Mrs. Morrison was too busy to die. At least that’s what she told Death when she caught him creeping up on her from the corner of her eye.
“I’m far to busy to die today,” she said without looking up from the biscuit dough she kneaded between strong calloused fingers. “Why don’t you come around in a bit?”
Death hesitated, taken aback by Mrs. Morrison’s cool rejection. Many of Death’s victims pleaded, a few raged, but he could not remember the last time one of his quarries flat denied his advances.
Still, Death had a job to do, so he reached his icy hand out for Mrs. Morrison and received a sharp rap across his knuckles from the woman’s rolling pin.
She gave death the no-nonsense glare she’d perfected during her 15 years as a wife and 12 years as a mother. If death had blood it would have run cold.
“Now Grim, I’ve already told you, I’ve got too much going on to come with you today,” she said, her eyes peering unafraid into the unfathomable darkness of his hood.
She opened a drawer and pulled out a gleaming blade of serrated steel.
“If you’d like to hurry this along you can cut carrots,” she said offering him the blade hilt first.
If Death could have spoken to the living he would have expressed outrage at Mrs. Morrison’s impertinence, but instead he accepted the knife and began cutting carrots.
“Please cut them a bit thinner then that, Little Marcus is going through a bit of a picky phase,” Mrs. Morrison said.
Death complied and Mrs. Morrison returned to her biscuits.
“You know, you could have taken me just now if you hadn’t taken my James two years back,” she said. “Then he could have made dinner. Oh well, I suppose you were just doing your job.”
After the carrots, Mrs. Morrison put Death to work cutting up potatoes and then onions, before asking him to wash dishes while she mixed the vegetables with ground chuck and beef broth.
As she put the stew on the stove, Marcus came tearing through the front door, babbling as children do about the trials and adventures he’d undertaken at school that day.
“Grim, be a dear and stir this while I get Marcus settled in, if he doesn’t get started on his homework before supper it’ll never get done!”
Death, defeated, simply took the wooden spoon and began to stir without protest.
When the stew had simmered for a good 45 minutes Mrs. Morrison declared it fit for human consumption and politely asked if Death would stay for dinner.
The silent figure simply shook his hooded head.
“Well then dearie, thank you so much for your help today,” Mrs. Morrison said brightly. “I’m booked up through next Tuesday, busy, busy, busy; but if you’d like to pop around next Wednesday I might be able to find some time for you after Marcus has gone to sleep, say around 9:30?”
Death nodded, then paused, shocked. Why had he agreed to this mortal’s request? He’d never done such a thing before. He gave a shrug as he left the house behind, he’d ask her on Wednesday, after her life ended.
Wednesday came, and at the appointed time Death appeared. Mrs. Morrison stood in her nightgown folding laundry in her bedroom.
“Oh hello,” she said. “Were we supposed to meet tonight? I’d honestly forgotten! Things have been just crazy around here lately! Little Marcus has joined Peewee Football, and I just got named project manager at work. I’m afraid I just don’t have the time to slip this mortal coil just yet.”
She went to her bedside table and pulled out her day-planner.
“Lets see, Marcus’ last game will be the last Saturday in June, and if things go according to schedule the project will wrap up July 12th, but these things rarely do, so why don’t we just say some time in early August?”
Death’s shoulders slumped.
“Oh don’t sulk dear, you’ll ruin your posture,” Mrs. Morrison chided. “ I’m penciling you in for the third. Now if you wouldn’t mind, garbage pick up is tomorrow morning, and I completely forgot to make Little Marcus take out the cans. Would you mind taking care of them on your way out?”
Almost against his will Death’s shoulders straightened, and he left Mrs. Morrison’s room to locate the garbage cans.
As he placed them on the curb he was struck with the realization that he most likely would not be claiming Mrs. Morrison’s life August 3rd, or any time in the foreseeable future. The thought was accompanied by a panic Death had never experienced.
What if others figured out how to avoid me? He thought. I’d never be able to live it down.
His private joke cheered him slightly, but Death remained troubled.
Sure enough August came, and Little Marcus (Who after a summer growth-spurt could hardly be called little anymore) was starting the 6th grade. Mrs. Morrison couldn’t be expected to die while her son adjusted to the cruel environment of middle school. “And would you be a good duck and grab the mail please before you go? Thank you so very much!”
In December there was Christmas shopping to do, and in April Mrs. Morrison’s sister Alice had come to stay for a bit, having just gotten out of drug-rehab. “And I’ll thank you to not spread that around Grim. Now would you mind dusting above the fireplace? I’m just a bit too short.”
After this Death gave it a few years, but when he returned Marcus was about to head to college. The year after that Mrs. Morrison was made the first female vice-president at her company.
Two years later Marcus had just moved back in. “I couldn’t possibly leave now, he’s taken up with a girl named Sarah who’s just no good at all! Maybe you could pay her a visit. Oh don’t look at me like that, Grim! Just set the table please.”
A year and a half after that Mrs. Morrison was neck deep into planning the happy couple’s wedding. “Oh that girl won me over in the end. I don’t care for the body art, but she’s a wizard of a chef; her soufflés to die for! Not that I’ve got the time just yet! Now those gutters aren’t going to clean themselves!”
As the years came and went Death found he looked forward to his encounters with Mrs. Morrison. She treated him… well she treated him like a handyman, but Death had never been anything other then what he was, and he’d come to find the change of pace interesting, even enjoyable. After 12 years of intermittent visits Death realized he did not want to reap Mrs. Morrison, in fact the thought of doing so troubled him greatly.
So Death stopped visiting the woman he’d come to admire. Being who he was, Death knew the goings on of her life, as he knew the goings on of everything that would one day die, but he did not approach her.
He watched Mrs. Morrison’s life and the life of her son and daughter-in-law and eventually her grandchildren with an interest he’d never shown other living things.
And he agreed with her, Mrs. Morrison was indeed much too busy to die. She shepherded her company into the 21st Century, she made beautiful meals from scratch for her grandchildren, and sang in the church coir every Sunday. After she retired, she traveled, started a healthcare charity, and stood in the front row at her granddaughter’s rock band’s first concert.
Death watched all of this, and then he watched Mrs. Morrison get sick. Doctors were hopeful for a few months, and then they weren’t. Mrs. Morrison got skinny and pale in the hospital, and one day she asked to go home. Her family gathered around her bed and she told them each the things she loved most about them, and kissed them all with withered lips.
And then Mrs. Morrison said, “Grim, I think I can spare the time for you now.” Death appeared, and he took the old woman’s hand.
They were alone in the place between places.
“How did you do it?” Death asked, his voice crinkling like the pages of an old book.
“How did I do what, dear?” Mrs. Morrison asked.
“How did you keep me from taking you?”
“Oh that? I just had things to do, so I told you I couldn’t come yet,” She said. “Hasn’t anybody else ever done that?”
“Oh interesting… Grim, can I go see my James now?”
“Yes, Mrs. Morrison, give him my regards.”
And Death was left alone.
Thanks for reading Death Waits For One Woman! If you enjoyed it hit that like button and leave a comment. If you’d like to check out more of my weird stories and musings about life, the universe, and the meaning of existence, then subscribe to mindful of madness. You can also find me on twitter @drewjokeringram or on Instagram @andrewingram88. Thanks, my self-esteem depends on you.