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It was a dark and stormy night and Hank was sitting in the warmth of his log cabin staring at the burning logs in his fireplace. He had built the place with the help of friends a few years before. Usually the place was full of the aroma of a fresh baked pie mingling with the odor of a slight touch of wood smoke, making each smell complement each other and be intensely satisfying. But these days the smell of pie is missing ever since his woman Sarah passed away a month before.
“Passed away. Such an easy way for people to describe it.” he mumbled to himself bitterly. “People just say things like ‘Passed away’ or ‘Met their maker’ to make it easier for them to handle. But there was nothing easy about it.” As he stared into the fire his mind drifted into the past:
“Hank! Give me a hand with this will ya?”
Sarah was moving the furniture around the cabin, a chore she seemed to love to do since she did it so often. In his mind Hank could actually smell the black raspberry pie she was baking. In his vision he stood and watched her until she finally threw a couch pillow at him to snap him out of it.
“Well, don’t just stand there looking at me!”
But looking at her was something he had never tired of.
Unfortunately he DID snap out of it and the memory faded away and he once again returned to his solitude and the cold, wet, lonely night.
The doctors had all kinds of names for whatever it was that took Sarah from him, but Hank only knew he would always picture it as a tall, dark, hooded figure named Death.
The storm outside grew heavier and the thunder cracked louder as the flames licked the stones inside the chimney. A chunk of wood popped, rolled across the hearth and out onto the floor, causing Hank to rise with a sigh and shove it back into the flames with a poker. His given name was Henry, but everyone always knew him as Hank. He was a 45 year old, strapping, hearty man of over 6 feet tall, although a wet, lingering cough had been affecting him for the past few weeks.
Sarah, his woman, had been a few years older than him, but she had that wide-eyed, enthusiastic manner of someone much younger. They had the kind of warm relationship that others envied, having been together longer than all of their friends could remember. Before he met Sarah, Hank was indeed a Hell raiser, but all THAT changed once he met the love of his life and settled down.
Suddenly, during a lull in the crashing thunder, he heard a loud knock. Hank slowly stood and wondered, ‘Now who the Hell can THAT be?’ as he strode to the door. When he opened it he beheld a sight better left unseen.
There stood Death.
The robed specter clutched a staff in one bony hand and a hood covered his face in shadow.
“What do YOU want? Haven’t you caused me enough grief and pain?”
Hank asked without surprise or fear. He had pictured death so many times in his mind that actually being in his presence merely angered and annoyed him.
“I’ve come for YOU Hank. You should have taken better care of that cough.”
Hank’s first thought was he’d join Sarah and they’d spend eternity together, but Death soon made it clear that wasn’t going to happen.
“I know what you’re thinking and you might as well forget about it. Sarah won’t be where you’ll be going.”
“Why not? We’ve always been soul mates! It’s only right!!”
“Hank! Before you met Sarah you clawed and fought your way through life. You’ve hurt people and you always had a chip on your shoulder!”
“But Sarah CHANGED me! All that other stuff was in the past!”
“Yes, but it was YOUR past. Knowing the love of a good woman might have CHANGED you, but that doesn’t cancel out all the bad things you’ve done! It certainly doesn’t give you the right to follow someone like Sarah. To go where she has gone!”
For the first time in months Hank finally had a focus for all his pain and his anger. And now, hearing this, he snapped. Without thinking he grabbed Death by his scrawny throat and lifted him off his feet! He could hear the rattle of bones as he flung him against the wall.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?? I AM DEATH!! YOU DARE TO LAY YOUR HANDS ON ME???”
Hank then proceeded to kick Death’s bony ass all over the cabin, overturning furniture and sending Sarah’s pots and pans crashing to the floor. Death grabbed a large cast iron fry pan and held it up before him shielding him as he screamed, “WAIT!! STOP!!!”
“Why should I? You’ve destroyed my life and now you’re destroying my death!!”
“I’ll give you ANYTHING !!.....................”
Thus children, is the story of how Hank bargained with Death himself.
It was a dark and stormy night and Hank was sitting in the warmth of his log cabin staring at the burning logs in his fireplace.
“Boy, it sure is bad out tonight honey. It’s a good thing we have each other to cuddle up with, you wonderful, big hunk of man.”
Hank turned his face to Sarah and smiled contentedly.............................