Death, I Guess
Laura didn’t go to the school dance that night, she told her parents she didn’t want to go because it wasn’t prom and just the Spring Fling, and that was enough of an excuse for them to believe her. Instead, she was in the basement playing a chess match against Death for the seventh night in a row for the soul of her Beagle, Grendel. Death was a self-professed “huge fan like monumentally big, definitely not the biggest but certainly up there” fan of Bobby Fischer, and he did his absolute best to play like Fischer on the board and act like him off it, but Laura didn’t know who Fischer was and so any and all references Death made went over her head so more time was spent explaining the references, or pastiches, he was making than actually playing the game. Like when Death showed up two hours late to a match and then spent two hours explaining why he did such a thing, especially considering their already limited timeframe, and how psychologically devastating this move would have been against Laura if this was in fact a real historic chess match, or when Death refused to have the match taped from certain angles, even though Laura didn’t own a video camera, which Death knew as he had been over several times and had a near complete, he felt, understanding of the Cameron household.
Death wasn’t really Death, but her next door neighbour, Jim, who had fashioned a rather convincing robe out of black bath towels, which he had to keep in Laura’s basement because his wife had been searching for them for the past seven days as black was the only colour that matched the tiling in the guest bathroom. Laura agreed to cover her eyes as Jim came down stairs each night and would not open them until he had donned his robe and because of this Laura didn’t know that Death came into the basement wearing a full face of powder, black eye-shadow, wing-tipped eyeliner, mascara, rouge, and some slight contouring as well as a deep red lipstick. He wrapped another one of his wife’s bath towels around his head, which he thought created a wonderful profile when he put on the hood of his Death cloak. Underneath his bathrobe he wore his wife’s baggier clothing and lacier underwear. Jim had spent years perfecting his Death voice and was glad to finally be able to publicly use it—the voice being an imitation of his wife’s, but not a mocking or nagging tone but rather a near semantic replication of her vocabulary and cadence. Laura agreed it was rather quite impressive.
Jim worked weekends at the local humane society and his least favourite part of the job was putting down the dogs that had been there too long, but Laura already knew that no matter the result of the match that Grendel was as good as done for. She had been living in the basement for two weeks now, and her face was bandaged to such an extent that it felt a few extra pounds heavier even though at least a few pounds of flesh and skull had been torn away. Grendel lay down tranqued out of his mind in the corner behind the loveseat where a bonafided cornucopia of drugs were causing serious brain damage, but it didn’t really matter in the end considering his fate. Laura couldn’t see the board through her bandages, so she had to take Death’s word when he explained the piece’s positions. Laura also couldn’t really move her jaw, as it was wired shut, but she was thankful that Death actually attempted to answer her question when she groaned out bits of language. Death really did have a lovely voice after all. Her parents thought Grendel had been put down last week.