HHR

“HHR, how may I direct your call.”

“What?”

“What”

“What is this.”

**Deep Sigh** “This is HHR.”

“I, uh, what’s HHR”

“Health and Human Resources.”

“Oh…uh, ok.”

“No I’m kidding.”

“What?”

“This isn’t Health and Human Resources.”

“Ok, then what is it.”

“Where are you.”

“Where am I?”

“Is there an echo?”

“No there’s no echo where I am.”

**Another deep sigh** “Describe your surroundings.”

“Well, it’s, uh, there’s nothing.”

“Nothing?”

**Sounding increasingly panicked** “Yes nothing…”

“Ok.”

“Hey wait, I’m not on the phone.”

“I know.”

“No I mean I’m not holding a phone.”

“Obviously.”

“I’m hearing you…how am I hearing you?”

“Not the point, can we get back to the matter at hand.”

“What’s the matter at hand.”

“I need to understand where you are, because only then can I determine if I can help you.”

“But I didn’t even call you!”

“You didn’t need to.”

“What?”

“What”

“What’s your name. Who am I speaking with.”

“Gabriel.”

“And what is it you do Gabriel.”

“I’m an Angelic Messenger.”

“An Angelic Messenger?”

“Yes.”

“What on earth is that?”

“We’re not on earth.”

**Sounding alarmed** “What?”

“Yep.”

“So where are we.”

“That’s what I’ve been asking you.”

“I don’t know where I am! The last thing I remember was…I, I was in a bus with my wife and our two young children, and we were driving through the Grand Canyon…and uh…oh god. OH GOD!”

“Huh, weird.”

**Sounding frantic** “Why’s that weird?”

“Never had a bus plunge before.”

“A bus plunge?”

“Yeah, when a bus plunges from a high elevation. Usually happens in places with poor infrastructure like Nepal and Peru. But Grand Canyon? Tough break dude.”

“Are you saying what I think you’re saying!”

**A third deep sigh** “Ya know, I’ve been doing this job for 1,200 years. And you’d think, ya know given what I have to tell people, that the work would be interesting. But I gotta be honest, all y’all have the same exact reaction to finding out you’re dead. Even the old people. And the folks who kill themselves. It’s like, ya know, duh!”

“IM FUCKING DEAD!?!?!”

**Sarcastically** “Ayyy. You catch on quicker than most.”

“OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD.”

“Shouldn’t be saying that to me dude. Big guy doesn’t like it when folks use his name needlessly.”

“JESUS CHRIST. THIS ISN’T HAPPENING!”

“I’d lay off Jesus too.”

**Heaving breathing and sobs** “Where’s my wife. Where are my children!”

**Gabriel leans back in his chair and peers down the aisle** “Looks like your wife is talking to Gabriel.”

“I THOUGHT YOU WERE GABRIEL!”

“There are lots of us. We’re Angelic Messengers. This is our job.”

**More sobs**

**Deep Sigh** “Listen my guy. Sudden death always sucks. I feel for you. Wife. Kids. The whole shebang. Up in smoke. Life can be funny like that. A bus takes a dive off a cliff, and four lives are erased from the ledger. Little league games. 401k. That novel you wanted to write. Useless now. We’re all such fragile creatures, but only because of our fragility, are we capable of finding joy.”

***Hysterical crying***

**Clears throat** “Anyway, I’ve got your file here in front of me, Mister…..Rodriguez. Looking pretty strong! There are just a few things I need clarification on and I can get you on your way.”

**a long pause** “…to, to where?”

“Well that depends.”

**sniffling** “On what?”

“On how you answer these questions.” **Clears throat** “How many times have you masturbated in your life?”

“Mastur…masturbated?”

“Yep. Ballpark number’s fine.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“The less questions you ask at this point the better, our time is coming to an end.”

“I…uh…one thousand, maybe two?”

“Hahah, so weird.”

“What?”

“Nothing. Let’s see, uh. Next question: Diddled any kids?”

“Diddled?”

“Do you guys not use that phraseology anymore? It’s hard to keep up. Have you had sexual relations with any minors!”

“Excuse me!”

“Don’t get so holier-than-thou with me, because you literally cannot be holier than me. Just answer the question.”

“I have not had sexual relations with any children.”

“Have you had sexual relations with other men?”

“Wait…has that been a sin this whole time?”

“Nah, I was just curious.”

**Growing frustrated** “Listen, I’m dead. I’ve never been dead before. And I’m more than a little freaked out. And this whole conversation is not helping. I’m floating in a blank space with your voice stuck in my head, and all I can feel is regret over all the things I didn’t do with my life.”

“I hear that.”

“How could you possibly ‘hear that’?”

“Being Gabriel blows dude. I’ve talked to enough dead people to know what fulfillment looks like. I ain’t fulfilled.”

“So why don’t you quit?”

“You can’t quit being Gabriel. If I don’t do this, I cease to exist.”

“Like me.”

“No, not like you. Angels aren’t dead people. We’re just the wage slaves of the afterlife.”

“Have you spoken to your manager about it. Maybe there’s something they can do to help you feel more fulfilled in your work.”

“Pssssht, I tried talking to her like 20 years ago, and she said she wanted to see me be less of an ‘observer’ and more of a ‘doer,’ whatever that means.”

“I got that same critique from my manager once. It means she wants to see you take more initiative. Maybe develop some sort of training course for the other Gabriels, or see if there are ways for your department to cross-collaborate with others more efficiently.”

“Yeah that seems dumb. Not what I was hired to do.”

“Yeah but to advance in your career, you need to go above and beyond the call of duty. You need to ask less for permission and more for forgiveness. Follow what interests you, make other people’s lives easier. That kind of thing.”

“What was it you did before you died, Mr. Rodriguez.”

“I founded a startup that….”

***The line goes dead. Mr. Rodriguez floats in the white space, like an ant in a glass of milk. Slowly, low-pitched screams start to surround him. He looks down and sees a small black hole. It grows bigger…and bigger. Is it moving towards him, or is he moving towards it? The screams are now all over him. It’s enough to make his ears bleed. And then, without warning. They stop.

“HHR, how may I direct your call?”

“What?”

“What.”

3 responses to “HHR”

  1. Elaine Speiser Avatar
    Elaine Speiser

    Was just checking e-mail & found this.  Excellent piece – you should try to get it published.

    Like

  2. excellent piece – should be published

    Like

  3. damn, you are good

    Like

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