LE MORTE D'AUTHOR
The Cessna Grand Caravan carrying the Echo Lake Mile High Skydiving Club climbed steadily into the crisp Colorado sky. The seven veteran members chatted among themselves and offered assurance to Henry Burton, their charter member and aspiring novice. Nobody noticed the tall, black robed figure, a scythe resting on the floor between his knees, sitting next to Henry. Nobody but Henry that is.
"ROGER WILCOX, THE WRITER, I PRESUME?" said the figure.
"Beg your pardon?"
"AREN'T YOU ROGER WILCOX OF 1457 PEACHTREE STREET, ATHENS, GEORGIA?"
"No. I'm Henry Burton. From Denver."
"I SEE. YOU'RE SURE?"
"DO YOU WRITE NOVELS?"
"I've started one. You know, everyone wants to write the Great American Novel. It's a long way from being finished, though."
"My writer's critique group likes it so far. It's about a hard luck college student who has to sell his plasma to make ends meet."
"THAT DOESN'T SOUND PARTICULARLY INTERESTING."
"That's just the set up. He agrees to participate in a dangerous experiment where he dies and goes onto life support. When he recovers he documents his near death experience."
"NOW YOU'RE TALKING."
"The agent I met at a writing conference encouraged me to finish it and submit it to her."
"WOULD YOU MIND SHOWING ME YOUR DRIVER'S LICENSE?"
"Look, I told you my name is Henry Burton. My wallet is in my back pocket and the harness on my parachute prevents me from reaching it, but I assure you I am who I said I am."
"HMMMM" said the stranger. He scratched the side of his cowl with the scythe.
The airplane leveled off, and the pilot announced they were nearing the drop zone. A flashing red light above the open door at the side of the plane changed to yellow.
"Twenty seconds," said the pilot.
The eight parachutists stood and performed a last-minute buddy check on each other and shuffled to the opening. The black robed figure remained seated.
He looked at Henry and said, "I'LL WAIT FOR YOU ON THE GROUND, ROGER."
"I told you, my name is not Roger," insisted Henry.
All eight members landed safely, and as Henry gathered and folded his chute, the stranger appeared beside him.
"CAN I SEE YOUR DRIVER'S LICENSE NOW? YOU'LL NEED IT TO DRIVE HOME, RIGHT? MOUNTAIN ROADS CAN BE STEEP AND ICY, YOU KNOW."
Frustrated, Henry retrieved his wallet and showed his driver's license.
"HENRY BURTON. HMMMM. I'LL BE DARNED. SORRY, MY MISTAKE." he said and disappeared.
Gary Horton dropped off the stern apron of the thirty foot Reefer Madness into the transparent blue waters of the Pacific. Twenty feet below him the Great Barrier Reef and the vast diversity of its marine life awaited. He kicked his feet and descended toward a sandy meadow amid the coral reef, holding his camera to his chest and watching for a suitable photo opportunity.