by Jim Benz

It's funny how things always happen in threes.  For instance, yesterday morning I picked up a Reader's Digest and began reading an article about Death.  It went into all the details of his tragic family life as a child, and all the many creative talents he'd had success with over the years, which in fact had made him quite famous.

While it was an inspiring story, I soon grew tired of reading and decided to turn on the television set.  Here again was Death, doing his stand-up comedy routine on a cable channel.  The crowd was going wild and he was pretty funny, too, but I wasn't much in the mood for his dark style of surreal comedy, so I changed channels for awhile, then turned off the TV.  With nothing better to do, I sat down at the kitchen table and dealt out a hand of Solitaire.

Seduced by the wind
abandoned to the moon
the trees weep
wild guitars
into blood drenched fountains
starlight dances down orange blossoms
strange equations wearing only
the silver filigree and soft reflections
of moonbeams on butterfly wings
as a million castanets shower you
with the numbers of the night.
by dan smith
No sooner had I begun to play when my door bell rang.  It was still pretty early in the morning so I wondered who it could be.  I was surprised to find Death at my doorstep, clutching a small, black case.  He looked both forlorn and hopeful at the same time.  "Won't you come in," I said, to which Death replied, "Thank you, I really would like a place to rest for a bit, and maybe someone to talk to."  So he came in.

I took his coat and offered him a chair at the table where I was playing cards.  "Would you like some coffee, or perhaps tea?" I asked, hoping he'd choose tea, because I was almost out of coffee.  "Tea would be fine, thank you," said Death as he set his black case down on the floor and took a seat at the table, " You're really very kind."

While I rummaged around in the kitchen, putting on the kettle and looking through my assortment of teas, Death began to ramble on about the different things he had on his heart.  Why were his record sales falling?  Should he try to write another novel?  Would he ever find his soul-mate?

I didn't pay much attention to any of this because it seemed like he just needed to get these things off his chest, and wasn't looking for any specific answer or response.  When I asked him what kind of tea he'd prefer, he was very specific about Earl Grey, so I set a full pot to steep, poured a cup of coffee for myself and sat down at the table across from him.

He had been studying my cards, and now pointed out to me that my red six could go on the black seven, opening up a space for teh black king.  He heart wasn't in it, though, and his voice trailed off into a long, mournful sigh.  I didn't know what to say, so we just sat quietly until teh tea was ready.  When I poured him a cup, he didn't seem to be all that interested any more, so I asked him what he was doing in Minneapolis.

"I don't really know," he replied, "it's almost as if I just woke up, and here I was at your door step. Strange, isn't it?"  "Yes," I said, "that is strange."

I began to feel a little bit uneasy about my guest as it became increasingly clear that Death, while polite, was really quite self-absorbed.  He seemed almost oblivious to my presence across the table, preoccupied as he was with the black case sitting near his feet on the kitchen floor.  He sat in his chair, head lowered, and just stared at it.

The case was made of plastic, not very large, and had a small handle on it that was a perfect fit for his delicate, almost feminine, hands.  Just to break the silence, I asked him what was in it.  "I don't know," he said, "I've been sitting here wondering about that myself."  He then reached down, picked up the case and laid it on the table.  He was very careful not to spill his tea.

"Perhaps we should have a look inside," he said, unclasping the latches and lifting the lid.  A slight smile began to twitch at the corners of his mouth as he glanced in at the contents, but his eyes still looked sad.  "What is it?" I asked.

Instead of replying, he reached into the case and began to pull out three sections of an old clarinet. Gently pushing the corked ends together, his face looked very solemn.  I could tell this clarinet held a special significance for him.  "I haven't seen this since I was a child," he whispered.  "Why do you suppose I have it with me today?"  All I could do was shrug my shoulders and warm up his tea.

Though Death was famous for his ethereal singing voice, he wasn't known as a musician, so I asked, "Do you play?"  A small smile spread across his face and his eyes lit up, just a tiny bit.  "Do I," he said, bringing the mouthpiece to his lips and wetting the reed, "but it's been such a long time. Do you like jazz?"