A life insurance salesman meets Death.
The whole country was going ape shit for the end of the world. Comets, aliens, wars, diseases, natural disasters, fascist state conspiracy freakouts. It's all people were talking about. Newspapers, television, the Internet – it was one gigantic shit storm that smelled worse than a port-o-john at a Megadeth concert. One thing seemed certain, everyone was jonesing for the final scene. Even the Government was making foreign policy decisions based on the prophecies of Nostradamus. Everyone was bucking for the end.
Except maybe Jack Rind.
As the world was ending (again), Jack's leg had gone completely numb. His left leg to be exact. One night, a couple weeks ago, Jack had gone to bed, and when he woke up the next morning his leg had as much feeling as a roll of toilet paper. Like any normal person, Jack hoped that the numbness would go away just as suddenly as it had appeared. But as the numbness persisted, he began to interpret his leg as a sign: this was the beginning of the end. He had thought about seeing a doctor, but he had soundly reasoned, What good is a doctor if you're dying? Of course, Jack didn't really believe he was dying. He rarely even thought seriously about death. Death was something that happened to other people. But it seemed like a good enough excuse to avoid the hassle of a doctor's visit.
It could be said that Jack Rind had bad luck. Not only did he have the problem with his left leg, but he also sold life insurance. He had been selling life insurance for 12 years, and once upon a time he had been moderately successful at it. But now it was near impossible. When the world is ending all the time, it is difficult to see the utility of life insurance. Most people had reasoned, just as soundly as Jack had reasoned about doctors, What good is insurance when everyone is going to be dead soon?
But Jack didn't work for just any insurance company, he worked for Armageddon Life (AL). ALs motto was, “We'll be with you, even after the Armageddon.” It was an interesting slogan, and as hopeful as a canoe in the middle of a lake with a gaping hole in the hull. AL boasted, you are covered even if the world hits the shitter and you are unfortunate enough to live through the annihilation. Of course there was fine print, but who reads the fine print?
Even though it was a tough market, Jack was able to sell a policy here and there. His strategy was simple. Every now and then, one of the myriad Doomsday groups would throw an end of the world pep rally. There would be guest speakers, brownies, punch, cheerleaders, sing-a-longs, and, of course, lots of talk about death and dying. Jack would pose as a new member and try to meet people. He would work the crowd, taking down names and phone numbers. His pitch was, “I'm a new member and I thought it would be cool to meet some other members and really get to know them before the end of the world.” Most people looked at Jack as if he were peddling his soiled undies, but every now and then there was a taker, like Mr. and Mrs. Hint.
Jack had met Mr. and Mrs. Hint at a rally that celebrated the arrival of time traveling aliens from another dimension. The aliens were going to blow the hell out of the earth when they arrived. But the aliens had made contact with the group leader, Dr. Jerry Rammer, and had instructed him to “Organize an army. Organize an army of soldiers that will serve as the vehicles for our mass violence and we will reward you and your army infinitely.” The verb “reward” and the adverb “infinitely” were interpreted by Dr. Rammer to mean that the group would be whisked away to the home of the aliens. No one seemed too concerned with the troubling phrase “vehicles for our mass violence.”
Mr. and Mrs. Hint were passing out homemade chocolate chip cookies at the end-of- the- world-lets-be-vehicles-of-aliens rally. They were old. Real old. They were well beyond their golden years. Jack knew that weren't insurable per se, but you never could tell. Maybe they had children. Grandchildren.
When Mrs. Hint saw Jack standing in line with the other Doomers wasting for cookies, she told him, “You remind me of my son. Except he is a bit shorter and has longer hair. He doesn't wear glasses. Could you take your glasses off?”
Mrs. Hint had spent a lifetime perfecting the art of false sympathy. She was sweet and kind looking, but behind the grandmother facade was a cold, calculating misanthrope. Mrs. Hint always pretended to like her son publicly, but in private, he was her Judas.
Jack took his glasses off and grinned. “Doesn't he look like Chad, Charley?” Charley was Mr. Hint. Charley Hint, was also handing out cookies, and his unhappiness was sincere. “Chad's an idiot.”
“Yes, but this man, doesn't he look like Chad?” Mrs. Hint insisted.
Mr. Hint squinted at Jack for a moment and said, “Chad's taller and he wears glasses.”
After that, Jack popped the question. Mrs. Hint pretended to be pleased with the idea, and said with hand clapping enthusiasm, “That sounds fantastic.”
Jack of course didn't call. He waited for the group's deadline to pass, and once the deadline passed and the aliens hadn't arrived, Jack made his move. He called up Mr. and Mrs. Hint to see if he could meet with them. Mrs. Hint said they would love to see him. This was the difficult part of Jack's sales strategy: he had to play the role of a Doomer turned life insurance salesman. It was never easy.
Monday Morning, 9:00 am sharp, Jack pulled up to the Hint's house. He parked, limped to the front door. He stood for a moment collected himself and repeated his mantra, “My money is in their pockets. My money is in their pockets.” He rang the doorbell.
Mrs. Hint opened the front door. “Hello,” she smiled.
“Hello Mrs. Hint...”
“We've been waiting for you all morning long. Charley is soooo excited that you wanted to stop by..”
Jack noticed that Mrs. Hint was wearing a large white t-shirt that read “Goat Foot Pilot.” The words were printed in plain black, block letters.
Jack stepped inside and saw that it was a typical Doomer house. It was devoid of all furniture, with the exception of a folding table and a couple of chairs. No self respecting Doomer would own anything as the end approached. Mr. Hint was seated in a chair at the table. He had a yellow legal pad of paper in front of him. He was asleep.
“Charley, Jack is here,” announced Mrs. Hint. Nothing.
“CHARLEY, JACK HAS STOPPED BY TO SEE US,” she yelled. Still nothing.
“Maybe I can come back at a a better time,” Jack said insincerely.
Mrs. Hint walked over to Charley. She picked up the legal pad and whacked Mr. Hint on the top of the head.
“What the hell...” Mr. Hint woke up swinging. He was also wearing a white t-shirt with big black letters. He shirt read, “Endless Crapper”.
“Charley, Jack is here to visit with us.”
Mr. Hint looked around the room, trying to gather his bearings. He scowled at Jack, “Who the hell are you?”
“We met at the rally a couple of weeks ago. You were passing out the cookies.”
“He's the one I thought looked like Chad,” explained Mrs. Hint.
“What the hell do you want?”
Jack swallowed. Wiped his brow and then began, “Well, I was waiting for the aliens to come. I was waiting to be a vehicle of doom. I really was. My whole heart was in it. And then when they didn't arrive, I got really down. I mean what happened to them? Maybe they're lost...or delayed...or maybe something terrible happened to them. Then I began to think about life. Maybe we won't die. Maybe we are all going to live. Maybe, just maybe...” Jack began to notice that Mr. And Mrs. Hint's faces were buried deep beneath a set of frowns. They can smell the sales pitch, thought Jack. He decided to take it slower. “Is everything ok?”
“What the hell are you talking about?” asked Mr. Hint.
“The aliens that didn't arrive...”
“These damned shirts were made by the aliens.”
“No. You son-of-a-bitch. Aliens from outer space.”
“Didn't you get your shirt?” Mrs. Hint had that concerned motherly look on her face, but she was really imagining plunging a knife into Jack's heart.
“Oh, of course. Of course I got it. I just didn't feel like wearing it,” Jack lied.
“You didn't feel like wearing it?” Mr. Hint was beyond words.
“What's your name?” asked Mrs. Hint.
“Jack,” said Jack. His mind began to send out warning signals “FIRE IN THE HOLE FIRE IN THE HOLE.” The scene was beginning to freak him out.
“No, your new name. The one on your shirt, silly.” Mrs. Hint now hated Jack more than her son Chad.
Jack looked at the shirts. Endless Crapper. Goat Foot Pilot.
“My new name? Mule...Snot...Sucker.” Jack was sweating profusely.
“Yeah, well you should be wearing yours. Because you never know when the world is gonna blow – and these shirts are our salvation,” explained Mr. Hint.
“Of course,” said Jack. He was completely confused.
“Dr. Rammer explained at the meeting..weren't you there? These shirts were given to us by the aliens so that the aliens can identify us. These shirts are our insurance.” Mr. Hint was pissed that Jack wasn't wearing his shirt.
What a load of crap, thought Jack. Then he added with a smile, “To be honest, I just don't like my new name that much. I mean Goat Foot Pilot is good name. But Mule Snot Sucker?”
“Well at least you're not Endless Crapper,” Mrs. Hint joked. Mr. Hint didn't find the joke very funny.
“It's just unfortunate that aliens don't know English that good,” Jack laughed. Neither Mrs. Hint nor Mr. Hint thought the comment funny. “Well, anyways...I don't think the world is gonna end today,” said Jack.
“What the hell do you know?” barked Mr. Hint.
“It doesn't look too good outside if you ask me,” said Mrs. Hint peering through the curtains.
Jack limped to the window. The sky was bull frog green. And there were large swirling purple clouds. Jack listened at the window. Everything was silent. There wasn't a single sound. Not a buzz. Birds, squirrels, deer, moles, flies, bees - all of nature had enough sense to hide.
“Oh, my God,” said Jack.
“You need to run home and get your shirt,” advised Mrs. Hint.
Jack limped quickly to the front door. But the wind was getting wild, and the screen door started slapping violently against the house. Jack thought better of leaving.
“Maybe I should wait a bit.”
“But your shirt? Don't you want to be saved?” asked Mrs. Hint.
Jack said nothing. He just looked out the window.
“Of course he doesn't want to be saved! He's a bum. Just like all the other dead beats in his generation,” answered Mr. Hint.
The wind was roaring, the sky was glowing green. There was a sudden flash and then darkness. The darkness didn't last long, but it was profound. Deep. Not a single spark of light could survive in that darkness. When the light returned everything seemed gray and faded. Standing among the Hints and Jack was Death.
Mrs. Hint howled. Jack jumped, and Mr. Hint blurted, “Are you one of the god damned aliens?”
“No, I'm Death,” said Death.
Mr. Hint was perplexed. Mrs. Hint was shaking with fear. Jack Rind couldn't believe his eyes. Jack had always imagined Death as the black robed skeleton with a sickle. But Death didn't look so fierce or ominous. Instead Death looked like a used car's salesman. He was wearing a short sleeve dress shirt and a tie. He was balding and his hair was combed over from one side of his head to his other. Death was even chewing gum.
“Come on, you can't be death,” said Jack.
“You look just like...” Jack didn't want to sound insulting, so he hesitated calling Death a used car's salesman. Jack thought that used cars salesman were on the lowest rung of the salesman food chain.
“I look like an insurance salesman?” Death smiled. “I do not peddle life insurance, Jack. I'm DEATH.” Death roared the word death.
“Yeah, whatever,” Jack mumbled to himself.
Mr. and Mrs. Hint weren't paying attention to Jack 's conversation with Death. They were busy whispering about the aliens and being saved.
“What are you two whispering about?” snapped Death.
The old couple stopped whispering and Mr. hint spoke to Death like Tarzan to Jane, “Me Endless Crapper. She Goat Foot Pilot.”
Death was not finding the situation amusing. He was grossly irritated by Jack's doubting and Mr. Hint's profound lack of intelligence.
“Enough bullshit. I have come for you three. As of this moment you are all dead.”
“But you can't take my husband or me...we're saved.”
“We have the t-shirts,” insisted Mr. Hint.
Death looked at the t-shirts.“Death gives preferential treatment to no one.”
“But if were dead, we'll miss the end of the world?” Mrs. Hint was very disappointed that she couldn't watch Chad or Jack die.
“Those are the breaks.”
“Well, I 'm not dead,” said Jack Rind. He limped quickly to the door. Flung it open and stepped out into the eerie green daylight. He fought against the wind and made his way to his car. He wrestled with driver side door. Death stood, watching Jack from the front door. He was flanked by Mr. and Mrs. Hint.
Jack managed to open the car door and shouted out defiantly, “Ha.”
“You're gonna let him get away?” complained Mrs. Hint.
“The car is dead as well,” Death sighed.
Jack turned the key, pumped he gas, turned the key a few more times. Soon, the engine was flooded and stank of gasoline.
Jack limped back to the house. He tucked in his shirt tails and said, “My car won't start. I need to call a tow truck.”
“The phone is dead.” said Death. “Your car is dead. Mr. Hint is dead. Mrs. Hint is dead. YOU ARE DEAD JACK.” Death unwrapped another stick of juicy fruit and popped it into his mouth. And that was that.
Mr. And Mrs. Hints' nosy neighbor, Mrs. Joy Rudnick, was watching the eerie weather conditions from her front door. She peeked through the curtains with one eye open and the other closed. She was afraid that things might be worse. Maybe the dead were parading about looking for a living humans to eat, or something equally as horrible. And what did she see? She saw with that one open eye, three skeletons dancing in the yard next door. She ducked down. Her heart racing, panting. She looked again. Two skeletons dancing and the third sort of limping around. Mrs. Joy Rudnick shrieked, “HENRY!!!!!” Her husband, Henry, was hiding in the basement, daydreaming about suicide. “What? WHAT? WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT?” he shrieked back. “Henry, skeletons are dancing in the Hints' front yard. This time the world really is ending, Henry.”