Check Your Six

Your Annual Obligatory General Risk-Reduction Warning and Ever-So-Subtle Reminder of Your (ahem) Mortality

from the desk of

T. G. Reaper, Superintendent
Department of Collections

Dear Humans,

You guys are really cards. I love to hang around and listen in (when I’m “off-duty”, so to speak, or as I like to refer to it, “between clients”).

See, you’ve never understood how I work. Hell, I don’t even own a scythe or a hooded cloak. I’m not walking around with some moldy old parchment book with your name and an appointment time in it. God doesn’t send Mandy Patinkin a post-it note at the Waffle House to collect your sorry butt at 4:17 PM. Agent Smith doesn’t put a Lady In Red into the Matrix. No, I just hang out and wait for YOU to put enough “requests” in the hopper at the same time.

I work on a system called the Simultaneous Request Score. The brittle steel and the iceberg alone couldn’t have called me to the Newfoundland Bank in 1912, it was all those White Star officials telling the reporters how “unsinkable” their new ship was. “Ice warnings? Bah! Full speed ahead, we’ve got investors to impress!” Children use the marvelous gesture of holding their thumb to their nose and wiggling their upright fingers while musically yelling, “Nyaaaah-nyah-nyah-nyaaaah-nyah.” When children do it, it’s both cute and highly visible. When you do it, it’s neither — so I come running, stand very near you, and wait for your Simultaneous Request Score to hit a certain critical limit.

You’ve already loaded your “SRS meter” with brilliant thoughts like “Nah, It’s flat out there today, I can just stow my PFD!” or “Hey, it’s not THAT cold, cotton’ll do just fine!” or “Spare paddle? Nah!”. Sissy crap like a float plan? No-o-o-o-o, not for a rugged he-man like you, bub. But the best part — the part that keeps us rolling on the floor down here in the Collection Department — is that your “nyah-nyah” — the thing that is going to kick YOUR Simultaneous Request Score into the red zone — is almost certain to be ……. (Darwinian drum roll, please) ……. plain old I-N-A-T-T-E-N-T-I-O-N.

I’ve heard a lot of fishing-related close-call stories over the years, and the most glaring common denominator — in the ones that didn’t involve alcohol, anyway — is that they usually began with something like, “Wow, they were really biting and I got distracted and wasn’t really paying attention to my surroundings….” (or to the weather, or to nearby watercraft, or to whatever). Well, I’m sorry, but what I hear there is: “I’m a total nimrod and have no business whatsoever being in a potentially lethal outdoor environment anywhere on the planet. Please come and pick me up just as soon as possible. Please! Kill me now!”

Well…….if you absolutely insist…….

You have voluntarily placed your absolutely and unequivocally mortal keister into the rotomolded equivalent of a stretched-out bathtub, and paddled out on top of a one-molecule-thin barrier that separates you from an environment in which you cannot possibly breathe, and where Gravity still applies, and which is populated by a variety of organisms which will cheerfully and enthusiastically feast upon your flesh! Your head needs to be swiveling like a turret at all times. Your eyes need to be on articulated stalks. And you need to be in the habit of staying that way — because, yes, I am out there actually stalking you —yes, you — and I’m not carrying a scythe or wearing a hooded cloak. I may not be that psycho trying to make an airboat actually fly. I often wear much subtler little disguises: that sick, yellow-green look the sunlight gets before the bolts come; those short little intermittent “puffs” of humid breeze that disturb the dead morning air before I make my devastating landfall; the utter silence as my massive, sunken limbs tumble downcurrent toward your improperly-trolleyed anchor rope; that knife that’s just a teensy-weensy smidge too far away from an easy reach; those batteries you didn’t rotate.

Yeah, I’m there all the time. And your meter is already in the red zone. And all I’m waiting for……. is for you to not notice, comprende?

Better check six, pal.


The Grim Reaper
Yourspot, Yourstatehere 98765-4321

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