“That was the worst one yet,” Wilfred thought to himself. The old man straightened his back and sat up on the wooden park bench. The sun left a brilliant orange sky as it dipped behind the treetops. “Maybe I should get to the doctor.” The chest pains had been happening more frequently in the past month; and, Wilfred decided he put off the check-up long enough. He reached into the pocket of his coat to pull out another small bag of birdseed. He dropped the first one when the chest pain hit harder, and longer than ever before.
“Lovely day, isn’t it?” A woman’s voice drew Wilfred’s attention. He looked to up see a young woman, he guessed in her early 20s, in a black dress suit. Wilfred nodded.
“It sure is,” he replied. He did not know the woman, but she seemed to take an interested in him. She eyed the bench next to Wilfred.
“Mind if I sit?” she asked.
“Not at all,” Wilfred shook his head and squeezed himself closer to the edge to make sure she had room. He waited patiently for birds to show up nearby while ignoring the stranger. After a few moments, she broke the silence.
“This is nice,” she said. She looked around the park, and then at Wilfred. “It’s nice to slow down and appreciate the simple things, don’t you think?” She asked. Wilfred nodded and gave her a large smile.
“I definitely agree! That’s how I’ve lived my life,” Wilfred said, then he shrugged. “The second half anyway,” he chuckled.
“That first half sounds interesting,” she said. Wilfred gave her a dismissive wave.
“Nah nothing interesting, just a young man’s regrets. What about you, what’s your story? Do you strike up a conversation with every stranger?” Wilfred asked her. She sighed.
“My story is I can’t do my job because corporate doesn’t know how to plan ahead,” the woman shrugged. “Technically you’re not a stranger, you’re a client. But because my bosses are idiots all I can do is have a chat.” Wilfred blinked and stared at her.
“I’m sorry, what? How am I a client?” Wilfred looked the woman up and down to try and guess when he might have hired her, but nothing came to mind. She handed him a black business card with silver lettering on it. “Leona – Grim Reaper” he read the card aloud then handed it back to the woman.
“That’s a fancy card, you don’t want to lose it,” he said. Leona looked at him without taking the card back.
“I’ve got plenty,” she said. “they come with the job.” Wilfred nodded automatically.
“Uhuh. So if you’re a grim reaper why are you sitting here chatting with me instead of reaping things grimly?” His voice carried an obvious patronizing tone.
“I told you, I can’t do my job,” she handed him a small white slip of paper.
“You said that, but I don’t get it. Why exactly can’t you do your job?”Wilfred asked her, then looked at the paper. It was a six-digit number: 714,522. “What’s this?”
“I can’t do my job because hell is full. If Hell is full I can’t send any more souls there, so I have to wait until they finish building an expansion. That’s your number.”
“My number for what?”
“To get into Hell,” she smiled. “Duh.” Wilfred crumpled the paper and tossed it on the ground.
“I can do without Hell, I think,” he said. Immediately he felt a burning pain on his arm. He looked in time to see the numbers 714,522 burn themselves onto his skin.
“Sorry, Wilfred. Once Hell opens again you’re in line,” Leona shrugged. “That first half of your life was a doozy.”
“I don’t want to go to Hell! I’m not even dead yet!” he said with a raised voice. She nodded.
“You’re dead,” she said simply. “You had a heart attack a few minutes ago, but since Hell’s full there’s not much we can do with you right now.” Leona stood from the bench to leave.
“Wait, so then what do I do?”
“Keep feeding the birds. Enjoy the simple things while you can.”