the story

Of course it had to be my birthday.

I was 25, sucking a marlboro alone in the drugstore breakroom. Can I borrow that lighter? he asked

I handed it over before I looked. But then I saw him. The grim reaper was bumming a smoke. How does a skull smile? I suddenly knew.


“Mother of God!” I said before I could help myself. I wanted to ask what he was doing there, but as soon as I formed the question I already knew the answer.

“It’s not yet, is it?”

“Don’t worry,” he said. “You’ve got years yet.”

My years in armored vehicles during deployment had given me familiarity with this drill. I knew this hooded skeleton.

“THen why are you here?”

He dragged full on the cancer stick. Oh, I guess for him it wouldn’t be. “It’s nice to have a place where I am known and where I know how it’s going to be”

So we were friends now. “But why now? ”

His draped shoulders lifted “It’s your birthday. YOu seemed like you could use the company”

Damn. My life had abandoned him so thoroughly that even death felt sorry for me. It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.