Reap the Fine Print
The Gospel of Cash, Book 1: Drop Dead Drunk & Disorderly
Chapter 26, Verse 17: Let he who is without sin stray far from my presence, as they always proveth to be quite the bore.
If getting impaled on a car antenna and suffocating from an octopus that had wrapped itself around his face was Cash’s biggest shock of the day, then finding out that those who die drunk are doomed to stay drunk for all eternity in the afterlife had been a close second.
He’d always known he wasn’t a role model, and that if there was a heaven, he probably wasn’t going to it. But honestly, Cash had found it much easier to accept that there is, in fact, an afterlife than he’d found it to accept the fact that any alcohol in your bloodstream at the time of death continues to intoxicate your ghost.
Immediately following his untimely end, Cash vaguely remembered seeing pearly gates, and a long queue of people staring at him disapprovingly as he hurled a bunch of half-digested salmon chunks all over the cloudy floor in front of a bouncer with a clipboard who looked equal parts angelic and menacing.
The bouncer had assessed Cash in a way that suggested he’d just made a final decision on something; presumably whether or not Cash was eligible for entry.
Given that Cash had lost his footing and stumbled to his knees right through his own puddle of wispy silver ghost creamy salmon salsa vomit, which he’d then tracked all over the cloud carpet as he staggered around in no comprehensible direction, Cash was still sober enough to conclude that the bouncer’s decision was probably a resounding “no”.
What Cash couldn’t conclude was what would come next for him if he wasn’t permitted entry into heaven. Was he going to hell?
Was he returning to earth, where he would miraculously pull the octopus off his face, squirm his way off what was apparently the sharpest fucking car antenna known to man, and swim up to Tokyo’s newly revised sea level, where he’d presumably seek some medical attention for the giant car antenna-shaped hole through his chest?
(Sidenote: Cash isn’t Japanese, nor does he live in Japan, nor does he remember how he even ended up in Japan, much less how he’d missed all the tsunami warnings, siren wails and screaming locals running in the opposite direction as he’d stumbled down to the docks in search of a karaoke bar).
No, Cash hadn’t been sent back to earth. He’d simply been condemned to keep the one thing from his expired life that no one wants to bring with them to the grave… a job.
The Gospel of Cash, Book 2: The Boxer in the Red Trunks
Chapter 11, Verse 35: Thou shalt not striketh a blow to a fellow soul... unlesseth it’s thy kinky bedroom thing and theneth it's probably fine.
If time existed in the afterlife (and if Cash hadn’t been consistently intoxicated since his death), Cash would estimate that he’d been a Grim Reaper for long enough to have tenure.
Ironically, he was better at it than any job he’d ever had during his time on earth. There really wasn’t much to it.
As he strolled into an illegal boxing match in a shady underground establishment and muscled through the rowdy crowd of onlookers until he found himself a cosy bench to lean on by the wall, Cash found it far too easy to become transfixed on the illegal boxing match occurring right before his eyes, rather than questioning his phantom non-existence.
Just as Cash was wondering whether it’s too late to put down a few bucks on the guy in the red trunks beating the guy in the blue trunks, the guy in the blue trunks landed a solid blow to the guy in the red trunks’ jaw, which saw the guy in the red trunks spin a perfect 180-degrees on his heels and face-plant the way a tree would fall if you sawed through its trunk to within an inch of completion and then gave it a firm kick.
Cash was no doctor, but the way the fallen comrade’s leg was twitching and the fact that his eyes were wide open and unblinking was enough to suggest that this guy had graduated from being an amateur boxer to a professional dead person.
Judging by the silence that had fallen through the formerly rowdy and obnoxious crowd, it would appear that every onlooker had come to the same conclusion.
If there had been any remaining doubt in Cash’s mind as to whether the boxer in the red trunks was dead, it diminished when the guy pulled himself up to a seated position, looked around in a daze for a moment, and then fixed his gaze directly on Cash.
For his part, Cash helped himself to an unattended almost-full pint of lukewarm beer from a nearby table, and instantly felt better. He downed half of the beer in several large gulps while patiently waiting for the boxer in the red trunks to gradually gather himself, use the ropes to pull himself to his feet and then drag his limp body over to Cash’s newly acquired table.
Cash offered his newly acquired friend a sip of his newly acquired beer. The boxer declined; presumably still adjusting to his newly acquired state of non-living.
“That’s quite the thump you just collected,” were Cash’s choice of words for welcoming the boxer in the red trunks to the afterlife. They were slightly slurred.
“I lost, didn’t I,” the former boxer mumbled, still looking quite perplexed.
“You didn’t just lose the match, my friend! You lost all future heartbeats,” Cash replied.
“Fuck,” the guy half-sighed, half-whimpered. “I always hated that guy.”
“Don’t worry, he goes pretty soon too,” Cash belched. “Believe it or not, the life expectancy for cage fighters isn’t all that high. Although, mistaking a defibrillator for a sex toy doesn’t have much to do with cage fighting… still though, not the worst way to go.”
The former boxer fixed his gaze on Cash again, a little more lucidly this time. “How did you go?”
“I was impaled to death during an octopus’s attack,” Cash muttered absent-mindedly.
“Wait, did the octopus stab you? Or were you the one attacking the octopus and something went horribly wrong?”
Cash found it amusing how quickly the dead boxer had replied, and that he appeared to be more curious about Cash’s death than his own. But before Cash could reply, the dead boxer found some more questions to ask.
“Are you like… a reaper from the afterlife? Are you Death?”
“I’m pretty much just a ghost that escorts dead people from A to B,” Cash shrugged. “But I’m actually hoping to tag along as your plus-one into heaven this evening.”
The dead boxer fixed Cash with a long, steady gaze for several confused moments, while Cash took a long, steady gulp that depleted the rest of the lukewarm almost-pint.
“I’ve done my time as a reaper, champ. I’m taking you to heaven, and you’re gonna help me sneak past the bouncer.”
The Gospel of Cash, Book 3: The Zippo-Wielding Drug Dealer
Chapter 83, Verse 1: He who judgeth those who dealeth drugs by their vocation and appearance shalt never know true salvation.
It didn’t work. Beside the boxer’s composed composure, Cash’s drunken drunkenness stood out like a sore thumb.
The angelic-yet-menacing bouncer took one look at the boxer’s solid physique, lucid gaze and haggard accomplice, and shed the boxer of this third attribute.
And now here Cash was, at the next soon-to-be-dead-person’s soon-to-be-death-scene, watching him live out the last few moments of his soon-to-be-dead life.
If the boxer in the red trunks’ death had been violent, this one was totally fucking brutal.
Cash leaned against the windowsill nonchalantly, helping himself to the last few drags of a half-smoked joint perched precariously on the edge of a plate, and watched with mild interest as a young scrawny guy burst into the room.
His fringe was matted to his forehead with sweat, his breath was panting out of his lungs with panic, and his little brother was glued to his side with unconditional trust.
Neither of them took any notice of Cash, mostly because they weren’t dead yet and Cash was. Even if it weren’t for that though, they seemed pretty preoccupied with other shit at that moment.
The older brother pulled the couch away from the wall just enough for his younger brother to squeeze in behind it for safety, and then ran to the ensuite to start flushing what Cash could only assume was illegal narcotics down the toilet.
Just as Cash was wondering what kind of bizarre house has an ensuite coming off the living room, the front door exploded off its hinges and all the glass in the windows shattered.
A split-second later, there were more police officers in the room than Cash could count at this present time (perhaps because that half-a-joint was starting to kick in).
The next thing Cash lost count of was how many bullets one of the edgier cops put through the older brother’s face and chest when the cop mistook the pistol-shaped Zippo lighter in his hand for a real gun.
As Cash stood there, invisible, watching the younger kid emerge frantically from behind the couch with an ear-piercing scream as he ran over to his dead brother through a sea of tense but suddenly still and quiet police officers, a very rare lump formed in Cash’s throat.
Suddenly, death by octopus-inflicted suffocation as a result of a tsunami-instigated freak car antenna-impaling didn’t seem like such a bad way to leave this earth.
Cash had never been a man with much moral fibre in his core (neither before death nor after), but the sight of that screaming kid clawing at his bullet-riddled older brother was enough to make anyone’s stomach turn.
If Cash had been able to turn back the clock on that incident and intervene, he would have.
Instead though, he just shuffled over to the ensuite and took a seat on the tiled floor beside the older brother, who had propped himself up against the wall near the toilet seat. The fact that he’d done it without gagging, gurgling or coughing up blood seemed to be enough to let him know that he was no longer alive.
He watched his little brother across the room with a twisted and pained look on his face.
“So fucking stupid,” the older brother muttered, shaking his head.
“Which part?” Cash asked.
“All of it,” the older brother spat. “I would do it all completely different.”
The first few times Cash did this (however fucking long ago that was), he was blown away by how calm the newly deceased always are, and how easily they accept their new reality… even the gruesome and truly sudden deaths.
These days though, Cash understood. It’s all part of the process. How does a caterpillar know how to use its newly acquired wings when it becomes a butterfly? How do salmon know to swim upstream, and birds to fly north for the winter? It’s just programmed in.
“Is my little brother going to be okay without me?” Cash’s latest reapee choked up slightly as he asked the question.
Cash licked his finger tip, dipped it into a brick of cocaine that had fallen down by the toilet seat and was split open by a stray bullet, licked his finger clean, and sighed. “He lives to 73 years old.”
The older brother’s face transformed from torment to relief. Cash decided it was best not to mention that most of those 73 years would be completely and utterly miserable.
“How did you die?”
Cash licked another smudge of mediocre cocaine off his fingertip. “I was hit by a car in a tsunami.”
The newly deceased brother frowned. “Wait, what do you mean? Was it the car that killed you or the tsunami?”
“Actually it was an octopus. But I don’t blame her – she was just frightened. Let’s go.”
The Gospel of Cash, Book 4: A Rather Impromptu Blind (And Dead) Date
Chapter 4, Verse 38: Thou shalt celebrateth the miracle of pulleth pork burritos and thirst-quenching margariteth with the sacred act of love, or thou shalt forever suffereth the dissatisfaction of an unejaculated seed.
Cash’s next assignment saw him traipsing into a fancy Mexican restaurant and cocktail bar to escort the soul of an unfortunate young woman from her final dinner table to her eternal afterlife.
It had been a long day, and Cash was still reeling from losing his most recent bet. He’d placed a wager with one of his Grim Reaper buddies that the drug dealing older brother was going to hell, but in fact he’d gone to heaven.
Not only was Cash down $50, but he’d been left to contemplate how the scrawny drug dealer’s sins were not enough to deny him access to heaven, while Cash’s 30-ish years of petty mischief and scallywag shenanigans was enough to keep the pearly gates firmly closed.
Cash felt that his rather harmless (albeit lowbrow) lifestyle had affected his deathstyle much more than the drug-dealing gunshot victim.
As such, Cash had indulged in an extra few dabs of cocaine before he’d left the murder scene of a house for the lively and festive atmosphere of this Mexican restaurant. On his way to the next unsuspecting client’s table, Cash made a detour to the bar and ordered two margaritas.
He pounded the first one straight back, and then nursed the second margarita as he sauntered over to the lady whom was about to choke to death on her burrito. To put it mildly (which Cash rarely bothered to do), she wasn’t much of a looker.
However, as Cash wearily approached the table, watching this woman gag and moan on two-thirds of a 12-inch burrito that she was stuffing into her mouth for no apparent reason other than she seemed to enjoy the challenge of it, Cash decided he would take a new approach with this soul.
Cash waited for her eyes to bulge and her face to turn blue before he drained the last of his margarita, signalled to the bartender that he’d like two more, and then lifted the choking lady out of her seat with both arms.
Now, Cash didn’t actually know how to do the Heimlich Manoeuvre but then again, he didn’t really need to. He just had to squeeze her a couple of times, let her go, pat her on the back, tell her she’s okay, take a seat opposite her at the table, and let the evening pan out.
The woman was ever so grateful for Cash’s heroic actions, and what are the chances that her blind date would arrive just in time to save her life? What an exceptional story they’d have for the grandkids!
Cash neglected to mention that he’d seen her actual blind date walk into the restaurant right in the midst of the Heimlich Manoeuvre fiasco, lay eyes on his burrito-deep-throating date, instinctively recoil and then spin on his heels to run right back out the door.
Cash also neglected to mention that it’s not really acceptable to order and eat your meal before your blind date arrives, especially when they’re not even running late.
Cash also neglected to mention that there was absolutely no chance of her having grandkids, because she was in fact already dead at this very moment, gleefully stuffing her face with more Mexican food as Cash got himself warmed up under the table.
And finally, Cash refrained from calling her a liar because if she was truly grateful for Cash’s heroic actions, she would have offered to at least split the bill.
That being said, the vast majority of the bill belonged to Cash. Post-Heimlich Manoeuvre, he’d started pounding margaritas like nobody’s business.
You see, the maitre d’ had turned the lights up when Cash’s date started choking, and it turns out she really wasn’t as attractive as he’d initially thought, nor was she as interesting to talk to as he’d been hoping, nor was she as willing to split the bill as he’d been hoping.
Why couldn’t he have bet on the drug dealer going to heaven, Cash grimaced as he licked the salty rim of his eighth margarita.
The next morning, Cash learned that splitting bills wasn’t the only thing this woman wasn’t willing to do. Seriously, what’s a bit of lazy morning, half-drunk backdoor fun among friends? If she wasn’t “that kind of girl”, then she should at least be the kind of girl who splits a fucking bill!
Every once in a while, when Cash would think these horrible things to himself, he would remember why he hadn’t made it onto Heaven’s Guest List.
Anyway, Cash’s chosen method for waking his blind date up the following morning earned him a very swift eviction from her apartment. As the door slammed shut in his face, Cash realised that he hadn’t actually gotten around to telling her she’d been dead for 12 hours.
The Gospel of Cash, Book 5: A Lady Well-Versed in the Intricacies of Life & Death
Chapter 32, Verse 4: By the graceth of God, he who tasteth the sacred nectar of caffeine and cow shalt be foreveth humbled and temporarileth lucid.
This death was a bit more chilled, which Cash was grateful for. His head was pounding, his stomach was turning and his balls were blue – Cash was hoping for an easy-going stint at the office today.
As he lurked in the corner of the hospital ward, vaguely watching a 93-year-old woman convulse ever so slightly in her bed and then drift off into what looked like a peaceful sleep while her children, grandchildren and even a great-grandchild stood by her side, Cash pondered how long it would be before he could enjoy Mexican food again.
He only managed to snap back to the present when someone nudged him on the shoulder, scaring the absolute bejesus out of him – and ghosts don’t get sneaked up on often.
Cash spun around to see the 93-year-old lady standing before him with a polite smile on her face. “Excuse me… I think you’re here for me?”
“You’re my reaper, right? I’m ready to go.”
Cash held her gaze, looking rather perplexed. “Sorry – yeah, I just… I didn’t get to catch you up to speed yet.”
“Oh, I’ve done this dance a few times before,” the lady chuckled. “I’ve actually passed away four times, but the doctors always managed to bring me back after a few minutes. This time, though, I have a feeling it’s final.”
Cash couldn’t help but notice how charming and laid-back this old gal was. He got the impression that she’d had a very interesting life, and perhaps now she was ready for a very interesting death.
The recently deceased lady studied Cash curiously for a moment. “What’s on your mind, dear? You seem troubled.”
Cash held her gaze. “Troubled? No, not troubled. Just a little scrambled from last night still.”
“Why don’t you sit down, dear,” the old lady suggested in a tone that was perhaps a little more patronising than Cash would’ve liked. Then again, he was pretty tired…
As half a dozen doctors and nurses rushed into the ward in a futile attempt to resuscitate Mrs Edgeworth (Cash spotted her name on the clipboard at the foot of her bed), she paid them no mind. Instead, she escorted Cash over to the small table by the window, and each of them took a seat.
“They only brought this coffee in a few minutes ago,” she beamed. “It should still be piping hot – would you like a cuppa before we go?”
The two engaged in some light-hearted banter over coffee as if they were old friends, and Cash explained that he’d been both a drunk ghost and a reluctantly employed Grim Reaper for longer than he could remember, and he was eager to retire.
“What killed you in the first place?” Mrs Edgeworth asked.
“I choked to death on a car’s radio antenna,” he muttered.
“Were you trying to eat it?”
“No, it was still attached to the car. A tsunami impaled me onto it and my lungs filled with my own blood. I used to blame the octopus for smothering me, but really, I think I was already done for by that point.”
Mrs Edgeworth considered this for a moment. “Worse ways to go, I suppose.”
“Anyway, I just feel like I’ve earned my entrance into heaven by now,” said Cash, his head suddenly feeling clearer than it had in days.
The old lady chuckled to herself, then looked up to see Cash scowling at her over the rim of his mug, as he drained his coffee and poured himself another one. He found it remarkable that the geriatric ward of a shabby old hospital would have such great coffee.
“Oh, you’re being serious!” she exclaimed. “You don’t want to go to heaven, dear, trust me. I’ve poked my head through the gates a couple of times now. It’s all very prim and proper in there – white gowns, formal handshakes, no foul language, not a thing out of place.”
She shook her head. “Someone like yourself would stick out like a sore thumb.”
Cash stared at her, incredulous. “You’re saying I’m better suited to hell?”
Mrs Edgeworth pursed her lips with thought as she gazed out the window for a moment. “I think you’re perfectly suited to your current position.”
“You clearly haven’t seen my annual reviews,” Cash replied.
“No seriously, think about it – some people don’t want to spend all eternity sitting around in paradise with idle hands,” she explained. “You have purpose, you’re still attached to the real world, you get to mingle with people from all walks of life instead of just the boring heavenly ones, you can spend your days drinking and smoking whatever you like on the job without any consequences… perhaps this is your heaven.”
Cash sat back in his chair, holding her gaze. “Huh… I never thought about it like that. What’s your heaven?”
“Oh, no I’m going straight to hell this time,” Mrs Edgeworth waved the question away like she was swatting a fly. “I’ve pulled the plug on, like, SO many people in this place. Anyone who was pissing me off never made it through the night.”
She took a final sip of her coffee. “Shall we go?”
The Gospel of Cash, Book 6: Grim Banter at Misery Guts
Chapter 16, Verse 47: Neveth again shalt thy doubt the graceth of thy all-theeing God, for he who knoweth all can provideth an afterlife that abtholutely betht-suiteth our personaliteth.
Cash had some downtime between Mrs Edgeworth and his next client, so he decided to consider this new attitude towards his post-life existence over a cold pint at Misery Guts, a ghostly hangout where he could usually count on finding at least one or two of the bar stools occupied by familiar colleagues.
Sure enough, Cash came across no fewer than four of his reaper buddies there, already engaged in lively pub banter about their most recent escapades at work.
One of them explained how she’d started dressing up as a theatre usher lately, so she could “show clients to their new seats”, and then she would escort them to front row seats in a theatre production. If the client was going to heaven, the production was a recap of all their best moments in life. If they were headed for hell, the reaper made them sit through a 367-hour theatre adaptation of Adam Sandler’s Jack & Jill movie.
Another of Cash’s reaper pals broke the news that he’d recently had the pleasure of introducing none other than former President Donald Trump to the afterlife. Apparently he took Trump to the pearly gates first, let him walk right through them, and then at the last moment dragged him back out and sent him to hell.
A third colleague at the table said their day’s appointments had consisted of a drug overdose (YOU try explaining what’s going on to someone who just took morphine to kill an elephant), a blind lady who had somehow mistaken her apartment building’s elevator shaft to be her shower, and a gardening enthusiast who’d been pinned under a tree that fell after being struck by lightning, laid there waiting to be rescued for four days, managed to use his one free hand to fight off a pack of wolves that was trying to eat him, fashioned a series of tools out of the bark from the tree, gradually carved his way out from under the tree trunk, scrambled to his feet, and then got struck by lightning moments afterwards and died.
Cash chose to offer up his “blind date at the Mexican restaurant” story, which was met by a parade of laughter followed by a round for everyone. He’d considered filling them all in on the geriatric ward conversation, but decided to keep that one to himself.
After settling in for some more pub banter while he sipped his pint (and paid his mate the $50 he owed him), Cash realised he’d had more fun in his afterlife than he ever did before the tsunami-antenna-octopus fiasco.Add a comment