Don’t Spray the Reaper

sprayreaperDon’t Spray the Reaper 
by John Was
East Leeds Magazine, October 2011

This chest infection just won’t let me sleep. And when I don’t sleep, my wife doesn’t because I’m tossing and turning. I blame the weather it’s rained on biblical proportions all summer and it’s cold for the time of year.. I know two in the morning’s late to be on the computer but I figured if I can’t sleep then I might as well put the time to good use.

Switching the computer on, I see an old drinking partner of mine, Bob, who now lives in Oz is online. A few minutes later we’re joined by Grant an old work mate I used to share fag breaks with, whose now living in Thailand.
Quite often our computer room gets a little foisty, basically it’s a box room with one small window and we’ve been using the radiator to get our washing dry but suddenly it smells really bad, A bottle of air freshener lives permanently on the shelf and I give everywhere a spray round. As I’m taking my seat I hear a very quite cough.
‘Hi Joe. You’re due to die today.’

Stood behind me was the Grim Reaper. I thought for a split second it might be a burglar or pyscho but no, it was the Grim Reaper and I knew it, and believe me, when he comes to visit you, you’ll know it too.

“It makes a change, normally people spray holy water or garlic at me…’ The Reaper gave a quiet laugh. His voice was almost gentle even soothing.

“… Too much television you see. What was that stuff you just sprayed? Did you think it would warn me off?”
“Air freshener, it makes the washing smell nicer.”

He laughed again, a laconic, mildly amused laugh. “You will have no need for your washing where you’re going.” He fiddled with his scythe and checked his clock as he spoke.

“It seems a bit extreme killing me off, it’s only a chest infection?”

An old yellowed parchment appeared from under his cloak. “It’s all here, forty cigarettes a day, binge drinking on a weekend, no exercise, unhealthy diet, do you realise how much you spent on take-away food last week alone?”

“Eh can I look?” I hadn’t smoked for ten years, I hardly drank and was a regular at the gym. We had a Chinese last Friday but it certainly wasn’t worth dying for.

The Reaper turned the parchment round and showed me every scrap of information possible about me, from my date and weight at birth to supermarket shopping receipts.

“Hang on that receipts ten years old.”

The Reaper cocked his head, looked closely at the parchment, then looked back at me, tutting. “Oh not again, pigging agency staff, it’s not the first time this has happened. They should never have made those cut backs in the Summons Dept.”

“Does this mean I’m off the hook then?”

“I’m not sure, the other times people were much older than you and died of fright when they saw me, so it didn’t really matter. But you’re my first case like this to be honest. I’ll see what I can do, Can I use your computer?” The Reaper began typing away in a language I didn’t recognise.

“If you’d have carried on the way you were you would have died today. But you’ve cleaned up your act, the file is years out of date, you should have been re-evaluated.”

“So- I’m okay then?”

“Not exactly, I’ve got quotas to meet, if I go back one short I’ll have my pay docked, I might even be up for a warning. The Ancient Lodge of Reapers take a pretty dim view of not keeping up to targets. It’s not like the old times, we had flexibility then, it’s all about performance these days, got to keep the graphs in the green.”

“But I’m not due to die, surely there’s some one whose terminally ill or something, what about old Mr.Jenks down the road, he’s been a creaking gate for years, it would probably be a relief.” The Reaper continued to type. “Can I have a drink please?” I went to get him a drink and returned just in time to see him hit the return key with some aplomb.

“You’re okay, I’ve received permission to look elsewhere. I’ll bid you goodbye.” He just disappeared into thin air and, suddenly feeling tired, I went to bed. The alarm woke us the next morning.

I was feeling fresh, alive and my chest infection seemed to have disappeared. “Heck I’ve just had the weirdest dream, it was so vivid like it was really happening. The Grim Reaper came for me but I’m still here.”

“Tell me later I’ve got to get ready for work, the chest sounds better today.” I was cleaning my teeth when I heard my wife shout.

“I wish you wouldn’t get a clean glass every time you need a drink, why are there two glasses in the computer room?”

“Christ on a bike it wasn’t a dream.”

I booted the computer up, went into the history. Skype, Skype Skype and then nothing. I immediately sent Bob and Grant an email, I didn’t go into all the detail, I just wanted to know if they were okay. It’s been a week now and they still haven’t replied.

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