Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Josh vs Death (round 1)

It’s 9 o’clock on a Saturday.
The regular crowd shuffles in.
But I’m sitting at home in my underwear
playing with my navel again.

Suddenly, I hear a noise from the kitchen. The loud clattering of pots and pans, followed by muffled cursing under somebody’s breath.

As far as I knew, I was home alone, so I was a little confused about who was in my kitchen at this time of night and whether this intruder was polite enough to have made me a sandwich. So I slowly got up (still only in boxers, to potentially scare the intruder with my impressive physique) and made my way to the kitchen, where an odd sight awaited me.

Sprawled out on the floor was a large figure, completely covered by an extremely dark, hooded cloak. Looking closer, I noticed that the cloak wasn’t black, it was much darker and richer, almost like if you looked at it too long, it’d suck up your soul. Next to the figure was an old school scythe. As far as I know, only one person wanders around in a black cloak with a scythe.

“Oh great,” I said. “How’d I die? Poke my bellybutton too much? It’s not my fault, that place is like an archaeological dig!”

“Shut up, you’re not dead. Not yet, at least. But you should be for this damn unevenly-tiled floor. I stubbed my toe!”

“What do you care, you’re dead anyway.”

“I may be dead, but I still have feelings,” he said with a pout.

“Okay,” I said, rolling my eyes. “So what can I do for you… Death?”
“Just turn around so I can make a proper entrance and muster what remaining dignity I have, please.”

I rolled my eyes again, “drama queen” I mumbled. Then I turned around. Suddenly, I felt the static electricity of lightening and heard the crash of thunder. Inky smoke curled around my feet and ankles, like a cat who just heard a food can being opened. A deep and echoing voice boomed at me, reaching to the marrow of my bones. I turned back and saw an eight-foot-tall skeleton, shrouded in black, floating in the air in front of me.

“Joshua! Son of James and James before him. You have led a slothful, wasted and evil life…”

“Well, I don’t know about evil,” I said in meekish defense.

“Silence! You have been judged and found wanting. You drown in your sins!”


“But there is still a chance to redeem yourself. You must best Death in a challenge of your choosing.”

“Wait, so I pick a challenge and if I win, I get to live?”

In a flash, the theatrics, including the reverb, vanished.

“Yes,” he sighed, his shoulders drooping. “Any challenge, competition or game. Geez, why doesn’t anybody ever get that? It’s pretty straightforward. You just ruined the moment and took the wind out of my sails. Honestly, sometimes I wonder why I even bother with this job.”

“Relax, relax. Okay, so I get to choose. Hmmm… How about Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? Best of three, five-minute rounds, no cheating or using IMDB.com.”

He looked at me nonplussed, in that way that only a talking skull can. “Well, I’ve heard stupider, but not since that extremely pale guy who smelled like fish wanted to play me in chess. Very well, let us proceed.”

Instantly a bag appeared next to him. “Pick a name out of this sack and let the first round begin!”

 “Alright, first name is Mel Gibson.”

We sat there in utter silence, for the next five minutes. By the way, what’s the opposite of utter? Unutter? Nontter? Otter? Before I knew it, five minutes had passed and I was still trying to figure out an antonym to utter. Curse you ADD!

“The five minutes are up. I can connect Mel Gibson to Kevin Bacon in two moves,” Death said. “Mel Gibson to William Devane in Payback and Devane to Bacon in Hollowman.”

“Alright Death. I got it in two moves as well. Gibson to Gary Senise in Ransom, and Senise to Bacon in Apollo 13.”

“The first round is a draw. The game continues. The next actor is…” he stuck his decrepit, bony hand into the bag. “…Shirley Temple?”
Death and I awkwardly stared at each other for a few seconds, (I mean, I was staring awkwardly, Death could have been constipated, as far as I know.) Then, the slip of paper just caught fire and fell to the floor.

“Oops,” Death said. “Ummm, there seems to have been a technical error, let’s try that again.” He pulled out another slip of paper (or were those pieces of human skin? Best not to think about it.) 

“Jonathon Lipnicki. Start now!”

I shut my eyes in concentration, determined to not be distracted. But for real, were those pieces of human flesh? Unsavory. Anyway…

“The five minutes are up. I can connect the actors in five moves. Jonathon Lipnicki to Geena Davis in Stuart Little, Davis to Madonna on A League of Their Own, Madonna to Piece Brosnan in Die Another Day, Brosnan to Denise Richards in The World is not Enough and Richards to Bacon in Wild Things.”

“Wow Death, seems like there should be an easier way to do that. Oh wait, there is. Lipnicki to Beau Bridges in Jerry Macguire, Beau Bridges to Jeff Bridges in The Fabulous Baker Boys and Bridges to Bacon in (and I hate to admit that I saw this) R.I.P.D.

Death became deathly(?) silent. “After two rounds, the advantage is you, with one tie,” he said. “Let us begin round three.”

“Woah, woah, woah Death. Hold on a minute. We might be here for a little while. Why don’t we get comfortable? We can have a drink or two and I’ll go put on some clothes,” I said.

He ruminated and scratched his chin. “I suppose that’s not a bad idea. Especially the part about you putting on clothes. Your body is so sad that it made me want to kill myself. And that’s saying something. But I can’t stay too long, I’m supposed to meet up with Mr. Brooks later for a night on the town.”

I returned to the living room a few minutes later. Death was splayed out on the couch, with his feet on the coffee table and a highball in his hand.

“This wasn’t a bad idea,” he said. “I rarely get to mix pleasure and business.”

“Yeah, about that. You don’t seem to be too into this whole playing mortals for their souls thing. How’d you get into this gig?”

“That’s actually a funny story. It used to be my uncle’s job, but he was fired after he was arrested for inappropriately fondling the corpse of a sheep. Both my father and my brother were in the family business of glass-blowing and were unable to take over the mantle, so the task fell to me.”

“That doesn’t sound fair,” I said. “Is being the Grim Reaper what you wanted to be when you grew up?” (Do skeletons grow up? The whole concept was breaking my brain.)

“Do you really want to know? Promise not to tell anybody?”

“Hell man, with my luck, you’ll be leaving here with my soul and I’ll never tell anybody. Go for it.”

“I always wanted to style the fur of poodles and wiener dogs.”
“Josh don’t judge. In fact, let’s toast to that! We can always pick up the game in a bit.”

“Ehhhhh,” Death said hesitantly. “I dunno…”

“Dude! Reapmiester! It’s time to do some shots bro!”


Three hours and two bottles of tequila later, the Grim Reaper was totally passed out on my couch. Dead to the world. So I soaked my house in gasoline, set Schnietz Marphis on fire and drove away to a place where Death would never find me. The Bermuda Triangle of the Midwest.


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