“You know, that guy was one tough cookie,” said the looming spectre of death this afternoon, echoing the words of pretty much all of John McCain’s friends (and enemies) while pausing to collect his breath after a 55-year chase that involved multiple airplane crashes, a fire at sea, a prisoner-of-war internment, a campaign for president of the United States, a number of hospitals, and in the end, a quiet bed on a cool, drizzly afternoon in Sedona, Arizona.
“Some people go easy,” Death said, lighting a filterless cigarette and looking up at the low clouds overhead, while rubbing the back of his neck and squeezing the sweat out of his long black robes, clearly exhausted.
“But that man led me all over hill and dale for five-and-a-half decades. Do you know how many people got extra innings because I was standing by, waiting for a bayonet to be just a hair to the left, or an inferno to spread just a fraction of a second faster, or an overly-eager Vietnamese torturer to get a little carried away? Or lately, just for a doctor to miss a tumour on a scan? Lots. You’re probably one of them. Don’t make me check my records. I’m beat.”
Death went on to say that while he comes across fighters every day, it’s rare for one person to avoid his long reach so publicly, and over such an extended period of time.
“It’s not a good look for me, to be honest. I have one job, and am effectively given unilateral ability to get it done (don’t ask me who by, you’re not going to like the answer). So to have this guy out there, with a bio full of ‘cheated deaths’ and ‘survived against impossible odds’ and ‘looked death in the face many times’ well, it used to make me feel a little ineffective.”
Here the surprisingly un-Grim Reaper pauses and looks over his shoulder, before leaning in to speak in a quieter voice.
“But lately I’ve been trying to let go of all that personal bullshit. It’s just a job right? Gotta live my best death. And, with that in mind, I started to see old John McCain as something of a symbol. Not of my ineffectiveness. But more as being emblematic of the incessant, battling spirit of you weird little people. All so fragile. But also, all so stubbornly enduring.”
He looks down at a nervous reporter, who is doing his best to take notes.
“I took no pleasure in there today young man. Write that down. John McCain, like him or lump him, was a fighter to the end. And I am one tired buzzer. I think I might take tomorrow off. Maybe get a little rest, in peace.”