“Scouting for the Reaper” by Jacob M Appel
This is the title story of the anthology of the same name “Scouting for the Reaper” by Jacob M. Appel.
I love the title of this story. It fits so perfectly with what is depicted throughout the story. The play on words works well and is brilliantly done.
A man, Gordon, sells headstones. He is a stone worker by trade. He uses his daughter to try and scam some of his clients to clinch sales. He does this by making his daughter dress up like a girl scout and pretend that she is a scout. He has done this with all 3 of his daughters, moving on to each younger daughter when the other became too old. He now uses his youngest daughter, Natalie, who’s just about too old for the girl scout scam, but not quite.
One day Gordon receives a call from his ex-wife, Delia. Much to the dismay of his wife, Eileen. Eileen was not a happy camper about him going to see his ex-wife after what she did to him. He assured her it was just business. Apparently Delia needed a headstone, so Gordon made arrangements to drive to her house and meet with her. Delia had a lot of money and it would be a big score to sell to someone with money. That meant that Natalie was going along for the ride.
While at Delia’s house, Natalie met her son, Lucien. It was instant teenage crush. She didn’t care if he was blind. She didn’t care if he was anything. She had to have him and was going to do anything she could to get him.
While at Delia’s house Gordon found out she had ALS and was going to die in a small amount of time. That’s what she needed the headstone for. She couldn’t make up her mind on what to put on the headstone so she asked if Gordon would come back next week. He agreed, but was not looking forward to telling his wife who happened to go ballistic when she found out.
The following week Gordon and Natalie made their trip back to the house. The same thing ended up happening. Delia flirted with Gordon and put off talking about the headstone. Natalie spent time talking with Lucien and trying to figure out how to become his girlfriend. Then Delia talked Gordon into coming back the following week for the same reasons. He again agreed. This time his wife gave him the ultimatum: this was the last trip or he would come back to an empty house.
The last trip they took to go out to Delia’s house Natalie knew would be her last chance to get Lucien. While talking with him she found out he had a girlfriend who moved to Colorado. He was planning on moving out there with her, but hadn’t made up his mind yet. Natalie had to make her move, so she told him she liked him as a boyfriend. With that being said Lucien started to undress her and had his way with her. In that moment, Natalie realized she hated Lucien for everything he was and what he was doing to her. What he was doing to his girlfriend in Colorado. She left without any words to him, never to see him again.
Delia was in a similar predicament as Natalie with Gordon. She knew that this was her last chance to get him to admit he still loved her. To admit that he still had feelings for her. He stayed stone faced, let her cry into his shoulder, and then went right back to business. When Delia asked him what he would do in her place, he simply told her that the his and her package would be the cost-effective way to go.
Using a girl scout to sell headstones door to door was a perfect metaphor for the title of the story. The story reminds us that death is coming to us all. No one can escape its grip, but some are grasped by death sooner than others. I like how this was brought across during the story from Gordon dealing with death for a living to Delia becoming sick and having little time left. It fit very well together.
I don’t know if it was intentional, but I also like the fact that Gordon’s ex-wife was named Delia. It reminded me of the biblical story of Sampson and Delilah. A temptress. Someone who is willing to take a man’s strength and test his loyalty. Delilah was Sampson’s downfall from the moment he gave in to her. This is a similar metaphor for Gordon and Delia. If Gordon had given in to Delia it would have been his downfall. He kept his cool and stayed loyal to his wife and all went well.
Overall this was an excellent story and easy read. A lot of deep meaning hidden through out with some of life’s dark secrets. Definitely would recommend this to read.