This is how it works. With my marathon over, this month’s project is a short story a day. Each day, I will take a writing prompt from the frontpage of reddit.com. There is no length limit and as this is a writing exercise, I will try my best to write something worth reading, and will invest in your comments, but make no guarantees (not that I ever do) as to the quality of my work. Enjoy!
Death is bliss. Death is shit. Death is a light at the end of the tunnel. Death is an old man who is always trying to hug you. Death is a sweet embrace, a welcome release, a return home, a biological inevitability, an ascension, a cessation, a bit of pontification. It is fated, hated, and much debated. Death is something to everybody and everyone’s got their own opinion, their own personal theory as to what death is and isn’t, what’s coming and what isn’t
Death is a pain in the ass. But unlike puberty, that other great pain in the ass part of the lifecycle (which also leaves one rather focused on holes), death just screws everyone else up but the dead guy. And up to a point, the less you know the person, the more of a goddam traffic jam of the beyond it is.
First degree: The dead guy–he’s dead, so depending on his belief system he’s either fighting demons, taking naps in out-of-focus forests, or he’s simply ceased to exist. Either way, if he’s doing anything, he’s not doing it here. So his life, or lack of it, is easy, uncomplicated.
Second degree: Friends and relatives. Everybody feels bad for these folks, and of course we do, they’ve lost someone that they love and now they’re left with each other and a greater sense of mortality. Practically speaking they have to handle all the relationships: Respectfully get rid of whatever crap was left behind, give it to people in such a way that nobody fights over it, graciously accept condolence calls and stories that are less about their dead friend and more about whoever’s telling it. They’ve got to sell the house, car, find a home for the dog, clean out the garage. The worst part is they have to do all this mourning.
Third degree: Me. I’m the guy you hate, the rat bastard with no soul, chin, and backbone, with a whole lot of piss for blood and shit for brains. I’m Andrew, from Bank of America, just wanted to reach you so that we could set up a time to talk about your husband’s outstanding debts to his accounts. Please, when you have a chance give me a call back and we can set up a time to talk. My number is 210-go fuck myself? Again, that number is 210-go fuck myself?
You feel bad for the family, sure, that’s easy. But listen, the family spends its whole time fighting over who gets to keep what, and who needs to take care of this and that. Everybody wants the Cadillac, the photo album, or the second home. Nobody wants the debt, the unpaid bills. But at the end of the day, the people owed money are still alive, and I’ve got to work, right? If it worked like folks wanted it too, that death absolves all the bad stuff and leaves all the good stuff, for one things, there would be a lot more people given an extra nudge at the top of the stairs.
I’m who they bring in, the guy with just enough education, and too little ambition to go and find something better. I’m the one who’s going to repossess the car you just fought over. I’m the one who’s going to call you until you answer, and wait for you until you come back, and make tired old threats that I eventually have to prove aren’t empty. You’re mourning. I’ve lost people, too. There are indeed people in this world who love me. I know you’re hurting, but I need to be good at my job. I’ll take the car, I’ll take the clothes, I’ll sell the house, I’ll find those second homes and those hidden little pools of cash like they’re water and I’m a dying man in the desert.
Hate me, swear at me, scream at me, hang up on me. In case you feel like you need an extra dose of pity tell everyone what a heartless son of a bitch I am. You may think I’m there to help, because I’m really not. Sure: I want you to be able to leave this behind, but at the end of the day, I’m doing that for myself and my bills, in part because I don’t want to die and have my co-workers calling my kids for my debts. So by all means, hate me. At the end of the day, the more you hate me the quicker you want to pay up and get rid of me.
I’m a callous piece of shit, I’m scum. Call me what you want, if it’s original, it honestly brightens my day.
But don’t forget, if I’m calling you 48 times a day, I’m also reminding you 48 times a day: life goes on.