Thursday, February 18, 2010

04 Fun with Death

I’m with my girlfriend. It’s late and we’re walking down a sidewalk. Not far up a young man is swiftly caroming towards us on a skateboard. It’s a little steep for that sort of thing and I pull her to one side to let him pass.

She’s watching him intently.

Suddenly he misses a cue and goes airborne, his board spinning into the street and himself hurtling wide-eyed directly towards us.

I can tell he sees her.

Sorry, pal.

He piles into my girl’s arms, and dies. I reach to catch her and keep her from toppling over but it’s just an instinct. She would be fine.

She’s embracing this corpse when she glances over at me and says, “We’re over. I found another.”

“He won’t be much use,” I observe, unthreatened.

“He’s male,” she says. “Limited his usefulness from the start.”

I have a laugh. She smiles up at me and then lays the corpse at the base of a lamp pole.

She’s really smart, drop-dead gorgeous and has kisses to die for.

She’s death. 


Death is funny. But it’s subtle humor and you have to be paying attention.

For example.

We’re in an expensive part of town window shopping. Stopping in front of a display window we watch a woman inside model a skimpy bikini.

Except it isn’t a woman, it’s a robotic manikin. The robot is flawlessly female. I’m privately wondering at the level of anatomical detail.

Death looks up at me side-long, then looks back at the display case.

“I’m going to have to start killing these things if they get any more real,” Death says, leaning forward to peer at it.

The manikin looks down at death and smiles emptily as if to say all your boyfriend are belong to us.

“How do you kill a robot?” I ask.

This should be interesting. Death favors me with another glance, then looks back at the robot. She crosses her arms and after a significant pause says:


“Wait. You’re going to beat them to death?”

“Not I. You are. That’s why I’m keeping you around.”

“But you’re death. Isn’t this supposed to be your thing?”

“Forget that business with the scythe,” she says, “Death doesn’t work with hand tools.”

Aaaand — thank you everyone for coming tonight, you’ve been a great audience.

Maybe you had to be there.


A lot of her humor is physical. It usually starts with a glance that says Hey watch this.

There was a time once we were at a county faire standing at the ring toss. Hit a peg and you win a scrawny goldfish in a tiny plastic tank.

Most of the fish were pretty sad looking. I can’t imagine they had a very good life either before or after they were won.

I noticed death looking at the fish and scowling. She glanced up at me and bumped me with her elbow.

Hey watch this. 

She leaned forward and blew out over the bowls, then straightened.

I looked away for some reason and she elbowed me again.

I looked back just in time to see the goldfish rolling over dead in their bowls in a moving wave as a gust of potent death washed over them.

The people went on tossing their rings, hoping for a win.

I cracked up.

Death turned toward me and leaned her forehead against my shoulder, and I could tell she was laughing softly to herself.

We went to ride the Ferris wheel.

Come on. You’ve got to admit, that was funny.

I wonder sometimes if she’s funny for my benefit. As if to show that it’s not so bad.

Mind you, death doesn’t make fun of dead things, and she doesn’t make light of killing. This is important work and she approaches it with the honesty and gravity it deserves. Even the goldfish joke was not about the dead fish. Death had freed the fish from suffering and set up the people for disappointment. It was death, it was justice, and yet it was funny.

It was at that same county faire that death pulled one of her more spectacular stunts.

There were races scheduled at the speedway, and death took me to the pits to see the cars. Small-time racing is dangerous work but seldom fatal. The short oval tracks won’t allow much speed.

But there was going to be a fatality tonight.

As the track manager announced that the drivers should take their positions, I noticed that death was no longer at my side. I looked around and found her in a helmet and goggles jumping through a door into the passenger side of one of the stock cars.

And the race was on!

I went down to the track side to watch, laughing until my sides were fit to split.

The cars went around and around. Each time death’s car came around I cheered and she would give me a thumbs-up or a victory sign.

The lunatic.

Toward the end of the race came the fated accident. The car crossed up slightly, hit a guard rail made of old tires and then freakishly flew into the air. It did a flip and landed upside down, rocking slightly on its roof.

Like a complete idiot I flew out onto the track in a panic. But I hadn’t gone but a few paces when a pull at my arm spun me around.

It was death, of course.

I held her with relief and we laughed a moment together, and then turned and left the track while the emergency crews ran out to the accident.

His loved ones will wonder if he suffered at all. I know for a fact he did not. That’s why death was in the car, rather than in the pits. That was really thoughtful of her.

But it was also funny as hell.

Killing is not funny, and dying is no picnic. But death herself is light-hearted and intelligent.

Fun times — after a fashion — living with death.

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