Young as Hell

by E.C. Hayward

The rumor was Kimball kept a grim reaper in his parents’ shed.

The grim reaper was sad. Carly Shilfibrans had peeked through the door and saw it sitting in the dirt staring at the ground, its arms tied to a bench. The grim reaper had an old piece of cloth draped on its skull like a rabbi wears.

Carly said the grim reaper turned its head slowly toward her and a tear rolled out of its eye socket. That’s probably not true but no one could ask her, she went off to a school for the gifted and my parents said her parents bragged about it all the time.

You’re probably wondering how Kimball got a grim reaper in the first place.

Kimball’s parents found an old well on their property; Kimball put a ladder down there and slipped and almost died, and that was when his foot touched the grim reaper, and after he stopped yelling he realized the grim reaper was light enough to pull up with a rope.

You’re probably wondering why Kimball’s parents let him keep a grim reaper in the shed. My parents said Kimball’s parents were pretty much useless and probably never lifted a tool much less put one in a shed. It’s funny because the shed is all that’s left of Kimball’s parents now: it’s just a couple of posts stuck in the hot, empty earth. You could say the posts are like gravestones for all the parents and old people of our town.

Someone said Greg Gliffer stuck a screwdriver in the grim reaper’s eye and pretty much shit himself on the spot, and now he has to wear a diaper all the time. I saw people in the lunchroom laughing at him, and with the look on his face, you had to wonder if it was true.

Brent Killebrew and Danny Aitoli snuck into the shed and Brent tried to pull the grim reaper’s head off. Brent cried out that the grim reaper’s skull felt disgusting and let go of it. Danny swore the grim reaper turned and looked at him just like Carly Shilfibrans said, and he wasn’t afraid to admit he just ran out of there. Later, someone said Brent could only eat baby food now.

The rumor was, anyone who hurt the grim reaper went backwards.

Charlie Pelts, Mike Glanes, and Jackson Mickey all messed with the grim reaper.

The next day, a teacher asked Jackson to read from the textbook and he said he forget how. Everyone thought it was a joke and the teacher got mad, but I saw Jackson’s face, and the fear on it is almost the worst thing I’ve ever seen. People said Charlie Pelts had to take speech therapy. Mike Glanes started carrying duckies and bunnies in his backpack.

Around that time, Danny Aitoli said the grim reaper was evil, and fifteen of us decided to destroy it.

Some of us weren’t sure we believed in the grim reaper. But if it was evil, it was real, and we would be the only people to discover it. We went at night, and Danny Aitoli led the way with his dad’s flashlight. There was no moon and there were no stars.

Danny opened the door and shined the flashlight at the grim reaper. Danny’s flashlight was weak but I’m pretty sure I saw the grim reaper move. I have to agree with Carly Shilfibrans that it looked sad.

There was scuffling and a few laughs as we dragged the grim reaper into the yard by its arms. We kicked its skull again and again. Two groups of us pried its ribs apart. Kevin Winders pulled off its jaw and someone else kicked in all its top teeth. One of us grabbed a rock and hammered at its joints until all the limbs were off. Someone else smashed the skull into tiny pieces.

It turned out there was a tool in the shed after all, a broken rake; its teeth tore at the grass as we raked together the pieces of the grim reaper. We carried them across the yard and threw them into the well, the one that Kimball’s parents never sealed.

And that was the day that fifteen of us found the secret of eternal youth, and now we just cry and cry all day long.

Like many of us, E.C. Hayward writes business words in the daytime. But things get different at night, especially when he takes too much Excedrin (trademark?) and taps out stories on his phone or handwrites under the covers to shelter his wife from the ugly light.
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