It turns into our driveway, the long, black limousine. Its sleek ebony finish gleams with an ethereal sheen. Its windows are tinted, dull and darkly opaque. It resembles an imposing hearse come to collect its fare for the day.
It creeps up the driveway in no special hurry, reflecting the nature of its occupant seated inside. The orders have been given; why rush? Nobody misses that meeting.
I shiver as if someone has just walked across my grave. Even the dog senses the gravity of the moment and slinks off, hiding behind the sofa. I face the circumstances, walk to the door, await the guest.
The limo door opens slowly, a bony finger grasps the door, a skeletal foot emerges, partially enshrouded by a black cape. Where a face should be is only a dark void, a veil, hidden inside the cape’s hood. With certainty of purpose the occupant walks slowly to the door. I know why he’s here, even as he does. I invite him in.
I’ve been around long enough to know The Reaper is a chameleon, a master of disguises. His purpose is singularly simple…he comes to reap, to clean up all of life’s messes, a creature of carrion. And he never leaves empty-handed. It’s his job. Why is he here, I wonder?
Reapers can arrive in a variety of ways. Like that Ford Victoria pulling up in your driveway with an IRS emblem on the door. Or the Repo man who shows up in the dead of night to confiscate the nice Cadillac you forgot to pay off. Reapers come every week with the lawn mower to give the grass a haircut; or make compost of dead leaves. Reapers are everywhere.
“Come in. I’ve been expecting you but not so soon.”
“Ok, but not for long. Deadlines loom. COVID’s got me behind. Essential services, you know.”
“What brings you to my house?”
“Your number came up, but you look pretty healthy. Still, the Boss rarely makes mistakes. Must be something here that needs cleaning up.”
“Sit down, let’s talk about it.”
“Nice home here, pity to leave it.” He looks around and glances at the doctor’s report on the table.
“Ah, looks like you’ve been ignoring the blood test results. Diets of simple carbs and sugar will lay you out faster than waving a Confederate flag at NASCAR. Your arteries and heart have petitioned the Boss for help. You must have a death wish. Maybe I’m just in time. I rarely come early. I’ve seen people croak at the very sight of me.”
“How’d you know about my blood test? “
“We have ways and means. We heard you discussing it with the doctor through the light bulb.”
“Yeah, sounds vibrate light waves, transmit your voice. You know Alexi, right? She’s our mole.”
“You must stay very busy.”
“Yeah, all hours, day and night. Never know when the call will come. Plus, a lot of stress with this new quota system the Boss imposed.”
“Reaping must be a grim job.”
“Yes, no fun at all. Always bad news. It helps to be callous, impervious to wailings and gnashing of teeth, the wringing of hands, the tears and pleadings of those begging for a reprieve. I’d rather be a Sower of good news. Nobody likes a Reaper. It’s a bad rap. But somebody has to do it, or the messes would just keep compounding themselves. Imagine it.”
“Why are people afraid of you?”
“Bottom line? I’m basically a janitor. I clean up the messes people leave.”
“Simple. I balance all books, discharge all debts, adjust all open accounts, equalize all imbalances. I ameliorate ancient animosities, finalize all feuds and lay a hatchet to the hubris of nations and politicians.”
He continues. “Many call me the Great Emancipator of people, helpless prisoners of the earth. I equalize all perspectives and eliminate all illusions. I am the vintner of the vats of the grapes of wrath, the final umpire of all games and healer of all ills. I’m the real deal here. I’m a busy fellow.”
“Nice talking to you. Better listen to your doctor and lay off those carbs and sugars, or I’ll be back.” He moves like a ghost to the door but leaves his scythe as a reminder.
“Hey, wait, you have my last box of Godiva chocolates and my stash of Kettle Chips with Himalayan salt.”
“I never leave empty-handed. See you again, sooner or later.”
Behold the Reaper cometh…and his words, “I never leave empty-handed,” still ring in my ears. But the “sooner or later” troubles me.
June 29, 2020