Valentine’s Day Off (Pfeltner Feb. 3, 1994)
She rested poorly, weak from failing health. Visitors seldom came because she could no longer speak. The days passed slowly as she gasped for breath, but lately she seemed unaware of time. Her bed was near the open window and the sounds of birds were her only comfort. As the sun rose casting shadows across the room, a stranger tapped gently at her door.
The door opened and solemnly he walked across the room to her bed. Death leaned over her and pulled back the covers to take her in his arms. The Grim Reaper should have touched her immediately, but the sunlight touched her face and he pulled back his hands in awe. Her beauty was far greater than any he had seen in all of his centuries. He leaned closer, careful not to touch her. Her face was thin from hunger and her blue eyes grew dim in the morning sunlight. Her lips were dry and fragile, but still there was more beauty in this frail body than he had ever known.
He pulled his hood over his face so not to frighten her, but it was unclear if she knew he was in the room. This was no mere woman, for she had stopped Death in his tracks. He replaced the covers and stepped back pulling the list from his cloak. Her name most clearly appeared near the bottom. He had always been an obedient servant, but there must be some mistake. She was in the prime of life and yet as he listened he could hear the faint murmur in her heart. But surely there could be no reason to end this wondrous life.
As he stood listening to the struggling heart, she gasped for breath and her body shuddered. The Grim Reaper lowered his head and a tear of acid ran down his cheek. He stood up straight and marched to the door, but before leaving he turned and removed the murmur from her failing heart with a flick of his wrist. He heard her breathing ease and the color returned to her cheeks. As he walked outside, a storm was brewing and there was a rumbling in the sky.
He tore the list and threw it on the ground screaming, “I am Death! I answer to no one!”
He stood defiantly facing the Heavens as a shower of lightning fell around him. “You cannot scare me! Five thousand years I have done your bidding! One lousy day off, is that too much to ask?” The rumbling grew louder and moved off to the East as the lightning bolts felled trees along the path. “It’s Valentine’s Day,” he added as an afterthought.
Death shook his head. There would be Hell to pay. He placed his hand on the door and could feel that all was well within. He turned and headed back to his lair, a simple cave with a place for a fire. He wanted to throw furniture, but as he looked around, he had none. The cave was bare, no vase, no bed, not even a chair. Only the robes on his back, the scythe in his hand, and on a rock near the fire, rest the Sands of Time. The hour glass had served him well, but even the lowliest worker would have received a watch of gold after all these years. Five thousand years of faithful service to be precise, and all his possessions could be carried in one hand.
Suddenly he grabbed the rocks on the floor and threw them against the walls. The pounding grew as Death became enraged, screaming of the many plagues and his faithful service in the Christian Wars! He pounded a smooth spot on the wall and then with his bony fingers, he clawed a crude circle that in his eyes resembled the face he had seen today. He gathered the stones into a bed and lay on them, admiring his newest possessions. A life he was allowed to save on Valentine’s Day and a tear he knew not that he possessed. He felt the streak the tear had etched on the side of his face. A reminder of compassion, and the knowledge that she would come to him in her own time. This Valentine’s Day was a day he would remember in spite of it all.