Mike and I wrote different versions of this story.
After a long life, an old man died and found himself in front of the pearly gates standing before St. Peter and his book of judgment.
“Before I let you in,” said St. Peter, looking up from the book, “I must tell you a joke.” The man, a successful if rather stern lawyer in life, found this rather irregular, yet he nodded to Peter and stood quietly and respectfully, awaiting the joke.
“A duck walks into a bar,” began the saint, giggling a little. “He says to the bartender, ‘You got any oranges?’
“‘No,’ says the bartender, ‘and we don’t allow ducks in here, either, so get out.’
“The next night, the duck is back. ‘Bartender, you got any oranges?’
“‘Look Pal,’ says the bartender, ‘I told you yesterday. No oranges. I also told you that we don’t allow ducks in here. Now get out, and if you come here again, I’ll nail your beak to the bar!’
“‘Jeez Louise,’ mutters the duck as he leaves. The next night, however, there he is, again, back at the bar.
“‘Bartender,’ he says, ‘You got any nails?’
“‘No, I don’t have any nails!’ shouts the bartender.
“‘You got any oranges?’ says the Duck.” St. Peter sat there, rocking back and forth on his chair, laughing in a great and loud belly-laugh that the man felt was a bit uncouth, not to say inappropriate, given the occasion.
Having waited patiently for the joke to conclude, the man said to St. Peter, “Charming. May I pass, now?”
His final sputterings of laughter ending, St. Peter regarded the man for a moment or two.
“Sir,” said the man with visible anger, “I have led a productive and successful life. I have hurt no one and, indeed, have helped a great many. I have met all with courtesy. I have been a caring family man, I have attended church, regularly, and I have followed the commandments, each and every one of them, to the very best of my ability. Why then, Sir, if I may be so presumptuous to ask, am I not now allowed entrance?”
“Because,” said St. Peter, “Heaven is a place of great joy. And you, though a good man in most areas, are utterly without humor.”
Hearing this, the man walked away into the clouds, grumbling to himself. For a long while, he attempted to use his earthly experience – his decades as a litigating attorney – to construct an argument that would win him access to his eternal reward. Try though he might, however, he could think of nothing. With despair in his heart, he approached the pearly gates once more.
This time, however, St. Peter was not there. Instead, a duck sat in his chair, his feathery head bent down to the pages of the great book.
“Where is St. Peter?” asked the man.
“Oh,” said the duck, looking up from the book, “He’s on his lunch break. Perhaps you’d care to wait there until he returns?”
“Fine,” said the man. A chair made of cloud appeared behind him, and the two sat in silence. After a while, the duck spoke.
“Excuse me, Sir, but may I ask you a question?”
“Very well,” said the man.
“Do you have any oranges?”
The man stared furiously at the duck for a tense moment or two. Then, he burst into hysterical laughter.
At that very moment, St. Peter returned, the gates opened, and the man was welcomed into paradise.