My Life As Death: Chapter 21

This is probably my favorite chapter, and I couldn’t wait to share it, so here’s an extra chapter!

For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9
Chapters 10 and 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20

“Good news,” Weed said as he came back from the house. “Finkenbine’s got the windshield. Why don’t you go grab it while I finish up the suspension.”

He tossed me the keys before anything he said could register. I just heard Finkenbine’s name and froze.

“You okay?” He asked as the keys bounced off my chest and hit the ground.

“Yeah. Sorry, I was just lost in my own thoughts.”

“Well snap out of it, and go get the windshield. We’re almost to the finish line now.”

“Yeah, definitely,” I replied, trying to come up with a reason, any reason, to not go to the junkyard as I grabbed the keys from the floor. I couldn’t come up with a thing.

“There should be a couple blankets in the back of the Weed wagon to wrap it up in,” he said, before climbing back under the car.

I would have given anything to not go to Finkenbine’s. Weed could have gone, though there wasn’t much I could have worked on without him. But even if I just could have convinced him to go with me, then I’d have an excuse not to do what I was afraid I was about to do.

The Junkyard wasn’t nearly far enough away, so I found myself pulling into the gravel drive before I was even close to being ready. Dumbass was laying on the porch but jumped off as soon as he saw me step out of the Weed Wagon.

“Hey boy,” I said, petting him a little too enthusiastically. He rolled over so I could rub his belly, so I did, using any excuse I had to put off seeing Finkenbine.

“You keep that up and he’ll expect you to come visit him every day,” Finkenbine hollered as he emerged from the wooden gate.

“There’s worse ways I could spend my time.”

“There’s also plenty of better ways.”

When he was a couple steps away from me, I finally looked up at him. There was a softness to Finkenbine’s face that I really hadn’t seen before. It was a little unsettling.

“I’ve got the windshield for you,” Finkenbine said, “but I’d like you to come back to the boat first.”

He turned and headed back towards the gate, leaving me no choice but to follow. The ominous feeling hit me again as we made our way down the tunnel of junk in silence. I wanted to say something, but I didn’t know what, so I just continued to follow until we got within sight of the boat.

“You finished it?” I blurted out. The hull of the sailboat looked practically brand new, with several fresh coats of paint. 

“Pretty much,” he replied, not stopping, but continuing up the rope ladder.

I followed.

Somehow, in just a few days, Finkenbine had done the impossible, turning a dilapidated pile of lumber into a finished boat. I was a little surprised, but even more curious.

“Wow,” was all I could say as I reached the top of the ladder and saw that the hull wasn’t the only thing he’d finished. The deck looked practically brand new, and there were even a couple chairs for us to sit on this time, with a cooler between them. Finkenbine eased himself into one of the chairs and motioned me to the other, before grabbing two beers from the cooler. A beer might ease my nerves a little but it wouldn’t necessarily make it any easier to do what I had to.

“So you like it?” Finkenbine asked.

“Yeah. I don’t know much about boats but this one looks great now. I’m kind of surprised you were able to get it done so quickly,”  I said, popping the top on the can and taking a big drink.

“I kind of had to, now didn’t I?”

“Why’s that?”

“I promised Buck I’d finish her, and I had to keep my promise.”

“I get that, but why now? Why so quickly?”

“Because I had to keep my promise before you do what you’ve got to do.”

Finkenbine’s eyes cut right through me as he said those words and I froze.


“Don’t make me lose respect for you by trying to lie to me.”

I had no idea what he knew, or how he knew it, but he was right. I didn’t want to lie to him.

“Don’t worry, though, I’m not going to try to stop you. I’m ready. I wasn’t so sure about it the first time we met. I thought about killing you right then to buy myself a little more time, but I’m glad I didn’t. I’m ready now.”

“I’m glad you didn’t kill me too.”

“He would have just sent another Reaper anyways, and besides, I kind of like you. I’ve killed enough people in my lifetime, I really don’t want to have to kill another that I like.”

“You mean like Buck?”

“You figured that one out, huh?”

“I could tell there was more to the story.”

It was Finkenbine’s turn to take a big drink before he continued.

“That one was a double whammy. His gambling problem got out of control so he started skimming from the club. He wasn’t very good at it and everyone found out. The club took a vote; he had to pay the price.”

“But why you?”

“That’s the game Lucifer likes to play. He pushes you to the limit, trying to find your breaking point. If you can’t hold up your end of the deal, then he owns your ass.“

“But your best friend? That’s just cruel.”

“That’s putting it nicely. Buck’s was the hardest assignment for me. After Lucifer gave it to me, I told the club I’d take care of Buck. It still took all five days before I was able to do it. But at least I was able to let him go out quickly, doing what he loved.”

I saw the sadness in his eyes and imagined that mine looked about the same. I wanted to say something comforting, but I had nothing. I was just thankful that as much of a screw up as Weed was, I knew he hadn’t done anything that would allow Lucifer to make him my last assignment.

We sat there, finishing our beers in silence, but then I realized it might be my last chance to talk to someone who actually understood exactly what I was going through. 

“So how long ago did you become a Reaper?” I asked.

“Way too long,” he replied. “But I also fulfilled my debt a long time ago too. I’ve just had to live with my choices ever since.”

“So Lucifer really upholds his end of the deal?”

Finkenbine laughed. “Yeah, he sticks to the deal, but that doesn’t mean you can trust him. He wants you stuck working for him. And even if you hold up your end, it won’t be over.”

“What do you mean?”

Finkenbine grabbed us two more beers from the cooler.

“Why’d you make your deal with him?” He asked.

I paused for a second, and then told him everything. It felt good to tell someone other than Weed.

“Okay,” he replied. “So what happens, a few years from now, if you’re in another accident. This time it’s not your fault, but your back is broken? You’ve made a deal with him once before, what’s another five assignments if it means you’ll be able to walk again? No medical bills, no years of rehab. Poof, you’re fixed.”

“I guess I don’t know what I’d do.”

“What if you didn’t take that deal but instead got hooked on painkillers, lost everything and ended up broke, addicted, and about to go to jail? Would you consider making a second deal, to turn your life around?”

“I don’t think that would happen to me…”

“Or what if, in rehab, you find the love of your life, only to have her get diagnosed with stage 4 cancer? One little deal could cure her sickness, end her suffering, and let you spend the rest of your years together…”

I saw the pain in his eyes intensify with each hypothetical situation, and then I realized, they weren’t hypothetical.

“All of these things happened to you?”

“And he showed up every time, offering another deal.”

“So what’d you do?”

“The only thing I could…I said no.”

“No? You said no to all of them?”

“Each, and every God-damn time.”

“But why?”

“How many people have you killed? Am I your first assignment?”

“No, you’re not the first,” I replied, “But I didn’t really kill them, I mean…”

“Don’t lie to yourself. You chose how they were going to die, and touched them with your hand of death.”

“Well yeah, but…”

“But nothing. You’re responsible for their deaths. That’s something you’re going to have to live with.”

He was right. I knew it, but I didn’t really want to think about it.

“What number am I?” He asked.

“You’re number 4.”

“Fourth out of five? I’m a little flattered. So only one more after me. Were the others difficult?”

“A little, but not like this.”

“DId you know them?”

“Not the first one.”

“But you knew the other two?”

“Yeah, a little.”

“And each assignment got a little harder?”


“That’s what he likes to do. The first one is random, easier to get you to do it. The next three get harder and harder, but not so hard that you quit before you reach the true test. The last one is meant to break you, to make you say no. If you say no to it, he’ll give you the chance to start over with five new assignments or to take the place of the last target. Your choice, but either way he owns your ass, which really is his goal.”

“Like he did with you? With Buck?”


“But my deal with Lucifer is only for killers, rapists and child molesters. I know Weed and he’s none of those things!”

“Everybody has secrets.”

“Weed and I don’t.”

“Did you tell him about your deal with Lucifer?”

“Of course.”

“All of it?”


“So he knows you’re here now, and what you’ve got to do?”

“Well, not exactly…”

“As I said, everyone has secrets.”

“But I told him everything else, from the beginning. And I know he would have done the same, no matter what.”

“Even if it’s not Weed, it’ll be someone close to you. Someone you won’t want kill.”

“I don’t think so; I’m not really close to anyone. There’s Weed and Shawna and my mom, that’s about it. But none of them could have done anything that Lucifer could use against me.”

“You said your mom. What about you dad?”

“I’ve never known him. It’s always just been mom and me.”

“So you don’t know what happened to him?”

“I don’t have a clue.”

“So you also have no idea what sort of things he might have done.”

“No, but..”

“And for all you know someone close to you could have killed him.”

“What? I..No. I know where you’re going with this, and my mom didn’t kill my dad.”

“Can you be sure?”

I opened my mouth to say yes, but I couldn’t get the word to come out. I really didn’t know what happened to my dad, and I never pushed the issue with my mom.

“All I’m saying is prepare yourself for the worst. Lucifer likes to play these games, and he’s damn good at it.”

“I’m not saying it’s possible, but on the off chance it is someone really close to me, like my mom, there’s got to be something I can do about it.”

“Lucifer likes to offer the same three options: choose their death, take their place, or start over with five new assignments. Those are always the only choices. And I guarantee that even if you start over, the last of those five assignments will be just as hard for you to finish as well.” 

The words sunk in and I knew he was right, but that didn’t mean I had to like it. I felt my anger start to grow, and Finkenbine must have sensed it.

“Getting angry about it might make you feel a little better, but it won’t make it any easier. You need to think long and hard about what you’re going to do before you have to make the decision and you’ll only have five days to do so. And even then, you’ll still remain a reaper until your last assignment is dead.”

“That’s right, I’ve got five days. I don’t even have to do this yet.”

“Yes you do,” FInkenbine said. “I’m ready. But I might not be if I have any more time to think about it.”

There was a sadness in his eyes, but also a peace. As much as I didn’t want to even think about him dying, it would be wrong to put it off. He didn’t deserve to suffer just because I wasn’t ready.

“How do you want to go?”


“I know you’ve thought about it, probably a lot. You’ve had to have run through a hundred scenarios in your head. So how do you want to go?”

“Did you ask the others how they wanted to go?”

“No, just you. But it’s as much a favor to me as it is to you. You know what it’s like to be in my shoes. If I can give you the ending you want it’ll make it a little easier for me.”

He sat there for a minute, and then a smile crossed his lips.

“If I could choose any way, I’d want to go out on my bike. Not the trike; my ‘54 harley. But this leg won’t let that be an option.”

“Why not? If I picture it, that’s the way it happens, right?”

“Well yeah, but I’m not sure…”

“So if I picture you getting on it and riding off before meeting your end, it has to happen, right?”

“I mean, I guess…”

Before he had a chance to change his mind, I grabbed his arm. I was instantly flooded with visions of everything he’d done in his life, some of which almost made me pull away. I saw the things he did as a member of a biker gang; things I couldn’t have imagined him doing. I also saw the deaths he was responsible for because of his deal with lucifer. But then I saw the change in him. I got to see him break away from the gang he had considered his family. And I got to see him turn down Lucifer’s continued offers. The man condemned to die because of his actions was already dead, and the man who remained was ready to finally have some peace.

That definitely made it a little easier to do what I had to. I started by picturing exactly what he wanted. I saw him riding his Harley. I saw the smile on his face, and even felt the peace and happiness he felt being back on two wheels. It was clear as could be in my head, and I didn’t want it to end but I knew it had to. But it also had to be quick. I saw him twist the throttle, leaning the bike hard as he took the corner just a little too fast. He barely saw the semi before he crossed the center line and slammed into it. The image went black as I felt the same chilling energy pass through my hand that I had with all the others.

“It’s done?” He asked.

“Yeah,” I replied, trying to hide the catch in my throat.


And then something happened that I didn’t expect. He gave a little sigh, and smiled. The look of pure peace, and contentment on his face was something I hoped I could feel when my time was up.

“I should probably be going,” I said.

“I need just a few more minutes of your time,” Finkenbine said as he rose from his chair.

There was no way I could say no, so I did as he asked and followed him back down the rope ladder. And as he led me towards the garage beside his trailer, I noticed his limp was gone and he was moving a lot quicker than normal.

“Be careful with this,” Finkenbine said as he handed me a large, flat package. “Weed would be suspicious if you didn’t come back with the windshield.”

“Right,” I said, “I’d completely forgotten about that.”

“Just make sure you don’t break this one,” he replied, “There isn’t another one within 3 states from here.”

“I really can’t thank you enough…you know, for everything…”

“I’m the one who should be thanking you,” Finkenbine said. “I knew this day would come eventually. I just lucked out that you were assigned to send me on.”

The sadness flashed in his eyes, but was quickly replaced with a smile.

“Now you need to get back to Weed’s, he said as he pulled the cover off his ‘54 Harley. “Not that anyone would question an old man wrecking his bike, but I don’t want any suspicion directed towards you.”

“I appreciate that.”

There was a heaviness inside me as I walked back to the Weed Wagon. I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad, or just angry at the position I’d been put in; the position I put myself in. I could try to blame Lucifer all I wanted, but even though he orchestrated each of my assignments, I was the one truly responsible for everything that led up to them.

The ride back to Weed’s was both the shortest and longest I could remember. I fought with myself the entire way, but in the end, I knew what I had to do.

“That took you long enough,” Weed said, as he slid out from under Pamela.

I set the windshield on the workbench and tried to gather what strength I could.

“There’s a good reason that it took so long,” I said, not quite ready to make eye contact with him.

“Did you get another assignment?”

“Kind of.”

Weed just looked at me, and this time I knew I couldn’t look away. I had to own up to what I had done. He, and Finkenbine deserved that much.

“I actually already had the assignment.”

“Well why didn’t you say so? We could have waited to start on Pamela until you took care of it.”

“Because I didn’t know how, or even if, I was going to do it.”

Weed just stared at me for a minute, waiting for me to continue. Then he looked at the windshield, and then at me.

“No,” he said, shaking his head as if that would make it go away.

I didn’t know what to say.

He looked at the windshield again, then at me before dropping down into the driver side seat of my car as the tears started to slide down his face.

I’d known Weed for quite a long time, but that was the first time I saw him cry.

I really didn’t know what to do, or what to say, so I just stood there like an idiot until he spoke again.

“How could you?” He asked, wiping the tears from his cheeks.

“I know it won’t help,” I said, “but he was ready. He got to ride his ‘54 Harley one last time.”

Weed just stared at me like I was an alien, or worse yet, an enemy.

“You killed him and destroyed his Harley?”

The tears were rolling down my cheeks by then, but I didn’t care.

“It was how he wanted to go.”

Weed looked at me, then the look of anger turned to one of sadness.

“So you let him choose?”

“It was the least I could do,” I said, now trying to wipe the tears from my cheeks.

I then proceeded to tell Weed the whole story. I told him the truth about Finkenbine, about what he’d told me, and about everything he’d done. It was both harder, and more therapeutic than I could have imagined. By the time I was done, we were both out of tears and out of energy, so instead of getting any more work done on Pamela, we decided to head upstairs and light one up for Finkenbine.

My Life As Death: Chapter 20

For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9
Chapters 10 and 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19

Shawna was standing there in a light pink jacket, staring down at her hands. She didn’t jump when I opened the door, she just slowly looked up with a sadness in her eyes that shot right through me before she looked away. It was the same look she had all those years ago when she first moved to town. But it wasn’t just sadness I saw in her eyes. She looked at me like she was about to say something, then held back. I wanted to say something too but the words got stuck in my throat.

“Hey,” she said, still not looking directly at me.

“Hey. You okay?”

“I’m not sure.”

“You want to talk about it?”

“Not really.”

How could I respond to that? She obviously wanted something, but if not to talk, what? I was never really good at reading people, especially girls, but with Shawna it was usually different. Not that night, though.

“You want to go for a walk?” I asked.

She stood there for a second before finally answering.

“Yeah, I guess.”

This wasn’t the Shawna I’d grown to know; this was the Shawna who first moved in all those years ago. But she wanted to walk, so we did, kind of. Heading down the street, neither of us talked, or even seemed to know where we were going. We just walked around and looked around, anywhere but at each other.

“How’d you know I was at the front door?” She asked after a couple blocks of silence.

“I didn’t. I was just heading out.”

“At this time of night? 

“I needed a little fresh air.”

“You want to talk about it?”

“Do you want to talk about why you showed up at my house this late at night?”

“Fair enough,” she said, though she actually glanced my way as she said it.

“You know you can talk to me, right”

“Can I?”

“Yes,” I said, stopping in the middle of a crosswalk. “You can talk to me about anything.”

She finally looked at me. Actually looked at me. And that was when I saw the bruise on her cheek.

“What the Hell? Did he do that?”

I felt my teeth and my fists clench.

“See,” she said, turning away. “This is exactly why I didn’t want to talk to you about it.”

Instantly I pictured all the ways I could end him without anyone even knowing it was me. Knowing that I could take care of Shawna’s problem with just a touch helped me relax a little, and for a moment I was almost thankful for my deal with Lucifer, if it worked on someone I wasn’t exactly assigned to.

“Look, I’m sorry,” I said, “But no one should be laying a hand on you. Especially him.”

“I know. And I won’t let it happen again, but…”

“But what?”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“I wouldn’t understand what?”

“Never mind.”

“Look,” I said, stopping and grabbing her arm. She flinched and spun around, with an anger in her eyes I don’t think I’d seen before.

I pulled my hand away.

“Woah! I just wanted to stop and actually talk for a second, like the friends I thought we were.”

She relaxed a little as the anger left her eyes.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to react like that.”

“No, you have nothing to be sorry about, I shouldn’t have grabbed you. I just want to help.”

“Thanks,” she said, “But I’ve got this.”

“I’m sure you do, but if you need, or want me to go with you….”


“Why not? He’s not stupid enough to do anything to you with someone else there, is he?”

“No, it’s just that…”


“It’s just that he saw me talking to you in the parking lot yesterday. He saw me hug you…”

“And that’s why he hit you? Because of me?”

She looked away and I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. The thought of him hitting her because of me just made me want to get my hands on him even more.

”It’s just going to be hard enough to break up with him, and I don’t need him blaming you.”

“I don’t care if he blames me.”

“But I do,” she said as she started walking again.

I followed her lead, though neither of us said anything as we made our way back to her place.

“So why’d you come to my house tonight, if you don’t want me to do anything about it?” I asked as we reached her door.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I just wanted to be with a friend.”

“Well I’ll always be there when you need to talk, or…whatever.”

“I know, and I really do appreciate that…”

I wanted to kiss her; to pull her close to me and tell her exactly how I felt. The moment seemed perfect for that, except for the last two assignments I had to complete for Lucifer. As much as I wanted to be with her, I knew I couldn’t drag her into that mess.

“Good,” I replied while stopping myself from doing anything else, “But I should really be getting back home.”

“You should,” she said, stepping closer to me. “Thanks for walking me home.”

Raising up on her tiptoes, she gently kissed my cheek, then turned and went inside, leaving me on the porch wondering if I made the right decision. I had the entire walk home to question if I should have kissed her first, but by the time I made it back to my bedroom I still had no idea if I did the right thing or not. I did, however, make a decision about Mr. Finkenbine. Lucifer was right; I really didn’t know Finkenbine. I had no reason to doubt that he’d done something to deserve his punishment. My deal with Lucifer specified that I would only have to deal with killers, rapists and child molesters. And if Finkenbine was one of those then he needed to go, no matter how hard it might be for me to do. Then I’d only have one last assignment until I’d be able to live my life like I was supposed to. And even if that didn’t mean Shawna and I ended up together, at least I’d be around for her to talk to and to protect her from guys like Matt.

Unfortunately, even with my mind made up, I couldn’t seem to get to sleep. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to complete my next assignment, but I was determined to, so there was nothing to think about. Still, my mind wouldn’t shut off. And it wasn’t just thoughts about Finkenbine or Shawna keeping me awake; I was also thinking about how Weed would react, and what my mom might think if she ever found out about what I was doing. And then, of course, I started questioning who my final assignment would be. Lucifer obviously enjoyed torturing me by making each assignment a little harder than the last. What could possibly be worse than having to send Finkenbine on?

Eventually my mind calmed enough that I fell into a fitful sleep, only to be awakened by the alarm way too early. I wasn’t anywhere close to being ready to get up, but I forced myself to anyway. A shower helped a little, but even then I was thinking about asking Weed for a little more of his go-fast juice. Instead of ingesting that poison and shortening my lifespan a little more, though, I decided to fix some coffee.

A couple scoops of sugar helped the coffee go down a little easier so I drank two and a half cups before grabbing my helmet and keys. On top of the coffee, the ride to school woke me up a little more so I was actually feeling half-way decent as I pulled into the parking lot. Until I saw Shawna climb out of that red corvette.

I rushed into a parking spot a little faster than I meant to, and had to break hard to get stopped in time. I had the bike shut off and my helmet on the handlebars in no time before heading straight across the parking lot. But as quick as I was, it still wasn’t quick enough; the Corvette was already gone and Shawna was nowhere to be seen.

“What was that about?” Weed asked as he came up behind me.

“What do you mean?” I asked, while still scanning the parking lot for any sign of Shawna.

“You pulled in, nearly wrecking in the process, then ignored me as I hollered out the window at you.”

“Sorry, I was just a little preoccupied.”

“I could tell. Was it the Corvette?”

I saw the judgment in his eyes.

“Yeah, kind of.”

“Dude, you’ve got to let it go.”

“It’s not about me and her.”

“So what’s it about? Is he your next assignment?”

“I wish.”

“Seriously then, what happened?”

“Shawna came over last night.”

“Oh no.”

“Nothing happened between us, but she had a bruise on her face.”

“From him?”


“So why the Hell did she still have him drive her to school today?

“That’s what I want to know, but apparently I’m going to have to hunt her down to find out.”

“Okay, I get that you’re pissed. I am too. But you should only be pissed at that douchebag. Getting pissed at Shawna isn’t going to make things any better.”

“Maybe you’re right, but I’ve got to say something, I’ve got to do something.”

“So how does this whole grim reaper thing work? Can you use your voodoo on Matt?”

“I don’t know. I’ve only used it on the people I’ve been assigned.”

“So if the living Ken doll isn’t your next assignment, can you ask for him to be?”

Asking Lucifer to let me kill Matt? The thought made me smile.

“I really don’t know,” I said.

The talk of Lucifer and assignments made me think of my actual next assignment; Finkenbine. And remembering the reality of what I had to do really made me want to change the subject before Weed asked too many questions.

“It wouldn’t hurt to ask, would it?” Weed continued.

“I don’t think it works that way,” I replied. “He actually told me once that he “couldn’t have Reapers picking and choosing their assignments” so I doubt he’d go for it.”

“I can at least dream about it then,” Weed said with a smile.

The bell rang, letting us know that we had better get to class and for once I was actually grateful.

Though we had classes together the rest of the day, Weed didn’t mention Shawna, Matt  or my next assignment again. We talked about nothingness like movies, or which cheerleaders were obviously stuffing their tops, but we avoided anything serious. There was nothing we could do about any of it while stuck in school, so there was no point dwelling on it. That seemed to be Weed’s thoughts, and after a while I felt the same way, at least until the last bell rang, releasing us from our temporary confinement.

“So you coming over to finish up Pamela?” Weed asked as he slid into the Weed Wagon.

“I’m not sure…”

“We had a deal,” Weed said. “Right after school. I’ve already got a full gas can waiting to be turned into exhaust fumes.”

“There’s just something I have to do…”

“It has nothing to do with Shawna, does it?”

“Actually, no.”

“Good, then it can wait.”

“What?…No…It’s just…uh…

“Pamela is waiting, and you really look like you could use a break from everything else.”

It was hard enough convincing myself to follow through with Finkenbine, Weed giving me an easy distraction made it impossible.

“You know what?” I said after thinking about it for a second, “you’re right; everything else can wait.”

“Good,” he replied, “then get your ass over to my place.”

With that, Weed pulled out of the parking lot before I could change my mind. 

I took my time putting on my helmet and starting the bike, hoping to catch a glimpse of Shawna. I just wanted to make sure she wasn’t getting a ride home with that jackass, but I didn’t see her or that red vette before most of the cars had left the parking lot and I knew Weed would be close to sending out a search party for me. Reluctantly I kicked the bike into gear and took off, throwing one last look over my shoulder. Still seeing nothing, I gunned it as I headed towards Weed’s garage.

He was waiting in the driveway with his car door open looking like he was just about to come looking for me when I pulled up.

“I know that bike is a lot quicker than that,” he said, shutting his door and crossing his arms.

“Maybe I had to stop and save another old woman,” I replied, hanging the helmet on the handle bars.

“Is this one going to make it?” He asked.


“You know you deserve that.”


“So did you see her?”

“Who? An old woman?”

“No, dumbass, Shawna.”

“Shawna? No.”

“Not for lack of trying though, I’m sure.”

“I just wanted to make sure she wasn’t making another mistake.”

“It’s her mistake to make.”

“Easy for you to say.”

“Not really. I’ve been friends with her as long as you have.”

“Not true. I met her first, and introduced you two later that afternoon.”

“Okay, I’ve been friends with her exactly 2 and a half hours less than you. Just because I don’t have a hidden love for her, doesn’t mean I don’t care for her.”

“I know. And I know you’re just looking out for me too.”

“Good. But now that we’ve got all that touchy-feely stuff out of the way, let’s get our hands dirty.”

“Sounds good.”

“And no mention of what’s-her-name. The only woman we focus on tonight is Pamela.”


Once again, getting my hands dirty really helped take my mind off all the other shit going on in my life. I needed that. While we were working on the car, I didn’t have to think about Shawna, and what I should or shouldn’t do there. And I didn’t have to think about my deal with Lucifer, and what I had to do there. It was an escape from reality, almost as good as getting stoned. Unfortunately my break from reality was shattered by the ringing of the phone, and Weed’s mother yelling.

My Life As Death: Chapter 19

For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9
Chapters 10 and 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18

“I wanted to be mad at you. I should be mad at you. But then you have to go and save Mrs. Reader from a fiery car crash so then I feel like a jerk for even thinking about being mad at you.”

My class was closer to the exits but Shawna had somehow made it out to my bike before I did. She was pacing as I made my way across the parking lot, and I thought about turning right around and going back into the school. But she knew where I lived, and where Weed lived, and those were really the only two places I really had to go besides the junkyard, but I couldn’t hide out there forever. One way or another Shawna would eventually catch up with me so I figured I might as well get it over with.

I knew she was going to end up yelling at me but I really didn’t expect her to yell at me for saving a teacher.

“So now how am I supposed to react?” She asked while continuing to pace between my bike and the Weed Wagon.

“She didn’t make it, if it makes you feel any better,” I replied, which finally got her to stop pacing.


“Mrs. Reader didn’t make it. My Rooney told me at lunch.”

It wasn’t a lie, but I couldn’t tell her the whole story, and I hated myself even more for that.

“I’m so sorry,” she said, rushing over and throwing her arms around me. “I’m sure it wasn’t your fault.”

“Why would you say that?” I asked, pulling away from her.

“I didn’t mean it like that; I’m just saying I’m sure you did everything you could to help her.”

The words stung a little more than they should have, given the truth of the matter, but I had to keep in mind that Shawna didn’t know exactly what I had done.

“Can we just change the subject,” I asked, “maybe get back to you yelling at me.”

“I wasn’t yelling,” she said, pulling away completely, “I was just explaining my position, and maybe venting a little, but I wasn’t yelling.”

“Well whatever it was, it was better than talking about Mrs. Reader.”

“I’m sorry. We don’t have to talk about it. I mean, I should probably let you go anyways.”

Weed had started to head our way but froze as he saw Shawna. He looked like he was about to head somewhere else when Shawna gave me another hug, then walked back towards the front of the building. 

“So everything’s good?” Weed asked as he walked up to me.

“Yeah. Maybe? Probably, I think.”

“Good, then we need to get to work on Pamela.”

The thought of my car made me smile for a second but then I froze. What if Lucifer gave me another assignment while I was working on her. I really wasn’t sure I was ready for another one, not after Ms Reader. But not working on Pamela didn’t guarantee I wouldn’t hear from him either; he could just as easily come to me through my bedroom TV again. And even though I really didn’t like the idea of jumping right back into another assignment, the sooner I completed the last two jobs the sooner I’d be done for good. Then I’d never have to hear his voice again. As much as I loved the idea of getting Pamela fixed, I liked the idea of being done as a reaper even more, but there was nothing I could do to speed that up.

“Are you in?”

“Yeah. Let’s do it,” I said to Weed with a big smile on my face, almost challenging Lucifer to give me my next assignment.

Back at Weed’s garage, the work went pretty quickly but as the time passed I was actually becoming a little disappointed that I didn’t hear a peep from Lucifer. I even had a dozen excuses cooked up for Weed in case I needed to leave right away to take care of business, but I never needed them. By the time we called it a night, we’d made a lot more progress than I’d expected.

“You want to do the honors?” Weed asked, handing me the crescent wrench to tighten the battery terminals. I hesitated a second, my mind still not completely in the moment.

“There’s nothing to worry about,” he said, misinterpreting my hesitation, “she’s going to roar to life first try.”

I smiled, and grabbed the wrench, tightening both terminals a little more than necessary. It felt good to climb into the driver’s seat with the keys in my hand again.

“Okay,” Weed said, “let ‘er rip.”

I crossed my fingers, then slid the keys into the ignition and cranked it all the way, probably with a little too much enthusiasm. The engine turned over excitedly, which was a very good sign as Weed stood by the fender, staring at the motor with both thumbs up in the air. Fifteen seconds later he turned towards me, making a slicing motion across his neck as his way of telling me to knock it off.

“I’m not sure what’s going on,” he said. “The carbs will probably need a little adjusting but they should be close enough to get her to fire up. As much as I hate to do it, I think I might have to try a little starter fluid.”

Every gear head seemed to have different takes on using starter fluid. Most tried to avoid having to ever use it, but sometimes it was necessary. I wasn’t quite as averse to it as Weed so I nodded, giving him the go ahead.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered to Pamela as he sprayed a gentle dose directly into the carburetor.

As soon as he pulled his head out of the engine compartment I tried the ignition once again, and once again Pamela turned over right away, but this time she started to come alive for a second, before using up the little bit of starter fluid she had.

“Again,” I said, and Weed nodded, this time spraying a generous helping of starter fluid.

Pamela turned over and even began to fire up, but once again died as soon as she’d burned up all the starter fluid.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Weed said, leaning into the driver side window. She wants to run, and has plenty of air and spark but it’s like she’s starving for gas. I double checked the fuel pump and fuel filter. All the lines are clean so there shouldn’t be anything keeping the gas from reaching the carbs. Maybe I just need to pour some straight down the carbs to get everything fully primed.”

As soon as he grabbed the gas can I had another thought.

“Um, Weed?.”

“What?” He asked, propping the five gallon can on the front fender.

“Is that a full can?” I asked.

“Yeah, just filled it up yesterday so we’d have plenty to get her running.”

“That’s great, and all, but don’t you think it might do us a little more good if the gas was in her gas tank.”

Weed looked at me, then at the gas can, and back to me before bursting out laughing. He continued laughing way too hard to even lift the can off the fender, so I grabbed it. It took a couple minutes to empty most of the can into Pamela’s tank which gave Weed plenty of time to get himself under control.

“One more time,” he said, spraying a little more fluid into the carburetor. This time, when I cranked the ignition, Pamela fired right up, purring like a kitten.

Weed was practically dancing in the poorly adjusted headlights, and you couldn’t have smacked the smile off my face with a 2×4, but unfortunately my baby wasn’t quite ready for me to drive her home. She still needed the new windshield, new suspension and new tires put on the new rims, but she was running better than ever and I could see the finish line, both with the car and with my assignments. Unfortunately the five gallons of gas wouldn’t last long if I kept running and revving the engine unnecessarily, so reluctantly I killed the ignition just before Weed could attempt what looked to be a backflip. He continued to stare at me while throwing his hands in the air, trying to tempt me to keep her running just a little longer.

“She sounds great, man, but we should save some celebrating for when she’s actually roadworthy again.”

Weed gave me a look that said he understood, but still didn’t like it.

“And it’s getting late,” I continued, probably more to keep myself from giving in then to convince him I was right. “We can start right back here tomorrow, and I’ll even bring more gas.”

“And what are you going to do?” Weed asked, grabbing the empty gas can from me, “bungee cord the gas can to the back of the bike?”

“It could work.”

“It could also be a disaster; I’ll get the gas, and you just show up here tomorrow as soon as school lets out. But you know I won’t sleep tonight knowing she’s this close.”

“You’ll pack a bowl with some “sleep-well” herb and you’ll be out like a baby in no time.”

“Okay, maybe you’re right.”

“You know I’m right. But I’ve got to get going.”

“Remember, straight here after school!”

“Yes, mom!” I replied. I’m pretty sure he had some smartass response but I couldn’t hear it over the sweet sound of the bike firing up.

I didn’t realize how tired I was until we stopped working and I sat down on that bike. It would have been a great night for a little night-riding, but I didn’t have the energy for that. Instead I went straight home and parked the bike in its usual spot before heading inside to get thoroughly cleaned up. Mom had left a plate in the microwave but I didn’t even feel like eating. I just wanted a shower and some sleep, but as I reached the top of the stairs I realized that once again someone had other ideas.

The television was glowing so I figured it was Lucifer but it wasn’t his face like last time. The image on the screen was the old indian head test pattern, but instead of the indian head, it was Lucifer’s sitting above the number 3.

“Three down,” his voice boomed from the speakers as his head turned towards me, “only two to go.”

As he said those words, the number 3 changed to the number 2.


“I thought you’d be happy…”

“Don’t get me wrong,” I said, “I can’t wait to be done with this, but tonight is really not the night.”

“You really don’t listen, do you. You can do it whenever and however you want.”

“I know, I know; it’s just that I really want some sleep and thinking about killing someone kind of interferes with that.”

“If it makes it any easier we can do this in the morning, but you don’t want to waste too much time; tomorrow might be the perfect opportunity to complete your next assignment.”

I opened my mouth, ready to tell him we’d do it in the morning, then I realized that knowing I had an assignment and not knowing who it was would probably be worse than knowing. I’d toss and turn all night long, trying to figure out who it could possibly be. It was definitely a catch 22, but I think that was exactly what he wanted.

 “Fine,” I said, stripping off my filthy shirt, getting ready for a nice hot shower. Knowing him, I was going to need it.

“I’m not so sure I like your attitude,” he said.

“There was nothing in our deal about my attitude.”

“Good point. But you might want to at least stop prancing around the room and sit down for this one. I have a feeling it won’t be quite as easy as the others.”

Instantly I stopped. I didn’t mean to stop, and had I thought about it, I would have just kept walking to keep from giving him the pleasure, but my mind froze and my body followed suit. 

“As easy as the others?” I yelled at the television “There was nothing easy about the others.”

“I didn’t mean to belittle your work so far,” he said. “I’m actually quite proud of what you’ve managed to do. A lot of others haven’t had the stomach for the assignments like you’ve completed. I just want you to be prepared in case this one is a little more difficult.”

I could feel my face getting red as my frustration and anger grew. I took a deep breath and tried to control my tongue.

“Just tell me who it is,” I said through clenched teeth.

“It might be best just to show you.”

The indian head test pattern with Lucifer’s head disappeared and was replaced with a face I recognized all too well.

“You can’t be serious.”

“What? You didn’t think he was completely innocent, did you?”

“Innocent? No. But I didn’t really think that Finkenbine had done anything that fit into our agreement.”

“Why? Because he gave you a good price on some car parts? Or maybe it was that heartfelt conversation the two of you had over a couple beers? There’s really a lot that you don’t know about him.”

“Fine, I get that, but now he’s just an old man running a junk yard. It’s not like he’s out there harming anyone.”

“It’s not always about what they’re doing now, or even what they might do in the future. Ms. Reader was proof of that, and you finished that assignment fine.”

The words stung more than they should have, probably because everything he said was true.

“Our deal was that I select 5 killers, rapists or child molesters and you decide when and how they will pass on to face the consequences of their actions.”

I sat down on the edge of my bed, contemplating my options.

“Can’t you just assign another reaper to him?”

“I’m afraid not. We can’t have the reapers picking and choosing what assignments they want to complete. Either you do this or our deal is off.”

So that was his game; torture me by giving me exceptionally harder assignments, hoping to get me to break our deal.

“I’m going to need a little time.”

“I’m a man of my word. You’ve got 5 days to seal his fate; otherwise the deal is off.”

The television went black, even as those words continued to hang in the air. For a time, I forgot about everything else, even the hot shower I’d looked forward to. I just continued to sit on the edge of the bed, in an attempt to figure out what I was going to do. I wanted to talk to someone, but that really wasn’t an option. The only one who knew anything about what was going on was Weed, but what would I say to him? Sorry, I’ve got to kill your friend? Weed would never forgive me. Or worse, he would blame himself for taking me out to Finkenbine’s in the first place. I couldn’t live with myself if he had to deal with the consequences of my actions.

My mind was pretty much made up to tell Lucifer to shove it but then my thoughts went to Shawna. Even if things weren’t going the best between us, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to her. And my mom? If I broke the deal and had to accept my fate, it would crush her. I didn’t even want to begin to imagine what it would do to her.

Round and round my mind went, bouncing from one choice to the other without the slightest chance of making a decision. I knew there was no way I was going to get any sleep so I headed down stairs. The keys to the bike were still in my pocket, and a night time ride would help take my mind off the decision I had to make, but it would only delay the inevitable. Instead of running from my decision I had to face it I decided to take a walk to give myself plenty of time to think. So instead of heading towards the garage at the back of the house, I went to the front door, but I was not prepared for what I saw as I opened it.

My Life As Death: Chapter 18

For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9
Chapters 10 and 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17

“Is something wrong?” Mom asked.

It had been a while since we had dinner together, so I was trying to put on a happy face, but my thoughts kept drifting back to Mrs. Reader and what I’d just done.

“No, nothing’s wrong,” I lied. “It was just a long day.”

“I heard about what you did,” she replied. “I’m very proud of you.”

The words stung a little.

“Thanks, but it was really nothing.”

“Saving a woman’s life is never ‘nothing’.”

Her choice of words made the sinking feeling in my stomach a little worse.

“I just don’t want anyone making a big deal out of it. I mean, I helped her out of the car, but that was it.”

Mom seemed to understand that i wanted to drop the subject, so she did, but didn’t necessarily move on to a better one.

“So are things better between you and Shawna?”

“Still the same, I think; I didn’t even see her today.”

“I’m sorry, but it will get better.”

The silence continued for several more minutes before mom found a topic we could both appreciate, dessert. She had a recipe for these amazing chocolate cherry cookies. I should have smelled them as soon as I got home but my mind was so preoccupied that I didn’t even notice that she’d made them until we cleared the kitchen table. It was then that she brought them out, still warm from the oven. No matter how bad a day I’d ever had, those cookies would always make it better.

The cookies, and the dinner with mom turned out to be just what I needed, but then she had to leave for her shift at the hospital. The same hospital where Mrs. Reader would be falling asleep and not waking up. I knew that I’d done what I had to do and that I’d made it as peaceful as I could, but that didn’t help me feel any better as mom walked out the door; but I knew what would.

The ride to Weed’s house took no time, but even though I hadn’t given him a heads up, he had a bowl packed and ready for me. It’s a true friend that knows what you need before you need it. He had a little Zeppelin playing and for a while that was all we needed as we passed the pipe back and forth. But when I was sufficiently relaxed I needed something else to focus on to keep my mind from wandering where it shouldn’t.

“I’ve got just the thing,” Weed said, sliding over to his movie collection.

I didn’t even see what he picked out until the title came on the screen.

“Seriously?” I asked. “This is what you chose for us to watch, tonight of all nights?”

Weed burst out laughing.

“You love Cocoon.”

“Yeah, old people are hilarious, but come on.”

He was laughing too hard to even respond. It was the kind of laugh that was contagious. I wanted to be mad at him but I couldn’t even look at him without laughing too, so I finally gave up and just joined in. By the time I was finally able to stop laughing he had already started the movie, so I watched. I didn’t make it halfway through before falling asleep on the yard-sale couch Weed and I had picked up the previous summer, against his mom’s wishes. It looked like something out of a frat house but that night it was the most comfortable thing in the world to sleep on.

Neither of us wanted to wake up the next morning, and to her credit, Weed’s mom did try waking us a couple times before she brought out the big guns. We should have known what would happen, but apparently it didn’t dawn on either of us that she wouldn’t let us be, so as we slept in, clinging tightly to those extra few minutes of oblivion, she stealthily positioned two speakers right by the bedroom door, cranked the volume to 11 and hit play.

I didn’t even know heavy metal yodeling was a thing, but she’d somehow found a record from Germany. Under normal circumstances I might have been interested in giving it a shot but waking up to it blasting a few feet from my head was not how I wanted to be introduced to it.

Weed and I both instantly threw our pillows in the general direction of the horrible noise, but knocking the speakers over only muffled it slightly so we were forced to actually get up. I couldn’t tell if he cut the speaker wire or merely disconnected them, but either way the piercing vocals and screaming guitars were finally silenced.

“Jokes on her,” Weed said, “I’m actually starting to like that band.”

He might have been joking, but I kind of doubted it. His taste in music could get as weird as he was, but that was part of what made us just click. 

“You want a little of my go-faster juice?” He asked, slipping on a Dead Kennedys t-shirt.

“Na, I’m good. Just a little Mt Dew or even a coke and I’ll be good to go.”

He tossed me a can which I chugged down in no time, then jumped on the bike and rushed home to shower and grab a change of clothes. Based on her normal schedule I figured I had plenty of time before my mom got home but I didn’t want to take any chances. If she got home before I left for school she would feel obligated to tell me about Mrs. Reader passing in her sleep and I really didn’t want to have that conversation with her so I wasted no time. I didn’t even finish drying completely before throwing on a fresh t-shirt and jeans and heading right back out. Even with waking up late and going back home first, I somehow made it to school with time to spare. Weed, on the other hand, probably fell back asleep in the shower as he was known to do, and barely made it through the door before the last bell rang.

I’m pretty sure we both dozed on and off throughout first and second periods but by third I was finally feeling awake. And I think Weed even managed to keep his eyes open for the whole class, so by lunch we were able to actually hold a conversation. We weren’t talking about anything important but it was nice to feel normal for a minute, until principal Rooney appeared and started heading my way with a serious look on his face.

“How are you feeling today?” He asked, sitting down on the bench beside me, but still facing away from the table.

“I’m alright,” I replied.

“Did you get a chance to stop by and see Mrs. Reader yesterday?”

“I did; she seemed happy about it.”

“I’m glad to hear that because I just got some bad news.”

He paused as if the news was going to be hard, either for him to say or me to hear.

“A representative from the hospital just called to let me know that she passed in her sleep last night.”

I didn’t know how to respond. I wanted to look surprised, or sad, or something, but I’m pretty sure I only managed to look confused.

“These things happen,” he continued, “but she didn’t suffer, if that’s any consolation.”

“That does make it a little easier to hear, I guess”.

“And I want you to know that we’re all here for you if you need to talk.”

“I think I’m okay.”

“That’s good, but if, in the near future you want someone to talk to about this, my door is always open.”

“Thanks, but I don’t think that’ll be necessary.”

“Grief or confusion, especially when it comes to death, is very natural. Sometimes it helps to talk to someone. If not me, consider any of your teachers or the guidance counselor.”

“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”

“That’s all I’m asking,” he said, standing back up.

“Awkward,” Weed said, as soon as principal Rooney was barely out of earshot.

“Tell me about it.”

“So you’re positive it was you?”


“So what was it like?”

“I’m not going to talk about it here.”

“Okay, later then.”

“Probably not.”

“Why not? I’m just curious.”

“I don’t even know how to describe it, okay? It’s just weird. But only two more assignments and I don’t even have to think about it ever again.”

“Do you know who those two are?”

“No clue, but they have to be easier than that one was.”

“You know you just jinxed yourself, right?”

“Probably, but what could be worse than having to off an old woman you just saved from a car wreck?”

My Life As Death: Chapter 17

For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9
Chapters 10 and 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16

The hospital offered motorcycle parking near the handicap spots but I avoided those and chose to park out in the middle of nowhere, giving myself the longest walk possible to the front doors. It still wasn’t long enough though, because even when I reached them, I still had no idea what I was going to do.

“I’m looking for Ms. Reader,” I told the receptionist.

“Oh, you must be the boy that pulled her from her burning car.”

I really didn’t feel like discussing the reality of the whole thing with anyone else, so I just let it go.

“Yeah, something like that.”

“Well I’m glad I got to meet you. Her room is on the third floor, room 306,” the receptionist said. “She’s been hoping you’d stop by.”

Those words echoed through my head as I waited for the elevator, then made my way to her room. I knew what I had to do but not how I was actually going to be able to. I mean, how was I supposed to kill some little old lady, let alone the one I just saved? 

Because of my deal, and based on my other assignments, I knew she had to deserve it, so I had to do it, right? But even if she did deserve it, how was I going to do it? My mind went around in circles as I rode the elevator up.

“You must be Nathaniel,” a nurse said, coming out of room 306. I’d been standing outside the door, staring at the room number, trying to come up with some excuse to leave but obviously I didn’t come up with one in time.

“Uh, yeah. I guess I am.”

“Great. You got here at a good time. She’s awake and feeling much better. You can go on in.”

“Thanks,” I replied, taking a deep breath before moving past the nurse and into the room.

Mrs. Reader’s face lit up as soon as I entered the room. I tried to look away but that felt even more awkward.

“So you’re the one who pulled me from my car?”

“Yeah, I guess that was me.”

“Well come a little closer. I won’t bite.”

I was probably as far from her as I could and still be in the same room so I moved closer to the foot of her bed.

“I just wanted to thank you for what you did.”

“You’re welcome, I mean, It was nothing, really,” I replied.

“Oh, but it was,” she said, pausing as she seemed to gather herself. “You know, when it happened, when the truck slammed into me and my car was spinning around, I thought “this is it”. And I was okay with that. Part of me really wanted to go, to be with my Hermain again.”

She teared up as soon as she mentioned his name, and for some reason I moved around to the side of her bed but stopped short of reaching out to comfort her.

“It’s been quite a while, but I still miss him,” she continued. We were together for almost 30 years when…well, when it happened. It was really hard at first, but it got easier; though even now there are days when I think I should join him. And I thought that truck was going to make it happen. But when I woke up in the hospital, I realized it must not be my time. I guess someone still has plans for me.”

I didn’t know how to respond. Listening to her talk let me put off the inevitable and gave me a little more time to decide what I was going to do. And the part about her wanting to be with her husband did make it seem like it would be a little easier to do what I had to do, but then I doubt anything she could say would truly make it easy for me. But did I really want it to be easy? I mean, what would it mean about me if killing someone, especially an old woman, became easy? I was still lost inside my own head when she changed the topic around to me.

“A lot of people wouldn’t have done what you did,” she said. 

“I think most people would if they were in my shoes.”

“That’s a good attitude to have,” she replied, “even if it is naive. I’ve been on this earth long enough to know that most people are selfish, regardless of what they’d like to believe of themselves.”

She said it, not in any sort of depressed or angry way. To her it was just the truth, but I didn’t know how to reply to that so the silence just hung there for a minute before she continued.

“I recognize you from school,” she said. “Though I would never have guessed you’d be the one to save me from a car crash.”

“Me neither.”

“I don’t mean that in a bad way, you’ve just always came off as someone who keeps to themselves.”

“That’s probably a good way to describe me.”

“So why’d you do it?”

“It was just the right thing to do,” I said, and it was as good a response as any, though I don’t know how true it was. Honestly, I had been asking myself the same question over and over all day and never came up with a good reason.

“Is that why you’re here now?” She continued with the questions.

“I guess. I mean, principal Rooney said you wanted me to stop by, so here I am.”

“And I appreciate that. I just wanted a chance to thank you for what you did. But I can tell you’re preoccupied with something so won’t keep you.”

I was about to apologize for being distracted when she moved her hand to mine and gave it a squeeze. Instantly the images flooded my vision. The images were very much like what I saw when I pulled her from the car, only this time there was no pushing them away. I watched her go home from school, say goodbye to the nurse taking care of her husband, then take care of him herself, night after night. She’d make dinner for them both, then genty feed him before eating anything herself. Then she would give him his medicine and read to him from one of his favorite books or from the newspaper. Night after night she continued doing everything for him as he continued to get worse. Then one night, after waving goodbye to the nurse on duty, she went to her husband’s side and cried. She cried about how much she loved him and how much she missed him. I could feel her pain. She cried about how weak she was. Then she went to the kitchen and fixed them both dinner, vegetable soup, pretty much the only thing he could eat any more.

I wanted to pull my arm away, to just leave her there in the bed, but I knew that if I left, Lucifer would make sure I had another chance and another, until I completed my assignment. And who knows how many other people might be hurt in the process? I couldn’t take that chance so I forced myself to stand there and watch as the scene unfolded in my mind.

Mrs. Reader once again fed her husband, though this time she didn’t eat anything herself. Instead, she grabbed his pill organizer. There were separate compartments for each day of the week but instead of giving him the pills for one day she opened every compartment and pulled out the small yellow pill from each of them. I couldn’t tell you what type of pill it was, but she seemed to know exactly which one she wanted. Then gently, she coaxed him to swallow each of them, one after the other. Then she kissed his forehead, pulled the blanket around him and walked away, going back into the kitchen to do the dishes with tears running down her face.

Several minutes later, with the dishes washed, dried and put away, she returned to her husband’s side. He looked peaceful, like he was sleeping. But then she pressed her fingers to his wrist, cried once more, then went to the telephone. The paramedics were there in no time but they could only confirm what she’d already known. It was at that point that I felt the relief wash over her.

The vision continued to play out in my mind as I tried to process what I’d already seen. She killed him. Her husband. Obviously it tore her up to do so, but she’d done it anyway. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. But then I remembered what I’d done. Just a few days ago I wouldn’t have thought I was capable of killing anyone, and though I didn’t physically carry out the killings, I was responsible for two deaths. So how could I be surprised that she killed him. Was it out of malice? Out of desperation? Out of love? I don’t think anyone could say, least of all, Ms Reader herself. But did it even matter? With the others, I could feel their anger and their hatred. I could feel the evil that caused them to do what they did. With Mrs. Reader all I felt was overwhelming sadness.

“Are you okay?” Mrs. Reader asked, pulling her hand from mine. “You have a pained look on your face.”

“I was just thinking about something I have to do.”

“I’m sorry, you must have a lot to do and I’ve been taking up your time,” she replied. “I won’t keep you any longer.” 

“She had lived a long life,” I told myself. And she would be happy being with her husband again. That made my decision to do it a little easier but it didn’t help me decide how. Yes, she killed her husband but she didn’t deserve to suffer. And it would look really strange if she were to die while I was standing beside her bed, so I knew it couldn’t be right at that moment. But Lucifer did say several times that I could do it when and how I wanted, so I grabbed her hand and immediately pictured her falling asleep that night, long after I left. I pictured her laying there peacefully then gently passing away. Somehow, knowing that she wouldn’t suffer made it a little easier. I knew I’d done everything I could, given the position we were both in.

I felt the energy move through me again, reassuring me that my task had been completed.

“It was nice meeting you,” I said, releasing her hand.

“And it was very nice meeting you,” she replied, “Thank you again, for everything you’ve done for me.”

There was a knowing look in her eyes that made me question what she meant by that. Could she possibly know what I’d just done? The question lingered with me as I left her room and walked back to my bike. It stayed with me as I made my way home, the ride was nothing but a blur.

My Life As Death: Chapter 16

For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9
Chapters 10 and 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15

The street was pretty quiet as I pulled up behind a white Taurus stopped at a red light. We both sat there for a minute waiting for the light to change, and even then, the Taurus didn’t seem to be in any hurry to take off through the intersection. I thought about honking, but I still had plenty of time to reach the school so I just waited, giving them a chance to get moving before I even let out on the clutch. It took them long enough, but just as I was about to follow them into the intersection, I heard the squealing of the gravel truck’s tires as it locked up it’s brakes trying to stop, only by then, it was too late. The sound of the massive vehicle hitting the Taurus was incredible and sickening at the same time, like nothing else I’d ever heard.

The impact spun the car around in circles and slammed it against the curb on the far side of the road as pieces flew in every direction. I didn’t wait for the car to come to a complete stop before racing the bike to within a few feet of the mangled wreck and tearing my helmet off. There was only about half a car left so I knew the driver couldn’t be in great shape but the black smoke pouring out what was left of the engine compartment and the overwhelming gasoline odor told me I had to get them out of there. The driver side door was completely crumbled and the window was nothing but a fractured spider web of glass pieces so I braced myself for whatever shape the driver would be in. There was no way I could have prepared for what I saw when I finally got the door open.

Mrs. Reader was leaning forward, her head resting on the steering wheel like she was asleep but all the blood pouring out of the gash across her forehead told me she might not be sleeping. To make things worse, my first thought wasn’t about how I could help her or how I might save her, it was that I might have gotten out of being responsible for her death and for a brief moment I felt a sense of relief. The callousness of the thought hit me like a brick, but then she moved, slightly, and I knew I had to do something.

Smoke was building up but I couldn’t reach past Mrs. Reader to kill the ignition. Instead, I reached beneath the driver’s seat and was able to find the lever to slide it back, un-pinning her from the steering wheel. With the extra room I was able to remove her seatbelt even though she was still unconscious. Taking a deep breath I readied myself for whatever images I’d be flooded with, then grabbed her up.

I don’t know what I expected to see from her. Maybe I had just become a little jaded after what I’d seen from the others and expected the worst, but from her all I saw were visions of her taking care of the special needs kids at school, then going home to take care of her sick husband. I’d heard about her husband but he had died several years before I even reached high school, though he seemed to be in most of the vision sequences. From the way he looked, he must have been suffering from some sort of dementia and been unable to really take care of himself, though he had an in-home nurse when Mrs. Reader was at school.

I did my best to push the visions from my head and concentrate on getting us both away from the car. She was a lot heavier than I’d expected so I barely managed to stumble across the road and into someone’s yard before falling to the ground with her. 

I don’t know whose house we were actually at, but someone came rushing out to see if we were okay. I’d let go of Mrs. Reader when we fell, stopping the visions before I could see anything I didn’t want to, so besides a little exhaustion from the adrenaline dump I was doing okay. Mrs. Reader, on the other hand, didn’t look good at all. The homeowner was on the phone with 911 and I was just starting to second guess whether I should have moved her from the car when the white Taurus burst into flames thirty feet away from us.

With everything going on around me, the KZ was the last thing I should have been thinking about, but when I saw the flames engulfing the car just a few feet from my bike I ran back across the street and stood it up, quickly kicking it to life. My helmet was still laying on the ground by the Taurus but the heat coming off the car was already intense, and I’d rather lose the helmet than the bike, so I left it and pulled the bike a safe distance away.

The homeowner was still with Mrs. reader and I heard sirens in the distance so I knew everything was under control. I also knew that if I was late to in-school suspension things would be even worse for me so rather than wait around, I took off again, using a couple side roads to avoid the first responders as I made my way to school. 

The KZ wasn’t quite running as smooth as it had been, but I kept going anyway and made it to the dungeon, smelling of sweat and smoke, just before the tardy bell rang. Vice-principal Miller was our warden for the day and he looked disappointed to see me. I just smiled at him and took my seat.

The first couple hours passed slowly as I tried to work on a history assignment but I just couldn’t concentrate. The wreck, and everything that happened after it, kept replaying in my head. And after each replay I started second guessing myself. Mrs. Reader was my next assignment. Had I not stopped, not pulled her from the wreckage, the whole thing might have taken care of itself. But by not doing something, I probably would have felt just as responsible.

But then I had her in my arms, and I could have done what I needed to right then, but I didn’t. I had the opportunity to complete that assignment and didn’t take it. So the question then became whether I would have another opportunity, and if so, could I take it?

I was still staring at the same page, chasing the same thoughts around my head, when the lunch bell rang. For those of us stuck in the Dungeon it meant brown bag lunches – a cold meat sandwich, an apple and a bag of chips. It wasn’t awful but it wasn’t filling either, basically just enough to get you through the school day without your belly growling too loud. About halfway through my extremely thin turkey and swiss on wheat there was a knock at the door. I didn’t bother even looking up until someone called my name.

“Mr. Holden,” they called out again. This time I saw who was yelling for me and unfortunately it was Principal Rooney, now standing just inside the room beside vice-principal Miller.

“Uh yeah?”

“I need to see you out here for a minute, and bring your things.”

I hadn’t done anything new to get myself in trouble, so I racked my brain trying to think of something I’d done in the past that they might have just caught on to as I quickly gathered my stuff. Nothing came to mind which made the trip out to the hallway even more unsettling. It’s hard to come up with an excuse for something if you didn’t know what it was.

“I understand there was some kind of accident this morning,” he said, closing the door behind me.

“You can’t really think I had anything to do with that,” I said, instantly feeling defensive. 

“I didn’t say you did,” he replied as he led me up the stairs towards his office. “But you were there?”

“Yeah,” I replied, trying to choose my words carefully. “I mean I was behind Mrs. Reader when it happened, but I had nothing to do with it. The light turned green and she went into the intersection but the dump truck just didn’t stop in time.”

“And that’s when you got involved?”

“I guess. I mean, it wasn’t like I wanted to, but the car was pretty messed up and had a lot of smoke coming from it. I was afraid that it was going to catch fire so I just got her out of there. Why? Was that the wrong thing to do? Did I hurt her more?”

“No, it’s nothing like that,” Principal Rooney said, his face softening a little as he opened his office door. Inside was a firefighter still wearing half his gear with my motorcycle helmet in his hands.

“I’m Sergeant Cooper,” he said, handing me my helmet. “I take it that this is yours?” 

There were a couple of fresh scratches from where I had thrown the helmet off but otherwise it didn’t look any worse for the wear.

“It was so close to the car,” I said, amazed that there wasn’t a single burn mark. “I thought for sure I’d lost it.”

“So it was you who pulled her from the burning car?”

“Well it wasn’t actually burning when I pulled her out, it was just smoking a bit.”

“That was very heroic,” Sergeant Cooper continued, “Why didn’t you stick around.”

I really didn’t know how to respond to that. 

“It wasn’t heroic, it was just what needed to be done,” I said. “And I guess I didn’t stick around because I’d already done what I could do, and real help was on the way; I heard the sirens. And besides, I needed to get to school. I’d gotten into a little trouble the other day and I didn’t want to get into more trouble for being late.”

Principal Rooney chuckled a little as Sergeant Cooper glanced his way.

“It was just a small incident,” he said, “and I think Nathaniel here, in light of all that has happened, deserves a little leniency.”

I just looked at him as I was trying to figure out exactly what he was saying.

“You can return to your regularly scheduled class,” he clarified.

“Before you do,” Sergeant Cooper said, “I just want to thank you for what you did.”

He held out his hand, and for a moment I hesitated. I didn’t want to be disrespectful, but I also didn’t want to see whatever images might flood my mind. Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of any way around it, so I reached out and shook his hand.

The image of Sergeant Cooper, younger and a little less fit, stumbling through a crowded bar filled my thoughts. I saw him struggling to make it from the front door to his car, as he dropped his keys several times before finally unlocking the green Trans Am and climbing inside.

I felt myself tense up, trying to push the image away and he instantly released his grip. A sense of relief flooded through me as the image faded before I could see what happened next.

“Are you okay?” He asked.

“Yeah”, I replied, rubbing my palm with my other hand. “I guess my hand is just a little sore.”

“Maybe you should get that checked out by the nurse, and make sure you didn’t do any damage while you were saving Ms. Reader.”

“I don’t think I really saved her, I just…”

“Speaking of Mrs. Reader,” Principal Rooney said. “She is recovering at the hospital and would like for you to visit her.”

“What? I, uh, really don’t know about that…”

“Nonsense,” he replied. “She just wants the opportunity to thank you herself. You can stop by on your way home and the whole thing will only take a few minutes.”

The word opportunity hit me like a dump truck. Lucifer had said he’d give me the opportunity to complete my task, so I instantly knew he was responsible for the accident that morning. And since I didn’t take the opportunity that morning, he was making sure I had another chance. How many chances was he going to give me? And at what cost? So far no one but Mrs. Reader had been hurt, but that could easily change.

“Yeah, I’ll do it,” I said, probably more to myself than to anyone in that room.


“Well, It was nice meeting you,” Sergeant Cooper said, with a wave as I slipped out of the office.

Since it was lunch time, and I was out of the dungeon, that meant I was supposed to be in the cafeteria but I really wasn’t ready to be around other people so I took my time getting there, stashing my helmet in my locker on my way. Weed was at our usual table with a shocked look on his face as I walked up.

“I got a pardon,” I said, answering the question he hadn’t yet asked.

“So did you really do it? Did you pull a pregnant teacher and a litter of puppies from a burning car just before it exploded?”

“Not exactly,” I said. “You know better than to listen to hallway gossip.”

“Then how’d you get out of suspension?”

I really just wanted a cigarette, but didn’t want to chance getting caught, so I just sat there, grabbed a couple of his fries, and then told him what really happened, including the fact that Mrs. Reader was my latest assignment.

When I finished he just sat there for a minute taking it all in.

“So why’d you do it? Why’d you save her?”

“I don’t know,” I replied, “it just seemed like the right thing to do.”

“And now you have to off her?”

“I don’t know, I guess so.”

“That sucks.”


The casual way we’d just discussed killing a teacher was a little unsettling, but we finished out the last little bit of lunch in comfortable silence, then headed to class together. A few people stared or pointed my way but I ignored them the same way they’d always ignored us, partially out of spite, but mainly because I really didn’t care what they thought. The rest of the day went pretty much the same but this time no one was waiting by the bike or Weed’s car when we left. I was thankful for that.

Weed knew I had to stop by the hospital and even offered to join me, but I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to do and having him there would just make things even more awkward.

“I’ll just catch up with you after mom heads to work, alright?”

“No problem,” he said before taking off in the Weed wagon.

That left me no other excuse not to go to the hospital.

My Life As Death: Chapter 15

For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9
Chapters 10 and 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14

My saturday night wasn’t terrible, but since I was grounded, and mom wanted to feel like she was actually punishing me, she picked out the movies we watched. Desk set, starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, was one of her favorites. She followed that up with the Swiss Family Robinson. Even though it was from 1960, it had been one of my favorites as a kid so I’m pretty sure that’s why she chose it. It held up surprisingly well, and I actually enjoyed watching both of them, but I wouldn’t admit that to anyone else.

“I think I’m going to head to bed,” I said as soon as the second movie ended.

“Are you feeling alright?”

It was just after 11:oo so she had every right to be a little concerned. I hadn’t gone to bed before midnight on a saturday night since I was twelve.

“Yeah, I’m just tired. It’s been a long week.”

It wasn’t a lie; I was tired. Tired of not knowing what was going on with Shawna, tired of school, tired of my deal with Lucifer.

“Okay, well you sleep well; I’ll try to keep the noise down.”

“You know that’s never an issue,” I replied as I headed upstairs.

Even though I was tired, I wasn’t quite ready to sleep, so I just shut off the lights, cracked my window and lit up a cigarette while staring out into the darkness. I’m sure mom knew that I smoked, but she pretended not to know so I made it as easy as possible by not doing it in front of her. And normally I wouldn’t smoke in my room when she was home, but that night I needed one, and then another, and another. But the cigarettes didn’t help me, they just gave me something to do while all sorts of thoughts swirled in my head.

When the tobacco didn’t work I thought about lighting up my emergency joint, but then decided against it. Instead, I turned on one of my favorite movies, Point Break. I’d watched it at least two dozen times, and I would probably watch it two dozen more. Sure, I was grounded, though mom grounding me usually just meant I wasn’t allowed to go out and have fun. But I didn’t want to take a chance of pissing her off so I kept my door shut and the volume down. 

Something about that movie always draws me in and by the time Utah goes night surfing for the first time I’ve usually forgotten about anything else, but for some reason it wasn’t working that night. After watching the whole thing, I decided to switch gears and put in Shawshank Redemption. It was a great movie too but I figured it would be slow enough to help lull me to sleep. It worked, but with some less than pleasant consequences.

That night my dreams were all sorts of messed up. At one point the Sisters were chasing me through the showers and I woke up just before they caught me, and just before I started screaming.

The alarm clock let me know it was only three am but my heart was racing so I was not about to go back to sleep. I thought about going over to Weed’s to see if he was still awake, but I doubted it. And if I was being honest with myself, he wasn’t the person I really wanted to see.

Out of desperation I lit up the last joint I had hidden in an altoid can at the back of my desk drawer. It, along with another couple of cigarettes, helped ease me back to sleep, and this time my dreams weren’t quite as messed up.

By the time I woke up Sunday morning the sun was shining a little too brightly through my bedroom window so I forced myself to get up and head downstairs. 

“About time you got up,” Mom said.

She was stirring a large pot on the stove, and from the smell I was pretty sure it was chili. That really wasn’t one of my favorite foods, but it was cheap and easy for her. She could start a batch early in the day and it would be ready by dinner time without a lot of effort, so I never complained.

“I thought you were going to sleep all day.”

“It’s not like I have anything else to do.”

I regretted the words as soon as they left my mouth.

“Do you really want to get into this?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it, I just didn’t sleep well,”

“So you’ll just go to bed a little early tonight.”

“I can hope.”

“Well this might help,” she said, handing me a slip of paper.”

“What’s this?”

“A list of things you’ve said you’d help with around here. It should give you plenty to do while you’re grounded.”

“I said I was sorry.”

“And I accept your apology. Now would you like a bowl of cereal before you start on that list?”

She was serious, and I knew better than to complain, or worse yet, try to fight her on it. I had told her I’d help with each and everything on the list, but I’d just kept putting them off.

“Thanks, but I’ll just grab a Mountain Dew and get started,” I replied.

The grass was getting a little long, and the garage did need cleaned out, but that wasn’t exactly how I wanted to spend my Sunday, especially with the KZ sitting in the driveway begging me to go for a ride.

I started off by mowing the grass, but we didn’t have much of a yard so even with an old push mower it didn’t quite take an hour. Then it was time to start on the garage. Over the years the garage had become the place to store anything and everything we no longer used, but couldn’t get rid of; and we couldn’t seem to get rid of anything.

The garage was supposed to be a three car garage, but there were so many boxes stashed away that we could only ever fit one car in it. I didn’t know exactly what my mom’s plan was, but the idea of cleaning it out enough that Pamela might fit in it was exciting, so I jumped right into it, starting towards the back of the garage where there was sure to be plenty of stuff to throw away.

Forty minutes later, I finally made it to some boxes not labeled “precious memories” or “do not throw away”. The first couple were filled with all sorts of old paperwork; tax documents and receipts from the 70’s. I knew mom couldn’t justify keeping them, so I moved them to the driveway, starting my trash pile. The pile slowly continued to grow over the next hour and a half, until I reached a lockbox with the key still in the lock. I was sure mom wouldn’t want the lock box thrown out, but I had no idea why she had it stashed out in the garage instead of in the house.

“Mom?” I hollered, then glanced at my watch and realized she wouldn’t answer. It was three oclock on a Sunday afternoon, which meant she’d be taking a nap before her shift at the diner, followed by another one at the hospital.

I set the box off to the side, so I could continue clearing out other junk, hoping to at least make enough room for the KZ to have a new home, but every time I passed by that lockbox, I stopped and stared. After another half-hour of tormenting myself, I finally couldn’t take it anymore.

The lockbox couldn’t have weighed more than a couple pounds, but it felt very heavy as I carried it to a small workbench I’d managed to clear off towards the back of the garage. I told myself that if it was important she wouldn’t have left it out there, but I knew that wasn’t necessarily true. I hesitated once more, with my hand gripping the key, but only for a second.

The key turned easily, releasing the lid with the slightest click. Inside I found nothing but a pile of papers, some in envelopes, and some just stapled or paperclipped together. I skimmed through the stack pretty quickly, not finding anything of interest until I reached the final envelope at the bottom of the box. 

My mom never talked about my dad, and he’d never been in my life, at least not that I could remember, so I never cared to ask about him. Maybe I should have, or maybe she wouldn’t have told me the truth about him if I had asked. I really don’t know, but the restraining order in my hand told me everything I needed to know about him. And as I put it back into the lockbox, I was truly happy that I’d never known him.

As I continued cleaning out the garage, I couldn’t help but think about the restraining order  and about what it actually meant. Things had to have been really bad for mom to go through the trouble of getting a restraining order. So what did that mean about the type of person my dad was? What might have he done? What did she have to put up with? They were thoughts I didn’t enjoy having so I pushed them out of my mind, but the questions continued to bug me, even as we ate dinner that evening, but I didn’t want to bring it up. I don’t know if I was uncomfortable discussing it, or if I just really didn’t want to know the answers. It was probably a combination. But regardless, mom could tell something was bugging me, though she seemed to think it was just me grounding.

“You did a great job on the garage,” she said. “So, I think that was enough punishment.”

I looked up from my bowl of chili, a little surprised.

“And I’d be fine with it if you want to have Weed over to watch a movie, or something.”

“Uh, thanks. But I think he’s busy with his mom.”

“Okay, then maybe Shawna…”

“Uh, she probably has plans with her boyfriend.”

“Well it couldn’t hurt to ask.”

She was wrong about that. It could hurt quite a lot to ask, but I wasn’t going to argue with her, especially right after getting ungrounded early.

“Thanks, I’ll think about asking her.

“Good. Now I’ve got to get ready for work.”

After she left for work I thought about heading to Weed’s to wait for him to get back, but I didn’t really know what good that would do. Instead, I went upstairs and put on Revenge of the Nerds. It’s one of those movies you can watch over and over again whenever you need a laugh. And it worked, for a little while. As soon as it ended, I started thinking about my mom, again, imagining several scenarios that might have caused the restraining order. To take my mind off it again, I put in One Crazy Summer. I was definitely an outsider and had wanted to be an artist and a cartoonist as a kid, so I kind of related to John Cusak’s character on multiple levels. It was another movie I could watch too many times without getting tired of it, and I had. I’d watched it so many times, in fact, that the VCR tape was beginning to wear out. Eventually I’d have to get it on DVD, but that would require a DVD player, and who had an extra thousand dollars sitting around to pay for one of those?

When I woke up at midnight, I realized that the movie’s had finally worked. I also realized that Lucifer must have taken the night off because the tv was filled only with static, and not his face or voice in any form. I stayed awake long enough to shut off the tv then rolled over and got the night of sleep I needed.

It was such a good night of sleep, that I hopped out of bed a few minutes before the alarm went off, and was even done eating breakfast earlier than normal. 

“Are you going to make it to dinner tonight?” Mom asked as I cleaned up my breakfast dishes and gathering my things for school.

“Definitely,” I replied, glancing at the clock one last time before throwing my backpack over my shoulder and heading out the back door. I was leaving a few minutes early but I didn’t want to take any chances by stopping by Weed’s or even by taking the scenic route, so I headed straight towards the school. Two blocks away, though, all my plans changed.

My Life as Death: Chapter 14

This one should probably be broken into 2 chapters, but I decided to post as is for now. I hope you enjoy the extra length!

For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9
Chapters 10 and 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13

Half an hour later I found myself out by the old quarry and somehow knew where I was heading but I still didn’t know why. It made no sense, but I just went with it anyways, pulling into Finkenbine’s gravel drive a few minutes later.

“Didn’t expect to see you again so soon,” he said, “…on a weekday, …during school hours.”

“Yeah, me neither.”

“So how’d you end up here?”

“It’s a long story.”

There was that weird feeling between us again and I really didn’t know what to make of it.

“Well, I’ve got all day,” he continued, “and I’m guessing you do too, at least until school officially lets out.”

“You’re probably right.”

He stood there for a minute, not really looking at me but not not looking at me either. 

“Let’s go this way,” he said, and for some reason I followed, past the gate and through the tunnel of junk to the salvage yard. From there he took me to the left, to a part of the salvage yard I hadn’t seen before. He led me past the appliances, past the dismantled cars and old industrial equipment all the way to the very back of the yard. And there, standing in the corner was one of the last things I would have expected to see; a sailboat.

It wasn’t one of those small ones that a couple people could fit on if they were small enough, it was huge, at least from where I was standing. It had to have been 40 feet long, and the thing was up on boat stands which meant the deck was at least 15 feet off the ground. It didn’t look the slightest bit ready for sailing, but I could clearly see where a lot of work had already been done, starting its restoration. It would have been a massive project for Finkenbine to take on by himself, and I was still trying to figure out why we were back there as he continued up a rope ladder. With no other option I could think of, I followed him.

Up on the deck I could see almost the entire salvage yard and it was even larger than I’d thought. From up there, though, I felt larger too. It was an incredible view I couldn’t have imagined existed so I just kind of scanned the whole yard, trying to take it all in. There were more cars, and more junk, than I could have thought possible, all intricately organized into stacks and piles only Finkenbine understood.

As I was distracted by what I was seeing, Finkenbine disappeared below deck but quickly returned with a couple beers, handing me one. It was ice cold, so obviously the boat had electricity or a really good cooler. I had to wonder what other surprises it held. 

“I usually don’t bring anyone up here,” he said, settling himself down on a lemon and lime colored folding lawn chair that looked like it was older than me.

That had to be his way of apologizing for not having another chair, so I just made myself comfortable on a wooden crate.

“I grew up with boats,” he said, taking a drink of his beer as he looked over his salvage yard. It was  9:00 AM and I wasn’t accustomed to day-drinking but a beer did sound good, so I popped the top and took a swig too.

“But I never really understood them, or even really liked them,” he continued. “They’re slow and difficult to control. And they’re a lot of work. Bikes and cars can be a lot of work but at least they’re fast. I like to go fast.”

He took another drink but continued to just stare out across his kingdom.

“I started this project quite a few years ago as a favor for a friend, Buck. He’d won it in a poker game but knew nothing about boats. I offered to help him restore it in return for Mort.”

“Mort? Your hearse?”

“That’s the one. Buck liked to gamble, loved to gamble, really. He’d won Mort in a different poker game. It was in worse shape than the boat and Buck was thinking about just crushing it for scrap value but I couldn’t let that happen. So I ended up with two projects. Buck came over a few times to work on the boat, and in between visits I worked on Mort, got him up and running just in time too, but he was still in rough shape the first time I had to put him to use.”

Finkenbine continued to sit there for a moment, his face like stone, but I saw something in his eyes that told me not to push. Instead I just took another drink. Finkenbine did the same, finishing his beer before I finished mine. Without saying a word, he went back below deck, returning with two more beers and a newspaper clipping which he handed to me. It was the obituary for John “Buck” Buckman.

“Buck loved bikes too. We rode together for years, with a group of guys who’d do anything for you. Even though he liked bikes, Buck liked gambling more and got himself into trouble. And instead of asking his friends for help, he got himself in over his head.”

The obituary said Buck missed a turn on his motorcycle and went over a cliff, suffering extensive trauma which caused his death. The look on Finkenbine’s face told a different story.

“His was the first funeral I drove Mort for, and after that it just kind of became a tradition.”

I didn’t know how to respond to that, but I didn’t think he was really looking for a response.

“Years passed before I could bring myself to work on this thing again,” he said, tapping his foot on the deck. “And by then I started to understand. People change; we change. The people and things we value early in life aren’t necessarily what we find important later on.”

I understood the general message but there seemed to be more he just wasn’t flat out saying and I wasn’t getting it. I wanted to ask questions, but I didn’t know what to ask so we just sat there in silence until we both finished our second beer.

“So are you going to tell me how you ended up here today?”

“I’ve just got a lot going on, things I have to do that I’d rather not do. And people I’ve upset that I wished I hadn’t. It’s all kind of overwhelming. I just needed a break.”

“I get that. Everyone needs a break at times, as long as it doesn’t turn into an excuse to run away, either from people or responsibilities. At the end of the day, we sometimes have to do the very last thing we want to.”

He was right, and I knew it. I had to face what I’d done, to mom and to Shawna. And I had to live up to my end of the deal with Lucifer.

“Yeah, you’re right; and I guess it’s about time for me to get back to those responsibilities,” I said standing up from the crate.

“Are you sure you’re fine to get on your bike?” He asked.

“Yeah, I’m good,” I replied as I moved to the ladder. “Thanks though, you know, for what you said…and for the beer.”

“Thanks for the visit. Sometimes it’s nice to have someone to drink with, though let’s not make this a habit. And next time you find yourself needing a break from everything, feel free to bring a paint brush with you, this thing could use a nice coat of paint.”

“Deal,” I said, waving to him as I climbed back down the ladder.

I was able to find my way back through the junkyard without too much trouble and by the time I reached my bike I was already feeling much better. But unfortunately feeling better didn’t make what I had to do any easier, though the beers did help a little. Thinking of them, I pulled a pack of gum from my bookbag and popped a piece in my mouth before slipping on my helmet, firing up the bike, and heading back to school.

“Nice of you to re-join us”, vice-principal Miller said as I walked through the front door. I’m sure the sound of the bike let him know I’d returned, and that gave him plenty of opportunity to get to the door to greet me.

“Yeah, must have been something I ate for breakfast that didn’t agree with me. I feel much better now.”

“I’m sure you do,” he said, “but not for much longer. The handbook says I can only give you in-school suspension for what you did or else you’d be out of here right now, but I’m going to personally make sure the next three school days are the worst of your high school career”

“I appreciate the personal attention, but it’s really not necessary,” I said, grabbing the suspension slip from his hands. “I’m sure you have some innocent kids’ locker to search or some lunch lady to harass.”

The look on Mr. Miller’s face was priceless as I headed to the in-school suspension room, a barely renovated old steam room on the bottom floor of the school, affectionately referred to as “The Dungeon”. Various teachers took turns watching over the juvenile delinquents throughout the day so no one teacher was stuck with them the whole time. Mr. Whitesock, the freshman basketball coach, was there when I opened the door. 

“I thought you had left us for the day,” he said, reviewing the attendance sheet as I took my seat. 

“I’m feeling much better now.”

“I bet you are,” a kid two seats away said, reaching his hand to high five me. “We all would feel better doing that to a teacher.”

“That’s enough,” Mr. Whitesock said. “There’s to be no talking of any kind. Anyone who wants an extra day added to their punishment can try me on that.”

The leader of my fan club settled back into his seat with a smile on his face. I hadn’t really thought about what I’d done, and I sure as hell didn’t do it to score any points with other students like that, though I did kind of like the feeling of infamy. But if I had my choice, I would have preferred to have no attention from anyone. Unfortunately, as I was heading out to my bike after that first excessively long day of sitting in one seat, it became quite obvious that I wasn’t going to be able to disappear into the background as quickly as I’d hoped.

It started off with just a couple people glancing my way with a smile, or giving me a thumbs up, and that was bad enough, but then came the whistles from across the parking lot. There were even several people just hanging out near my bike and Weed’s chevette. The unimpressed look on Weed’s face said it all.

“Hey is it true…?” one of them started to ask.

“Don’t believe everything you hear,” I replied, putting on my helmet.

“Hey man, I’m telling you, I was there I saw you…”

I kick started the bike before he could finish. Whatever I did or didn’t do wasn’t so I could become some upper class hero to the likes of them. But even the sound of my engine drowning them out didn’t seem to stop them. They just grinned even more and started yelling even louder. Weed pulled out of his spot, having to honk his horn to get one of the dumbasses to move out of his way. I followed right behind.

As we pulled out of the parking lot a couple of the guys jumped into a pickup truck and started to tail us with one of them standing in the bed waving. Weed obviously saw, and headed down a couple side roads to see if they’d stick with us. They did, so he did the next logical thing, he took the first street out of town and gunned it.

It was a back country road that really didn’t lead to anywhere for at least ten miles so as soon as we passed the city limit sign I gunned it too. I was able to stick pretty close to Weed for the first quarter mile but the pickup never had a chance. Like a replay of the last time we raced, though, Weed continued to pull away even though I had the throttle pinned wide open. A quick glance behind me confirmed that we’d left the pickup far behind us but Weed just kept going. A mile further I started to feel a little sketchy at 120 mph so backed off the throttle and settled back down to a comfortable double digit speed and quickly lost sight of him. Another mile later I saw the sign for Milford road so I slowed even more to take it. Milford was the quickest way back to Weed’s house so I assumed that was the way he went. I was wrong.

Back at Weed’s place I pulled the KZ next to the garage even though his car was nowhere to be seen. Pamela was sitting in the garage just as we’d left her the night before so I went inside to give her the once over. The progress was a little slower than I would have liked but she was definitely looking better. I’d even let Weed finally convince me to replace the old radio with a new one he’d picked up at a swap meet at the beginning of summer but that would be one of the last things we replaced so it was still sitting in the box on the workbench at the back of the garage. 

Popping the driver’s side door and sliding behind the wheel I could almost picture how she was going to look and feel once we were finished but as soon as I did, the red glow from the in-dash radio interrupted my daydream.

“Decided to take the day off?” His voice asked before I had a chance to slide back out.

“It wasn’t exactly something I planned.”

“Like I said, it doesn’t make a difference to me. You choose when and how, I just thought you’d be in more of a hurry to finish.”

“I can’t wait to be done, to be rid of you, but It’s not like I had a good opportunity to meet up with Mrs. Reader.”

“Get rid of me? I’m hurt.; I’ve done nothing but try to help you. And maybe I can prove it to you.”

I really didn’t like the sound of that.

“That’s really not necessary.”

“I know you want to live up to your end of our deal, and you’re going to have a hard time doing that while you’re stuck in in-school suspension, so I’ll help you out.”

“You really don’t need to do that,” I said, trying to figure out why just the thought of him “helping” me made me so uneasy.

“It’s my pleasure,” he replied. 

I just continued to sit there as his voice and the red light faded away. 

“I really didn’t expect you to be here.”

I jumped at the sound of Weed’s voice. The Chevette was loud enough that I should have heard it, but I must have been so lost in my own thoughts, or fears, that I completely missed it.

“Where else would I be?”

“I don’t know, with your new fan club or something.”

“Look, I’m no happier about them, or about all of this shit, than you are.”

“Then why’d you do it? You know the teachers leave us alone because we leave them alone. Now all of that’s going to change.”

“I know. I just, you know, had enough. I had a bad night, didn’t sleep again and I wasn’t thinking…”

“Don’t tell me this is about Shawna again.”

“Look, it’s not just her, it’s everything.”

“Everything, including her?”

Yeah, I guess.”

“If you couldn’t sleep you should have come to me; I’ve got something to fix that. I just don’t have anything to fix your hangup on her.”

“I didn’t want to drag you into any of this more than I already have.”

“I’ll always be there for you man. Don’t shut me out for any reason.”

“It’s not that simple. I mean, I’m responsible for, you know, killing people and stuff. I can’t make that go away and I can’t make you have to deal with that stuff.”

“I told you, I’ve got your back, no matter what.”

The look on his face told me he was serious; that there was no way I was going to be able to get rid of him. That made me feel a little better and a little more apprehensive at the same time.

“So are you going to sit there pretending to drive or are we going to get a little work done on her?” Weed asked, grabbing a couple pairs of gloves from the shelf beside the boombox and tossing one to me.

“You really do know just what I need.”

“I sure do,” he said, cranking the music.

Metallica kicked off “50 minutes of music every hour” as we got to work. We pulled off the old headers and exhaust, replacing them with a more free-flowing system. Once again it was nasty work on rusty metal, and I loved every minute of it. The entire time we were underneath that car I was focussed on the task at hand, or on whatever goofy topic came to Weed’s mind; did Han shoot first? Was Indiana Jones really inconsequential to the outcome of Raiders? Which of us would make the better Keyser Soze? The topic really didn’t matter; what mattered was that I never once thought about Shawna, or Mrs. Reader, or any of the shit I’d done. For a little while I felt like me again and it felt good.

I got back home a little later than I wanted, and still needed a shower, thankfully this time my room remained dark when I was done. But even though Lucifer’s voice wasn’t coming from the television, I heard it in my head. Our whole conversation from that afternoon kept replaying in my mind. Thankfully Weed had sent home a little something to help with that. Cracking the window, I lit it up and with the first hit I started to feel better. I didn’t even need to finish the whole thing before I was ready to sleep, and for once, I did.

The next morning I woke feeling much better than I had for some time, until I got down stairs.

“What are you doing up?” I asked mom.

It was nine am on a Saturday morning. She should have gotten off work at seven, home by 7:15 and in bed by 7:30, 8:00 at the latest. Instead she was drinking a cup of coffee and folding laundry while waiting for me to get up.

“We need to talk,” she said, her face a combination of anger, exhaustion and disappointment. 

“So they called you about yesterday, huh?”

“Of course,” she replied, “you’re not 18 yet. If you were, Vice-principal Miller probably would have had you kicked out of there by now.”

“I think there has to be some sort of board meeting before they can completely get rid of me.”

“It really bothers me that you know that.”

“I hear things.”

“But I don’t want you getting any ideas. I just want you to graduate.”

“I will, you don’t have to worry about that.”

“So what do I have to worry about?”

“Nothing,” I said, and I meant it. “I just had a bad day and reacted badly. It won’t happen again.”

“The whole thing with Shawna?” She asked, looking up from her coffee.

“That didn’t help things.”

“Did you have a good reason for skipping out on dinner?”

“No, I just got to working on Pamela and forgot. But I’m sure she read more into it. Or not. Maybe she was just looking for a reason to get mad at me. I really don’t know.”

“I’m sure things will return to normal if you just give her a little time.”

“I don’t even know what normal is anymore. Everything seems to be changing.”

“That’s called life,” she said. “No matter how much we’d like to stop it, life keeps on moving and keeps on changing. And we’ve just got to learn to keep up with it and roll with the punches.”

“I know, and I’m trying. And really, I don’t think I’m doing too bad with it, I just made a stupid mistake.”

“I get that,” she said, “But if you going to do something stupid, at least be smart about it.”

And that was my mother in a nutshell. Part disciplinarian, part friend, and part philosopher. She could make you feel awful about what you’d done, forgive you and offer sage advice all in one sentence.

“I will,” I replied. “I promise.”

“Good”, she said, picking up another shirt to fold. “But you realize I still have to punish you, right?”

“Yeah, I guess I knew that was coming.”

“Since you’ve got in-school suspension for three days, I think your grounding should be the same.”

“I guess that’s fair, but can I at least go to Weed’s to work on my car?”

She hesitated, looking like she was deep in thought. And for a moment I thought Pamela was going to have to wait.

“Tomorrow only, straight there and straight back, just to work on it. Sunday you’ll be here.”

“Thanks, mom.”

“And be home before dinner.”

We spent the morning working on Pamela, only stopping at noon when we needed more parts. 

“The radiator’s cracked,” Weed said. “But I’m sure Finkenbine’s got one.”

“That’s great, and all, but I’m a little short on funds.”

I hated being so close to finishing her but too broke to get her roadworthy again. At least I had the KZ to get me around.

“I’m sure I can pick up a few hours stocking shelves at the hardware store, or maybe get hired in at the Burger Palace a couple nights…”

“Friends don’t let friends flip burgers.”

“It’ll only be for a little while…”

“Not on my watch.”

Weed made his way over to a metal shelving unit towards the rear of the garage and pulled a cardboard box from the top shelf.

“I’m sure this will be more than enough to cover the radiator, and probably anything else we might need from Finkenbine.”

I was a little confused. We’d been friends forever, and I’d spent countless hours in that garage, but I had no idea what was in the box or why it could possibly be so valuable.

I felt the anticipation grow as he slowly pulled his treasure from the box.

“That?” I asked, stifling a laugh. “That piece of junk will pay for a radiator?”

The gas tank was in worse condition than the KZ’s had been. 

“Junk? Do you have any idea what this is?”

“A motorcycle gas tank pulled from the wreckage of the titanic?”

“Close, but not quite,” Weed said. “Finkenbine’s been after this for a long time, but I wasn’t ready to part with it. I figured one day I might have the rest of the bike to go with it.”

“And exactly what bike would that be?”

“A ‘54 Aniversary Yellow Harley Hydra-Glide.”

“A ‘54 Harley would be cool, but I still don’t see how that would be worth a whole lot to him.”

“Well, it’s not just the tank,” he said, before reaching back into the box. “He needs this too.”

Weed tossed a small medallion to me but I still didn’t understand.

“The 1954 Harley’s came with a special anniversary medallion on the front fender, but very few of them have survived so originals are worth a lot. I just wish that I’d found one attached to an original fender.”

I could tell how much those couple of pieces meant to him.

“Look, man, I can’t let you trade that just to get me a radiator. I mean I want to get Pamela back on the road, but…”

“Nah, don’t even worry about it. That stuff has just been sitting up there collecting dust.”


“But nothing,” he replied. “You know you’d do the same for me”

“Really I appreciate it, but I’m supposed to be grounded so I really shouldn’t…”

“Did you forget who you’re talking to? I’m the guy who’s helped you sneak out every time you’ve been grounded, so shut up and get in the car so we can get the radiator.”

Ten minutes later we pulled into the junkyard’s parking lot without having said another word.

“I didn’t expect to see you two here today,” Finkenbine said as he emerged from the garage beside the trailer.

“We need a radiator for Pamela” Weed replied before I had a chance.

“That shouldn’t be a problem.”

Finkenbine disappeared through the salvage yard gate so quickly we didn’t even have a chance to follow so instead we waited in awkward silence. Thankfully he returned almost as quickly as he’d left.

The radiator in his hands looked practically brand new, but there was still no way it was worth as much as the Harley parts.

“She’s a good one,” Finkenbine said, handing it to me. “What if we say an even $50.”

“Actually,” Weed chimed in, “I was hoping we could work out a trade.”

Finkenbine’s eyes lit up and a small grin stretched across his face.

“What kind of goodies have you brought for me?”

“Let’s take the radiator to the Weedmobile and we can show you.”

Finkenbine’s steps were even faster than usual, or maybe it just seemed that way because I was left carrying the radiator. Weed opened the rear door and for a moment Finkenbine just stared.

“Um…Can I put this in there?” I asked.

“Yeah, of course,” Finkenbine said, sliding over the box holding the Harley tank to make a little room.

“You know I’ve wanted this for quite a while,” he said.

“Yep,” Weed replied.

“But it’s not just the tank I need.”

“The medallion’s in there too.”

Finkenbine’s grin turned to a full blown smile.

“As much as I want these,” he said, with a fading smile, “you know it’s not a fair trade. And I don’t mind getting the better end of a deal, but this isn’t even close.”

“It’ll be a more even deal when you throw in the new windshield and another headlight.”

Finkenbine’s grin returned.


They shook on it without even looking my way.

“Now that the deal’s done,” FInkenbine said, “Let me show you what these parts will be going on.”

Weed and I followed him to the garage next to his trailer. He had shelf after shelf filled with parts, but the main area was taken up by two bikes. The first was a black trike completely decked out in chrome.

“Four speaker stereo, AC and even heated handgrips and seat,” Finkenbine said with pride. “I can almost ride it year-round, though it does start to get a little squirrely once the snow starts accumulating.”

I wanted to check out the trike a little more but FInkenbine moved on to the second bike, still underneath a cover.

“This is it?” Weed asked, his smile bigger than I’d ever seen.

“In all its glory,” Finkenbine replied, pulling back the cover.

The yellow bike stood in stark contrast to the black trike but it still seemed to suit Finkenbine, who stood next to it like a proud papa. It was missing a gas tank, but otherwise it was in pristine condition.

“She’s beautiful,” Weed and I said in unison.

“1954, Anniversary edition. I traded my first car for her when I was 18, and I rode her ever since. Well, at least until the accident.”

“So this is the bike you were on when…”


“I’d never know it,” I replied.

“After the accident she and I both needed a lot of work, but with this leg, I haven’t been able to ride her so I’ve had plenty of time to fix her up. And I’ve been able to find all the parts I needed, except for these two.”

He set the gas tank on the frame, and even though it was in rough shape compared to the rest of the bike, it was nice seeing the whole thing together.

“I’m glad we could help each other out,” Weed said, “but we really should get back to Pamela so we can get her radiator installed while there’s still daylight.”

“Sure, sure,” FInkenbine replied, his eyes not leaving the bike.

 Weed and I looked at each other, then started towards the garage door.

“I’ll let you know when the windshield is in,” FInkenbine said with a wave, but he still didn’t take his eyes from the bike.

Weed smiled then looked at me and nodded towards the mail truck, so I just followed his lead.

He still didn’t say much on the way back to his place, but there was a different air about him as we pulled into the driveway.

“Now we’re really going to get somewhere with her,” Weed said, popping Pamela’s hood. And judging by the look on his face, he was as excited about it as I was.

I spent the afternoon being Weed’s little helper as he worked underneath my car. The original radiator, with rusted bolts and corroded hose clamps, fought us the whole way, but by the time dinner rolled around we’d managed to replace it with one that would actually hold coolant instead of leaking it all over his garage floor. 

“I’ve really got to go,” I said, wiping my hands on a shop rag. “I promised mom I’d be home for dinner.”

“You going to sneak back over later?”

“No, she’s not working so she’ll probably be up most of the night.

“Sucks to be you.”

“Sucks to be you too,” I replied. “It’s not like you’ve got anyone else to hang out with.”


“The truth hurts.”

“Yes it does.”

“Tomorrow then?” I asked. “Get a little more work done on her?”

“Tomorrow’s no good. I promised mom I’d go with her to the outlet malls and that usually takes all day.”

“Wow, your life really does suck doesn’t it.”

“Yeah, but at least I can still leave my house tonight so right now my life doesn’t suck quite as much as yours.”


“Yeah, the truth hurts.”

My Life As Death: Chapter 13

For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9
Chapters 10 and 11 Chapter 12

The work on Pamela seemed to be taking forever, but I could begin to see the progress we were making. And while we were fixing the damage from the accident, we were also fixing some of the other less pressing issues I’d put off; the passenger window crank that kept sticking, the weather seal on the trunk that leaked if it rained too hard; little things like that. Weed even suggested replacing the radio with one that actually worked but I hesitated. Only, I don’t know why. I had no problem replacing the broken parts with ones from the junkyard but Finkenbine didn’t have an original radio so I’d have to put in a modern one and I wasn’t quite ready to do that.

“That’s probably a good stopping point,” Weed said, tightening the bleeder valve on the last brake caliper. We’d completely replaced every brake line, with Weed doing most of the bending and flaring. I tried bending a couple pieces and wasted twice as much as we actually used so he took over from there. I just had to crawl underneath the car and install the new lines while trying to keep the rust from the old lines from falling into my eyes and mouth.

Glancing at the clock, I saw it was almost 9:30 pm, which gave me just enough time to make it home and into the shower before heading to bed. Then it dawned on me; I’d completely forgotten about dinner with Shawna and mom. How the Hell had I forgotten?

“I’ve got to go,” I yelled to Weed as I grabbed my helmet and ran to the KZ.

He just stared as I fired up the bike and literally burned rubber as I pulled from his driveway.

I made it home in no time, but even as I pulled up I knew I was way too late. The house was pitch black, which I should have expected. Mom had to work and Shawna would have been completely pissed at me, and rightfully so. I don’t know how I let it slip my mind so completely. I’m sure the thought of my next assignment had something to do with it but I couldn’t use that as an excuse with her.

Making my way into the house, I flipped on the kitchen light and saw a plate of meatloaf and mashed potatoes on the table, but no note. Part of me would have prefered if mom or Shawna had left a little note telling me how upset or disappointed they were with me. Not having one just seemed to make it worse. I thought about tossing the plate in the microwave but I didn’t have the appetite and instead headed towards my room. Crawling under the car for several hours had taken its toll on me and I was sure I’d be able to sleep like a baby once I climbed into bed. I contemplated waiting to shower until the morning. Then I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the hallway mirror on my way upstairs. Bits of rust and dirt were scattered throughout my hair, and there was enough grease on my face to lube an entire chassis, so shower it was. Only as I reached my room, I knew the shower would have to wait.

“I’m sorry,” I said to Shawna. She was sitting on my bed, not ten feet away but she didn’t even turn to face me. Instead, she just kept staring forward as she spoke.

“Your mom left you a plate on the table.”

“Yeah, I saw it. Was she pissed?”

“We had a nice time talking, catching up while we waited for you to show up. Eventually she had to head to work.”

“I know, I’m sorry. I don’t know how…”

“I wanted to come over, to know that things were still okay between us. I think I got my answer.”

“That’s not fair. I’m not the one who changed things between us.”

She finally looked at me, and that look said it all.

“Staying here to talk to you was a mistake,” she said, pushing past me.

“Wait,” I said, instinctively grabbing her arm as she pushed past me.

“Don’t touch me,” she yelled as she pulled her arm away. That’s when I saw the bruises.

“What are those?” 

“Nothing,” she said, moving to the staircase.

“Did Matt do that to you?”

She just kept going. And I just kept standing there like an idiot, unsure what to do. Unsure what she wanted me to do. I was angry at myself for forgetting dinner, at her for blaming me for the way things were between us, and at Matt, for whatever he did to her. I wanted to do something to convince her she was wrong about me and wrong about Matt but I was sure going after her would only make things worse. The sound of the front door closing brought me back around and I remembered how filthy and tired I really was.

Letting my exhaustion win out over my anger, I stripped off my grime covered clothes and hopped into the shower. The hot water did nothing to keep me awake either, so as soon as I towelled off I was ready to fall into bed but as I stepped from the bathroom and saw the television glowing I knew that wasn’t going to happen right away.

“Come on, not tonight,” I said before I even made my way around to the front of the set.

“You can do it whenever you like,” Lucifer’s voice boomed from the TV.

“I’m exhausted and I’d never make it to wherever I need to go.”

“It’s probably best that you wait until tomorrow anyway, seeing how you’ll both be at school all day.”

My exhaustion faded a little as my interest piqued.

“You want me to get rid of someone at school?”

“Again, you can do it wherever and however you like,” he said, and I could hear the grin on his face even if I couldn’t see it.

A hundred possibilities rushed through my mind but I couldn’t even venture a guess who it might be. The soccer coach who only seemed to like his star players and detested any other students? The assistant principal who seemed to enjoy finding any reason to punish anyone? Or maybe even the lunch ladies who looked like they’d rather be serving prisoners in the state pen? It could have been any of them.

“So who is it this time?” I asked, before immediately knowing I’d regret it. But I couldn’t not know, so I braced myself as I moved around the television. The face that appeared on the screen was probably the last one I would have expected.

“Mrs. Reader?” I asked. “There’s no way.”

“I told you I’d only assign you the killers, rapists and child molesters so you know how it goes, you touch her and you’ll see exactly what she’s guilty of.”

Lucifer’s voice coming from the Special Ed teacher’s face was one of the most disturbing things I could have imagined.

“ You send her on and you’re one step closer to being done. Or if you’d prefer we can just forget about the deal. I’ll even let you say goodbye to your mom…”

“Enough. You’ve made your point.”

“Good. So our deal stands.”

“Yeah, but I just…I just can’t believe she’s done something to deserve that. I almost don’t want to know what she’s done.”

“Well tomorrow you will and you’ll send her on just like the others.”

The screen went black and I was left in darkness, with only a sliver of moonlight peeking through the window to see by. I thought about turning on a lamp but I made my way to the bed without it, even though I knew I was no longer ready to sleep. For some reason staying in the darkness felt a little better as I laid there with a thousand thoughts running through my head. What could she have done to deserve to die? And if it was really that bad, how was I going to send her on? Could I make it easy on her? Did she deserve something worse? But even if she had done something that bad, could I really do that to her? It had been hard enough to take care of Sowers, even though he was trying to kill me.

I really didn’t know Mrs. Reader personally but everyone at the school, hell, everyone in town and possibly in the state, knew everything she’d done for the kids she was in charge of. She was almost like a local hero, and I was going to have to put an end to everything she had done. The thoughts of her and what I was going to have to do kept running through my head until thoughts of Shawna took over, causing another round of restlessness. Eventually my mind gave in to my body, letting me sleep a little though it was anything but peaceful.

When morning came around I was no better off than I’d been the day before. I thought about asking Weed for some more of his energy potion but decided the chance of death wasn’t worth it. Worst case, I might have to use a couple classes to catch up on my sleep.

Two cups of instant coffee gave me enough energy to leave the house but I took my time getting to school. I don’t know who I was avoiding more, Weed, Shawna or Mrs. Reader. All I knew was that I was in no hurry to stop riding and by the time I pulled into the last available parking spot the final bell had already sounded.

Mr. Baker, the American History teacher, was writing a bunch of useless facts on the whiteboard and had his back to class as I entered the room and slipped into my seat. Somehow luck was on my side, or so I thought, until he started talking to me without even turning around.

“Nice of you to join my class Mr. Holden,” he said. “Maybe next time you can try to do so before the bell rings.”

Several comments jumped to mind but I bit my tongue, pretty sure pissing him off wouldn’t make me feel any better. Instead I nodded silently.

“No excuse or at least a snide remark?” He said, finishing his writing and finally turning to face me.

“No sir,” I replied, though I could feel my face starting to turn red.

“I was hoping for something good; maybe “I was abducted by aliens” or at least “I had a flat tire”, but nothing?”

I don’t know why, maybe it was the lack of sleep, or everything with Shawna, or even the whole Grim Reaper thing, but I just wasn’t in the mood to put up with some teacher who thought his class was the only thing that mattered. Grabbing my bookbag, I stood up and threw it over my shoulder, then turned and headed to the door.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Mr Baker asked as I turned the handle.

“This,” I said, flipping him the bird as I walked out of his class.

I heard him start to yell something but the laughter of the entire class drowned out whatever he was saying as I kept walking. I made it back out to the parking lot and even managed to get my helmet on without seeing another person but just as I kicked the KZ to life I saw the assistant principal rush out the doors. He was too late though, only reaching the bottom of the concrete stairs as I took off. I didn’t know where I was going, or even why, I just knew that I wanted to go, so I did.

My Life As Death: Chapter 12

For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9
Chapters 10 and 11

I really don’t know why the tears came. Sowers was a bad man, so I really shouldn’t have felt bad for what I’d done to him. But then again, maybe the tears weren’t for him but for what he’d done; maybe they were for those boys. Those boys, any one of which could have been me. It didn’t really matter why the tears came though; there was nothing I could do to stop them. All I could do was wait for them to pass. And when the tears finally stopped I realized just how late it was and just how exhausted I was.

But sleep came only fitfully before the sun started to rise. I thought about skipping school, but then I would have to come up with a good excuse for mom and that wasn’t going to happen, so I forced myself out of bed and into the shower, though that barely helped. By the time I shut off the water I was even more tired than I’d been when I started it. I couldn’t see myself making it through second period without a little help, so against my better judgment I hopped on the KZ and went straight to Weed’s place.

“Give me some of your devil’s elixir,” I said, flinging open his curtains as he pulled his pillow over his face.

“Go away!” He mumbled through the pillow.

“I’m serious, I need your help.”

“Making it through a school day drunk takes a lot of practice,” he continued, not taking the pillow away from his face, “and you’re not ready for it.”

“That’s not what I meant,” I said, pulling the pillow from his face, “I need some energy, and lots of it.”

He slid the pillow from his head, a grin showing on his face.

“I knew this day would come.”

“Don’t make a big deal of it, I just didn’t sleep last night, or really the night before either.”

“You sure you’re up to this?”

“I said don’t make a big deal out of it.”

“First you have to tell me I’m a genius.”

“Not going to happen.”

“Then at least tell me I was right.”

“Fine, You were right.”

And now to fulfill the bet…”

2 years ago, after a weekend long party, Weed had come up with some concoction that combined high levels of caffeine with ginseng, vitamins, pre-workout supplements and asthma medication. He swore it not only cured his hangover but also gave him superhuman energy; I called him an idiot and swore he was just trying to kill himself. He ended up bouncing off the walls and not sleeping for two days, but he didn’t seem to suffer any lasting problems from the stuff so he bet me one day I’d beg him for his recipe. I hated that he was right, but knowing what was coming made it even worse.

“Where do you want it?” He asked, barely able to contain his excitement.

I rolled up my sleeve and braced myself but I still wasn’t prepared when the electrical charge hit me, practically dropping me on the spot.

“Damn,” I said, as I tried to shake it off. I don’t know where Weed had gotten the cattle prod but we’d been trading shots with it for several years, usually the result of losing a bet. Even with that much experience, though, it still hurt like crazy.

“Now let’s get you wired,” he said.

“After that jolt, I might not need anything else.”

“Trust me, you’re going to thank me later.”

He was right, again. After chugging the nasty concoction Weed mixed up for me I started to feel better and by the time I reached school I was wide awake, even a bit more energetic than normal. I didn’t sleep through a single class but by lunchtime I could feel my heart pounding in my chest.

“Yeah, that happened to me the first few times too,” Weed said, “but it’ll go away before long.”

‘Before long’ turned out to be another couple hours, just before the final bell rang. As I made my way to my bike I was finally beginning to feel like myself again, and for that I was thankful. I was even more thankful to see Shawna standing there beside the KZ.

“Hi,” she said.

She had her books clasped in one arm, her other arm was resting on the handlebars.


“You look like you’re doing good.”

She had no idea how far off she was.

“You too,” I replied, and I meant it. She looked very good but with a sadness in her eye. It was a sadness that had been there when I first met her but that had faded over the years. I wasn’t sure if something had happened with her and Matt; though the thought did bring a little smile to my face and I hated myself for it.

“I thought maybe we could get together tonight, just to hang out.”

I felt my smile grow a little bigger.

“That’d be good; Mom’s been asking about you.”

“I’ve been meaning to stop by but… you know…”

“Yeah. Why don’t you come over for dinner? She’d be happy to see you.”

“That sounds nice.”

“And then maybe we can throw in a Monty Python DVD?”

“Make it a John Hughes movie and it’s a deal.”


“Uh, I’ve got to go,” She said, the smile fading from her face. I glanced over my shoulder to see what she was looking at and saw the red Corvette pull into the parking lot. I didn’t know what to make of it so I just waved as she made her way towards Matt’s car.

“Please tell me you’re not going down that road again,” Weed said. I didn’t even see where he came from.

“We’re friends. Period.”

“With benefits?”

“Just friends. She’s coming over for dinner with Mom. Nothing more. Besides, she’s with Matt.”

“For as long as that lasts.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, my interest peaked.

“I’m not even going there. You’re looking for any straw to grasp.”

“I’m over her entirely. Completely.”

“So you’re ready to move on to someone else.”

“If the right girl comes along…maybe…wait. What’ve you done?”

“Trust me,” he said with a grin that terrified me.

“I know better than that.”

“Have I ever led you astray?”

“Only always. Like that time you convinced me to get on that sled tied behind your car.”

“That was a blast”

“Yeah, up until you floored it, got me up to highway speeds, then slammed on the brakes.”

“We never got above 50.”

“I still face planted onto your rear bumper.”

“And you lived.”

“Or like the time you told me that mound of wasabi was guacamole.”

“Now that was funny.”

“I couldn’t feel my tongue for a week!”

“That’s what made it so funny.”

“Or that time with the jumper cables and nipple clamps…”

“Okay, that one might have been a little too mean, but in my defense I didn’t know body hair could catch fire that quickly.”

“So whatever you have planned, I’ll pass.”

“No you won’t.”

“And why wouldn’t I?”

“Two words – boarding school girls.”

“You realize boarding school is two words, right?”

“But schoolgirl is one word.”


“Yeah, that’s how they spell it on all of the movie titles in the back of the video store.”

“Yeah, because pornos are known for their grammatical accuracy.”

“Don’t be putting down the most American of arts.”

Regardless, of where you take your spelling lessons I’m saying no to the whole thing, whatever it is you have planned.”

“Come on, this weekend will be their first one home after being stuck on a campus with only girls…”

“How do you even know any boarding school girls?”

“Boarding school, correctional facility, same thing.”

“No it’s not even close.”

“Hot girls locked up with no guys, only other hot girls, doing god knows what to each other…”

“Life is not a porno. It’s not only hot girls that get put in those places, and I really doubt they’re doing what you picture them doing.”

“Why do you have to kill the dream?”

“Have you even met these girls?”

“Kind of. I mean, we’ve exchanged letters and pictures.”

“Do I even want to know when or how you became a penpal to girls in a correctional institution?”

“It’s been a little while. Last summer, while you were busy fawning over Shawna, I joined through a church youth group for a couple weeks. I thought it would be a good way to meet some chicks.”

“The youth group or the pen pal program.”

“The youth group, at first, but when that didn’t work out I moved on to plan B.”

“You’re going to hell, you know that, right?”

“That’s where the hot naughty girls will be.”

“You really need help,” I said, slipping on my helmet.

“That’s not a no.”

“Because I already said no.”

I fired up the bike while shaking my head at Weed.

“Fine,” he said. “Your loss. You still coming over to work on Pamela?”

I hesitated to say yes. I wanted to work on her. I wanted to get her all fixed up and back out on the road, but I wasn’t sure I was ready to say yes if He came to me again with another assignment. And what would happen if I said no? But then I realized it didn’t matter where I was or what I was doing, the first assignment came while I was at home, asleep. Avoiding my car wouldn’t keep him from coming to me again. And I had made a deal, it was time to live up to it.

“Nate?” Weed asked. “You coming over?”

“Yeah,” I responded. “Let’s get her done.”