7th March

Death Takes a Break

Death went to the doctor, complaining of constant lethargy, stress and an overwhelming sense of doom.

The doctor listened carefully. ‘When was the last time you had a holiday?’ he asked.

‘I’ve never had a holiday,’ said Death.

‘Well, that’s the first thing,’ the doctor replied, ‘before we even consider medication. Take a week off, go somewhere quiet and relaxing, and don’t think about work.’

Death packed a bag and headed for a seaside resort. He’d been there before, though not for a holiday, and remembered rather liking the place. He booked into a discreet hotel and spent the first three days avoiding people, exploring the coves, bays and beaches of the coastline. The weather was glorious. He warmed his bones in the sun, filled his lungs with fresh air. This has been the problem, he thought: too much work and not enough light.

On the fourth day the sky was grey, threatening rain. He stayed in town, and as he wandered from shop to shop, café to café, his mood, too, began to darken. He had not noticed before, but the place was full of old people, tottering and querulous, their faces lined with pain and weariness. Not all of them, of course: some bubbled annoyingly with joie de vivre and loud optimism. But even these, when he observed them closely, were not doing so well. The women wore a lot of make-up, and the men, when they thought no one was watching, slipped off their happy masks.

In a little park overlooking the sea, he sat on a bench to contemplate. Why was nothing simple?

A woman on the next bench was speaking into her phone. Her face was wet with tears. ‘I hate seeing him like this,’ she was saying. ‘It’s awful for him, awful for everybody. He wants to go and he can’t. Day after day I think this will be it, and it isn’t. But he’s had enough. He’s really had enough.’

Death looked away, embarrassed. It was his fault. Here he was, sitting about idly, and for what purpose? It wasn’t even sunny. How dare he feel sorry for himself ?

He stood up and walked briskly to his hotel.

Reader: Tam Dean Burn
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Harmonium: Kit Downes
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