Troll in the Playground
Re: Writer's Haven
Death in a Coffee Shop
Parts One & Two“I don’t think anybody gets it; most of the people I deal with want things that seem to make sense. You spend pages creating believable characters, show them interacting with their environment, get the reader to feel empathy for them, and then you abruptly kill them off in ways that usually have no meaningful connection to the ways the audience expects the character to develop. Readers want the chain smoker to die in a fire or from lung cancer, not from drowning.”
Death sighed loudly and put down his cup of cafe latte. “But that’s the way it is! People want realism and I show them the world exactly the way things happen. I should know; I spent the better part of every day dealing with the people I write about.”
On his off-hours he wrote prose, lots of it. And he painted. I’m the lucky guy stuck as his agent and critic.
“I’m not saying it’s not believable. The readers live in this world and they know how it goes. Perhaps it’s a bit too much reality and that's what people don't like. Reality doesn't always make for a good story.”
“Fine, fine. Well, what about my paintings, then? Do you think I could get them displayed somewhere, maybe make a few bucks?”
“Listen, I know you’ve told me that there’s 47 shades of the color black. The problem is that the human eye can only recognize a few of them. Black mostly looks like black to us. Maybe if you tried to get them sold as minimalist compositions.”
Death’s mandible dropped. “I am not a minimalist!”
“I know, I know! But everyone else just looks at me funny and asks if you are.” I had been showing Death’s paintings around for a couple months now, under the assumed name “Big D” and precious few of his paintings seemed to invoke any sort of response except questions about his accused state as a minimalist.
“Philistines, all of them,” Big D said, “I guess I should have expected as much. They’ll never appreciate the work of a true artist like myself.”
“Well, it’s been said that the great ones are only recognized after they’re dead.”
My companion shot me a glance from his eye sockets; a small spark gleamed within them. I looked down and took a drink of my iced mocha. We both knew that, being the Grim Reaper, Big D could never die.
“Basically what you’re telling me,” He said, “is that my work will never be appreciated.”
“I appreciate it.” It was true. Besides that, in any circumstance, Big D probably isn’t someone you want pissed at you.
“You’d think that I’d be able to get at least something published or purchased. I have met all the great authors and artists. Every last one of them.”
“I guess talent isn’t contagious. The majority of them had spent most of their lifetimes working before they become famous or struck it rich. I think a lot of them never lived to see their work succeed. You can’t expect success overnight, you know.”
Big D shot me another glance. I was being preachy: I do that sometimes.
He waved it off with a skeletal hand. “I suppose that it’s not your fault. My genius is simply misunderstood, ahead of its time. We could let it sit for a while and then show some of it off in a couple decades. Maybe say that I died or something to attract attention. Or fake my death.”
I shrugged. “Sounds like a plan. Say, though, have you thought about expanding into other media? Maybe use some other colors, or try your luck with sculpture.” Too late, I realized how horrible the idea was. Something told me that a dark red would be his color of choice. And figures twisted in the agony of death would be exactly the type of sculpture he would take a stab at. Big D couldn’t help but be morbid - He had been conditioned by an eternity of reaping souls. It would probably be a requirement in his formal job description, if he had one.
“No thanks,” Death said, much to my relief. “I’ll just stick to what I know for now, maybe take a break to recharge and come up with some new ideas. I don’t know.”
I shrugged helplessly.
After a while he downed the remainder of his latte and then stood. “Well, I suppose it’s time to go. Same time Thursday?”
“Sure thing,” I replied, wondering for the billionth time where the stuff he drank went. He wasn’t saying and I was afraid to ask.
With our next meeting scheduled, the reaper of souls hefted his scythe and headed for the door.
How I came to be Death’s friend, critic, and would-be agent is still confusing to me. There was no dramatic, life-changing event. No fireworks or trauma. He just showed up one day at one of the coffee shops I frequented and asked if the seat across from me was taken. I have to admit I was a bit startled by this, but decided it would probably be good policy to just let the robed skeleton with the scythe do whatever made it happy. If it could even be happy.
So he sat down across from me and ordered a cafe latte. Surprisingly, the waitress was apparently unaffected by the fact that Death was here on her shift. Maybe she thought he was a Goth or something.
“You’re Death, right?” I finally asked.
"Yes.” He replied.
I decided that he would eventually explain what he wanted, jab me with that scythe, or simply finish his drink and leave. Even mythological figures could enjoy a cup of cappuccino every once in a while, I figured.
Eventually, though, I cracked.
“So,” I started but couldn’t really think of anything to say. What kind of conversation does one have with the reaper? Reap anyone interesting lately? How many children died in Africa today? For some reason, questions about the departed seemed kind of off-limits, taboo, or even rude. Finally, I settled on what I figured would be a somewhat safe question: “What do you do with your free time?”
He looked up at me, his lip-less jaws seeming to grin. “I was wondering how long I’d have to sit here before you asked.”
That’s how I was introduced to mountains of prose and narrative poetry written by the Being most deserving of the pen name "Grim." The angel of death has a computer and Microsoft Word. That’s what he uses to write his stories, anymore. It’s a lot easier than writing everything longhand with a quill pen or a typewriter, especially when it came to revision. His keyboard skills could still use a bit of work, but he doesn’t have to worry about carpal tunnel syndrome. After all, he doesn’t even have a carpal tunnel. His prose was grammatically perfect, honest, insightful, and utterly gruesome. His scenes and images were vivid and picturesque. It was unsettling.
Later, he revealed his painting skills, letting me get adjusted to the idea that Death thinks of himself as an artist, a creator. Fortunately for my stomach, most of his paintings were nighttime landscapes or supposedly elaborate paintings of shadows. To me at first, and to everyone else who saw them, the paintings simply looked like black and dark gray canvases. Eventually, though, my eyes adjusted to the myriad shades of black and gray until I could clearly decipher the forms captured on his canvases. I considered seeing a therapist.
I tried to get some of his work sold and published, as he requested, but I continually met opposition. Magazine editors turned down his short stories because they felt the stories would upset readers. Book companies didn’t see a market for a small collection of death scenes, let alone multiple books of such stories. I couldn’t help but wonder how the hell Stephen King got started.
Painters and art critics, or course, just thought he was a minimalist. He utterly despised this.
Last edited by ghost_warlock : 10-03-2008 at 05:51 AM.