Every year the grim reaper challenges Mike to a contest in order to allow him another year of life.
“Not paintball again please, you know that my long robes are a disadvantage. They’re impossible to hide behind any of the obstacles they have on the course, and the last person I tried to reap while I was covered in pink Poke-A-Dots would not stop laughing at me.” I begged Mike. These eternal contracts really should come with a bit more discretion on the part of the reaper. He was only thirteen, but still. He could try and let me have some shred of dignity. Did flowing black cloaks and large scythes mean nothing to him?
“You said it could be any contest with a clear and non-subjective winner that I wanted, but I guess paintball isn’t very sporting so how about…” Mike looked around his room. “Sharks and minnows!” Mike cried, lunging for a cap and goggles that were nearby.
“What’s sharks and minnows?” I asked, knowing that the answer would not be to my liking.
“It’s simple. We go find a pool, you tread water in the middle, and I try to swim to the other side before you can touch me. If I can make it across, you lose.” Mike was already excusing himself to the bathroom to change.
“Oh come on now Mike, you see how I’m dressed. Try to be reasonable.” I begged of him.
“You said any game. I want to play sharks and minnows.”
“I bet none of the other reapers have to put up with this.” I mumbled.
“I hear that!” Mike shouted out. He trotted out with his swim trunks and goggles on. “Come on, the pool is just around the corner, and I’ll even give you an edge. I have to make it to the other side, and then turn around and come back. What do you say?”
“Oh alright.” I sighed, following Mike as he bolted out the door like a child eager to reach his birthday party on time.
A few painfully embarrassing moments later, after I explained to the astonished lifegaurds what was going to transpire, I swam out into the deep part of the pool.
I say swam, it was really more like drowning in a forward direction. I didn’t even want to think about how heavy my robes were when filled with water.
“Alright Mike, let’s get this over with.” I bemoaned as Mike practically bounced up and down on the side of the pool, waiting to dive in. He could be less enthusiastic about trumping an eternal force from beyond the vale. It was downright undignified having him be so….Happy about it.
“You have to say ‘all minnows in’.” Mike informed me.
“Fine, ‘all minnows in’.” Mike dove down to the bottom of the pool like he was a frog, and expertly reached the other side in only a handful of strokes. All while being safely under about 3 meters of water. I made one attempt to reach him, turning myself upside down to use gravity to my advantage. The trouble was my out fit didn’t cooperate and I ended up impersonating an oil spill as Mike gleefully returned to his staring wall.
I dragged myself exhaustedly to the side and pulled myself out of the pool with much panting and coughing of water.
“Okay Mike.” I coughed up half a lung full of water. “You win until next year.”
“Sweet!” Mike called, and then ran back home chanting some asinine childhood rhyme that involved over usage of the word ‘smells’.
“Thanks.” His mom said, walking up to me from where she had been watching.
“No.” I coughed a quarter lung full of water out onto the side of the pool. “Problem.”
“He doesn’t have any idea does he?” She asked.
“No mom. He hasn’t the slightest clue I’m his older brother.” I threw back my hood and tore off the voice changer. “He still thinks it’s real.” Ever since our father had passed on Mike had a resounding fear of death. So every year I pretended to be the reaper so he could beat me and feel safe for another year.