Every life has a tale to tell.
She sat in the uncomfortable velvet Victorian chair in the corner, careful not to crinkle the dress she’d been forced to wear. The dress that oddly enough seemed to match the chair. The voices around her droned on and she found it hard to pay attention to any of them.
She’d never been up close and personal with death before. She only knew that it was such an odd thing to experience. A room full of very sad people talking about how he had died. Why weren’t they talking about the time he sailed around the world? Or the time he met the Prime Minister of some south pacific island? What about his horrible cooking skills? There was so much more to her father than his accidental fall down an elevator shaft.
His obituary was in that morning’s paper. She’d snuck a copy into her room to read it. It said he died an accidental death. Left a wife and daughter. Services at 2pm.
People should be remembered, she decided, not for how they died. But for how they lived.
“And you make a living at this?” The man seated across from her asked, as if he found it not only odd, but quite unbelievable.
“Of course. Do you know every day, over 150 people die in this city?”
“Um, no, I was not aware,” he replied, “will you excuse me?”
And with that he was up out of his speed dating chair and off to who knows where. Dalia shrugged. She was used to it. The only reason she ever showed up at these ridiculous farces was that every so often her mother signed her up and she had an inability to refuse her mother anything.
The minute the brief conversation landed upon occupation, the speed date was over. No big deal. Just meant she got through the whole ordeal faster. She was always astonished at how eager they were when they landed in the chair opposite her. And how quickly they made an exit. She supposed it was her looks. While she didn’t consider herself extraordinary by any means, she was certainly passable. But she was keenly aware that looks aren’t something to be proud of. Not any sort of accomplishment. The fact that someone finds you attractive is simply their opinion and nothing more.
Dalia was far more proud of her work. Every day across the country, in newspapers and magazines and alumni journals, you could find her prose. Oh there was no fame and fortune in it, not even a byline. It was a somewhat anonymous profession in many ways, but incredibly necessary. Her reward came in the seemingly endless stream of thank you notes and messages she received.
Back when she was on staff at the city paper, they’d joke that her beat was the cemetery. Not the morgue of course, as that too often fell under homicide and crime. No, Dalia was the Obituary writer. Her job, as she saw it, was to give life to the recently deceased. Give their loved ones one last memory to hang on to. And she did it well. Until cost-cutting left her without a job, and left the deceased with a random rotation of interns or worse, AI, writing their life’s story.
She smiled as the next victim slid into the chair opposite her. No reason not to, he’d be gone soon enough. She did notice he had the most extraordinary eyes as he peered at her through his designer eyewear. She also noticed he appeared a bit nervous. Perhaps it was his first time. She felt it was necessary to put him at ease, since she already knew what was coming.
“Hello,” she said, hoping to break the ice.
“Are you really an obituarian?” he blurted out, somewhat abruptly.
Startled, she became a bit defensive immediately.
“Yes, and if you have a problem with that you may leave now, I won’t be offended.”
She waited for him to bolt.
“Will you write mine for me please? Here’s my card.”
She narrowed her gaze and studied his face. He didn’t seem to be kidding.
She glanced at the card. “You realize, Harrison is it? You realize you are quite alive, right?”
“Nobody lives forever,” he replied.
“If you are planning to change your circumstances, I want no part of that.”
“Ah. You think I’m suicidal? I’m not. I’m terminal.” He darted a look over to the chair next to him, realizing time was almost up. “Please, just call me.”
“Well that’s one way to get a date,” she murmured, taking the card and tucking it in her purse as she watched him slide off the chair and quickly head for the door. “No sense screwing up the speed dating arrangement,” she said apologetically to the next victim as she too rose and headed for the exit.
He was still there, outside by the entryway. Whether he was waiting for a ride or for her she didn’t know, but he smiled as she approached. He really was quite endearing, she thought.
“Why?” She had to know.
“Let me take you to lunch. I’ll explain.” He continued to smile.
Lunch wouldn’t be that bad she thought. He had a lilting voice that was quite hypnotizing. And scoring a lunch date would get her mother off her back for at least another week or two.
“Okay, Harrison. Lunch it is. But your story better be good.”
“Oh no, it’s not. And therein lies the problem.”
If you enjoyed this introduction to my WIP, and would like more of Harrison’s story, please give a clap and let me know.
MJ Miller is busy recovering from a somewhat long and painful marketing career. A prolific procastinator and querying addict, her musings can be found on her author’s blog as well as a few other blogs floating in the cloud. Miller is the author of All About Annie, The Christoph Curse, and her latest novel, Phantom of Execution Rocks, silver medalist in The Spring 2022 Bookfest. Her upcoming series, Legends of Luckland is set to publish from Scarsdale Publishing iin 2022.