Meet the Reaper - 66th Birthday Edition

Peter Costantini

I’ve got to admit I’m relieved: after a very tough year, the Grim Reaper still hasn’t knocked on my door.

I did run into him in the neighborhood the other day, though. He looked different. And I realized that under that big black hood, he was wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap and a gold-plated Trump - Pence button. Instead of the usual bony pallor, I thought I could see a little bit of a tan. And he had replaced the traditional scythe with a Kalashnikov.

“Damn, Reaper-man, looks like you got a makeover.”

“What up, Pete on the Street? (He likes to joke around with me. Should I worry about this?) Yeah, I thought the brand was getting a little stale, you know?”

“But why the Trump bling? I thought you were bipartisan.”

“Well, I used to be. But I just can’t ignore all the business opportunities this is opening up for me. You’re not going to believe this, but a CI gave me his cell number and he actually answered. I said I was the Grim Reaper, but I think he thought I was some kind of foreign head of state, because he starts pitching me a major hotel-casino deal.”

“So, did you close it?”

“Are you serious, homes? Do business with that deadbeat, so he can stiff me and my peeps? I may be an old skeleton, but I’m not that dumb.”

“Even so, when he gets into the nitty-gritty of what passes for policy beneath that combover, I realize that this dude is making my job a thousand times easier and growing my demographics for me. I mean, excuse me if this is not very politically correct, but poverty? Sickness? Reduced life-expectancy? These are my bread and butter. These are my corporate moat. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse just rode up and asked very nicely if they could get a piece of the action.”

“Get this, OK? Medicare is gonna be replaced by medical Groupons. There are also gonna be life coaches who tell you to just walk it off and give out free copies of ‘Who Stole My Cheese?’”

“And hey, you know how much old people love bingo. So, they’re turning Social Security into a giant televised bingo game with really far-out prizes. Like a lifetime supply of generic erectile dysfunction drugs or one-size-fits-all dentures. Ben Carson has come up with some beautiful designs for modular senior housing for codgers who can’t keep up with their rent increases. Lol, they’re large cardboard boxes. The Donald-Elect says he’s considering a pilot program of celebrity death panels: you pitch your problems to them and then they vote on whether or not it’s worth keeping you alive. Working title: ‘So You Think You Can Breathe?’”

“From now on a lot of those other welfare-type services are gonna be available only through reality TV shows. You need kidney dialysis? You mud-wrestle for it. PET scan for a sick kid? You have to race competitors across a lagoon filled with great white sharks. And instead of food stamps, we’re installing reconditioned Vegas slot machines in the super markets. Look! You just won an apple and three cherries. My man, Poppa’s got a brand-new business plan.”

“OK, but what’s with the AK? I know you’re an open-carry kind of guy, but Isn’t that a bit heavy-handed?”

“No worries, dawg. This is the dawning of the Age of the Second Amendment. Got lots of other options, too. Got me my M-60 heavy machine gun. I call it the Reaper’s Sweet Street Sweeper – say that 10 times very fast. And of course, there’s an assortment of IEDs. I decided to pass on the tactical nukes – I don’t need to increase my customer base that fast. But my favorite is my baby drone.”

He snapped his bony fingers, and a heavily armed black drone with flame decals on the sides appeared hovering about 20 feet over his head.

“This bad boy is named the Reaperator. He’s like my un-virtual reality game. Watch this …”

He turned his head to the right; the drone turned to the right. Head to the left; drone to the left. He pointed at a nearby lawn. The drone shot out some kind of laser weapon and left a burning “R” on it.

“Bada-bing, bada-boom. Man, isn’t this thing bomb?”

I groaned.

“Don’t you just hate it when ancient supernatural beings try to talk like the kids? OK, check this out …”

He made a fist and then pointed at another spot on the lawn. A small missile shot out of the drone and the garage next door burst into a fiery explosion.

“Ouch, that was a stupid little sev 3 bug in the targeting module. The devs said they fixed that one last week. Man, are those guys in deep shit now. That could have killed somebody.”

I looked at him sideways. He let out a deep, wheezy giggle. “It’s not supposed to be random, you know. I work from a list.”

Maybe the biggest breaking news is that the Grim Reaper is moving pedal-to-the-metal into the gig economy. “As a contract Reaper-On-Demand,” he told me, “you can harvest souls for as many or as few hours as you want, whatever fits your lifestyle. We’ve got a killer app that will send the client a tasteful text message every five minutes when their time is approaching - or it can snapchat custom nude images. And for the mint on the pillow, the final reminder is a personalized voice call. Very empathetic, got Morgan Freeman to do it. Then in the terminal phase, the app uses geolocation to rendezvous with the client. You’re like, ‘Can you see me? I’m the one in front of the Starbucks in the big black hood waving the scythe.’”

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