Death Called Josephine

Death is an old woman with a white blouse sitting next to Crowell on the plane. She’s thin, fleshless almost, dark hair, dark eyes without any whites. Her eyes get to him, brown so dark they might as well be black, and only a thin pale line around the pupil to break things up.

“Looks like we’re seatmates,” he says to her when he sits down.

“Looks that way,” Death agrees. “I don’t take up much room anymore, son, so you just spread out however much you want and I’ll squeeze in wherever.”

“That’s okay. I’m probably just going to go right to sleep. I don’t want to get in your way.”

Death is sitting by the window. When he wakes up they’ve moved three times zones to the east and the sun’s nearly down. “Sunsets up here are different, don’t you think, son? Without any land to get in the way of the colors. Like being at sea, I always think.”

“I wouldn’t know. I’ve never been out of the country.”

“You should go sometime. The ocean’s an old woman, son, older than I am, even, if you can believe it.” Death chuckles and pokes him in the ribs. “No one who’s never been to sea ever really sees anything.”

I see you all right, old woman, he thinks. I see you and your secrets. I know your name though you didn’t introduce yourself. Death looks at him with her dark, dark eyes and peels her lips back in a grin. He helps her with her luggage when they land. She squeezes his hand when she leaves, a cool, firm grip, and brushes his cheek with her wrinkled lips. She smells like dry earth and leaf rot.