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Red Winged Black Bird on a fence post in a field.

Death on the Roadside Part 3

2004-08-19

Category: prose
Read Part 1 here
Read Part 2 here

The man in the hole pushed himself out of the mud and onto his knees. He took a couple of deep breaths and then looked around. He was a smaller fellow, about five feet six inches. The moonlight shined off his baldpate and the glasses that hung precariously from his right ear. He seemed to be in his mid forties. He wore a suit.

"I didn't think I'd survive that," he said as he turned toward the road. He looked up at Peter and jumped slightly. "Oh, I see. Well, that makes more sense." He pushed himself up completely and forced his way through the mud to the road. He brushed himself off a little and, looking at his muddy hands, decided to give up. He turned his attention to Peter. "So, where do I go now?"

Peter, still exhausted, pulled back a little. "Uh, I don't know."

The little man put his hands on his hips and twisted a little to loosen his back. "Sorry," he said, "I don't really know about all this stuff. You know, we only hear rumors and stuff in books and T.V.. I mean, we've heard about you. We also hear a lot about a tunnel of light, but I don't really know what to expect. You just go ahead and do what you got to do and I'll go along with it."

Peter, still too sleepy and shocked to realize what the guy was talking about, fumbled about for a coherent thought. "Uh, you can go wherever you want, I guess. Uhm, I, uh, I'm going to go sit over there on that log." He pointed toward his log. "You can do what you want."

The guy smiled. "You mean you're not here for me?"

Peter shook his head as he walked to his resting place. "What? No, I was just walking by and was resting on this log right here. It's just coincidence."

The man lifted his arms in the air and danced in a little spiral. "Woo hoo! You're not here for me. I made it after all. I am the luckiest man in the world. Woo hoo." His little dance slowed and then spiraled to a stop.

He stared for a moment at Peter sitting on the log. "Uh, excuse me. I don't mean to disturb you or be rude or anything." He walked quickly as he could to the log. "That is, I uh? May I sit down?"

Peter gestured to the log and the man sat.

"Uh, yea, you see it's just that, well, I have a few questions, if I may. So, you're not here for me?"

Peter, with his eyes half closed, turned his hooded face toward the man. "No, I'm not here for you, I was just walking by. You must want somebody else." His head rolled back to the forward facing direction.

The man rubbed his hands together nervously. "You see, that's what I'm afraid of. I mean, if you're not here for me, but I can see you, it suggests maybe I didn't survive." He glanced from side to side. "My name's Ricky. I'm an accountant, you see. That's what got me into this. Do you guys have accountants where you, uh, work?" He leaned away as he realized it was probably a stupid and possibly disrespectful question.

The hood swung back to look at him again. "Accountants? Yea, we have an accounting department. Most of them are good people. Some of them are weird. They're not as weird as the marketing people though." The hood swung back forward.

"Marketing people?" asked Ricky, somewhat surprised. "I hadn't thought about marketing people. I guess that's why we hear about you down here. Still, they could do a better job. None of us really know anything more than your image. We don't know what to expect other than that."

"Uhn," Peter nodded.

The accountant sat uncomfortably for a moment, looking both directions down the road to see if another Death was coming. Believing himself to be safe for the moment, he built the courage for another question. "I don't mean to be too personal, but aren't you suppose to have one of those blade things? What's that called, a scythe?"

Peter slowly nodded a couple of times. "It's in the backseat of my ex-girlfriend's car."

Ricky contemplated that for a moment. The whole 'girlfriend' thing was a bit much. Adding the 'ex' didn't help. Feeling he should say something, "That's, uh, rough, man."

Death sat motionless.

The bugs chirped and the stars wheeled overhead. Ricky grew uncomfortable. He was sure that if this Reaper wasn't there for him another would be along who was. He decided to get while the getting was good. "Uh, excuse me, do you happen to know the way into town?"

Peter raised one cloaked hand to point down the road toward town.

"Uh, thanks. It was nice talking to you but I should be on my way." Ricky stood up and stepped to the road. "If anyone comes looking for me, I'd appreciate it if you sent them the other way." He waved a little. "Goodbye."

The accountant trudged down the gravel, headed for civilization.

Peter, realizing that he was alone again, decided to lay back down on the log and go back to sleep.


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