Rachel Heffington’s Chatterbox is back again! The subject this time? Death. I hope you enjoy the little thing I wrote up about it, even though it’s a bit eerie and sad.
The gloves were gray calfskin, as soft as a whisper. He only wore them to work, of course; as soon as his work ended and he entered the warm light of his home, he placed them in a mohogany box. He then placed the box in a drawer and shut it, keeping the gloves out of sight. Tonight, he was tired. He had seen so many clients, and they had worn him thin. He shrugged off his jacket and tossed it over his bed, with an extra glance at the drawer before he left the room. The kettle was whistling softly, the burner turned down to keep the water at a low boil.
“Tod? Is that you?”
He took two mugs from the cabinet and lowered two teabags, making sure to leave the tag draped over the edge. “It’s me, dad.”
“How was school?”
He turned around and leaned against the counter, folding his arms. A small smile was all he could manage as his father shuffled into the kitchen. The faraway look in his eyes always struck Tod with something cold. It was the look of a man trapped in the past, a man who had long ago given up trying to fight his way to the present. Tod had not been in school for six years.
“It was fine, dad.” He tipped the kettle over the mugs and watched as the teabags turned the water a pale brown, a darker brown, a reddish brown. Nearly the color of blood.
A withered hand patted his shoulder. He could barely bring himself to look into his father’s pale, watery eyes. They made him seem as if he was in a constant state of sorrow. “That’s good, that’s good. That’s… have you asked Crystal out yet?”
The pain stabbed Tod somewhere between his lungs. Crystal. “Yeah. I did.”
“Did she say yes?” The excitement was plain on the old man’s face.
Tod forced another smile. “She did. We, uh…” He cleared the emotion from his throat. “We went skating.”
“Ooohh; a good choice, son. Every girl loves a man who can skate.”
Their eyes locked for several seconds, and briefly, a lucid light gleamed in his father’s eyes. It was gone as quickly as it came, and though he had long ago come to accept his father’s senility, Tod could not stop the crushing disappointment he felt.
“Did you ask that nice girl on a date yet?”
The next night, Tod came home later than usual. He stretched his fingers inside his gloves and remembered his superior’s words to him, spoken less than an hour ago, as haunting as if they’d been said for a hundred years. ‘It’s your choice, Tod. If you don’t do it, one of our other agents will. We come across this sort of thing all the time. You have to decide what’s best for him.’
‘Tod. You’re young. You’re inexperienced. You believe life is the kindest thing you can give someone, and while it’s understandable, it’s a flawed point of view. Sometimes, the kindest thing we can do for the ones we love is to free them from life. You want your father to be free, don’t you?’
‘I know you do. Now, are you willing to do your job, or should I call one of the other agents?’
The decision had been the hardest he had ever made.
‘I’ll do it, sir.’
“Tod? Is that you?”
He closed his eyes and slowly, so slowly, shut the front door behind him. “It’s me, dad.” He walked with heavy steps into the living room. His father sat in a chair, surrounded by a halo of lamplight. An album of black and white photographs sat in his lap, the pages fluttering between shaking fingers. “Dad?”
His father looked up and a smile creased his face. “How was school?”
Tod crouched down in front of his father, rubbing his hands together. His palms should be sweating underneath the calfskin. He should be shaking. His heart should be pounding. Something. Something to let him know he was doing the right thing. The human thing.
But Tod had not been human in years. Not since he joined the Agency. He straightened and took his father’s face gently in his hands. This was his job. It was the job of every agent in the company of Death.
The gloves burned against his palms, his knuckles. Tonight, he would take them off a bit later than usual. They had touched his father’s skin. The passing would be calm and painless. It would give his father freedom.
“I love you, dad.”