My day has finally arrived again. This is a much-anticipated event for everyone, I'm sure, but when you only get that day off every hundred years, it can really seem like it will never get here. That's right I only get the day off every hundred years. Seems a bit unbelievable to you, does it? Wait until I tell you what my job is. I am Death, pleased to meet you.
Don't get nervous. I can't hurt you today. I told you this is my day off; remember? This is the day that nothing I do, or you do for that matter, can kill you. Don't go off shouting, "Hey y'all, watch this" just yet, though. I do want to remind you that if you do something colossally stupid to yourself, you can still hurt an awful lot between now and midnight tonight when I go back to work.
I would love to stay and talk, but I am late for work. Not that job. How many times do I have to tell you that I am off today? This job is something my boss sets up for me every hundred years. You see, he knows what an old softie I am at heart.
I will spend today the same way that I have spent the last several days off. I visit the children's ward of a hospital. That's right; I spend my day off with some of the same faces I will see the next day at my regular job. Why do I do it? Because I want to make people better, you see. That's how I got the job of being Death in the first place. I saw some humans that got hurt really badly and there was no way they could ever be healed to a point that they wouldn't have enormous amounts of pain to bear daily. I begged the boss to take their lives and spare them that. He told me that it would be my job.
Now I should point out that someone else once had the job. He got a little too carried away listening to a friend of his one day though. He told the boss off and stormed out. Can you believe that? He just quit. It was a real shame, too. He was good at what he did, and he was pretty cute too. Nice little blond with a really nice…. Well, I digress.
Anyway, I took the job and I have been proud of my performance over the years. I won't say the job doesn't have its hard times. I have to work my butt off some days thanks to you humans and your stupid senseless wars. I also have to say that it hurts me to take some people. I know how much they will be missed by their families and friends. Those are the worst cases. I hate having to do it, but if it's their time, then it's their time. That isn't my call to make. I just do the deed. One touch of my hand is all it takes.
I love pointing that out to people I meet on my day off. They hear that and immediately look at the hand they just used to shake mine. It's sort of cute how you get all nervous, even though I have told you how many times already that I am not working today? Well, I'm off to the hospital now. I'll check in with you later.
Ok, I'm back. That was a really rewarding couple of hours. I thoroughly enjoyed that. I read a story to a little boy named Timmy. I asked him what he wanted me to read and he asked for "A Christmas Carol." In the middle of summer, this little one asked for a Christmas story. I asked him why and he said that he wasn't supposed to know, but that he wouldn't be around for Christmas this year and he wanted to hear the story one more time.
Well, that just about choked me up right there. I told you I'm an old softie inside. I got the book and started reading to him. I was tempted to tell him that Mr. Dickens had apologized to me for making the Ghost of Christmas Future so ominous in the story.
What? Don't tell me you never caught on that he patterned that character after his concept of me? I mean come on, the clues were right there in the book. The Ghost of Christmas Future shows Ebenezer a Christmas without Tiny Tim and without himself. The only way that would happen is if they die. Add to that fact the scene of the Ghost of Christmas Future practically pushing old Scrooge into the open grave and you've got to admit that it is pretty clear. Sorry, I'm digressing again.
This little sweetie, only about eight years old, was so happy to hear the story. He loved the parts about Tiny Tim. I'll bet you didn't see that one coming did you? Yes, as the t-shirts, bumper stickers and key rings all say, sarcasm is just another of the services I provide.
Timmy looked pretty tiny in that great big hospital bed, too. He said he felt sorry for Mr. Scrooge. He thought that Mr. Scrooge just needed a little boy to love him and he would have been a much nicer guy. I told him that not only did I agree, but Mr. Dickens had as well. He looked at me with a strange facial expression; one of those faces only a small boy can make.
I explained to him that Mr. Dickens had explained that viewpoint at the end of the story. We weren't there yet, so I wouldn't tell him any more than that. For such a sick little tyke, he sure can pout well. It did him no good, though. I've built up immunity to hearing begging and pleading in my line of work.
When I did finish the story he barely let me get the last words out before blurting that he understood what I meant. He said that the fact that Mr. Dickens had written Scrooge had become like a second father to Tiny Tim proved that it was the boy's love for the man that had helped make him nicer. I told him I couldn't agree more.
That's when he asked me the one question I never expected from anyone. It was one that I didn't realize bothered me until he asked it. I stay too busy, you understand. I never took the time to think about it until today.
He asked me if I had a little boy to love me. I was speechless. It hit me like a ton of bricks that I was actually lonely. Unlike so many of the humans I have dealt with, I have never had a child that loved me or depended on me. The realization that I never would also struck me. I sat on Timmy's bed and wept. He jumped up towards me, even though it must have really hurt him to do so. He began apologizing profusely.
I told him it wasn't his fault. I had just never realized how alone I felt. It hadn't occurred that the reason I spent every day off in the company of children was that I wanted one of my own. I wanted to be a father.
Then Timmy did something that really set me off. He kissed me on the cheek and offered to be my son. He apologized that he was so sick so we couldn't go play catch in the park like other fathers and sons. Here was a little boy who I would be setting free from this level of existence within a few hours apologizing for being sick. He wasn't mad that he was sick. He wasn't tired of it. He was afraid that I wouldn't want to be his father because of it.
I couldn't help myself. I took him in my arms and hugged him closely. That feels so good; I just don't understand how some humans can stand to avoid it. I could feel his soft brown hair on my cheek as he snuggled into the embrace. He was mumbling something I couldn't hear, so in spite of my desire to hold him forever and never let him go, I leaned away from him to ask him to repeat it.
He told me that he had only remarked about what it felt like. I was confused. He must have sensed that because he continued to speak. He told me that his parents apparently hadn't wanted him as he had been found in a box on the side of the road as an infant. He was put into a state-run home for children. Despite his adorable face, inherent intelligence, and loving nature, he had never been adopted. He didn't describe himself that way of course, but it was all true. He did tell me that he had never been hugged that he could remember clearly. There had been an old woman when he was very little, but she went home one day and never came back to work at the orphanage again.
I remembered her. She had begged me not to take her as well, but not for the usual reasons of fear or selfishness. She had said that Tim needed her. I had almost given in to her, but suddenly she looked at me with that look that tells me that they've accepted that they're dead. She said quite peacefully that he would be better off with someone else taking care of him. I just assumed that she had meant that she had seen into the future and knew how things would turn out for the boy. She had to be wrong, though, since here he was in my arms a few years later, quite possibly even lonelier than I was.
Leaving Timmy in that hospital was tougher than anything I have ever had to do. Hard to believe, huh? I thought it was hard when I had to take children away from this life, but tonight when I left him; I realized that I didn't want to take Timmy. I wanted to stay here with him. I not only wanted Timmy to live, but I wanted to live with him.
I want to know the joys of seeing that little face first thing in the morning when he comes to the breakfast table still sleepy and trying to con me out of sending him to school. I want to be there when he breaks curfew to stay out with his friends. I want to embarrass him with pictures of his childhood when he starts dating. I want to sit nearby and watch him pledge his love to someone and hear him or her do the same for Timmy. I want to see his face when he sees the face of his own son or daughter for the first time.
Life doesn't always give you what you want, though. My 24 hours are up now. Timmy is my first stop tonight. I get to see my little buddy again, but only briefly once more. He will go on to a pain-free restful afterlife. I'll get back to work for the next hundred years. I don't think I'll do this with my next day off.
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