Prettier Than You’d Think

Death sat in the shadows, and waited. She felt very stereotypical, as if she were playing by the rules. She hated conforming. But it was a hot day, and underneath the trees on the damp earth was the coolest place she could sit. As much as she didn’t like being as expected, she also didn’t think it was very attractive to see Death sweating profusely from her upper lip. So she waited, and watched.

A mother and child walked on the sidewalk in front of her. The mother didn’t look at her, because while one hand was holding onto the child tightly, the other was holding a cellphone almost as tightly and she was talking into it earnestly. It sounded like the producer was willing to change the shoot to February, but only if they could make sure that there would be a minimum of rainy days. Death snorted. So this woman thought she could control the weather? Ridiculous. The child, now, the child looked brighter than its mother. Death wasn’t sure if the little puffy thing with curly black hair was a boy or a girl, but either way, the child was looking straight at her with curiosity. Death considered anyone who was smart enough to look her in the eyes to be intelligent.

Death was a little bit of a snob. She couldn’t, of course, discriminate, not really, but she much preferred needing to deal with smart people who didn’t grovel, beg, whine or bribe her. Not that any of it would work, of course,  but that didn’t matter – so many people tried it anyway. Death had relented buy once in her time, and it had ended horribly. She’d received an official warning for it and everything, and she could’ve been sacked, but she managed to explain the circumstances (the bosses were such suckers for true love stories) and got pardoned. She couldn’t afford another mistake, though, which was why she was waiting in this spot well ahead of time.

Technically, her name was Death, Agent #900,345. But nobody needed to know that there were so many of them around – each person received the true and only Death, as far as they were concerned. So Death waited for her man, wondering what he would look like and whether he would be one she’d like.

A man walked in front of her now. He carried a briefcase, and his glasses were just geeky enough to be considered fashionable. He was in his late twenties, with light brown hair that was streaked back with some sort of hair product. He had a roundish face, stubble-free and still boyish, and his lanky frame made his for-the-office clothing seem just a little big on him. Death sniffed, once, and could tell he was the one. As he fell onto the sidewalk, suddenly, without ceremony, grace or aplomb, Death rose to meet him.

He stood there, looking down at himself. “What happened?” he asked as she neared him. And then, “You’re prettier than I thought you’d be.”

“You’ve been thinking about me? I’m flattered,” Death smiled at him and took his arm. She led him a little way away, and together they watched as people rushed towards his body, tried to revive him, pinched and moved and pushed him this way and that, screamed and called 911. Time seemed to speed forwards, and he was pronounced dead, his cellphone and ID found, and the medics called the first numbers there.

“They won’t find anyone real there, you know,” the dead man said.

“Oh?” Death asked.

“Yeah, I was kind of a corporate spy. My work cellphone had lots of fake people on it, in case the bosses got suspicious of me. My real phone’s at home.”

“Cool. Never had a corporate spy before,” Death said. She turned him so he faced her. “So.”

“So… what now?” the dead man asked.

“I don’t know. Why don’t you find out?” she answered. She gave him a slight shove in the chest. He looked at her, smiled, and laughed.

“You’re really much prettier than I thought you’d be,” the dead man said, before his image, still shadowing his body, disappeared.

Death spoke to the empty air where he’d been. “You’re not so bad looking yourself,” she said, and then looked at her schedule. Time to move on to the next one.

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The Businessman

The Businessman sat at the same restaurant every day during his lunch break. Every day was the same for The Businessman, and one of his few joys was ordering a different thing for lunch every day. He would take the specials each day, and if the specials contained something he absolutely hated or was allergic to, he would take one his favorite regular dishes. In this way, he managed to keep the favorites special, and he never got sick of them.

The Businessman had the same routine at the restaurant every day. First, he would find a table outside. Rain or shine, he had to sit outside. If there were no tables available, which happened sometimes during tourist season, he would wait. The waiters, the servers, even the manager knew him, and they always managed to find him a seat quickly. Once he found a suitable table, he would sit down and reach into his bag. He had a worn black leather briefcase, one that looked dignified but not stuffy and too new. He would take three things out of his bag at first.

The first was a bag of tobacco. The second was a box of rolling papers. The third was a lighter. Until the waiters came over – and indeed, the waiters knew not to come over until this ritual was over or they would need to deal with a very flustered man – he would meticulously roll himself three cigarettes. He would smoke one before the meal, the second after the meal, and the third after his post-meal coffee. He felt that rolling his own cigarettes was the one roguish behavior that he’d kept from his college days when he’d been wild and carefree.

The Businessman considered himself to be rather homely. He didn’t think he had particularly interesting features, and he knew that he blended in with the endless flow of suited men in their late forties. He didn’t realize that his eyes were a beautiful and rare light blue. He didn’t seem to notice the fact that he cut a fine figure. He wasn’t entirely aware of the fact that his face, lined as it was, was full of character and intelligence. He only saw himself as The Businessman, a man who knew and understood his trade but couldn’t explain what he did to others very well. Because of this, he was convinced that he was boring.

The Businessman ordered a different thing every day at the restaurant. He hoped that one day he would take a last meal there, shake the waiters’ and the servers’ and the manager’s hands goodbye, and turn his back. He hoped he would have the opportunity and the courage to go somewhere different one day and leave the business district forever. He hoped.

Big Brother

Will someone please explain to me the fascination people seem to find with watching other people lead absolutely boring lives inside a house? I will never understand it. I see the allure of certain so-called “reality shows” – so called because I know for a fact they’re all freaking scripted – like Project Runway, which is actually about exposure and talent, or even America’s Next Top Model, which is entertaining, if not particularly intelligent.

But what’s with this new [old] genre of Big Brother shows? What’s with people wanting to watch some normal people like themselves stuck inside a house for months with nowhere to go and nothing to do? What is so damn interesting about that?! Every day when I go to work I hear people talking about the damn show – heck, now they can watch it twenty-four seven cause they’ve made a whole freaking channel dedicated to it!

Oh yeah, by the way, did you know that those shows are scripted as well? Meaning you’re not even watching the real goings-on in the house, you’re watching planned and scripted dramas! So why not just turn on a soap-opera? At least then you KNOW it’s scripted and you’re not believing some lame lie!

Argh. I hate this new reality-tv-based society. I like writers who write scripts and tell everyone in no uncertain terms that that’s what they’re doing. Seems more creative and interesting that way. Then again, maybe it’s just me.