The Further Adventures of Herbert the Celestial Assistant: Death Is a Card

     Herbert was flying solo today. St. Peter was convinced that Herbert could handle
the gates while he was away so he left for vacation while the getting was good.

With the exception of a guy who died while eating kielbasa, the job had been pretty standard so far. Herbert was perplexed as to how the man could actually bring his sausage with him. He was going to have to ask St. Peter about that when he returned.

Fortunately he was able to convince the man he did not need food in heaven. The waste management issue would be a nightmare.

He promised him they could give a coat of lacquer to what was left of his kielbasa so he could have fond memories of that special day…that he died.

     At the moment there was no action at the gates so he got back to the crossword puzzle that had been taunting him ever since he picked it up off the greeting lectern. St Peter had said it was left on the shuttle by someone newly departed. He regretted he had not bothered to ask how someone could take anything with them. It would have solved the whole kielbasa mystery.

Herbert was stuck on the same clue that had stumped the previous owner.


13.      A four letter verb meaning to harvest, garner, gather or bring in.

He knew the answer lay somewhere in the recesses of his mind. He just needed to ruminate and let it come to him.

     Ahem. Excuse me.

“Hmm , that was strange,” thought Herbert. He could have sworn that italic words had just flashed across his vision. He looked up and saw a familiar figure standing in front of him. He looked like death with a capitol D. Death. The grim reaper. Um, sorry I did not hear you coming.”

     Oh, they never do.

“That’s funny. There go those strange italic words dancing across my eyes again. Wait, was that you?”

     Unless you truly experienced the 60’s that was probably me.

“Wow, that’s pretty cool. Um, you’re not here for me are you.”

     I get that a lot.

“What, the cool bit or the “your not here for me” part?”


“Oh, ok. So what brings you here? Is this a customer service followup to see how your victims, um, customers have been treated at this end?”

     No, I am here for me.

“I don’t understand. Are you dead? Are you saying that Death has met its maker, or that Death is here for the final round up or in modern terms his warranty has expired and did not see the cost effectiveness of spending money to extend it?”

     Well, yes but I am not sure that last analogy works. It’s a bit wordy.

“Yea, I just came up with it so it’s bound to have a few kinks. I didn’t know that Death itself/(himself/herself ?) had a limited run. I thought your stage lights were never dark so to speak.”

     That analogy is not bad. Yes, well this is new to me also. I was looking for the nearest Starbucks and got lost. The next thing you know I’m here.

“You got lost looking for the nearest Starbucks? Come on no matter where you are there is Starbucks just around the corner.”

Not in Topeka Kansas.

“Oh. You have me there. This is awkward. Who replaces you?
Where do you go? Which shuttle do I call? You’re not even on my list. I have no idea how to handle this.”

     You mean St Peter left you in charge during his vacation and you can’t even handle this?

“To be fair this is an anomaly and … wait I didn’t mention he was on vacation. Are you winding me up?”

     I must confess I was have a bit of a laugh at your expense.

“What? You mean you don’t have anything better to do? Are you telling me that the Grim Reaper, Death, God’s Cleaner has nothing better to do than have a few grins at the expense of some heavenly flunky?”

     Ooh. I like that God’s Cleaner thing. Can I use it?

“What, oh, yea knock yourself out but lets not get off the subject. You must have better things to do while waiting for your next, um, service call.”

     No. This is it. I am trying to inject some humor into my life. Do you know what its
like to constantly be greeted by the words “Oh No Not You”.

“Well, there was this one girl…”

     That’s not the same.

“Ok, I’ll give you that. That is all they ever say?”

No. Every once in a while you get a blood curdling scream and let me tell you that’s not any better. I’m beginning to get a complex.

“What about comedians? They must be a little more original. Do they give you anything different?”

     For the most part, no. Certainly nothing to laugh at. They usually think going out on a high note is stating “this is the worst I’ve ever bombed,” but I see that coming a mile away.

“Yea, I can see that. So what’s next for you?”

     Oh, I go on doing what I do and wait for the next time St. Peter takes a vacation.

“You need some more material. Hang in there and try to keep your, uh, sickle up.”

     Ha. Now that made me smile. Thank you.

“No problem. My sense of humor grows on people.”

    Yes, kind of like mold. Well, I must be going. Good Bye.

“Good bye. Take care.”

“Hmm, let’s see, where was I? Oh yeah a four letter word for harvest or gather? Oh, “reap”. That works. Go figure.”

One Ham Salad Sandwich Coming Up (The Perfect Conspiracy Theory Cont.)

   The late afternoon broke through the windows of the bar and fell across the face of the nondescript barmen as he sipped a whiskey. A short while earlier his stomach had spoken to him. It had made two distinct statements. It had said it was extremely hungry and that the cook here sucked.

He was now waiting for the delivery of a turkey sandwich. He hardly had time to evaluate the Scotch he was drinking before a man bearing a brown paper bag entered and announced the delivery of his sandwich.

The barman bit into the sandwich and had observed an interesting phenomenon.
The turkey sandwich he ordered had transmogrified into a ham salad sandwich topped with cellulose condiment.

Picking the note out his mouth he read “Why are you looking here the good stuff is in front of you.” Furrowing his brow he looked up into the face of the bearded man with the cool ring “Come join us,” he said.

The barman started to introduce himself but Panama cut him off.

“We don’t need to know your name and you don’t need to know ours. This gentleman here you can refer to as ‘The Bearded One’ and you can call me Panama. We’ll call you ‘The Barman’.”

“Well, that’s not really original now is it,” said The Barman.

“There are no points for originality in this endeavor,” interjected The Beard.

“And what endeavor would this be asked The Barman?”

“How much do you know about the penny, “ asked Panama.

“Well it costs more to make than it’s worth but for some reason it’s still being produced,” replied The Barman.

“Yea, well we’re the reason why they keep producing it,” added The Beard.

“Who’s we,” asked The Barman.

“We are a group of concerned citizens making sure the penny gets its due,” answered Panama. “A Penny Cabal if you will.”

“I appreciate your concern and excuse me if I sound a bit jaded but beings as this is D.C., what’s in it for you?”

“Well lets just say that we represent a few groups that would stand to lose a good chunk of change if production of the penny were to cease.”

“Like who,” asked The Barman.

“Well,” answered Panama,” the Convenience Store Owners of America for one. You think that ‘take a penny leave a penny’ garbage is done out of the goodness of their hearts? Sure it sounds nice but In the long term it generates some dough. Many folks do not value the penny and those are the kind of folks that don’t take a penny but leave many pennies.”

The Bearded One added “Yea and ‘take a nickel leave a nickel’ does not have the same ring. It will be awhile before the nickel achieves the same pocket clutter status as the penny. You take a survey of the average guys dresser top in this country and you’ll find that the ratio of pennies to nickels falls heavily in favor of the penny.”

“Yea, sounds like mine,” said the Barman. “But what about women?”

“They carry purses,” replied both conspirators in unison.

“Then there is the whole tradition of the penny and the man that is immortalized on it,” said Mr. Panama, his void rising and in danger of causing a scene.

“Lincoln should be a frickin saint not a vampire hunter.”

“Ok you’ve convinced me,” said The Barman. “You had me at vampire hunter. So where do I fit in?”

“You my friend are our eyes and ears on capitol hill,” answered Mr. Panama.

“You get a lot of representatives, aides and cocktail waitresses in here. They all drink and they all talk. Anything you hear that even remotely concerns the penny, you let us know,” added The Beard.

“Can-do. I do have one more question.” asked the Barman.

“Shoot,” replied The Bearded One.

“When do I get one of those cool rings?”

“In five days you will receive a ham salad sandwich on rye. You will pay with cash and on the merchants copy of the receipt you will write in your ring size in lieu of the tip amount,” replied The Beard.

“Ten days after that you will get a ham salad sandwich on pumpernickel. It will contain the ring. Do not eat the sandwich before you check for the ring.”

“Cool. What’s with the ham salad?”

“We have fans involved with hog futures. A lot of hog futures,” answered Panama.

 “ I’ll be looking for that ham salad on rye,” was all The Barman could respond with before returning to work.

The Beard waited until The Barman was out of earshot and said, “I like that vampire hunter bit. That added to the subterfuge nicely. He won’t be able to keep that to himself.”
“Thanks, I like to keep it fresh,” said Panama. He laughed and uttered “A Penny Cabal. I gotta keep that part.”