International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes
I got home exhausted from another hectic day at work, I threw myself
on the sofa and turned on the television. I had fallen into my routine,
lying on the couch, flipping through the channels aimlessly. I didnt
want to do anything. I didnt want to start on the honey-dos.
Oh, and I just could not bear thinking of the pile of paperwork
on my desk waiting for me tomorrow morning.
As I dozed off,
it came; that annoying telephone rings that shattered my serenity.
I ignored the first ring, the second one was more annoying and the third
pierced my head. I stretched my whole body out, just far enough to reach
Good evening, Sir. Im calling from Happy Ending. Youve
been selected to win a prize.
Another shrewd telemarketer disturbed my rest to sell me something I
dont need. Nobody just gives away a prize without strings attached.
Ive heard my fair share of sales pitches. So, I did what anyone
would do in the same situation, without giving him an opportunity to
say anything else, I said, Sorry, Im not interested. Have
a good day. I slammed the telephone down, cursing him under
Nothing is more annoying than listening to a sales pitch. The more reluctant
you are, the harder they sell. They wear you down until you give in.
Before you know it, you have purchased junk, and there it sits in your
living room, you trip over it every night on the way to the sofa. You
curse it, and the person who sold it to you, and the worst part is you
pay for it every month for the rest of your life. As a repeated victim,
I promised myself not give in. This call was no exception. I hung up.
Rude? Perhaps. Sorry? Hell no.
As I turned my attention back to flipping through channels, it came
again. This time, I leapt off the sofa, grabbed the telephone, and snarled
an angry, hello.
Good evening, Sir. I am calling from Happy Ending. You have
been selected to win a prize.
I said no. When you called me the first time, you were doing
your job. Calling me a second time makes you a nuisance. This is an
invasion of my privacy, and illegal.
Sir, you have really won a prize and I am not trying to
sell you anything. My job is to ensure winners are properly notified.
I dont care about your prize. Dont you
understand English or maybe its my foreign accent, you dont
I took a deep breath, and calmly added, Im tired and not
interested in any prize. Spare me the sales pitch. Now,
are you a rookie or someone who wont take no for an answer?
Neither one, Sir, please forgive me for disturbing you.
Have a wonderful day.
But wait. I said, I have never been lucky in
my entire life, my marriage, my horrible job and two car accidents that
nearly took my life are just a few examples. So, what is my prize; what
have I won? And it better be good. Trying to hide the excitement
in my voice.
You have won a luxurious casket with a choice of satin interior
lining. A solid bronze construction in a polished natural finish
with elegantly rounded corners. Brushed bronze accessories with swing
bar handles. It also comes with matching pillow. But thats not
all; you will also enjoy a prime site in the Restland cemetery.
All of these and a beautiful tombstone with up to fifty characters engraved
for your epitaph for free.
Hysteria got a hold of me and screamed, Prize? A casket with satin
interior and a chunk of land in the cemetery, you call that a prize?
This is why you called me not once, but twice? For a casket, do you
really think I care about the color of lining or what I want for an
epitaph? I cant believe this. My life has been unlucky, but I
am not dead, not even close.
The man on the other end of the line was patient as I shrieked at him.
Sir, he said, The casket and the plot are all yours.
I have personally seen this land and it is breath taking. It overlooks
a lake and the view is stunning. The blue water shines through lush
tree leaves. Oh, Its charming.
Why would someone waste his time on a prank like this? I thought.
Suddenly, my mind clicked, okay, if he wants to play this game, why
not. What do I have to lose? This could be fun, there is nothing on
the television and my wife is not due home for at least thirty minutes.
The problem is that I recently changed my mind about committing
suicide, things are looking up these days. Would you kindly hold the
prize and check back with me next year in mid June?
All you have to do is sign and we will store the casket and save
the plot until you need it, and as I said before, there wont be
any charges involved. This way, when you pass on, your family wont
have to do anything, we will already have it taken care of.
Although this plan sounded far-fetched, it made sense. I had heard about
the high cost of funeral expenses. For goodness sake, those morticians
will rob you blind if you do not have any arrangements already set up.
But I felt weird thinking about my own death. How could I possibly sign
the papers, it was like signing my own death certificate. It was spooky
just thinking about it. What kind of luck is this anyway? Why me? Why
couldnt I just win the lottery? Who wins a casket? It can only
happen in America.
Is there a cash option?
Can I swap the casket for a Lazy Boy?
I cannot possibly be qualified for this contest because
I am not a US citizen yet. Now I see how important it is to become an
American. You know what? To save your valuable time in future when you
call the next winner, the first thing you should ask is if he is a citizen
or not. Because this country is full of damn foreigners. Please! Dont
waste our tax money on illegal aliens. There are so many of them everywhere
nowadays. Most of them undocumented. They live here for free;
they live off our tax money. Don't be fooled by their English accents
either. Whoever speaks English fluently and throws in a few goddamns
in every sentence is not necessarily a pure American. Thank you for
the prize, but I am not qualified. I was hoping to get rid of
him, but it wasnt that easy. He patiently listened to me and assertively
The truth is that you dont know when your time is
up, do you? Nobody does. Death can come to you at any time. Let me make
a point here. You live near the airport. Just imagine, one night that
youre sitting in your favorite chair watching television, a 747
jumbo jet misses the runway by a few miles. Instead of landing at the
airport, it crashes through your house. It could happen in a stormy
night, the control tower makes a fatal mistake, he paused.
Being a careless clerk, I could relate to making mistakes at work.
I guess so, I replied, wondering where he was going
In that case, what would be your chance of survival?
Zip my friend. I replied cheerfully.
Now, lets make it more interesting. Lets assume
that at the time of this disaster, you and your next-door neighbors
Latina maid Isabella had taken this opportunity to fool around while
your wife was out. And since you were in the basement, you both survived
the crash but explosion left you unconscious. Now your wife comes back,
frantically searching through the rubble and finds you and Isabella
embracing each other naked. Do you think your wife will let you explain
when you come out of your comaif she lets you come out of coma?
You know you had better die in the plane crash, than face your wife.
My knees buckled and I collapsed on the sofa with the phone in my hand.
How could he possibly know about Isabella and me? There was nothing
between us; it was all a fantasy. A chill shot through my body.
I had never mentioned her name to anyone. How could he ever know her
name and about an affair I had only in my wildest dreams? Who was this
guy? Why was he calling me? What did he want? Oh, my God!
The callers voice became creepier, You see! By definition,
you cannot predict accidents; thats why we suggest you prepare
for them. The prize is yours; its waiting for you to pass on.
It wont cost you anything.
I wiped sweat off my forehead. Who are you? What do you
want from me? I have not entered any contest, how could I have
possibly won anything? I desperately pleaded for answers.
He responded in a comforting tone. As long as you live in
America, you are qualified. And now, you are one of our lucky winners.
The name of the organization I represent is Happy Endings, based in
New York City.
You must be from Immigration and dont even try to
scare me back to my country with all of this nonsense about death. We
are legal residents waiting for our citizenships. We have already sent
our pictures, fingerprints and signed the documents not to mention the
damn $200.00 application fee. So, back off.
I tried not to let the terror I was feeling echo in my voice. Next
time, do your homework before harassing people.
Im not from Immigration. As I said, you were selected
because you live in the United States. We do not look at the past; we
plan for the future.
The more I listened to him, the more I panicked and more I was terrified,
calmer he became which scared me even more.
I told you, the prize is yours. All you need is to claim
I could hardly breath as I was thinking of my goddamn luck. The
only time in my life I win something and it is for my death. But then...
Ive got a better idea. I want you to give my prize to my
boss Mr. John T. Howard. He is so old he doesnt even remember
when he was born. This cheap bastard will not turn down anything if
its free. He is the most shameless man I have ever known in my
life. He dresses like a pimp in his tight black leather pants and red
silk jacket. You can find him at the seediest strip joint in town. He
is the one who needs to drop dead soon.
Your prize is non-transferable.
By now, I was a raving lunatic. Please, please leave me alone!
This is a conspiracy. Who else but the FBI knows so much about private
lives of citizens? You dont scare me a bit. I am a free man and
I will not stop voicing my political opinions and beliefs. I am fully
aware of my constitutional rights.
The truth was, I had never been interested in political matters. But
I didnt know what to think, what to say and worst than all, what
to do. I wanted to hang up but I couldnt. Deep down I knew this
man was not a government agent, I knew he was for real. He was calling
me to tell me my life was over. I had thought of my death many
times before, but I never thought it would come to me like this. I never
thought I would have a prepaid death with a bunch of freebies.
He did not sound like he had been with this death organization for very
long. Maybe he was just a rookie. Maybe they reserve their veterans
to kill the actors in Hollywood or the politicians in Washington.
Maybe they sent their new trainees to kill the foreigners first and
work their way up.
The fact that he was a rookie could be a plus for me. Since I
was not religious, I could not expect leniency. So, my only way out
of this was to buy him off. Everyone has a price, why not God? But,
I had to do it with outmost finesse. This was the chance of a lifetime.
Did you say the lining is velvet or satin? What choices
of colors do I have? I rattled on, Is it waterproof?
I do not want any moisture in my casket. Water damage is the worst.
Didnt you say my plot is close to the lake? Please make
sure I am not too close. I dont want the water to rise and my
dead body be floating around the lake like fools.
Without waiting for his response, I droned, I wont sign
any paperwork until I have it checked out by my attorney. I was
grasping for anything to prolong the conversation.
I dont have a problem with that, he said. You
must know though, if you say a word about this to anyone, we will have
no choice but to take his life as well, its a matter of divine
I want it painless. I do not accept a horrible death and
no compromise on this issue.
Sir, I dont have negotiating power. I dont
always agree with the way things happen around here either. We are trying
to change the way things are done, but you cant change them overnight.
I was carefully listening to every word he was saying to pitch my sale
and finalize a lucrative transaction.
Traditionally, he continued, we take your life without
any notice but we have been debating the morality of that practice for
some time now. We are trying to modify the severity of death in light
of the new millennium. We are asking the Higher Council to add more
dignity to death. Take your case for example, you practically hung up
on me twice and you are bargaining with me, this is unprecedented. Anyone
else in my position would whip your ass in a second and smoke you before
you get a chance to put down the phone. But we, the new generation,
are trying to work with our clients and improve our image.
Slowly but surely, I was getting on his softer side.
Can I make amends by doing something good before I go?
His tone of voice suddenly changed: First of all, we are
strictly prohibited from getting involved in our clients personal
lives and I am tired of you asking all these tricky questions to help
you beat the system. You sound like a shrewd salesman to me. I
am a simple messenger who tries to make death a little easier for you.
I have a time limit when I am on the phone with new clients, and all
calls are recorded for training purposes and quality control. Please
sir, for my sake, lets wrap this call up.
I understand your strict rules, but remember, we are in
a new millennium and you are trying to get out of your ancient practices.
Think about it, it really does not matter why I am doing the good work,
as long as I do it. Sure, you tipped me off and bent the rules a little,
but you are not doing anything against divine purpose.
You dont have much time. As much as I would
like to help you, I dont know how.
Finally I had him where I wanted him.
Let me compensate for being blind all my life. Let me pay for
years of free cable TV. Let me pay for every towel I took from hotel
rooms or the head sets and life jackets I walked off with from the airplane
Oh yes. That would cover your sins!
His sarcasm scared the hell out of me.
What about cash? If I can come up with some cash, can you
use your connections to give it to charity for me? Thats least
you can do for me. Just give me two weeks to sell everything in the
house. Let me sell my car, I will get six or seven thousand dollars
for it. I max out my cash advances on my credit cards, the interest
rate is high, but who the hell cares.
I pleaded, Do you think you can do that for me? Now, I was
begging for my salvation. And surprisingly, he accepted my offer.
I dont make any promises, but this gesture does not
hurt your case.
This entire ordeal was about to be over, but in a short time, I had
a lot of work to do. For the first time in my life, I felt so
pure and unattached to any earthly possessions. I was not thinking of
myself but the good for others, the best feeling I had ever experienced.
I agree to your terms, but you only have one week. Next
Thursday, at seven oclock in the morning, the Salvation Army donation
truck comes to your neighborhood. Put the cash in a donation bag, mark
it clearly old clothing for charity and put it at the closest
pick up point from your home. It will go to a good cause. Then, you
will hear from me.
I thanked him for his mercy and compassion. Maybe I was the only
man who was blessed to have contact with God or his representative.
Remember, you only have time until Thursday, seven a.m.
The line went dead and my torment was over.
I sent my wife to visit her parents without saying a word about this
to protect her from death. I had failed to bring her happiness, so,
there was no reason to bring her untimely death now. As planned, I got
as many cash advances on my credit cards as possible, then sold my car
at a bargain price and liquidated everything in the house in a garage
sale. I even sold my wedding ring to a pawnshop for an extra four hundred
By Wednesday afternoon, I had turned my entire life possessions into
cash. I carefully counted all the money and the total was $48,569.35
then placed the cash in a donation bag and marked it as instructed.
The next morning, I took the bag to the closest cross section from my
house and left it with the other donations, but I could not leave it
unattended, I had to make sure the truck picked it up and it was not
lost or stolen. So I hid behind some bushes nearby and anxiously
At 6:57 a.m., an old Chevrolet truck approached the intersection with
a young man driving. It suddenly stopped at the pile of bags. A beautiful
Latina woman emerged and scooped up my bag. I recognized the next-door
Latina maid who barely had time to get back into the truck as it sped
Two weeks later, The Messenger of Death and his new bride, Isabella,
sent me a postcard from Acapulco thanking me for the generous wedding
© Saeed Tavakkol Feb 11th 2008
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