HomeOpinion & AnalysisThe fiddler: Playing Reaper Games

The fiddler: Playing Reaper Games

By The Fiddler

I have often wondered why the Reaper had to be such a grim fellow. After all, his job required him to visit people to inform them about a once in a lifetime experience. I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised that the Reaper, who knocked on my door wore both a beaming smile and the bright coloured hooded robe. “I am the Joker Reaper,” he told me. “I trust that you are keeping well. I’m sure that we’re going to have a bit of a laugh together. What’s the point in being morbid when you can look on the sunny side of things? I am here to make you an offer you will just not be able to refuse.” I invited him in for a chat and for tea and biscuits.

He left his scythe by the front door, saying he would only need it later. After hanging up his robe, I noticed that he was pretty emaciated and his bare bones rattled a lot. This was probably why he so voraciously ate all the chocolate biscuits on the plate and messily gulped down his tea. He suggested it would be nice to have some music playing in the background whilst we talked and requested soul music or reaper rap.

He opened the conversation by observing that death is a funny old business. He said he would give me a few amusing examples to get me in the right frame of mind:

“Inexplicably, Woody Allen was death averse although he said he was not afraid of death — he just did not want to be there when it happened. On a more positive note, Allen also advised people “not to think of death as an end, but more as a very effective way of cutting down on expenses by not having to pay your bills anymore.”

There is this story about the wife whose husband had died. When asked about this, the woman was heard to say, “His condition is most satisfactory.” To be gender neutral, there was also a Hollywood movie entitled, Death Becomes Her.Related to this is my all-time favourite one about an elderly man who was taken to hospital after being injured in a motor accident. When his wife was visiting him, a doctor came to check the man’s condition. He drew a blanket over the old man’s face, saying, “I’m sorry, madam, I’m afraid he’s gone.” “No I ain’t,” said a voice from under the blanket. “Shut up, Bill,” snapped the wife, “the doctor knows best.”

And then there is the one about the corpse who kept emerging from his grave to go and have a pint at his local pub, the Dead End. The corpse had to be sternly reminded that he was not allowed out after dark.

And there is the currency joke about the ferryman, who refused to row a person across the River Styx because the person could only pay in zimbond.

There is also the joke, although this is probably based on a true story, about the strict editor who shot dead his star reporter when he tried to leave his desk without submitting his report by the deadline. The editor’s explanation that he had used a marker pen to draw a line around the desk of the reporter and warned him that if he crossed the line without having handed in the completed copy, he would be executed. (First recorded in 1864, the word ‘deadline’ has its origins in the American Civil War. During time of conflict, a “do not cross” circled around a prison camp. Guards were told to shoot dead any prisoner who touched, fell upon, passed over, under or across this ‘dead line’.)

If, like most people, you do not have much time for lawyers, there is this exchange in court:

Q:  Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?

A:  No.

Q:  Did you check for blood pressure?

A:   No.

Q:  So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?

A:   No.

Q:  How can you be so sure, Doctor?

A:  Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar. But I suppose it is possible that he could have been alive and practising law somewhere.

There are also many funny stories about famous last words. A good example is the case of General John Sedgwick a general in the Union Army in the American Civil War. He saw many engagements and was wounded by bullets three times — but was seemingly immune to fear. In 1887 his last moments on earth, he said, “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.”

In a similar vein, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Death Row has thoughtfully provided on its web site a list of all the criminals it has executed, together with the words they uttered before they died. This excellent web site can be found at: www.tdcj.texas.gov/death_row/dr_executed_offenders.html?

People, who commit suicide sometimes show due consideration for others. Take the note left behind by a person who ended his own life. The note read, “Don’t try this at home.”

Having thus assured me that death was nothing to be squeamish about, Reaper then continued . . .

“Well, now you know what fun it can be to shuffle off this mortal coil. Perhaps, if you don’t mind, we should get down to business and discuss the particulars of your own demise.

I am the Sales Manager of Breathtaking and Heartstopping Inc that is duly registered under the Private Voluntary Organisations Act. Breathtaking and Heartstopping offers a complete personalised service to meet your individual requirements and a money back dead loss guarantee if you are not fully satisfied with our service. You can rest assured that all our facilities are eco-friendly and comply with international standards.

You can choose the package best suited to your needs. Our premier package provides everything that a discerning soon-to-perish gentleman/woman would want. Death with all the trimmings. You will be given three weeks’ notice of your demise and the end will be painless. You will also be allocated an attractive escort to ease your passing. We also provide free mourners in case you don’t have any. Finally an afterlife will be guaranteed.

For those of you with very limited means, we can provide our basic package that comes with a cardboard coffin and a free death rattle. With this package there is no guarantee of an afterlife.”

Game over and now on with the show.

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