jagger' song," he admonishes. "You neutered us, Brenda."
Mick hisses back: "At least I never had a Disney character based on me. I was the dark prince of pop! I was polyamorous! I was Satan! You're the one who insisted we go on Jimmy Fallon!"
Uncomfortable with Mick's gusto and over-the-top sexuality, the surrounding angels and perpetually young men swoon and blush. Peter moves to stand between the recently deceased.
"I don't see the problem," he says. "Do you not want to get into Heaven?"
"No, no ... we do. We just thought it would be a bit more of a challenge," Mick explains. "We were awfully naughty, right?"
"You were fine," Peter counters. "We really appreciated you changing 'Let's Spend The Night Together' to 'Let's Spend Some Time Together...'"
Mick sticks his chest out, does that thing with his wrists and interrupts: "We didn't want to."
"But you did. You're good boys," Peter assures them. "Never kidnapped any 14-year-old girls, either."
This doesn't help. Keith appears physically ill, which isn't so surprising.
"Yeah, but what about all the drugs I did?" he manages. "I was so very bad."
When Peter rolls his eyes, as he does now, the heat shimmer that forever surrounds him obscures everyone within a one-mile radius.
"Guys, infinite love means infinite. And you were fine," he continues. "'Brown Sugar' wasn't great, but if being dumb translated into eternal perdition, the heavenly house band would consist solely of Tom Lehrer and former members of The Decemberists. God loves you. You're in. Now grab a harp."
Mick shrugs and reaches for his harp, but Keith does not look convinced.
"So, not to be ungrateful but ... whom exactly doesn't get in?"
A look of patience so bright it is almost blinding passes over Peter's face.
"Well, pretty much who you'd expect—your Hitlers and Stalins, unbaptized babies, people who post 'Classic Rock lyrics vs. Rap lyrics' memes on Facebook, serial killers, the cast and crew of Garden State..."
Keith holds up a bejeweled hand: "Unbaptized babies?"
"Yeah," Peter confirms. "God just doesn't like 'em for some reason. It's a 'You can take the Adonai out of the Old Testament but...' deal. Go figure."
Now, it's Mick who looks appalled.
Peter and a flock of cherubs burst into laughter, which quickly resolves into thunder.
"I'm kidding," the gatekeeper says, chuckling. "God loves babies! All of them, so cute. They should have called you guys 'The No-Joke-Getting Stones.'"
Neither Glimmer Twin smiles. The absence of the choir from "You Can't Always Get What You Want" is suddenly noticeable and entirely oppressive. Without its emotional guidance, all are left to their own devices. The power of his strut dropping from a 10 to, like, a 3, Mick raises one hand.
"I was just nervous that our cheapening of worship by using gospel traditions to prop up half-written songs, which were in turn used by Scorsese ad nauseum to prop up half-written scenes ... Well, I was just nervous that there might be some repercussions—you know, ecclesiastically speaking," he stammers. "Plus, there was all that adultery..."
"Pish posh," Peter says. "Only God can judge you, and guess what? He did, and you're fine."
With his enormous hands and the help of 100 vaping cherubs floating down, Peter starts pulling open the gates to Heaven. "Heaven," from 1981's Tattoo You, begins playing, and even Mick and Keith are surprised at how well it holds up. Peter nods smugly and mouths, "I know, right?"
Keith removes his top hat: "No disrespect intended of course, uh, but this all seems rather ... arbitrary."
"Unconditional and eternal love is arbitrary?" asks Peter, his patience finally losing a bit of its luster.
"No, rather, it's just, I was particularly mean to Brian Jones and I did beat up that journalist ..." he says.
Peter understands now. "Look, Brian is here, but he was inarguably annoying," he offers. "And, well, let's just say you're not going to run into many music writers up here. So no worries."
Peter tilts his head toward the endless, incomprehensible light pouring from the gates. At the end of the stream, Robert Johnson stands, arms outstretched. Mick and Keith grin at each other, their famous rivalry finally at an end. They link arms and begin to march toward salvation.
Mick, looking pleased with himself, looks back at Peter: "Hey, Peter! Thanks! I thought for sure that you were gonna say 'Hey You ...'"
"No," Peter commands, brow furrowed. "Don't ..."
"'... get off of my cloud!' Hahah ..."
Mick immediately drops into hell.
Keith shrugs, adjusts his scarf and continues toward Robert Johnson's loving embrace.
The Rolling Stones are gone, forever and ever, amen. Charlie Watts, however, remains on Earth, doing something cool and presumably jazz-related.
This article appeared in print with the headline "At the heavenly majesty's request."