Death always smokes, he calls it an occupational prerequisite, long dark cigarettes from countries with unfortunate histories. He bounces babies on his knee, fat cherubs, and laughs until the tears run down his cheeks. Often he searches absentmindedly in his pocket for a phone number but somehow Hope is someone he can never find.

Death loves a story. He keeps company with the angels. Occasional nights in backstreet bars crouched over some long forgotten undead drink, thick as treacle, as the angels brings him battered wares to the table. Death listens, he has perfected listening, but he has heard it all before. His own taste runs to the absurd, the tragicomic, acted out by rubicund Italian opera singers, sweating in blue silk.

Death likes to eat out. He knows all the best restaurants. He is, of course, a confirmed carnivore, a bon vivant of salt and cream, fat drips seductively from his mouth. He adores wine, with its memory of the sun, intersperses perhaps with chilled vodka. On occasion he has a little too much, his skin begins to sweat a little. His guests love him when he drunk. Only at this time can they persuade him into the streets in order to provide entertainment.

Death walks quickly touching lightly, ever so lightly, all who pass him. He might for instance lead his guest, like chattering school children, to a certain junction. He will stop and check his watch. Yes, he will say, around now I expect. Then he will point a long finger. They try to guess who it will be, the old woman with the shawl, the policeman, the young man lolling by the scooter. It may even be one of them. And just as they think they will never guess Death’s finger stops, a person steps out and is mown down by a passing tram. Death will shrug his shoulders and turn saying, I’m so surprised you never see it.

Death prefers to sit outside. He hates the darkness with all its attendant secrets. He likes beachside bars, sunning himself on a canvas deckchair, barefoot, sipping cold white rum as children squeal in the surf and their parents wither. He enjoys the terraced cafes of ancient cities, drinking espresso as he gazes down long boulevards where the young girls are walking, their hair lit by April sunshine, smiling as they pass. Death tips his hat, says a gracious hello, his charm timeless.

Death appeared in Word Jig : New Fiction from Scotland