Now what?

I’d just finished exercising after work, and the door bell rang.  I was sweaty, but I decided I really didn’t care who saw me in my Jane Fonda outfit.  I pulled open the front door.  A tall guy in a hoodie stood in the darkening dusk, his face in shadow.

“I am death,” he said.

“Yeah, and I’m the Queen of Sheba,” I replied, waiting for the punchline.

He showed me his skeletal hand, as if to offer his credentials.

I wiped the sweat off my forehead and licked my lips.  “Okay.”  I paused.  “I was just about to have a scotch.  You want one?”

42 responses to “Now what?

  1. I’d just finished exercising after work, and the door bell rang.  I was sweaty, but I decided I really didn’t care who saw me in my Jane Fonda outfit.  I pulled open the front door.  A tall guy in a hoodie stood in the darkening dusk, his face in shadow.
    “I am death,” he said.
    “Yeah, and I’m the Queen of Sheba,” I replied, waiting for the punchline.
    He showed me his skeletal hand, as if to offer his credentials.
    I wiped the sweat off my forehead and licked my lips.  “Okay.”  I paused.  “I was just about to have a scotch.  You want one?”

    “Don’t mind if I do. It’s been a long day. So you are welcoming me. That doesn’t happen much anymore. Most folks go kicking and screaming when I show up. Mind if I have a seat?”
    “Please do, take a load off.” I said. He headed for my favorite brown leather recliner and sort of melted into it. Like a cloud nestling into a valley in the low hills around my home. I poured us each a finger of my 12 year old Glenfiddich, and plopped down on the footstool next to the chair. As I handed him the crystal glass, he said;
    “You seem ready to go somehow?”

    “Oh my God,” I said, “Are you kidding. It has been hell for me these past two years since my Harry passed. Nobody wants to be around me anymore. Too negative they say. Always complaining, bitching about everything, they harp. Harry never complained about me like that.” A glint of recognition crossed death’s dark face.
    “I’ve met him.” he said.

    “Anyhow, “ I said, “The maids that come once a week are a good example. They never do everything I ask for. Like vacuuming under that chair for instance. Or dusting the top shelves in the kitchen. When I yell at them, they get all defensive. Sometimes they even cry. And the gargdener. Don’t get me started. You would think after ten years he would know enough to water the indoor plants every third visit. When I take him on about this, he cringes and runs for his dirty old pickup truck. And my Sister. Now there’s a case. She comes over here on the pretext of helping me out. But I know her. She is scoping out my possessions to see what she can grab when I am gone. Little beady eyes darting around every room like she was in a department store. And when I accuse her of the truth, what does she do? She yells at me, calling me names like ‘inconsiderate bitch’ or ‘crazy bastard’! My own sister fer Chrissakes! And that mailman. He won’t even deliver the mail to my front door anymore. Leaves it in a box out on the porch. Just because I sent my Rotweiler after him one day after Harry died. Poor Harry.”

    Death arose and headed for the door.
    “Yes, I remember poor old Harry now.” he said looking back at me.
    ”You know, you may be ready for me, but quite frankly miss, I don’t think I am ready for you. Good day.”

  2. A silly story about death, and a really good one. Thumbs up!

  3. Ann, this is spooky. I woke up this morning thinking my muse is back, telling me to write my thoughts on death. How did you know?
    Jeri

  4. NOW WHAT…

    “Yes, I would like a scotch. This old cloak is not enough in the winter time to keep my bones warm.” said Death.
    “Very well, then come right in. Leave your scythe against the wall there and let’s go into the kitchen where we can have a drink and talk about this situation.”
    Death sat at the kitchen table while the woman reached for a couple of glasses and the bottle of Scotch.
    “Do you prefer a Scotch martini or just straight? The woman asked politely.
    “Straight will do, thank you”
    After serving generous drinks in both glasses and considering that under the circumstances it was inappropriate to say “Cheers”, she gulped half of hers in one swallow and sat down.
    “Now” she said “lets talk about the reason for your unexpected and, if you allow me to be rude, unwelcome visit.” Having said that, she drank the rest of the Scotch in her glass.
    “Well, it is very simple. Your name came up in the Universal Book which means that it is time for you to leave this world and to come with me to the other”
    “When you said that it is time to leave, you mean now, this minute, as I am?
    “Yes, that is exactly what it means” said Death taking a little sip from his glass.
    “Are you nuts? I’ll never leave this house without make-up, my hair done and clean underwear.” she said raising her voice and drying the sweat off her face.
    “And what is this Universal Book you are talking about” she carried on with a challenging attitude.
    “That’s the book where all humans are registered at the time they are born and where it is indicated the day you will die and be called back” Death replied calmly.
    “Well, I can tell you that that stupid book is wrong and that I not ready to follow you anywhere today, because today… precisely, today I got a date after three months of going dry. Maybe tomorrow, depending on how the date ends up I would be willing to go. So, change the date on that book.” she concluded with conviction in his voice and serving herself another generous drink.
    “Look Ms Hamilton, there is….” Death was cut off in the middle of the sentence.
    “Wait a minute, I’m not Ms. Hamilton, I’m Ms. Andrews.”
    “You are not Ms Laura Hamilton? Death asked
    “No, I’m Ms. Greta Andrews”
    “Isn’t this address 336 Harwood Dr. West?”
    “No, you dumb head this is 336 Harwood Dr. East. The West is on the other side of the highway.”
    “Oh shit, I made a big mistake. I’m very sorry Ms. Andrews, please forgive me.” Death sounded apologetic. “I must go immediately.” he concluded standing up and almost running to the door.
    “Don’t let me hold you back” Greta said “don’t forget to collect your scythe.”
    Death went out into the cold afternoon and Greta shut the door.
    She went to the kitchen, drank the Scotch still in the glass and exclaimed “boy, was that a closed call of what.”

  5. Cheryl aka Shaddy

    Hey Lando, my friend. For Greta, this is a good day. After a brush with death, she gets to keep her date. I hope she doesn’t mention Death’s visit to her date, although if he’s not cool, it would send him packing.

    I believe in your last line you meant to write, “boy, was that a close call or what.”

    • Cheryl my good friend, thank you for pointing out the silly mistake at the end of my story. You have no idea how these stupid mistakes upset me. I read this piece more than a dozen times and couldn’t detect it. I can hardly accept living with he abundant mistakes I make because I simple don’t know better English but, these stupid mistakes that I should detect and correct before posting, are unacceptable.

      • Cheryl aka Shaddy

        Don’t beat yourself up, Lando. I’m in awe that you have mastered the English language as well as you have. Trying to write at the level you’re aiming for is challenging for those of us who grew up speaking and writing English. When I put myself in your place, it boggles my mind.

        Also, how do we learn best? By making mistakes. It’s easy to overlook things, especially when we’re fearful of them. I didn’t like pointing out your sentence but I knew you’d want to know of it. Keep writing. That’s all I ask of you, my friend.

      • Lando, my friend, you are cherished, just as you are. Stop being concerned about the small stuff. Just write more for those of us who love your pieces.

      • lando – may I suggest that creativity in writing is just as important, if not more important, than proficiency in a given language. So many writers want to write something that reads like a writer wrote it. Does that make sense? I don’t know what your native tongue is but perhaps you can turn your current degree of english proficiency into a “plus” and write your heart out, not worrying about the English grammar. It is important to find a “voice” in writing, a voice that separates us from the crowd. Even the crowd of published authors, many of which cause me to gag. Concentrate on character and plot. Conflict and resolution. A beginning with a hook and an ending with a strong statement. My 2-cents worth, and you probably have change coming back. Jeff

      • Jeff, the comments you left for Lando were applicable to all. Thank you.

  6. Krystyna Fedosejevs

    Skeletal Remains

    I’d just finished exercising after work, and the doorbell rang. I was sweaty, but I decided I really didn’t care who saw me in my Jane Fonda outfit. I pulled open the front door. A tall guy in a hoodie stood in the darkening dusk, his face in shadow.
    “I am death,” he said.
    “Yeah, and I’m the Queen of Sheba,” I replied, waiting for the punch line.
    He showed me his skeletal hand, as if to offer his credentials.
    I wiped the sweat off my forehead and licked my lips. “Okay.” I paused. “I was just about to have a scotch. You want one?”
    “Does it have meringue or whipped cream?” the stranger asked. “Not that it matters. In the state I’m in, taste is inconsequential.”
    “Eh? I was offering you a drink. Come in. Mind your step. You don’t want to have a shattering entry.”
    “Oh, I thought you talking about butterscotch pie,” he said with a bit of bony excitement. “My mama made the best. Think she used a pound of butter for each pie.”
    “Can’t be that much?”
    “Pretty close. I should know. I weighed in at 300 pounds when my 25-year-old ticker decided I couldn’t have more.”
    “The scotch? Here’s one for you and one for me,” I said filling shot glasses.
    “Now, what do I do with this? Not much good when I don’t have the plumbing.”
    “Oh, just bless yourself. Keep your bones lubricated.”
    “I’ll do that, ma’am. Probably works better than WD__ whatever or that KY stuff.”
    “So tell me, what brought you to Sweet Grass County?” I asked sitting in front of him.
    “Someone called out my name. Had to take a walk, discover my surroundings.”
    “Where did you start?”
    “That cemetery behind your backyard. Heard the voice from your house.”
    “Impossible. I’m the only one here and I was exercising.”
    “Be careful. That’s what finished my body off, exercising after eating two pies.”
    “Do I look like I weigh 300 pounds?”
    “Thanks for the drink. Don’t work out too much.”
    “Where did your person reside?”
    “Yup, right in this house, some fifty years ago.”

  7. Death Knocks

    I pour myself a double. He declines my offer. His gnarled fingertips rip my throat with each swallow. I pour another. Neither of us speak.

    I recall my father’s last words. Sonya. You are going to die a drunk. I scoffed. Told him to leave. His eyes teared. I turned my back, poured a scotch, toasted his departure.

    I look at my guest. His face fills with familiar features, my father looking at me for the last time. My gut erupts. Blood and bile dribble. He touches my lips with a cloth. He gathers me. Cradles me to his chest. Pats my back. He rocks us to a long-forgotten lullaby. My warmth fades.

  8. Cheryl aka Shaddy

    “No thank you, but we need to talk.”

    “Aw, come on. You look like you could use one. In fact, you look like hell,” I said, opening the door wide. He nodded and came inside. I shook as I poured us both a double shot. We sat on tall chairs at the pub table in my kitchen.

    “I should mention that drinks go right through me.” Death’s shoulders bounced as he silently chuckled.

    “Oh shit. I’m sorry; I didn’t think about that.” I grabbed the rug from in front of my sink and stuffed it under his chair. “Okay, now what brings you to these parts,” I said, trying to appear nonchalant. I held my glass out toward him and we casually clinked our scotches.

    Death leaned back and took a long drink. “I look like hell because I just returned from that ungodly place. No skin off my nose,” he grinned and added, “but escorting folks down there gets to me.”

    I choked and sputtered. “I, I, uh, I hope you have no reason to go back there again soon.” I swiped my sleeve across a newly erupted layer of sweat on my face and again licked my lips.

    “Man. You’re hot and parched already. Let’s hope your destination is beside green pastures and cool waters.” Death placed his elbows on the table and leaned toward me. “That’s damn good Scotch you’re serving me. Keep that up and I’m sure I can arrange for glorious accommodations for your final resting place.”

    I made a quick trip to the liquor store on the corner for more scotch and we drank the night away. I passed out at some point and in the morning, I was alone. I found a note under one of the empty scotch bottles. Death had written: I need regular respites from the ups and downs of my job. Open your door to me when I knock, drink with me and I’ll extend your time here. P.S. I suggest you get a bigger rug.

    I sat at the table for a long, long time. When I finally stood up, I went straight to my desk. I found my bucket list and tore it up. I rewrote it.

    Bucket List
    1. Go to church every Sunday.
    2. Own the best scotch money can buy and lots of it.

  9. I’d just finished exercising after work, and the doorbell rang. I was sweaty, but I decided I really didn’t care who saw me in my Jane Fonda outfit. I pulled open the front door. A tall guy in a hoodie stood in the darkening dusk, his face in shadow.
    “I am death,” he said.
    “Yeah, and I’m the Queen of Sheba,” I replied, waiting for the punch line.
    He showed me his skeletal hand, as if to offer his credentials.
    I wiped the sweat off my forehead and licked my lips. “Okay.” I paused. “I was just about to have a scotch. You want one?”
    As she walked away from the door, death realized he had been invited into her home. However the cordial invite quickly changed, as the atmosphere seemed to seethe with slashing tongues. Anger rose within her creating such a violent reaction even death was shocked. Not the right time to ask for the scotch she had offered.
    “Who the hell do you think you are? I begged you for years to take me. Every time I raced around that mountain curve – so easy to just drive off the right edge. It was far enough down, I knew I would die. No one would miss me. The razor blades, so sharp. The high-speed attempt to make love to that humongous oak in my red Mercedes 450SL. But you refused; you ignored my pleas. You could have sent some semblance of a response. After all those years of emotional and physical abuse, and now you want to share a scotch. Now you want to set me free.”
    Fire flashed from her eyes more intense than the fiery abyss where he dwelled. He recognized the scars she carried, supposedly healed and forgiven. How could he possible explain that before it just wasn’t her time? So cliché, really. He started to retreat from the house, but she wasn’t finished yet.
    “Now that I finally like myself; now that I finally have some sense of peace, a purpose for living, a gift to give others. Now, are you serious, now?” She turned her back on him and slammed the glass of scotch on the wooden counter, shattering the antique etched tumbler.
    He quietly opened the door, slipped out of the house – no fanfare necessary. As he gently released the handle securing the latch, the house became deathly quiet, empty, full of nothing. Maybe it was just her time.

  10. First hundred

    It seemed as though it was not the time. Nor was it the day. Scotch, like life, is made in haste. Darkness, char, and the essence born of oaken barrels mellow it as much as can be expected. The spring sounds that play from beneath the snow welcome the grain, and the grain, when spent, must welcome the harvest. He pointed to the door. Is it the time? It changes each year. And how silly to look this way! I wished a million things. This should be different. “Honey,” I said, disappointed as he, “I think Halloween might be tomorrow.”

    • Gary, great paragraph. “the spring sounds that play from beneath the snow welcome the grain” WOW! that’s a terrific line.

    • Hi Gary – I really liked this up to the last 2 lines. I wish you would have kept the feeling going instead of ending in humor. But, that’s just me. Jeff

  11. Cheryl aka Shaddy

    For crying out loud. You’ve done it again!!! So philosophical and then you’re back to your tricks. I love it!!

  12. I’d just finished exercising after work, and the door bell rang. I was sweaty, but I decided I really didn’t care who saw me in my Jane Fonda outfit. I pulled open the front door. A tall guy in a hoodie stood in the darkening dusk, his face in shadow.
    “I am death,” he said.
    “Yeah, and I’m the Queen of Sheba,” I replied, waiting for the punchline.
    He showed me his skeletal hand, as if to offer his credentials.
    I wiped the sweat off my forehead and licked my lips. “Okay.” I paused. “I was just about to have a scotch. You want one?”

    “Yes, I was hoping you’d ask,” he said. “It’s always easier if folks are relaxed when I come for them.”

    “Wait,” I said, “you must have made some mistake. I’m nowhere near ready for death. My husband and I have agreed that we must have a discussion with the kids, and we fully intend to do that, but we have plenty of time, don’t we?”

    “We’re getting on in years, and neither one of us is afraid of death. In fact, we often talk about it, especially after an article in some newspaper or magazine about dying,” I said.

    Death said, “it’s good that you don’t fear me, but that doesn’t help your children deal with their loss when I take you.”

    “May I ask for just a few days, that is if you really are sure it’s my time?” I said. “I must prepare my family for this, and get a few affairs in order?”

    “No, I’m afraid not,” said Death. “However, you may ask me for one thing, but it cannot be delaying our departure.”

    “I know what I’d like, if you think you can arrange it,” I said. “I don’t want to die alone. Can you arrange for a loved one to be here with me?”

    “Yes, I think I can make that happen,” said Death. “Now, why don’t we have another scotch?”

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      Nice work, Meegiemom. It’s obvious you’re very family, people oriented. I’d like to have someone with me too.

  13. Meegie, Cheryl ahd Jeff: Guys, thank you for your support and understanding. I’ll try my best to keep up with you
    Jeff, thank you for your suggestions. I really appreciate them.

  14. (I’d just finished exercising after work, and the door bell rang. I was sweaty, but I decided I really didn’t care who saw me in my Jane Fonda outfit. I pulled open the front door. A tall guy in a hoodie stood in the darkening dusk, his face in shadow.
    “I am death,” he said.)

    I extended my hand. “Hi. I’m Jeff”

    “I know,” he replied.

    Rotten timing I told myself. It’s one thing to answer the door in my Jane Fonda outfit. It’s another to be found dead wearing my Jane Fonda thong and Jane Fonda bra underneath.

    He followed me inside. I poured a scotch. What the hell.

  15. I began receiving your prompts once I finished your beginning creative writing class ending Jan 13. This one was a particular hearty laugh out-loud. Pleased to receive these and have a way to stay in touch. Am continuing to write my stories adding them to my website (a work in progress) as entry to my visual work. Lots more to come – some small books in the works as well – thanks to your encouragement and skillful teaching. You helped me find my voice and get words out into the world to be shared.

    Nan

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