audio Audio By
Ben Whisman

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Off Day

Copyright © By Ben Whisman. All Rights Reserved.

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No one really notices. You’d think they would. Shouldn’t they be glad? I don’t know, I’m not paid to think about such things, but it’s part of the job, all the same. Someone does think about it. In fact, a lot do.

But once, every hundred years, I get a day off. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Someone else takes over. So when something happens, someone’s there to make sure it goes the way it should. But…well, you know, different styles, and some are a little slack or don’t know quite how to handle it. Or some try to do better; make it all right, somehow. I don’t think they quite realize how much is involved, until they try to do the job themselves.

You see, it isn’t always a bad thing, and some people even welcome me. Some look forward to me. Although some of those, I really wish they weren’t so eager to see me. They think they need to; they think it’ll solve things. They don’t realize how much they still have: choices, fun, love, things that could help solve the very things that make them want to see me, instead of what they might do to change. So often, when I see them, it’s too late, and so often, some loved one would have been so much better…or even a simple choice to do something different…usually, the very thing they think they can’t do.

It can be nice, though, to welcome someone who wanted to see me. After a long time at work, they deserve the chance to rest and enjoy themselves. I like that part of the job. Some of them work so hard, and shouldn’t have to. At times, it’s a rush job, and I can’t get there as quick as I’d like. I hate it when they need me, and I can’t help fast enough. When someone has to go early, I hate that too. It can be better than what would’ve been, but I have trouble with it, even so. The Boss says I’ll understand, some day. I’ve been on the job for hundreds of years, and I still mostly don’t get it.

Of course, then there are the ones who are worse people than anything that’s ever said about me and my job. Those, I don’t understand how my Boss can stand them. I don’t like those jobs. Bad business, and bad for business, and not good for anybody. Some people think I might enjoy that part of the job. I don’t. The nasty ones, I seldom see any good there. About the only good is that when they’re gone, things get better.

What? You think I’m joking about the “hundreds of years” part? Well, I could…no, you don’t want to see proof. What’s my job? Haha, you wouldn’t believe me.

Oh no! Oh, not now! Not here! Oh, Boss, please, I know it’s my day off, but I can help! Really, it’s no bother! Oh, Boss, oh, not that, please, can’t I help? Boss, some days, I really don’t understand you. Oh, no….

Shhh, it’s OK now, you don’t have to work any more. You’ll be fine. You get to travel, see people you’ve missed, do things, great things…no, not just fun, I mean great things, like you’ve wanted to do before…before you got in this line of work.

Yes, you thought it was your day off again. No, no, you don’t understand. You’re not being fired or laid off. The Boss wants you to help out in another department. I’ll pay the tab here. No, no one has to go. You get to go, if you want. Would you like to be the Angel of Many Chances? You’ve never heard of it? Reorganization. You know, it used to be called the Angel of Mercy. Why? Well, lately, it seems there’s too much for one angel, so you get the new, modern title, and she gets the old, traditional title. What? Well, I don’t know. Lately, we might need more than one angel for your old job too. Hmm? The Boss is…well, you know how he gets when people get too bad to each other. Haha, yeah, they never do realize that job’s a myth. I mean, sure, there’s bad in the world, but they never seem to realize they can change it, undo it.

Hey, good luck in your new job. Yeah, you start right now. That guy over there? See if you can get him to do something else before he takes the rest of that, or I’ll be around, if needed. I know, it’s unusual, but I haven’t been doing much lately. Someone else is taking over as the Angel of Forgiveness. No, I’m not sure if it has a higher meaning. I think that’s why the Boss is so agitated. The Angel of Death has finally learned enough to be the Angel of Many Chances, but the old Angel of Forgiveness is being transferred to the Angel of Death. What? Oh, maybe you’re right, it might be good to have an Angel of Death who’s into Forgiveness. The new Angel of Forgiveness is coming over from the Angel of Life, Growth, and Birth Department, so I suppose it all evens out somehow.

Go see to that guy. I hope he makes it. — Hey, and you look much better now.

I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I mean, the Boss thought I’d made progress? Enough to promote me to the Angel of Many Chances? I wasn’t sure I knew what to do. I knew I was supposed to start with that guy. Here I was supposed to have a day off, too. Just think how upset you’d be if you only got a day off every hundred years, and the Boss says to start your new job right away. …And yet, that guy looked like he needed help.

I wasn’t sure how I looked. That’s the trouble with being in my line of work; well, of being who I am, what I am. We can change it, how you see us, but sometimes life changes us. Yeah, I know, it changes you too. But for us, the change is more literal. How we feel tends to show.

Right as I was walking over, my HierScroll went off. Yes, even we have the latest gadgets. “Hello? Mort here, I mean, Mercy. Um, and that name won’t fly down here. No one’s gonna believe a guy named Mercy. And no, I don’t want the transition option, unless the Boss says I have to.”

“Mort, this is Gracie in Transfers. I just got a note. You should get a copy soon. It seems the Boss got mixed up on timing again. You know, days, eons, nanoseconds, it must be confusing when you see it all at once, all the time. Anyway, the memo says you don’t officially start your new job until the end of the 24 hours. You’re still on vacation.”

“Oh. That…that puts me in a spot. Mercedes just gave me a case. The guy needs the Angel of Forgiveness or Many Chances. I hope he doesn’t need the Angel of Death. I don’t like being too early as Mort, you know? It isn’t…fitting, somehow.”

“Do what you think best, Mort. That’s my best advice. I’ve gotta go. Just got a roomful of new arrivals. Why can’t those people quit with all those things going boom? Such a world! Oy! Bye, my meshuga sugar.” Ha, that Gracie’s like that. She’s sweet to Death. No wonder she’s in Transfers. But you really don’t want to push her. She’s one of the older old souls. She doesn’t put up with nonsense.

I walked over to the guy with that nasty stuff he was going to take. The Boss makes things for healing, for easing suffering, yet some people use them to take some strange kind of pleasure, or to hide from what’s causing them to suffer. In the old days, they said it was a perversion. But the Boss isn’t that way. He told us why people do that, and some of us remembered how it was to be that way.

What was I going to do? What should I say? I didn’t know why he wanted to do that. You see, I don’t know these things. I’m not the Boss. I sat down softly, but without asking, and looked at him and smiled slightly. I knew not to spook him. That’s when I realized: It doesn’t matter, really, if you’re the Angel of Death or the Angel of Many Chances. Either way, You’re there to heal what’s wrong, to start to make it whole again. It’s just two different aspects of the same thing.

A few minutes later, I stood, patted the guy on the back, and told him goodbye. He didn’t need me, he needed someone else to show him what he needed, and in a moment, I’d gotten his friend moving to come to him. Sometimes, fixing something badly broken is just a matter of a whispered thought and shifting a physical memento just so. His friend picked up the small woven bracelet, with the fisherman’s knots, so simple and intricate, from so many years ago. He looked at it. held it to his chest, and spoke softly, sharply, a word you might think the Boss would disapprove of, but it’s just a word, fit for strong emotions. His hand and wrist were too big now, no longer 14. His friend rushed out to his car and sped toward his friend’s favorite bar.

A few hours later, the guy with the nasty stuff too close, in his pocket and in his heart and mind, was hugging his friend who remembered a nice boy who’d made a bracelet for friends forever. Both men held on, as the pain ebbed away. Some time later, they left together. They’d spend the night together, friends reunited, and the hurts of life could start to heal.

The friend sent thanks that his friend was out of danger for now and once again his friend for life, forever. The guy had only a great feeling of love and warmth, and the words, “You spent all afternoon on that bracelet. I want back the friend who made that. Let’s not forget again. Friends forever.” I was invisible, not to disturb them. When they were asleep, side by side, I left them in peace, glad I hadn’t been needed in my old job, glad to have my new job.

As I walked away to enjoy the rest of my vacation day, my HierScroll buzzed again. There was only a text message: “Good work, Mort. Now you’re really getting it. It’s all about the same thing: reconnecting broken souls, making love again. Love, the Boss. — P.S. I don’t care how you look. It’s all one to me, just lots of varieties. :hugs:”