“Bonjour M’sieur,” said the guy with the wings, “J’éspère que vôtre mort n’était pas trop douloureuse?”
“You what?” said Jim. The air smelled vaguely of croissants.
“Pardon? Je ne vous comprends pas, m’sieur. Je suis St Pierre. Vous êtes …?”
Jim racked his brains for a moment, trying to work out what was going on. Was the guy saying that he didn’t understand him? Well that made two of them. Then he remembered something important from his school days.
“Pouvez-vous repéter la question?”
The guy with the wings looked at him for a moment, then burst out laughing.
“Répéter, m’sieur. Répéter!”
Then Jim realised. Repéter meant to re-fart, didn’t it? He vaguely recalled his old French teacher forever banging on about that. He had a feeling that he wasn’t making a very good impression.
“Pouvez-vous répéter …?” he began. It probably wasn’t going to help, but at least it would give him more time to think.
“Comment vous appelez-vous?” said the angel.
“Ah! Je m’appelle Jim,” said Jim, with a note of triumph.
“Ah. Jim! C’est un nom anglais, n’est-ce pas?”
“Er … oui?” said Jim, struggling to keep up.
“Ah. Dans le ciel, on parle Français. Vous ne parlez pas bien Français, je pense?”
Huh? Something about speaking French here? Was that why they’d insisted on teaching it at school? He would have paid more attention if he’d known.
“SORRY,” he said, in a very slow, loud voice. “I … DON’T … REALLY … UNDERSTAND … YOU. CAN … I … HAVE … A … BIT … MORE … TIME … TO … THINK?”
The angel gave him a blank look. Then he shrugged and pulled a lever next to him. The floor under Jim opened up, and he fell down a long shaft, which twisted around several times before coming to a halt in a large warm room. A face peered down at him.
“You all right, mate?”
“I think so,” said Jim. “Do you speak English here?”
“Thank God for that,” said Jim.
“Nearly right,” said the guy with the horns.