the grim reader

he appeared to me
on Sunday
just as I was trying to complete a
particularly ghastly thread
on Twitter as I lay in bed
shit I said
he shook his head
why? expecting someone else instead?
I shrugged
as I coyly tugged
the duvet to my chest
why – no, I guess…

he was wearing a cloak
wildly bespoke
the kinda thing you’d wear for a joke
just a big black sheet
lotsa bulging pockets and pleats
stuffed with photos, notes, receipts
sharp one liners, smart critiques
cartoons, gifs
gothic posters, manga strips
a million 3 minute video clips
of snakes v pigeons
an animated Charles Dickens
made of sinister vegetables
a spider in spectacles
a pulsing line of hatching cocoons
an old man eating prunes
for the first time
cooking with edamame
surviving a tsunami
a politician doorstepped
a mouse getting the floor swept
with a screaming flamingo
seventeen submarines firing in syncro
the explanation of a syndrome
a rusty ol’ Citroen
a flock of drones
in V formation flying home
and so on
and on
row upon row
of audiovisual overload

was an interesting case
of terminal distraction
the kinda face you might wanna caption:
hashtag notinmyname
his eyes moving incessantly
worryingly independently
quite reptilian
like a chameleon
shifty & machiavellian
and his skin was sallow
the kinda fellow
you might wanna give vit D
and take away on holiday
to the mountains or the sea
so he could live a few weeks healthily

it’s time he said
but I’ve only just gone to bed
no he said
shaking his head
(he did that a lot;
the only expression of frustration he’d got)
accompanied by the kinda mime
you REALLY don’t wanna see
at anytime, let alone half past three
in the morning
obvs a warning
I mean – GRIM by name, GRIM by nature
a superi-serious kinda player
no doubt a visit from the HAPPY reader
woulda been a whole other prospect
so anyway what’s next
I said
bravely sitting up in bed

he raised a bony digit
I put down my phone & started to fidget

COME WITH ME NOW! he boomed
and straightaway uploaded me outta the room
and that’s where I’m Tweeting from right this minute
but that’s what you get for doom scrolling, innit

now, honey – you KNOW it’s not my time

I’m an easy going bloke
but when Death slips off his cloak
dumps his scythe
with a clatter
is all like ‘Death’s here and nothing else matters’
hard-heels it into my hotel room
and then ‘Boom!’
throws his bony arse down on the bed, uninvited
starts bouncing around like he’s utterly fucking delighted
honestly? I’m not the least bit excited
‘Honey?’ I tell him ‘Enough of this shit.
Stop it. Just quit.
Grab your stuff and git.
So you’re the Scourge? The Reaper? The Flail?
Well, good for you, girlfriend. Cheque’s in the mail.
I’m sorry for any disappointment
but next time – okay? – make a motherfucking appointment



an appointment with death


There I was, waiting at the railway station / swiping my phone for information / when suddenly Death showed up / scattering people and coffee cups / tables collapsing, chairs upended / as the dreadful figure of Death descended / riding on a stormy cloud / that blew away the commuter crowd / and left me standing alone and shaking / (quite an entrance he was undertaking) / And Death slowly turned to me, and pointed, and said / Vincente Lorenzo Fettuccine – You…are…DEAD!

A long and slightly embarrassed pause

What was he waiting for? Applause?

So I tiptoed over to the apparition / hovering in front of the EAT concession / and as bravely and discreetly as I could / whispered nervously into his hood / My name’s not Vincente, it’s Jim / I think you might have confused me with him

Oh God! said Death, rubbing his temple / How could I screw up something so simple? / And the Dark Lord blushed deep in his sockets / handed me his sickle, turned out his pockets / looking for a delivery docket / parchment blowing up & down the concourse / ECGs, doctors’ reports / You sure you’re not supposed to be dead? / Sure I’m sure, I said / Don’t go putting that shit in my head / Sorry he shrugged I’m having a moment / Maybe there’s been some weird postponement / He sighed, took back the sickle / I’m certain I had you down for the hospickle / Hospickle? I said, what are you – three? / Death wagged a phalange at me / Listen! I speak six thousand languages! / Do you know what the Hindi for strangle is? / No? What about the Xhosa for lion? / or the Ayapaneco for Watch out Brian? / I bet all you did was French at school, eh? / Well translate this: Va te faire enculer! / I’m sorry, I said. I take your point! / I’m sorry I got you bent out of joint / You could try, he said, swirling his cape / I think you’ll find I’m in awesome shape

What would you say in that situation? / Mistaken by Death at the railway station?
I didn’t know what else to do / so I thought I’d put my point of view

You gotta admit it’s not everyday / Death comes calling in this hideous way / Don’t say hideous, he said. It’s upsetting / I’m sorry, I said, but I think you’re forgetting / just how bad you look, you’re Top of the Shocks / with your fleshless ribs and your wormy locks / standing there in your cape and crocs / They’re comfortable, he said, so I do a lot of walking / Just shut up for a minute and I’ll do the talking / Honestly, he said, You’d infuriate a saint / I may be immortal but a saint I ‘aint / Just try to clean up your act a little / because otherwise I’ll definitely see you in hos-pit-al

(he made such a fuss of not getting it wrong / I felt quite bad for earlier on)

yet another awkward silence
then gradually, away in the distance, sirens

Look, he said, checking the watch / that was looped around his jugular notch / Try to control your disappointment / but I’ve got a rather urgent appointment / Let’s just chalk this up to experience / Death’ll catch you later…Vince!

and with that he vapourised in a chuckle of thunder / that sounded like a tube going under / and it was only when the concourse was clear / and I was absolutely damn sure he couldn’t hear / that I shouted It’s Jim, you boney-arsed nonce / Try getting it right for once