Minneapolis Liquor store owner Mr. Ellerbee, a basically decent guy, is senselessly killed during a holdup. Suddenly, Ellerbee has to deal with the afterlife, first the good place, which exceeds his expectations. Very shortly, he finds himself in Hell, sent there for taking the Lord’s name in vain, keeping his store open on the Sabbath, and thinking Heaven should look like a theme park. Elkin describes Hell as the ultimate inner city. “Everywhere Ellerbee looked he saw atrocities.” Everything was contagious.
The below excerpt is from the part in the story where the dead Ellerbee is happy, very happy indeed, to find he made it to Heaven; then St. Peter says three words and, Poof, just like that Ellerbee is sent to the Unhappy Place. From The Living End by Stanley Elkin:
He saw philosophers deep in conversation. He saw kings and heroes. It was astonishing to him, like going to an exclusive restaurant one has only read about in columns and spotting, even at first glance, the celebrities one has read about, relaxed, passing the time of day, out in the open, up-front and sharing their high-echelon lives.
“This is for keeps?” he asked Saint Peter. “I mean it goes on like this?”
“World without end,” Saint Peter said.
“That’s all right, say His name.”
“God?” Ellerbee whispered.
Saint Peter looked around. “I don’t see Him just …Oh, wait. There!” Ellerbee turned where the old Saint was pointing. He shaded his eyes. “There’s no need,” Saint Peter said.
“But the aura, the light.”
“Let it shine.”
There were tears in Ellerbee’s eyes. “It’s wonderful.”
“We like it,” Saint Peter said.
“Oh, I do too,” Ellerbee said. “I’m going to be very happy here.”
“Go to Hell,” Saint Peter said beatifically.