Keeper of the Cane and the Scandal in Sandals (Or: Drinking Wine in the Public Park)

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Finis, the muscular Santa Claus type, sat on the bench enjoying the life and activity in the public park.

Death chose to take an afternoon off, relaxing in the shade of the trees, he listened to children playing in the sandbox — a good sound, full of life and a balm to the soul.

He was closing his eyes and inhaling the blessed perfumes of pine, elm and grass when a jewish carpenter tapped him on the shoulder and offered snow-maned occupant of the bench a cup of wine from his bottle of “Never Empty” brand of Merlot.

“You know, drinking of alcohol in the public park is illegal here.” He gratefully accepted the cup.

“Are you going to talk or drink?” 

“You only filled it half-way.” Finis said, his companion laughing and topping up his glass. “And we can visit at the same time.”

The sharing of illegal drinking of wine with the scandal in sandals was always enjoyable. Finis tore off a large peice of a baguette he carried in a bag and handed it to the long-haired friend and good-natured rival, fishing out a bar of dark chocolate, he broke it in half and balanced it on top of the broken bread.

“Humans here relish this.” He said and both men nodded. One of the discoveries of man that was enjoyable on many levels.

The two men chatted for a while, a good rivalry had developed between the two years before. This crazy carpenter held the unique position of defeating him in the universal contest that everyone, everywhere struggles with, and against walking with the Angel of Death.

Finis never held it against the wandering rabbi, they both walked a path that was similar and shared some laughs. But where the carpenter enjoyed his position, Finis hated his job.

No one ran towards Finis with peace in their hearts. If and when they did, it was always a darkness that drove them. 

It was depressing.

They were talking peacefully when a drug dealer and his entourage walked into the area and spread out to the different areas, staring at the families.  

Terrified and intimidated mothers gathered their children and vacated the area in abject fear, ending the joyous sound like a cold rain.

The descending silence drew the attention of the two solitary gentlemen sitting on the bench who frowned as they discussed the change in the air.

The gang leader looked at the two men, they seemed clueless to where they were.  They sat in a dangerous part of town and a lesson was about to be taught.

This was HIS park.

One, a white-haired man with a long silver-handled cane, and the other who wore a peasant shirt, well-worn but clean denim shorts and sandals. They were openly sharing wine and bread while the park changed from one of family fun to one of the business of crime.

They two friends commented to each other that it seemed colder and more unwelcoming than before, when a five-year-old girl raced ahead of her mom to climb and take her turn at the slide.

The drug dealer could hear them discussing his crew as he walked up.

“This is our park, you need to pay to stay.” The tattoo of tears on the face of the bald leader in contrast to the sparkling hatred of his eyes.

The two benchwarmers looked first at each other, then the white-haired one with the cane looked back at him with a slight smile. 

“We were here first and we are just enjoying the shade.”

“You want a piece of me?” The dealer hissed drawing a sidearm. “I said you had to pay to stay, now you just have to pay.”

“Roberto, I don’t get to see you for another three-years, four months, twelve days.” White-hair said matter-of-factly, no anger, but the old man’s tone was even.

“Finis.” The smaller carpenter cautioned. “No messing with him. But, if you …”

“Fuckit. You go to the hospital with holes.” Roberto aimed his pistol at the face of the carpenter. White-hair grabbed the hand and weapon with cat-like speed.

“You have no idea how close to death you are right now, young man.” Finis stared into the eyes of the thug. “And that gent right there is your only saving grace.”

The fear burning at the soul of the human as the Angel of Death invaded his mind with images that changed his life.

“This carpenter right here will lead you back, but of it were me? I will just take you away. Talk to him, open your heart. If you talk to me, it will be with your last breath, and you would suffer in the most biblical of ways.”

In the following minutes, the two men, a white-haired Santa Claus type and a jewish carpenter sat and talked of everything they could think of with the shaven and tattoo leader and dealer of drugs. Roberto the gangster known as “The Bull” discovered a change in his life, he had met death that day and found Jesus. 

Roberto “The Bull” Roman was lucky, Death was off duty.

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The Lunch break

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The lunch break

Doctor Nickosla Jones, Trauma surgeon of the St. Osmium Medical Center sat with a cup of coffee and a dry toasted english muffin. The shift had been severe. A cold night after a snow filled month and then a couple warm days.

Black ice had taken a toll on the average person. The latest victim, an elderly professor at the Ion University, walked out his drive with a bar to break up the ice, and slipped.

The on-scene EMS crews there put the unconscious instructor of physics on a helicopter and flew him straight to the St. Oz’s with posturing, and a subarachnoid bleed that they recognized straight away.

The only question was how long the injured man lay on the ice, out if sight of the house and anyone from the street. Only when his wife noticed he had not left for his early classes did she walk outside and discover her husband of two-millenia, two centuries and six-decades, laying in a freezing pool of blood from the laceration on the back of his head.

The surgery had been long and draining. The bleeding and fractures to the skull were not his only problems, spinal pressure from the neck injury complicated the treatment protocols as the teams moved from one problem to the next.

Finally, they closed and the patient went to the recovery, one alarming moment, the patient’s blood pressure dropped alarmingly, Nick and the other fellows rushed in, and after an intense hour, restored homeostasis as much as possible.

Professor Hecate Budd still was alive.

And Doctor Jones was tired.

No, not tired. Exhausted.

And he still had an hours drive home to do.

He was debating about going to the local hotel down the street and just logging some sleep for a few hours when he looked up and saw him.

White hair, a goatee that he kept well-trimmed and the affectation of the silver-handled cane that he started to carry in the long-ago past.

“Good job,” The one called Finis said, handing a latte to the Doctor. “Your patient will live, in spite of going horizontal for about a half-second.”

The goatee widened in a smile. Sparkling eyes shown behind the rose-colored glasses.

“Yeah, but he was fixing to die on us up there.”

“That medic on scene did a good job, he called it on the money by putting him in a helicopter and flying him here.” Finis nodded. “Besides, he had you. That made all the difference.”

A pretty young woman came up and tapped Finis on the shoulder and held up a tablet computer that Finis tapped on names.

“He has family waiting. Take his wife to him.” Finis nodded. “That will help.”

The woman nodded and tapped on the tablet.

Another name, she handed the tablet back to her boss and let him read it.

“This is expected.” Finis frowned. “You did not need to bring this to my attention. She will be leaving soon, family is on their way.”

“Sorry, the calls never quit.” He apologized to Nick.

“No, no. Don’t apologize, I know as well as anyone.” Nick sipped the fresh coffee and steamed milk.

“Yes, you do, as anyone in the center here knows. You are well taught and talented, but they are still overwhelmed.” Finis shook his head. “The hospital’s understaffed. When was the last time you took a day away from this house of craziness.”

“Yeah, well, it is the path I chose a long time ago.”

“Right after you nearly drowned.”

“Yeah. That was the first time I met you.” The doctor said.

“Well, it was a good meeting. It pushed you in the direction you took in school.” Finis looked around as the woman approached again from the hallway. No one noticing her except the two men. “You were a bit of drug-oriented rebel in those days.”

The woman spoke in Finis’ ear again, slipping the tablet into his hands.

“No, this is not right.” He shook his head. “His schedule is not yet finished, he’s scheduled for another week of therapy, then I have to go talk to him.”

She nodded and walked off to do her boss’s bidding.

“The same lecture I gave you when you were being stupid and jumped off that bridge into the river, I am giving to this young man. Unlike yours were at that age, his options are limited. He has not finished school and he’s twenty with a damaged liver.”

“He still could become something.”

“Perhaps you should talk to him.” Finis shook his head. “If I do it, he will have bladder incontinence issues for a week.”

“Not going to handle him gently, old man?” Nick chuckled and took a bite of his dry toast.

“Two things.” Finis gave a crooked smile. “One, I am always gentle. But I will get my way, no one says no to me for very long. And TWO, do not call me old.”

Nick chuckled. Both those statements were true. No one could deny the handsome gentleman that sat at the table sipping on his own latte.

Finis stood six-foot tall, his white hair hung to his shoulders when loose, but often he kept it pulled back into a pony-tail.

Broad at the shoulder, large of bicep and narrow at the hip, the effect was one of a Santa Claus that spent too much time in the gym. He really did not need the affectation of the cane he used to disarm people as a grandfatherly type.

And he was hysterical to listen to when he was working, always looking at a bright spot that no one expected and could poke fun at it.

Only once did he see the keeper of the cane become angry, it was not a pleasant thing to see. The doctor learned that the subordinate involved ended up being a yard watcher at a bone-yard.

Looking at a young man reading a comic book, Finis sighed at the graphic of a cloaked monster with a scythe in hand.

“I wish, someday that I could entrust this job to someone else, then I could talk to children of the views they find in those, “ Finis paused looking for the words. “Graphic novels. Are not entirely accurate.”

He shook his head.

“Well, people do have a fear of a lot of things.”

“Yes,” Finis agreed. “But as a doctor, do you find them afraid of you?”

“Sometimes. I tell them the truth and they don’t always like it.”

“When I tell them the truth,” Finis grumbled. “They don’t believe me.”

The woman returned with the pad, but this time she had a worried look.

“Mister Sierra.” The only words she said as she handed Finis the tablet.

“Of course, he has no one. I need to go talk with him.” Finis signed the tablet and handed it back to her. “Nick, you did a fine job. The professor will leave this medical center on his own power. Don’t worry. I am not scheduled to meet with him for a long while yet.”

Looking back at the comic book the boy held.

“Maybe I should change my cane for something else? They make the cane into an edged weapon and I have no face.”

“Or a skull.” Nick nodded grimly. “You have to admit, you have a tough job.”

Nodding Finis stood up, shaking Nick’s hand. Old friends, Nick had met him when he nearly died as a teenager, the white-haired, smiling man directed him to medicine to do so much good.

Now, Nick felt a little sorry for him. Overworked and under-appreciated, the Angel of Death walked out of the cafeteria. A soul that hated his job and took it to heart that no one wanted to meet with him.

Always scheduling family to walk with the dearly departed, or walking with someone so they never made the trip alone, telling jokes or having conversations with them the entire journey. He was good at his job, and he hated it so much.

Doctor Jones shook his head and got up, the irony of it all was not lost on him.