“I practically died.”
“Don’t be so dramatic. The explosion was on the far side. Besides, your time won’t be up for ages yet.”
Ernie decided to spend the day playing hooky from work, because he was a firm believer in cultivated leisure. He believed it to be his one true calling, the mission of his lifetime, to spend the absolute minimum number of minutes working as necessary to generate the maximum time for seeking pleasure. Ernie viewed it as a sort of lifehacking min/max problem, to skip work exactly as often as possible without scoring the Big Exit Boot from his tight-assed boss.
He’d set out this morning for his local carnival in his very best Slob Friday Casual with Unwashed Holy T-shirt.
It wasn’t much of a carnival, just the “standard two day layover in a strip mall parking lot with six rides” affair. It was dilapidated and even the scruffy carnies looked bored. Still, Ernie grooved on the classic popcorn and cotton candy smells. He didn’t enjoy the tilt-a-whirl much, with that “Foghat should stay buried in the Seventies” music blaring from the over-amped and crackling speakers. Still, even that’s better than working, right?
Calliope music grabbed him by his earlobe and dragged him into the queue for the carousel. Then the ancient and poorly maintained steam tank blew up exactly four minutes later.
Ernie awoke gazing up into a pair of fascinating pale turquoise-gray eyes.
“Are you all right?”
The haunting eyes were surrounded a halo of auburn hair, mussed by the breeze and backlit by the noon sun. Her smile managed to express both “genuine” and “concerned.” She wore a tank top with bare shoulders, smallish girls, and mid-thigh white shorts. Nice legs, too. (If you’re like Ernie and keeping score, that all adds up to, “Humma Humma.”)
Ernie sat up. “That was an explosion? I practically died.”
“Don’t be so dramatic.”
The crowd was still milling around and screams rose from the other side of the carousel.
“It sounds like someone was hurt,” he said.
“The ride operator, I’m here to pick him up. Good thing the carousel caught most of the shrapnel, or this would be a multiple job. Lucky for you, too.”
“What do you mean, pick up?” Ernie climbed to his feet and tried to get a better view.
“Oh. His soul, you know. His essence or spirit or whatever you want to call it.”
“A big old steam valve took off most of his head. You can’t cheat my boss.”
“What’s it got to do with your boss?”
“Death. You know, the Grim Reaper. I work for him, run some errands sometimes, make the odd pickup.”
“You work for a myth?”
“Please, it’s ‘Anthropomorphic Personification.’ He’s not a myth, or I wouldn’t be here.”
“I died in 1927, Ernie.”
“Wait a minute, didn’t you just say…”
“Right, you can’t cheat Death. But when I do a good job, He does let me have encores.”
497 words. Inspired by this week’s Finish That Thought (3-12) prompt.