Death Quits His Day Job
by Emily Simmons
The door to Samuel’s office opened with a bang. He looked up from his paperwork to find a tall, slender man glaring at him from the doorway. Samuel picked up the stack of papers in front of him then stood to greet his guest. “Ah, Death. I’ve been expecting you.”
The man walked in and dropped into the guest chair, ignoring the outstretched hand being offered. “Nobody ever expects me. It’s the last pleasure I have in this miserable job, the element of surprise.”
Samuel laughed, a pinched, nervous almost-giggle, which made Death glare even harder. “Well, you know what I meant.”
“Whatever,” Death replied, gazing now out the window. He drummed his fingers on the arm of the chair. “New office, eh? They promote you to Archangel? You’ve been after that for a while.”
“Yes, they did.” Samuel cleared his throat, hesitantly. A slight man, he had been intimidated in Death’s presence ever since they were in school together. Of course he wasn’t Death then; he was merely Death’s Intern, but he had lorded it over the heads of the other students. The playing field was level now, and Samuel straightened and tried to put some authority in his voice.
“I bet you’re wondering why you’re here,” Samuel began.
“Not really,” Death said.
Samuel glanced down at the sheaf of papers in his hand. “We’ve been getting a lot of complaints from the new arrivals.”
Death yawned, stretching his long arms and legs outward, then returning to his slouch. “Is that a surprise? I don’t get many that are excited to see me.”
Samuel shook his head. “Not complaints that they died, complaints about how they were treated during the process. I’ve had reports that you’ve been unnecessarily cold and unfeeling to the recently departed.”
Death stared at Samuel. “Oh, I’m sorry, I guess we haven’t met before,” he said, ironically. “Hi, I’m Death, pleasure to meet you.” His voice lost the sardonic tone. “Seriously, Sammy, cold and unfeeling go with the territory. What do you expect, giddy? Chipper?”
“No, but I do expect you to show some respect. One arrival, Aaron Wilson, said you spent the entire reaping on your cell phone!” Samuel said, exasperated.
Death shrugged. “I was on hold with Comcast. You know how cable companies can be.”
“And that’s not all. You made a woman go with you to the grocery store.”
“It was on the way. Took five minutes, tops.”
“You told a man named Ebeneezer you were the Ghost of Christmas Future.” Samuel said.
Death chuckled. “That was a good one.”
“You are supposed to ferry souls from their earthly bodies to their eternal reward! This is serious business and you aren’t taking it seriously at all!” Samuel smacked the papers onto the table.
Death propped his feet on the desk in front of him. “Look, when you’ve been Heaven’s taxi driver for as long
as I have, you learn to take it easy when you can. I see some nasty stuff. This is just my way of blowing off steam.”
“Well, it’s going to stop. We can no longer tolerate this kind of behavior,” Samuel said.
“Is that right?” Death said.
“Yes, that’s right. I’ve already sent you three written warnings, which you’ve ignored. I have no choice but to put you on probation,” Samuel said.
“Probation? What the heck does that mean?” Death asked.
“It means that for the next three months, we’ll be watching your behavior carefully. If you do anything that
violates the Codes of Behavior, well…” Samuel trailed off.
“Well what? You’ll fire me? Are you threatening to fire Death?” He took his feet off the desk and sat up, looking Samuel straight in the eye. Samuel took a deep breath.
“Yes. Yes, I am. If you screw up again, you’re fired.”
Death slowly rose from his chair and put his palms on the desk. Leaning over, he got right in Samuel’s face, but Samuel didn’t flinch. “You can’t fire me. You have no authority.”
“Yes, I do. I am now the Head Archangel of Human Affairs. Death falls under my purview.” Maintaining eye contact with Death took everything he had, but he refused to be the first to look away.
“I have spent millenia doing the job that no one else would do,” Death began quietly, his voice building with emotion. “When I say that I’ve been in the trenches, I mean that literally. I have seen blood and carnage and suffering the likes of which a pencil pusher like you could never imagine. I don’t spend all day in my cushy office micromanaging people in a pathetic attempt to feel powerful. Until you have carried the burden I do, I don’t want to hear your threats. You have NO idea what my life is like.”
Samuel took a deep breath. “I appreciate the service you are doing on behalf of all of us, but nevertheless I must insist that you raise your standard of conduct to the appropriate level.”
Death straightened. He looked at Samuel for a long time. “No.”
Samuel blinked. “No? No, what?”
“No. I will do my job the way I see fit, and you and your Codes can rot.”
Samuel floundered. This wasn’t going at all the way he envisioned it. “You know what this means, don’t you?”
Turning toward the door, Death said, “Don’t bother firing me. If you aren’t going to appreciate the work I’m doing, I quit.” He opened the door and walked out, leaving Samuel to watch, mouth agape. He wondered how that had gone so horribly wrong. And what was he going to tell the Boss when it got out that there was no more Death.