Georgina met Death when she was ten. The first time she saw him she was reading by her grandmother’s bedside. As Georgina tried to pronounce a difficult word, she heard her grandmother groan and looked up. There was a bearded man in a top hat standing by the bed. He wore an orange flower in his buttonhole, the kind Georgina put on the altars on the Day of the Dead.
The man smiled at Georgina with eyes made of coal.
Her grandmother had warned Georgina about Death and asked her to stand guard and chase it away with a pair of scissors. But Georgina had lost the scissors the day before when she made paper animals with her brother Nuncio.
“Please, please don’t take my grandmother,” she said. “She’ll be so angry at me if I let her die.”
“We all die,” Death said and smiled. “Do not be sad.”
He leaned down, his long fingers close to grandmother’s face.
“Wait! What can I do? What should I do?”
“There’s not much you can do.”
“But I don’t want grandmother do die yet.”
“Mmmm,” said Death tapping his foot and taking out a tiny black notebook. “Very well. I’ll spare your grandmother. Seven years in exchange of a promise.”
“What kind of promise?”
“Any promise. Promises are like cats. A cat may have stripes, or it may be white and have blue eyes and then it is a deaf cat, or it could be a Siamese cat, but it’ll always be a cat.”
Georgina looked at Death and Death looked back at her, unblinking.