Somebody was walking up his sidewalk. He dropped the morning paper on the table and reached for his coffee. He leaned closer to the window. A man wearing a brown toga and hoodie was pulling a woman along in broad daylight. The person was also carrying a huge scythe. In a split second he made up his mind not to answer the door.
“Mr. Jones.” The man pulled a huge smart phone from an inside pocket. “It’s Ralph, isn’t it. Ralph Wilmer Jones.”
“Whoa, not so damn fast.” He spilled a few drops of coffee. “How in the hell did you get in? The screen door was locked and so was the entry door.”
The man waved the phone at Ralph while keeping a tight grip on the woman’s wrist. He ignored Ralph’s question. “I had an appointment with you this morning. Or rather you had an appointment with me.” He consulted his phone again. “At eight this morning and you missed it.”
Ralph slid back a few inches from the breakfast table. “What the hell is going on? Are you crazy?” Ralph was distracted by the woman frantically nodding her head. He tore his eyes from the woman and back to the man. “I was in bed this morning at eight, sleeping like a baby.” He thought for a second. “How did you get in? The doors were locked.”
Again the question was ignored. “You were supposed to have been at the bus stop at eight. We can’t allow this to happen again. My superiors are getting angry and blaming me. I’ve done nothing wrong.” He held up the phone. “My records indicate that this is the fifth time you have failed to keep your appointment. This cannot go on. It has to stop right now.”
Ralph slid back to the wall giving him a narrow escape route. “Where did you escape from? You are a certified lunatic, aren’t you?”
The woman nodded vigorously and tried to pull away.
The man’s phone emitted an ominous church bell sound from an old deserted graveyard. He fumbled with the phone and accidentally released the woman. She bolted into a bedroom, slamming the door, causing a hanging light to sway.
The man made one step toward the bedroom. His phone gave out two peals from an ancient bell. He halted and tapped the phone once. He glanced at Ralph. “I have an appointment to keep. Right now. I can’t waste any more time here.” He walked quickly to the door. “Stay here please, I won’t be too long.” He paused a moment. “And don’t let the woman leave under any circumstances.”
Ralph glanced at the bedroom door for a second. He looked back at the entry door. The man was gone. He sat perfectly still listening. Not a sound. He slowly sipped his coffee and stared at the bedroom door. He walked over and tried the knob. Locked.
He rapped on the door lightly. “You can come out now. He’s gone.”
A faint whisper came back. “Are you sure? He is sneaky and sly as a fox. Check your sidewalk.”
He waited a few seconds. “I checked. No one there.”
The door flew open. She glanced around the room. A second later, she jumped at him, arms around his neck, hugging him tightly. “We have to leave. Right now. Let’s go to Las Vegas. He’ll be back soon. We don’t want him to find us.”
“Whoa. Stop. What the hell is going on? Who is he? Who are you?” He resisted her pulling him toward the door.
“I’ll explain everything later.” She tugged on his wrist. “There’s a park down the street. Let’s go and I’ll tell you everything there is to know.”
At times she was trotting with a death grip on his wrist. He was panting slightly when she pushed him onto a park bench. “Alright, stop the damn nonsense. First, who is this guy?”
She kept a firm grip on his wrist and took a deep breath. “He’s a Grim Reaper or sometimes just called Death. Let’s go to Vegas.”
Ralph was shaking his head and trying to free his wrist. “How dumb do you think I am? He’s crazy and I’m beginning to believe you are also crazy.”
“No, no. Remember him saying you had cheated him five times. The first time was in the army. You bent over to pick up a dime and the sniper hit the man behind you.” She paused. “Do you remember that? Death told me all about you. The second time you cheated Death was when you got into the wrong taxi. The other taxi exploded and killed the driver and passenger.”
Ralph barely nodded. “I remember those weird incidences.”
“Just this morning you were supposed to be at the bus stop at eight. A man was killed. Death was waiting for you and you stayed in bed. He was extremely angry.” She suddenly hugged Ralph with her head on his shoulder. “Don’t look. Death is walking up your sidewalk. He went in. Now he is in front of your house. He’s furious, he’s jumping up and down shaking both fists at the sky. We should leave for Vegas right now.”
Ralph tried to look but she hugged him tighter. “He’s consulting his phone. He has another appointment to keep. He’s gone.” She relaxed her hug a bit.
Ralph pushed her away roughly. “What in the hell is wrong with you? Who are you?”
“We can go to Las Vegas. Death won’t find us there.”
“Stop talking trash. I don’t believe a word you are saying. Who are you?” Ralph paused a second. “And why was he pulling you along?”
Her shoulders sagged. She looked at the grass at her feet. “I’ve cheated him four times. Last week he came to my home. My husband was supposed to kill me.” She paused too long for Ralph.
“I killed him.” She kept on quickly. “But it was an accident. I didn’t mean to kill him.”
Ralph slid to the edge of the bench. “Holy cow! You murdered your husband!”
Her voice dropped to a harsh whisper. “I told you it was an accident. He came into the living room with a big shiny pistol. He shot at my head and just missed. He pulled the trigger again but the spent shell hadn’t ejected. His gun was jammed. In the second he was trying to get a new bullet in, I grabbed a fire-place poker. One with the hook on the end for pulling on burning logs. I swung. He fell with the hook buried just above his right eye.”
Ralph shuddered. “What did you do?”
“I ran into the kitchen. There he was. Death was standing in the doorway waiting.”
Ralph looked up and down the street. “What was he waiting for?”
“Death was waiting for me. He was very upset that I was alive and it was my husband who was dead. He said I messed up his appointment book.” She looked at Ralph and squeezed his knee. “Let’s go to Las Vegas. He won’t look for us there.”
“Forget Las Vegas. You just killed your husband. I wouldn’t even go to the next city with you.”
Suddenly Death was standing next to them. “Well, I see you two have found each other. A good pair. Both of you cheated death.”
Ralph tried to see his face. It was hidden in the shadows of the brown cowl. Death idly let his scythe twist back and forth in the sunlight. The reflected light from the blade seemed to stay in Ralph’s eyes.
“Purely accidental. I certainly didn’t mean to screw up your appointments.” Ralph stood and tried to look Death in the face. “You don’t have an appointment with either of us. So why don’t you leave us alone. Go wave the scythe at someone else.”
The scythe spun emitting all the colors of the rainbow. Death was gone.
The woman hugged Ralph tightly. “You were so brave to talk to Death like that.” She moved her lips closer to Ralph’s ear. “Let’s go to Las Vegas. We be safe from him there.”
Ralph hesitated a moment feeling her body heat radiate out to his body. Then he thought, No way. She just killed one man. Death wants her badly and she’s crazy as a bedbug.
He pushed her away. “You can go to Las Vegas by yourself, Sweetheart. Don’t bother me any more.” He walked to his home without a backward glance.
A month went by without incidence. Ralph checked everything. He stood in the doorway of the bus and looked over the riders. He sat and tried to relax. Someone was sitting down beside him.
It was Death. The scythe glittered.
“Go away.” Ralph’s voice wavered and cracked. “You don’t have an appointment with me.”
Death ignored Ralph. He studied his phone. An eternity flew by. Death touched Ralph’s knee. “Something is going to happen at the next stop.”
Ralph’s muscles turned to jelly. His eyes filled with tears as the bus stopped. The woman stepped in carrying a fireplace poker with a hook.
Death touched Ralph again. “I gave her an all-expense-paid trip to Las Vegas. She was very appreciative.”
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