So I went out to get the mail and when I came back in, he was sitting there, all four feet nine of him.
"Do you really think going outside in your sock feet is a smart move?"
"Hey!" I pointed at my feet. "Double thick thinsulate booties from L. L. Bean. Not just socks..." I trailed off. "Why are you here?"
"I need to speak with you."
"Oh shit. Now? Really? Now? Couldn't you wait until after the Predators win the Stanley Cup? And why are you manifesting yourself as a middle school FFA member."
"You have a soft spot for ROTC and FFA kids.** To your thinking they're making an effort to do the right thing."
There was a flurry of glitter and whirling plasma, the air had the ozone smell one associates with an appliance shorting out.
"And don't try to materialise as a dishy goth girl with an ankh pendant. That's been done to death."
"Oh, ha ha." The glittery mass shuddered to stop and then reformed as Tom Stoppard."
"Please tell me you didn't kill Tom Stoppard."
"I don't kill..." he held up his fingers to do air quotes, "anyone. When its their time, I accompany them."
"How nice. So- will you please put down those drafting pens? They cost a fortune!"
"Like you're gonna need 'em. I'm kidding. Relax. You're alive and so is Tom Stoppard. I happened to run into a friend of yours..."
"Which friend?" I felt sick and cold.
"I was just doing my job, but as always, I'm sure there were hurt feelings. Usually, I try to be sure family is given some nudge. You're like family, so consider yourself nudged. I'm not saying any more. You'll get the call."
Death took a deep breath and cocked his head to one side. "Well?"
"Words aren't my strong suit right now."
"I guess you could paint me the message? Interpretive dance? Quilting? Oh, wait. You did that in the 80s."
"Please don't be so...so..."
"That word has gotten a bad rep over the past few years. I'm really put out with you."
He sighed. "Do you think this job is easy? I would have rather been a lawyer or a veterinarian or any number of things. Didn't happen. We are who we are. Can I let you in on a little secret?"
"When your number's up, when your time has come, when they call your name out yonder, you'll be glad to see me. Everyone is."
"That is such bullshit."
"No it's not. Think about it. Better yet, let me show you..."
He reached toward me and the only sensation I had for a few seconds was the sound of wind moving through trees. Then a second later everything came back, my office, the January chill, the fact that I was standing in my home talking to Death.
"Of course it's different for everyone," he said. "Your favorite sound in the whole world is the wind moving through tree branches. You didn't know that until now, did you? For someone else, it might be the street noise they woke up to as a child. For another person, it might be the noise of their wife making breakfast. Everybody is different.
And another thing... Death is kind of like Rock City."
"Okay, you know how there are parts of Rock City where it looks dark, dangerous and fairly impossible to navigate without pain and injury? That's before you actually take those paths. Death is like that. It's only scary from this side."
"Your phone is ringing."
He handed me my bluetooth thingie and I leaned over to answer the call.
"And put some shoes on," he said as I reached around to answer the call, "It's freezing in here."
I turned around to answer him only find the room empty and my friend on the other end of the line.
In memoriam for LS 1927 - 2011
*This is satire. Any resemblance between the characters and allegorical figures from the classical Western canon, living or dead, are purely coincidental.
** For my Canadian readers: ROTC = Reserve Officers Training Corp, kids in high school and college can get academic credit for taking military training classes FFA= Future Farmers of America Future Farmers starts in seventh grade in the US. It's very similar to 4-H.
copyright 2011 jas faulkner