Death On A Quiet Evening

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A Quiet Evening was written in a series of stories used to personify Death as a character with emotion and belief. I won't say much more than that, the rest is for you to read

Submitted: October 12, 2016

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Submitted: October 12, 2016

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Death On A Quiet Evening

 

 

I have always found it encouraging how quiet the world gets when it begins to darken.  It doesn’t matter if the day had been the worst of your life or the best, the sun still goes down. When you get as old as I am, you learn to appreciate constants like that. Nations rise and fall, leaders are born and then they die, but the sun always goes down. I suppose there will come a day when it stops. I suspect even I will be gone by then though, there is comfort in that.   I don’t mean to be so fatalistic, it’s just a part of my nature. As the sun entered the final stages of its beautifully continuous journey, I started to stir from my seat.  It was time to get back to work.  No matter how busy I am or how hectic my day becomes I always find time to watch the sun. It reminds me of the great purpose, even I forget sometimes.  The next job was routine, just the way I like it. No complicated procedures, no last minute details, simple. You don’t know how much I appreciate that kind of elegance. I’m all about efficiency after all. I would prefer all things be as neat and tidy, but we play the hand that’s dealt us yes?

 

  So I stretched my old bones and yawned my way off the bench with the perfect view and got on my way. A few minutes of walking and a little help from some friendly joggers got me to where I needed to be. The house was rather bland in my opinion. I don’t know exactly what time society decided to stop building homes and start building residences, but if I did, I’d like to say a few choice words at the meeting. From what I could tell in the dark, the building stood two stories, painted white of course, with blue shutters and a striking lack of lawn care. That was to be expected.  The next part was always the worst part of the job. I stomped over to one of the cars parked on the quiet street, trying to keep out the cold you see, and checked myself in the mirror. I straightened my tie, gave my fading pants a dusting, adjusted my shirt from where it had creased while I sat, and after running my fingers through it, simply gave up on the hair. Having made myself what I considered to be presentable under the circumstances, I strode quickly to the blue door that matched the shutters and stepped hesitantly up on to the stoop.  I couldn’t help but feel a little anxious about what came next, doesn’t matter how many times I do this, it still seems like the first. 

 

I knocked once, twice, and after a moments pause, a third time. The door opened soon after that, it always does for some reason. I think its the pause that does it, gives a sense of urgency. A young woman answered the door, her eyes were red from crying, but I could see that she had done her best to keep up her appearance despite the circumstances.  That was good, it meant she would probably be all right, not everyone thinks of things like that. Then came the silence. Not the silence as the sun sets, not at all that kind of calm. The silence that seeped out of that doorway had none of the comfort of a quiet evening.  This silence held in its pervasive heart the same certainty, but twisted with apprehension and fear. It’s the silence of someone who is waiting to die.  The effect the quiet had on the girl was apparent from her tense stance and stiff shoulders, that, coupled with her tired eyes told me I that I was right on time. Not long now. She looked me up and down, not really seeing of course, but judging none the less. I nodded, and just for a second I let a little bit of myself peek through my features. Her eyes widened and without really comprehending she stood aside.  I crossed into the house and felt a chill go up my spine, I was an intruder after all. 

 

Despite my judgements on the outward appearance, the inside was undoubtably a home. It had all the classics; shoes lay strewn about the hallway that had been hastily ordered into piles, pictures of family climbed with the staircase, and the kitchen had a wonderfully recently cleaned look that spoke of its loving use. I respect a person who keeps a clean kitchen, tells you all you need to know about their character. I looked at the woman who stood still as the grave, excuse the pun, in the doorway. Her red-rimmed eyes flicked towards the stairs.  So the bedroom then, good.  A young man came down the stairs as I turned to ascend them.  He looked as if he wanted to ask the woman something but the words froze in his throat as he saw me. His steps slowed and he turned white with recognition.  I gave him my trademark smile, a sad but warm thing that makes my passage a little less painful.  Color came back to the young man’s face and he made the last few steps to the young woman by the door. I motioned for them to go into the kitchen, best they stay out of the way. 

 

I took the steps two at a time, just because I don’t have to hurry doesn’t mean I like to keep people waiting. The upstairs hallway was decorated with the same theme as the stairs, pictures of family in various stages of life and portraits of relatives not seen in years. The silence stemmed from a room at the end of the hall. I started towards it as quick as I was able without seeming too eager.  The quiet dread in that room drove my urgency. I reached the open door and beheld the source of the sickening quiet.  

 

The room was dimly lit, but it had three great windows open to the east. It would get natural light for most of the morning, beautiful when the sun rose.  This evening, the night crowded in from behind closed blinds. In terms of furniture I would hazard to say it was a kind of cozy spartan. Not much, but comfortable. A wooden dresser guarded one wall, a good sized closet next to it. A small end table stood sentry next to a great king-sized bed on the opposite wall.  The bed dominated the room.  Mahogany paneling framed the pile of sheets and blankets laying upon the mattress.  Within that nest of care and comfort was the reason for my visit. 

 

Richard Teller. At his side sat his wife, Rachel. She held his hand with the fierceness of thirty years of love and devotion. Too early, she would argue, too early for him to leave. I walked softly over to her. I gently put one hand on her shoulder, “May I sit with him for a minute, dear. I’m an old friend.” She didn’t even look at me, not with any comprehension. She patted his hand and went to stand by the window. She peaked through the blinds into the ever darkening night and I began my work.  I positioned myself in the chair where his wife sat only moments before. I took his hand with all the tenderness of a parent with their child. I spoke softly, “Time to wake up Rick, one last time. I promise you can sleep as long as you want after…” 

 

He stirred, his eyes fluttered, trying to get themselves to open, to prove that they still belong to the once strong man. I waited patiently as he worked himself awake. He was exhausted, the effort of opening his eyes made him want to close them again. It was almost time. I leaned close so I could hear him, he would have no problem hearing me, “I…I…know you. You were at the hospital.” I drew back a little, re-assessing the worn out body before me. He had fire in him still, to remember me. “Indeed. We almost lost you then, you were pencilled in the schedule, but you pulled through in the end. You’re made of tough stuff. Well, were made of it anyway. I want you to know that its not your fault. Everyone has to end sometime, and it’s not always on our terms. But I got here a little early this time, so, if you’d like to say goodbye, here’s your chance.”  Then I propped him up, placed a few pillows behind his back so he could look me in the eye. I beckoned Rachel and she ran over when she saw him awake. They were in tearful farewells when I came back into the room with young man and woman from before, his children. I left them there, even I understand that some things have to be said in private. 

 

I stood downstairs in the kitchen. One of the two children had made some tea. I helped myself while I waited. To me, the tricky part was the families, you never knew how they would react, but even worse was when they had no family. It’s tragic when they’re alone, they try to hold on, waiting for someone, anyone to care.  When I finished my tea I started my way back up the stairs and to the sounds of crying.  I went as slow as I could, I like to give them all the time I can, but the schedule has to be kept.  I reached the room and knocked on the doorframe, “I believe it’s time we went on our way Rick.”  The family jumped at my arrival. They left his side slowly, trying to stretch the little time remained. I let them.  They backed away from the bed as I approached.  I sat on the side of the mattress, hands in my lap.  As he withdrew, the son turned back to me and asked, “Where are you taking him?”  I looked at his concerned face, a puzzled expression on mine, “To where the it’s always a quiet evening.”  He left me to my work.  Enigmatic I know, but I think it can be forgiven, was true after all.  As if Death would go anywhere else. 


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