There was an old man who was so old that even the children who once considered him old had long since past from memory.
And with every passing day, he grew older, not only in days, but in body and spirit as well. His skin continued to wither, his bones grew more brittle and his disposition turned increasingly sour year after year.
But he kept going.
He had no family because he never wanted family. He had no friends because he never wanted friends. He had nothing because he never aspired to anything more.
All he had was time. Lots and lots of time.
Until death came knocking at his door.
“It’s about time you came for me,” the old man snapped.
“I did not come for you,” death told him.
“Then who did you come for?”
“You swatted a fly.”
The old man could hardly believe what he was hearing. “Why not me?” he complained.
“Because if I take a virtuous soul” death told him, “I get grieving. If I take a wicked one, I get gratitude, but if I take you, I get nothing. You are neither loved nor loathed, so if no one wants you or wants rid of you, why should I be bothered?”
“So what am I then, nothing?” the old man asked.
“I would not say that” death said.
That was a relief…
“What you are,” death said, “is between me and the fly I came for.”
And with that, death reached across the old man, snatched up the carcass of the fly and vanished in a puff of dust.
One reason the old man had lived so long is that he never tempted fate, but that is a far cry from being ignored by fate. So after years of not pushing his luck, the old man decided to give it a good hard shove.
He lived in a land ruled by a cruel and arrogant king who expected his subjects to grovel whenever he approached.
Anyone who didn’t, lost their head.
So the next time the king promenaded through the neighborhood, the old man made it a point to remain standing.
The King was incensed.
“Seize him!” he cried.
But his guards ran right past the old man and seized a bewildered old dog who apparently didn’t know that even animals were expected to grovel.
“Hey,” the old man cried out.
No one noticed.
“HEY!” he shouted again, “look at me; I’m not groveling.”
This the King could not ignore.
“Off with his head…..,” he commanded.
The old man smiled because he had just put one over on death.
But then the king relented.
“Check that,” he said, “shackle that old man to that old dog and toss them both on the garbage heap behind the castle. They deserve each other.”
Which is precisely what the soldiers did.
If he had it bad before, he had it worse chained to the old mutt, whose breath reeked of rotted road-kill and whose farts were so rank they were visible.
The dog was equally impressed with the old man.
But being bound together, quite literally, on a heap of stinking garbage where every foul thing imaginable came sailing over the walls, they had to make the best of it.
Over the years that followed, they learned to hobble in unison to scavenge the choicest bits of garbage before the crows swooped in and they learned to huddle together for warmth when the winter nights grew bitter.
One cannot say they became friends, because given their generally foul natures, friendship was not in the cards, yet despite this, over time they developed a fondness for each other.
Until death came along.
“Who have you come for this time?” the old man asked.
Death said nothing.
“My luck being what it is, I know you have not come for me, but I am glad you have come for the dog.”
“How so?” Death asked.
“He can’t walk, he can barely see. His breath stinks, and his farts hang in the air like fog.”
“I have let worse live,” death said.
“But it’s his time.”
“How do you know it is not yours?”
“Take the dog.”
At that, the old dog raised his head and eased it down onto the old man’s thigh. It was the gentlest of moments.
Even Death was touched.
“I’ll take you both,” he said.
At that, the old man turned to the old dog and the old dog cast his gaze upon the old man, and each sighed a deep sigh of relief.
44 thoughts on “The Old Man Who Death Ignored”
Aesop never wrote them so well.
Very telling story, Greg. The heart always wins. Thank you.
I’m NOT crying…it’s just a speck of pollen in my eye!
I get that too. Pollen, I mean.
Your writing skills are showing!
That devil guy – even he loosened the rules, so moved by the situation. Love it.
What’s the use of having rules if you can’t fudge them a bit?
This is a great story. It has everything – including visible farts. I’m smitten.
Me: “I was careful to include every element of great story telling.”
My Muse: “Where are the farts that hang in the air like fog?”
Me: “Oh drat!”
My Muse: “Amateur.”
Loved it. A very satisfying read. And everything’s better with a dog.
Even stinky old dogs.
I’ve seen those dog farts with mine own eyes! I loved that girl anyway (but not for cuddling at night – peew !). Looks like your old man did a better job of accepting his canine companion’s flaws than I ever did. Great story. You’re amazing. 😊
Perhaps it isn’t so much accepting flaws as it is ignoring them. Some things though, are a challenge to ignore…. like rolling in essence of dead skunk. 🙂
I didn’t see that conclusion coming, and when it did, it took my breath away. Went straight to the heart. Thank you, I think, as I sit here with tears rolling down my cheeks.
Dogs will do that to you. Scooter often brings me to tears – but it is usually for chewing something up. 🙂
It’s powerful writing that does it to me😉
Rather than tell you how much I liked your post, I decided to show you by reblogging it. My teachers always said it was better to show than tell.
Thank you so much, I am honored.
Fantastic tale. Or… fantastic tail.
I rate that pun three grins 🙂 🙂 🙂
The old man gained a friendship despite his best efforts to avoid it.
Try as you might some times… 🙂
Great story. I was intrigued, and good for them, particularly for the dog. 😀
It did work out in the end, and heck, even death was pleased.
Death always wins in the end. 🙂
This is a good story.
Reblogged this on Eagle Canyon Flyer and commented:
If you read nothing else today — make it this story…
Thank you Tom!
Hey, thanks for the reblog!
You are very welcome!
What Dan said! This is one of the finest stories I’ve read in ages. I am moved!
I am glad you liked it. I was hesitant to publish it.
I’m happy you did. It filled the void of several friend’s passing this last month. Had to share it, too. Wanted others to be reminded…
The friends we make along the way. All the better when one of them is a dog. Great story.
Some of my best friends have been dogs, both literally and figuratively. 🙂
That’s a great story, Greg. Even Death was moved. Dogs can do that.
Indeed dogs can – but watching Scooter roll in the remains of a dead skunk, one has to wonder why?
What a story, Greg. Each became a conduit to comfort for the other. Touching.
Any story that involves a dog is a good story. 🙂
You have something there.
Comments are closed.