Silent but Tardy

Stan heard his door’s assailant before the knocking; a shush-shush against the cement leading to his flat. He rose; walked; opened; stared. There, upon his stoop, was Death himself.

“Er,” Stan managed. What does one say to Death?

In what should have been an anticipated reaction, Stan’s guest only stared.

Stan scuffed a foot against his carpet. He bit his lip. Swung his arms.

Death still stared.

“So….” Stan tried. “May I help you?”

A nod. Silence.

Stan hadn’t thought Death would be so awkward. *Ahem* “How so?”

Impossible as it seemed; Stan knew, somehow, that his somber companion frowned in thought. Death reached a skeletal hand from draping cloak-sleeve to internal robe and withdrew a scrap of parchment. Hand and paper extended toward Stan.

Stan received the paper; declined the hand. Stan Dubrough, 17:00, he read. His palms felt chill and his body followed right after. Both jumped at Death’s bony finger, tapping to point at the name. His name: Stan Dubrough.

“That’s-” Stan squeaked. “That’s me.”

His guest’s other hand appeared from near the door-post. It gripped an awful, glinting scythe.

“The time’s not right, though,” Stan said, as though observing the weather.

The scythe paused. Stan sensed confusion. He also, inexplicably, recalled his mother’s exasperated reprimand, “Always a stickler for accuracy, aren’t you, Stan?”

Death stared. Asking.

“It says ’17:00,’ right?”

A slow nod.

“And, that’s 5 p.m.; yes?”

Nod.

“Well,” Stan concluded in a cheery tone, “It’s now going on 6.” He chuckled a bit till he recalled who his visitor was, and then wisely swallowed. “Hm; yes. Thing is: you’re a bit late.”

If a dark-cloaked being without voice could look gobsmacked, Death did. Without a word, he extended his non-scythe hand. Stan returned the paper and watched it disappear within the cloak folds. Then, just as silently, Death and his scythe turned and left.

Stan listened to the shush-shush of departure turn the corner before shutting his door. Returning to his couch seat, another of his mother’s oft-spoken sayings came to mind: “Stan, you’re so bent on being right you’d tell Death himself if he were late.”

“Well, mum,” he said, looking to the urn atop his mantel, “Looks like you were right after all.”

death-164761_1280

Submitted, at the last, for The 2019 Bloggers Bash Competition.

 

Photo Credit:
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Wilhelmina Winters, Fifty-Eight

Wil looked up, startled. Sure enough, there stood her beloved step-brother. His mouth was turned up in its characteristic jeer. From where her mind had just been, she immediately wondered if Jakob knew the content and meaning of the papers an inch beyond her reaching hands. Instinctively, she snatched them and brought them to her chest.

She sniffed, raised her head, and turned to look back at the windows. Jakob laughed a bit, though not as deeply as any of them had for years. Looking around the room once, he dropped into a chair near the table and put his feet up. His imitation down coat exhaled against the imitation leather backing as his worn boots clunked onto the imitation wood tabletop. If Wil hadn’t moved her things, his feet would have landed on them.

She carefully backed into a chair that was still upright. Lifting her required reading for English class in her left hand, she pretended to be absorbed in it. As Jakob snorted, tilted his head onto the back of the chair, and closed his eyes, Wil slid the sensitive papers to her side with her right hand. She winced as they crinkled audibly, and hurriedly shoved them under her thigh.

Jakob snorted again, and turned his angled head to look at Wil. “Is Mom in the back?”

Wil nodded. Aloud, she added, “She was coughing a lot and said we needed to come to the hospital.”

Regular sterile hospital sounds filled the quiet after she spoke: distant footsteps, muted beeping and paging, and the rush of the heated air warming the room from floor vents.

Jakob cleared his throat, then swallowed. Though he tried to hide it, his voice sounded huskier as he asked, “Is she okay?”

Wil looked over the top of the page and met his eyes. They were blue like Cynthia’s, but more serious than his stepmother’s ever were. As much as Jakob teased Wil, it was this seriousness that stopped Wil from teasing as much as he did.

“I don’t know,” she admitted, “but I don’t think she’s dying yet.” She attempted a weak smile, and Jakob’s mouth resisted the urge to complete one of his own. He rolled his eyes and breathed in deeply.

“Nice, Minnie,” he said sarcastically, and closed his eyes again.

Between his pretended napping and Wil’s pretended reading, they only jumped a bit at the door suddenly opening and admitting a plump nurse into the room just a few minutes later.

“Well, hello again!” her ever-cheery voice enthused. It was Nurse Bea, forever full of glee.

 

Continued from Fifty-Seven.
Keep reading to Fifty-Nine.