When death came for me , I assumed it would be a foreboding tall man in black clothes but it was a four foot ten inch african american female with hoop earrings.
I was sitting in my hospital bed. I had coded. I can distinctly remember her smacking that infernal gum. It was so loud.
“You, Hal”, the figure who had seated herself practically in my lap asked.
“Hey, I’m Death.”
I sputtered and stared aghast.
“Yes, I know I get that reaction all the time. Anyways, you the doctor?”
“I came to make a deal. See the other deaths are making fun of me because I never make my quota."
“What is it you would like me to do?” Hal asked.
“I’m going to pop up at this hospital, from time to time. I just want a thumbs up or thumbs down or a nod or something on whether or not I can have them.”
“Who?” Hal asked.
“Your patients. You are an anesthesiologist. It shouldn’t be that hard to let some go now and then. I heard it's covered in your insurance policy,” she said, pausing to blow a pink bubble from her lips.
“What do I get from this?” Hal asked.
“Silly doctor," she said, as she caressed his face, “You get to live.”
I gave a noncommittal grunt which was taken for a yes because suddenly I was thrust back into the OR with my colleagues scurrying about. The aura of relief was palpable.
I thought I had dreamed this whole encounter up until the following week. During a cricothyrotomy, I heard the bubble gum chewing sound. I turned around and what looked like a resident winked at me. So I calculated. The patient was in anaphylaxis, no family to speak of. It was almost too easy. I winked back. I continued the procedure. To the trained medical eye, there was nothing wrong. There was no way in which I could be blamed for this. However, it was such a shame to let a beautiful blond go.
She popped up while I was in the middle of a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and watching Stephen Colbert that night.
“Hey,” she said, “Nice job.”
“What’s your name?” Hal asked.
“No need to get on a first name basis Hal,” She said.
“C’mon”, Hal nudged her.
“It’s Alyssa,” she said.
“According to the Greeks, your name means 'rational'," Hal said, nervously spouting fact.
“Don’t worry Doctor Madison. I’m not here for you, I was just bored," Alyssa said.
“Nice of you to actually use my title,” Hal remarked.
“Like I said, I’m bored,” Alyssa said. “See ya next week, Save me a body.”
With that she blew me a kiss and disappeared. Was it just me or was Death sexy? I clearly had begun to lose my mind. I was working for Memorial Hospital and sidelining for Death. I was alone drinking cabernet and thinking maybe I could make love to those hips. Does Death take vacation time? I shook my head and curled myself into bed. Clearly, I needed some sleep.
The next time Alyssa popped up, it was three in the morning. I was called in for an emergency procedure. The kid was riddled with bullets. All I could think was this is a child. If I had more time to read the chart I would’ve found out that this smooth faced kid was only fifteen. I knew that even if he lived his life would be very uncomfortable for quite sometime. I knew that whatever circumstances had brought him here would bring him back. The surgeon looked at me, his face grim. I let my hand fly with the anesthesia. Dr. Mailman merely nodded. He knew without looking that I had given him too much. He placed his hand on my shoulder as if to reassure me that he would have my back on this. I turned to the wall, face wet with tears. Alyssa appeared.
“At least act like you guys are trying to save him,” She said.
I remember thinking Why is her tongue purple? as Dr. Mailman busied himself trying to dislodge bullets but he already knew there was internal bleeding. Major arteries were mush. There was nothing to do but act busy while he died.
Alyssa did come over that night. This time, I was not nursing a token glass of Sauvignon. This time, I was halfway through a liter of Svedka, with a bottle of Sobieski on the nightstand, just in case. I was in bed.
“You know, he was mine anyway,” Alyssa said.
“I figured as much when I saw him,” I replied.
“Then, why so glum?” she asked gesturing towards the bottles.
“Because a dead child is a dead child,” I said.
Alyssa quit hovering over me and made physical contact. She was sitting in my lap. My head hit the headboard in shock.
“What in the world are you doing?” I exclaimed.
“I am confiscating the booze,” Alyssa said.
"Why?" I asked.
“Because the point is for you to give me some people not offer your own self to me,” Alyssa said.
Sure enough. I turned my head and the booze was gone. I threw her corporeal form to the ground and started opening the drawers. She didn’t! SHE COULDN’T!
Great. Now Death was babysitting me. There was no vodka in sight. I entered the kitchen. The brand new sample bottles that were in the fridge were also gone.
I staggered back into bed. I couldn’t help it. I cried.
It wasn’t just for the boy. It was for myself. It was the wife who I buried in Russia ten years ago. It was in celebration of new life in America. It was in celebration of mortality… In celebration of new beginnings. I could hear her smacking that infernal gum and watching but I was too embarrassed to say anything. So I pulled the covers over my head and went to bed.
The next morning, I awoke to her sitting on my dresser arms akimbo.
“What do you want?” I asked as soon as my eyes saw her.
“Can’t a girl come hang out with her favorite doctor?” She said, her eyes twinkling with green gum in between her front teeth.
“I have work," I said.
“Which you are twenty minutes late for," She said.
I groaned and looked at the clock. I made to rise.
“You are sick,” She said, while poking her grotesquely long nails into my shoulder.
“No, I am not,” I replied.
“You aren’t leaving?” She asked.
“I have work,” I repeated as if she were some sort of special needs child.
“I know,” she said. "Trust me this is for my benefit. If you go in there vodka seeping through your pores you will lose the opportunity to gain me souls, or your negligence will flood my soul intake causing the upstairs to get suspicious,” she said while pointing at ceiling.
She handed me the phone. I called in with some cockamamy story of illness.
I then began to roll back into bed when the covers were yanked from my torso.
"HEY!" I exclaimed.
“Get up,” Alyssa said.
“I don’t have work," I said, as if she was not the one who had orchestrated my absence.
“Well, Mopey, up and up, I have a fantabulous day planned,” she said, her gum suddenly having gone from green to red.
“They really shouldn’t have teenagers being harbingers of death”, I mumbled.
“I will have you know I died at 21,” Alyssa said.
“Why 21?” I asked.
“Let’s just say there’s a reason your booze went bye bye last night,” she said.
I merely groaned at the memory.
“Don’t worry. You can have your Sobieski back as soon as you show me that you plan on acting like a big boy about all this.”
“I’m an old man, and I can do what I want. Who died and made you queen?”
“You did,” she said, her voice steely.
At this, I merely got off the bed and headed into the bathroom. I hoped teeny death bopper in there would take a hint and give me some privacy.
She didn’t interrupt. I took maybe thirty minutes in the shower. I was clearly stalling. However, she didn’t appear in the ceiling or knock or anything. When I returned to the bedroom, towel around my waist, she had started in on my book collection. She was cross legged on my shag rug reading Death Be Not Proud. I was slightly amused. I smirked. She turned just in time to catch it.
“Don’t you have souls to be collecting?” I asked.
“I never make my quota anyway so I figured I’d take the day to make sure my investment was doing okay,” she said.
After all, what is life ? It departs covertly. Like a thief Death took him.
“You’re quoting Gunther now, huh?” I said, smiling.
I almost forgot I was only wearing a towel until her nails graced my scapula. Then I nearly jumped out of my skin. Thankfully, my towel held.
“I need to get dressed," I said.
“By all means” she said making no attempt to move.
“Please”, I said.
“Oh the living and their modesty,” she said while retreating to the kitchen.
When I arrived dressed in khakis and a polo shirt, she smirked and blew a bubble.
I was surprised to find a cup of coffee, scrambled eggs, and toast waiting for me.
“So death’s a housewife," I said.
“I can take souls and throw down in the kitchen… multi-talented,” she replied before she dissolved into giggles.
If I didn’t know better I would say Alyssa was flirting. I was conflicted. Who would eat something death had prepared for them. I stared at the box of lucky charms and then at the hot egg plate. It was a no-brainer. At least, I would die with a smile on my face.
“I didn’t come for you, silly,” Alyssa said as she playfully punched my arm.
With that, I dug in.
It was actually a pretty good day. It was almost a date. We ate funnel cake. We raced up the hiking trail. We had one of those cheesy romance movie picnics. The evening ended with us on the porch swing my head buried in her shoulder crying.
“What was her name?” she asked me.
“What do you mean?” I said.
“You’ve been looking at me all day like I was someone else," She said.
I hastened to deny it, but she held her hand up to silence me.
"You don’t have to lie, I don’t want to talk about it would suffice,” Alyssa said.
“Sasha,” I muttered.
“Sasha,” she repeated. “Defender of mankind”...
"No wonder you never remarried.”
“She was something, I started,"She could sing the most beautiful aria.”
And with that I dissolved into tears.
Next thing I knew, she was in my lap again. And I was sobbing into her shoulder.