Tabitha sat still as possible as Mrs. Calway began looking something up on the laptop. The chair was astoundingly uncomfortable, and she writhed at odd intervals in sad attempts at getting comfortable. Once, Tabitha turned around to find Mister Bob, only to find that he had fled. Well. Tabitha could hardly blame him.

"What did you do before you died?"

Tabitha jumped. "I, uh, worked at a bookstore."

Mrs. Calway typed something in. "Worked with documents a lot," she muttered. Tabitha didn't answer. It didn't seem to be enough of a question to bother.

"Well, it appears I have something right up your alley. It's nothing much, a few hours at the most. You're going to be working as Death."


The old woman raised one heavily-penciled eyebrow. "Yes. Is there a problem?"

"Problem?" Tabitha squeaked. "You mean DEATH, right? As in, with the scythe?"

Cackling like the witch she no doubt was, or wished she was, Mrs. Calway shook her head. "Ha! Nothing like that. Our current Death happens to be very particular about who touches the scythe. Or the horse, for that matter. No, you'll be doing paperwork."


"Would you kindly stop repeating the last word of every sentence I say? Yes, paperwork. You didn't think Death could just go around slicing away at random persons, did you? No! It's a very delicate process, and involves a several other very important people."


Mrs. Calway shrugged. "Well, at least you didn't say 'People?'. The Fates, the other Horsemen so on and so forth. Every few hours, Destiny sends down about a hundred files to sort through and deal with. You do the sorting; Death'll do the slicing."

"That's not possible!"

Mrs. Calway glared at her. "Why not?"

"I can't sort through a hundred files an hour!"

"You're not the only one. There'll be others helping and whatnot. Actually," her eyes became slightly glossy in sudden thought. "I have gotten so annoyed of that idiot Coal-face that I think I am going to send him down with you. Ha!" She leaned back, apparently pleased with the decision. "Maybe, he'll love it so much he'll never come back to the office. That's good. I like it."

From the way Mrs. Calway was going on about it, Tabitha was beginning to think she would never come back. "This is only for, like, a few hours, right?"

"Think of it as a trial job. You can go, Miss Louis. If you see Coal, tell him I have a message for him."

Tabitha mumbled a thank you and power walked out of the room.

In a daze, Tabitha retraced her steps downstairs to the floor where she had first entered the building.

When she came in, she saw Mister Bob leaning into a cubicle, talking excitedly to somebody. He waved at Tabitha as she entered. Just when was about to come over, she caught a snatch of leotard in her peripheral vision. Her heart sunk and it was with a red face and slouched shoulders that she changed her course of direction, painfully aware that Mister Bob was doubtless wondering what had gotten into her all of a sudden.

Tabitha stood near the wall and waited, for a few seconds, as Coal bounded down toward her. Before he could either leap around her or utter an I beg your pardon, Tabitha cleared her throat.

"Mrs. Calway wants to. Um. To see you."

From the way he stared back at her, you'd have though Tabitha had just offered him a million dollars or something. But the stunned silence didn't go on for long.

His mouth must have been connected to cables (or heroin or caffeine something of that nature) for a smile zipped across his features, he said with a light British accent: "Jolly good! Thank you, miss!" and vaulted off. The vaulting was, again, as if powered by some outside, artificial energy.

After the faint aroma of flowers and cheap soap had faded, Tabitha heard Mister Bob, clicking his tongue, behind her.

"Girl, what was that?"

"Mrs. Calway wanted to have a word with him," said Tabitha simply.

"And she actually told you to actually physically tell him in person?"

Tabitha turned around. "Those weren't her words exactly, but that had been the general idea, yes."

"Wow." Mister Bob nodded. "I would've, ah, helped you out there, but it was over too fast, y'know? To really do anything."


There was a tense pause.

"So what was it like?" said Mister Bob in a low voice.

Tabitha stared meditatively at nothing. "Abrupt," she said. "I got the impression he was plugged into an electrical outlet with a little on/off switch that could turned at will."

"Batteries," Mister Bob stated sternly. "Wireless is the future."

"That could very well be. But why?"

"We may never know."

"I mean, you've never talked to him?"

"Whatever your high school councilor told you, it really does matter who you hang out with."

"So, you've never even spoke to him, basically? Said hello, or anything?"

"No. Duh."

Tabitha blinked in surprise. "Do you know anybody that has? Gosh, no wonder he looked like I'd slapped him."

"Of course I don't know anybody that has," Mister Bob said, as if she had suggested that 2 + 2 = Emc². "I don't think anybody knows anybody that has, either. What did I just say about who you hang out with?"

"So- no?"


"That's stupid! How do you know he's insane if you've never even said hi?"

Mister Bob perched his hands on his hips. "Now hold on a just a minute. I never said he was crazy."

"You gave the impression," Tabitha accused. "And you're changing the subject."

"That's in your own mind. Your psychosomatic problems are not my problems; lets get that straight right now. And, wait, you've never said hi to him either!"

"But I just got here! And you're doing it again! Stop changing the direction of the conversation. At least I made eye contact," Tabitha shot back.

"You didn't, either!" said Mister Bob. "You were staring at the floor."

"At least I wasn't sitting around while a friend was in mortal peril!"

"That's a very good point but I never said he was crazy! Crazy is relative!"

"Stop changing the subject!"

"I say, why is everybody yelling?"

The average volume of the room went down, down, down, to hear the answer. Tabitha and Mister Bob stared and Coal flashed another on/off smile and waved nervously. It was Mister Bob who unfroze first.

"Hallo!" he bellowed. "Hallo-allo-allo!" And to Tabitha: "Did you see that! Ha!"

At this point, most everyone on the story was leaning closer to hear the conversation.

For some reason or another, Tabitha glanced at Coal. The expression on his face was far from mechanical. Some inner struggle was taking place: the want to flinch from being so close to a man looking for his marbles was at conflict with not being able to for the sake of civility.

"Yes," said Tabitha. "That's great."

Rumbling something triumphantly under his breath, Mister Bob stomped off across the room and out the door leading to the stairs. Silence ruled until someone coughed and the sounds of typing and such resumed with a self- conscious lurch.

"A friend of yours?"

Tabitha started. "Huh?"

"You know him?" Coal enunciated.

She stared and the office misted over as Tabitha tried to think it out from an outsider's perspective.

1) From the look on his face, Coal thought Mister Bob was as crazy as
Mister Bob thought Coal was crazy 2) Considering that it really did matter who you hung out with:
A) That made her crazy, too.

Ah. This explained the pained look on his face as he made an effort to communicate.

It reminded her of a saying she'd read on a bumper sticker, although the cynicism of the saying was lost as she couldn't remember exactly what the saying was. But, just like Mister Bob had mentioned:

1) Insanity was relative. That had been proven: It was relative 2) Unreasonably relative, even
A) Especially coming from a man at home with prancing around in a
periwinkle leotard.

She shook her head. "Relative."

"I would never have guessed Mister B was married. You are married, right?" said Coal with one eyebrow raised slyly. Tabitha caught him peeking at her hands, trying to spot a diamond.

"No!" She stuffed her hands in her pockets "I was thinking. We're not- no."

"Right ho, then!"

"Huh?" Tabitha started walking.

Now, there were a lot of things going for her if she walked now vs. if she walked later, after Coal thought it was okay to be trailing after her. If Tabitha did flee, there was a chance, however small, that some person- no one really, just some person- would get lost. With any luck, he was probably dancing down the opposite way down the hall as she thought about it.

"So, anyway we're going to be working together, eh?"

Well, everyone can't get everything in the afterlife.

"I wouldn't get worked up about it," said Tabitha, rounding a sharp corner. "It might not work out."

"Oh, no, not at all! Mrs. Calway just informed me that it was settled. I'm so excited. This'll be my first time out of the building in years, you see," he explained. "I say, old girl, where are you going?"

At least she had tried. "I don't know." Tabitha couldn't say now that she hadn't tried.

"Ah." Beaming, he took her by the arm and made a beeline for the stairs. "Well, if you're new, I'll show you around, what do you say?"

There. It was over. If the guy was being friendly, all hope of disconnecting connections had gone out the door by now.

"Sure." Going limp, Tabitha allowed herself to be led up the stairs to the next floor.