July 2021 Storytime Blog Hop

Once again it’s time for a fun adventure. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop.  Leave us comments.  We love hearing from you!

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Crossing the Line

I read Charlie’s file and my stomach hurt. No, my head hurt. No, it was definitely my stomach.

Charlie was the reason I almost quit Grim Reaper Training School.

Well, not Charlie personally. I had never heard of him before I picked up the file from administration twenty minutes ago. But his kind. I could learn to deal with a lot of what death had to offer, but I didn’t know how I would ever successfully handle watching the Charlies of this world die.

The training academy had counselors for this sort of thing, but I had wanted to graduate top in my class and I didn’t think it looked good for the valedictorian to have emotional issues directly related to his chosen profession.

So I gutted it out; told myself I would learn and adapt. It’s funny how easily we can convince ourselves of lies when we desperately want them to be true. In so many ways Reapers were no different than the humans we served.

I went straight to Charlie and confirmed what I had no reason to doubt. Charlie was two years old, healthy, and cute as a puppy.

Now, I had two days to dread his imminent death. It’s just as well that Reapers don’t sleep, because I couldn’t have gotten any if I had wanted.

I sat at one of my favorite spots, near the flowing river, tossing rocks in absentmindedly.

For a day and a half I tried to figure out a way to avoid watching Charlie die. The worst part was it would be an accident. No one would see it coming it.

Nothing reasonable came to mind. I could trade with someone—that was allowed, but it had to be for a good reason. I could say that my parents needed me, but administration verifies. I couldn’t ask my parents to lie for me.

I had exhausted all of the ways I could feel sorry for myself when crunching leaves behind startled me.

Sheila.

“What are you doing here?”

“I haven’t heard from you and I got worried. Are you hiding?”

I wanted to be mad, but my heart had skipped a beat when I saw her. I guess it felt good to not be alone.

“What’s wrong?

I tossed another rock into the river. There was probably no reason to keep it from her. Sheila had a way of knowing things—like how I would be here.

“My next delivery. It’s a two-year-old.”

She sat, like she suddenly couldn’t stand. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m not ready for this.”

She placed her hand on my arm. “Do you want me to ask one of my siblings to trade with you? George needs the extra work because his fiancé wants a big wedding. And Margaret loves to watch people freak out when someone dies. She would love to watch Charlie’s mom discover his dead body. Margaret’s always been odd.”

The thought of someone knowing I wanted out frightened me more than the assignment. “No.”

“I would trade with you but I haven’t been trained yet,” she offered. “But then again, no one has to know!”

“No, I couldn’t ask you to do that.”

“You’re not asking; I’m offering.”

I looked at her for the first time since she had sat down. You know, if I focused on her eyes and squinted a little, she wasn’t that bad looking. I placed my hand on hers, which remained on my arm. “I appreciate the offer, I really do, but those goons from collections, last time they showed up right after Darren died. It would be too risky.”

We sat that way, in silence, for what could have been hours. Time was running out and there was no way to avoid it. If I wanted to continue as a Reaper, then I had to do my job. I had to collect Charlie’s soul.

I stood with as much certainty as I could muster. “It’s time.”

Sheila looked up and I saw compassion deep within her eyes. “Would you like me to go with you?”

Having Sheila with me might look strange to the collectors when they arrived for Charlie. I shook my head. “I need to do this on my own.”

She gave me a quick peck on the cheek and I stood there, all thoughts of Charlie gone.

I arrived a few minutes early and tried to picture Charlie’s death in my mind in order to prepare me to not look away. I had found out the hard way that not looking when someone died meant their soul could easily escape.

I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even pretend to watch him die, how would I ever watch the real thing?

Charlie played in the sand box, digging a hole while filling another. He was happy, focused, and oblivious to the dangers lurking near. His mom lounged on the deck, a close eye on Charlie.

Then like a vision, I saw what would happen. A gray, stuffed wolf sat on the edge of the swimming pool. Charlie would see the wolf, toddle from his sand box, lose his balance trying to pick it up, and drown.

Immediately the sequence began. A beeper sounded from inside the house. Charlie’s mom took one last look at him before hurrying inside.

Charlie stood. “Kitty?”

It’s a wolf, but I guess that doesn’t matter. He won’t live long enough to learn the difference.

I’m not sure why or how, but I found myself racing to the stuffed animal. I picked it up.

“Kitty?” Charlie cried.

Before I had time to process what I was doing, I tossed the stuffed animal away from the pool. Charlie chased it down and returned to his sand box. A few second later his mom exited the house, looked at Charlie, then at the stuffed wolf and slapped a hand over her mouth. She glanced at the pool and tears welled up in her eyes. She ran, picked up her son, and hugged him tight.

I smiled.

And then I didn’t.

What had I done? I had just interfered. They were very clear that was not allowed. Very clear!

Maybe I could tell them I lost the soul. Fill out the paperwork accordingly and they would spend years searching the globe for Charlie’s soul, hopefully decades, before someone on the oversight board realized what had happened. By then I would be a big star among the Reapers and we’d all get a good laugh out of the story. Right?

“G.R.!”

Uh-oh.

Check out the other stories in the blog hop and leave us comments.
True Face by Nic Steven
A Touch of Summer Fire by Jemma Weir
Abigail by Barbara Lund
Storytime Blog Hop Juneta’s Website
Rainbow Girl by Katharina Gerlach
A Brood of Harpies by Sabrina Rosen

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6 Responses to July 2021 Storytime Blog Hop

  1. Pingback: July Blog Hop – Nic Steven Writer

  2. I like this even though the end is missing.
    I mean, HE would know, and HE would probably approve, right? So we’re missing the confrontation with the admins and an interference from HIM at the very end. A Death with compassion is rare.

    • billbushauthor says:

      This installment of Grim Reaper In Training didn’t work as well as a stand-alone. It should all make sense at the next blog hop!

  3. Pingback: Themed Month July: Bloghop - Katharina Gerlach's English Site

  4. Pingback: Storytime Blog Hop July 28th - Juneta Key

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