Death's Day Off

A Short Story

Dear Diary,
It's been a long time since my last vacation. I can't wait for this one. Technically it has started already, but I wanted to leave one last entry before I ran off to Earth. Sometimes I really hate my job. I had to take a puppy from a little boy today. I almost had to take the boy with it. A speeding car ran down the road, and the puppy ran in front of it. The boy ran after the puppy, but he noticed the car just in time, thankfully. I hate seeing the heartbroken look on someone's face when I take someone they love. It's what makes my vacations so special. For one day, every hundred years, I get to see more than just pain, and sorrow. I get to see the fun things in life. So I'm off, to try my hand at mortality, I'll let you know how it works out.


Light exploded all around. It was so bright! My eyes hurt too much to hold them open. What was going on around me? Why was it so bright? It had never been like this before. I could feel my surroundings, I didn't feel threatened, and I felt warm and safe. I was lying with my head on something soft and warm, and there were lots of other soft and warm things around me. I tried to open my eyes again and this time it wasn't so bad. As my eyes adjusted to the light, I wondered just what kind of life I would live this day. In the past I had been many things, rich, poor, a street performer, even a president. I never knew where the boss would put me when I came down. Even though it was my day off, and I didn't have to do the death thing, he still always put me somewhere where I was needed. I didn't mind, I liked doing good things. Hopefully one day I would get promoted to a guardian angel, or a worker.

I had been a person once, a long, long time ago. Even then, though, I was a bringer of death. I guess that’s why I got stuck with this job. Death was always my business. The boss promised me though, once I learned the value of life, I would be able to do something else. I don't know how much more I had to learn, but I had learned a lot in the last thousand years. I had come to hate all that I had once loved. And now the only thing that kept me going, through all the heartbreak, and through each tear I saw shed, was the thought of these vacations. When I got to be human again, for a day at a time, to try to make up for the way I had lived.

Something was different this time though. Where was I? Who was I? I normally knew all about the person I was in, as soon as I entered them. This time I didn't have a clue. What was wrong? Had the man upstairs made a mistake? Or was this a test of some kind?

"This one mommy, I want this one!" A voice boomed down on me, I didn't know what it was but it sounded huge, I was scared and I felt myself loose control of my bladder. "Eww, that one is peeing mommy look he's funny!" The booming voice was back. I buried my head beneath the warm soft thing in front of me. I opened my eyes again, but all I saw was brown fur. Maybe it was some kind of blanket. I pulled my head back again and saw a tail attached to it. I pulled back further and saw I had my head on a puppy's butt. What the heck was going on here!

"Look at him he's cute, your sister likes him, what do you think Jessie?" A different booming voice from above, this one sounded older. I looked in the direction of the voices and almost wet myself again. They were just people, but they were huge! Suddenly two hands wrapped around me and I was lifted up into the air. I tried to yell to tell them to put me down, but it didn't do any good. They obviously didn't understand me. I looked into the eyes of my captor, and saw that it was just a little girl. She was smiling at me and I could see she wasn't going to hurt me, but I was worried she would drop me, so I snuggled in closer to her.

"He likes me mommy look, he's giving me a hug" The little girl giggled and squirmed. I just wished she would learn to talk quieter.

"See Jessie it's a good dog, let's get him, what do you say?" I looked back over at what must have been the mom to this little girl and someone names Jessie. I looked around but I couldn't find Jessie. Suddenly the little girl spun me around, Oh dear God I'm gonna be sick! She stopped and held me out at arms length. Please don't drop me; please oh please don't drop me!

"Here bubba look at him, he's really friendly!" I looked around over my shoulder and saw a face I thought I would never see again. It was the boy from the day before, the one who lost his puppy to the speeding car. He didn't look happy about being here, and he looked at me like I was something he didn't want to touch.

"I don't want him, I want zippy back! I don't want a new dog!" Tears filled his eyes and he spun around, running out of the room. I wanted to help him, to make him happy again. I know I didn't cause the accident, or kill his dog, but I took him, and that made me responsible. I had to fix the hurt this boy had. This was a first for me. I had never, on any of my other vacations, come across someone I had seen at a taking. It was as if the man upstairs tried to keep me away from them, but now, here I was thrust into a place where I was sure to be found by this boy. Man was this a test or what? And what the hell is with me being so small? Wait a second, am I dense or what? I'm small, he lost a puppy, and I woke up with my head on a puppies butt! I'm a dog!!! That’s not the way this is supposed to be! I'm supposed to be a human for my 24 hours! Not a dog! Oh I was going to have a talk with the man upstairs when I got back! It was clearly lined out in my contract I got one day in every hundred years to spend among the humans, wait that’s not very clear. It never does say I have to be a human! Dang it! Why can't you ever find a good lawyer in heaven to look over contracts! Oh wait that’s right, cause their lawyers. Damn!

I guess I'm stuck as a puppy this vacation. I guess that’s not so bad, it's a new experience, and besides maybe I can help this boy. He needs my help. I'll make the best of it. I turned to see the little girl and I licked her on the nose. She giggled and turned to her mom and demanded that they take me home no matter what bubba said. I could see the sad look in the mother's eyes, but as she reached over to pet me, and I licked her hand, she grinned to and told her daughter it was a deal. I was on my way to a new home!

The car ride home was an experience I'll never forget. These contraptions weren't around my last trip here, and while I had seen more than my share in the line of duty, they were dangerous and a lot of my calls were for accidents with them, this was my first time to ever ride in one. I put my head out the window and just watched everything blur by. My ears were flapping in the wind and my tongue was sticking out, something about it just felt right. I looked over to Jessie and saw that he was looking at me, but he looked away and sighed. Despite the good feelings of the window, I pulled myself away and went over to where he was sitting. I looked up at him and nuzzled his hand. He pulled it back. I could still see tears in his eyes. He looked down at me and pushed me away. I tumbled off the seat. Well two could play at that game! I pounced on his shoe and began pulling on his shoestrings. Then I grabbed the cuff of his pants and pulled on them all the while growling happily. He shook his foot to try to get me off and then he looked down at me. I let go of his cuff and looked up at him. He had a strange look in his eyes, and then he reached down and ruffed up my hair.

"You're not so bad I guess." He looked down at me and smiled sadly. "Mom he's ok. Thanks. I just miss Zippy. I know I didn't have him long, but I found him when he was sick and I helped him get better! He was doing so well until that car! I was just so mad. I'm sorry I was such a butt."

"That’s okay dear; loosing a friend is hard on everyone. Maybe I rushed you into the whole new dog thing, but I figured you just needed someone to play with to take your mind off of Zippy. If you don't want him, he can be Sara's dog, and when you feel ready, we will find one for you."

"No it's okay, I kinda like him. But what should we call him?"

"Let's call him Princess!!!" Sara had spun around looking down at me in her brother's lap.

"He's a boy you goober, we can't call him princess!" Jessie looked down at me and studied me for a while. "How about Spot? He has that spot over his eye." I shook my head 'no' violently. "Hey he just shook his head no!!! He's smart!" Jessie looked down in amazement. "Well we could call him Renji! Like the guy on Bleach! I love that show, and his hair is about the same color that reddish brown! Ya can I call him Renji mom?"

"You know I hate that show, it's so violent! Besides, do you really want to name your dog after a death god?" She looked around at him, obviously displeased in his name choice.

"Well let's ask him, how about it boy, do you want to be named Renji?" Jessie looked down at me as I thought it over. Named after a death god, talk about ironic. But I liked the name and something told me it was right, so I nodded my head enthusiastically. Jessie's eyes lit up and he started hopping up and down in the back seat, well as much as he could with the seat belt on anyway. "He likes it mom, he likes it! He nodded his head! I'm gonna call him Renji." Jessie swept me up in a hug and he ruffed up my fur. "Your gonna love our house Renji, there is lots of room to run, you can sleep in my bed, we can play fetch, and I can teach you all sorts of tricks it's gonna be great!" And just like that my boy was happy again. I saw no more tears in his eyes. I knew he still missed the puppy I had taken, but he was happy once more and that was all that mattered to me. Even when my time comes to leave, he will still have the puppy, and a friend.

When we got to the house, Jessie jumped out and grabbed me up. We ran through the house, looking at everything. He showed me all over, and where everything I would need was at. We went to his room and played. He hopped on his game system and blew up bad guys while I curled up on his back and took a nap. He woke me up when it was lunch time and we went down to the kitchen to get some food. I can't say I'm impressed with dog food though. It's like eating cardboard balls. But Jessie snuck me some hamburger under the table and it was great! One thing about being a dog is everything seems more. I smell things more, I taste things more, and everything is more. It was great. I could get used to it. After lunch we went and played outside.

Jessie kept making sure I didn't go anywhere near the road. The loss of his last puppy had taught him to be watchful and wary. I stayed away from it anyway. We went into the woods behind his house and explored. There were all kinds of animals there and I felt the urge to chase them all. I took off after a bunny and Jessie followed me laughing at my puppy bark. When the bunny went down his whole I turned around and huffed and then trotted back to my boy. I tackled him, well he let me anyway, and we rolled around in the tall grass. We ran through the woods and played all sorts of games. As it started to get dark, Jessie's mom called us to come in.

We ran back towards the house, running through the woods, with me chasing Jessie all the way and barking at his heals. Suddenly Jessie stopped in terror. I ran into his heals and when I got up, I shook my head and then looked around him to see what was going on. In front of him stood the biggest wolf I had ever seen! She was low and growling deep in her throat and I knew for sure she was about to attack my boy. I looked behind her and I saw the shadow of death, or at least of whoever was filling in today. They had come for my boy. I wasn't going to let that happen, he was a good boy and had his whole life before him.

I knew I didn't stand a chance against such a large creature but maybe I could buy Jessie some time to run home. Without thinking about it I threw myself at the much larger creature and attacked. I felt her teeth lock into the back of my neck, and that’s when time stood still. I felt myself being pulled from my body, was this what it was like to die? I couldn't remember. But it didn't feel right. I closed my eyes and said a prayer for Jessie and that’s when light flooded the area.

I looked around and there was nothing but white light everywhere. Suddenly, there was a form in the light, brilliant and beautiful. It walked towards me, and I knew at once that it was God. Never in all my years as death had I ever met him in person and now he was here. I bowed low to the ground and looked away.

"Arise my child, you have done no wrong." His hand was on my shoulder guiding me to my feet. "You have done as I hoped you would do. You have learned the lessons I had for you to learn. You have come to value life, and regret taking it. You have learned empathy, but there was one more lesson I had for you, and that was love. You have learned love today my child, the unconditional kind of love that I have for all my creations. You were willing to give your life for that love, to protect someone you loved, and in doing so have proved to me that you are ready for the future." I looked up into his face and saw the joy and love that was there. He touched me on the shoulder once more and I felt different. I looked down and saw the robe of pure white. I felt an itch on my back and looked behind me to see the glorious golden wings. I was an angel!

"You are no longer charged with the carrying of souls to eternity. You are now an angel, a guardian angel to be exact, and I have a job for you. That boy is special. He will have lots of work to do in his life, work that will make a difference to the whole world. He needs someone full of love for him to watch after him and make sure he is there to make the world a better place. It's a big job, are you willing to take it on?"

I looked down at Jessie, at the fear and sadness on his face; he was watching another loved one pass. "What will happen to the puppy? He needs him."

"Ahh yes, I almost forgot. The puppy will be fine, when our meeting is over time will resume its course and you will see. You still have the rest of the day to spend as the puppy. All will be well."

"Then yes, I accept your offer, I will watch over him with a ready sword and defend him from all evils. I love that boy and I will protect him.

"Good, that’s what I wanted to hear. Now we have one more matter to address, your name. You are no longer death, and you are no longer the man you once were. Your name from before is meaningless. What should we call you?"

"If you don't mind, my Lord, the boy named me Renji. It was as Renji that I learned to love and I would like to keep the name given to me by my boy."

"Renji? I think that will suit you just fine. Go forth my angel Renji and protect that boy. He is your charge and your burden, bear it well." With that the light faded and he was gone. I felt drained and recharged at the same time. He was a mighty presence. I looked down at the puppy in the jaws of the wolf and knew it was time to return. As I lowered myself back into the body, time resumed its course.

The wolf bit down on my neck, grabbing the scruff at the back of it. It hurt a bit but not anything like what I was expecting. She looked down at me in surprise and shook me a bit then dropped me on the ground and sniffed me. I realized then that she was missing a pup and she had mistaken me for it. She glanced down at me, and then up at Jessie. I could feel her thoughts as she realized her mistake and then she turned and ran off.

Jessie ran up to me and picked me up, tears running down his face, he was sure I was dead. I looked up at him and licked his face and gave him a playful nibble on the chin. He realized I was okay and he jumped and screamed with joy. His mom heard the noise and came running out to the woods.

"Jessie what's wrong?" You could hear the worry in her voice.

"Mom! We just met a wolf!!! Renji tried to protect me and she picked him up by the neck! But then she sat him down and ran off. I think she's missing a pup or something."

"A wolf? In our woods? That’s not very common. If she bit him, we had better take him to the vet and make sure he has his rabies shot. Come on and hurry out of there, we'll pick up dinner on the way."

Jessie, Sara, his mother and I pilled into their car for the second time that day. As we drove I cuddled my boy. I had no desire to stick my head out the window. We stopped at a place where you never get out of your car, you simply tell a little box what you want, and then people give it to you. I was impressed and the food Jessie snuck me was pretty good. I can't say I was impressed with the vet, and I really don't like shots! I got a treat at the end though and it was pretty good. I heard the vet tell them that I was a lucky little puppy, and that I was in perfect health. Jessie was happy, and so I was happy.

As we made our way back to their house, I slept on Jessie's lap. I was happy and content to lie there all night, but unfortunately he wasn't. He made me get up at his house and we went into his bedroom. He blasted some more bad guys on the game system and then it was time for his bath. I followed him in and even jumped in the tub with him. His laughing brought his mom up to see what was going on and she laughed to. We finished our bath and he dried me and himself and we got all cozy on his bed. It was so soft!

His mom came in to tuck him in. He gave her a kiss and told her that he loved her. She gave me a pat on the head and told me too look after her boy. She had no idea I had the same order from higher up. I snuggled close to him and he drifted off to sleep. I still had a little time left in my day, but I pulled out of the puppy's body anyway. I took out my Diary and made an entry about all the interesting things that had happened that day. I watched him sleep, and as the time for my day to be over drew near I leaned down close to him and kissed him on the forehead.

"I will always look after you, you are in good hands. I love you Jessie." I started to rise up off the bed when he startled me by replying.

"I love you too, Renji. I love you too."

The End