2018-06-12 17:06:38 英语学习2018年6期

By Roman A.Ranieri

The room was dimly lit, and on first glance, appeared to be empty. A few moments later, the padded chair behind the desk moved, and the man seated there reached for the telephone. He tapped the buttons without looking at them, then waited patiently for his call to be answered.

“Hello?” came the voice of an elderly woman.

“Mrs. Hannah Gelbman?” asked the man in a low, soothing tone.

“Yes, this is Hannah Gelbman. Who am I speaking to?”

“Its time to rest, Hannah. Youve lived a long, troubled life, overcoming countless hardships and disappointments. Its time for your suffering to end.”

“Who is this? What kind of stupid joke are you trying to play? I can have the police trace this call, you know that?”

“Please calm yourself, Hannah. I mean you no harm. I only wish to help you achieve peace. Havent you endured more than your fair share of suffering? Isnt it time for something better?”

“Who are you? Are you a member of some parasitic1 religious group? If youre looking for a donation, youre wasting both your time and my time, because Im not giving you a penny.”

“No. I dont represent any particular group. But all religions acknowledge me, and try their best to understand the cosmic logic of my work.”

“Who are you?” the old woman asked again, her voice betraying her uncertainty. She had no idea what this man wanted from her, but she sensed that she needed to know his purpose.

“I am the Angel of Death. Havent you recently prayed that I would come to release you from your suffering? Arent you so very tired of the constant pain of old age, and the indifference of your relatives? If not for the change in the programs you watch on television, would you even know what day it was?”

“This is really a cruel and sick-minded joke to play on an elderly person. Youre nothing but a filthy lunatic. Im not going to tolerate this nonsense any longer. Im going to hang up right this minute.”

“You are Hannah Gelbman. You have lived at 42 Forest Lane for the last forty-two years. You had two sisters; Abigail, who moved to Florida in 1953, then remained there until her death in 1969; and Esther, who lived on the street directly behind you before she was tragically killed in an automobile accident in 1971. You were married to Asher Gelbman for sixty-three years until a stroke took him in 1993. Shall I continue? How much will it take to convince you of my identity?”

“Yes, I guess so.”

“Fine. In a moment youll begin to feel a numbness in your left arm. Dont be alarmed. Im going to make this as painless as I can. Just relax and allow it to happen.”

“My arm is starting to tingle. What should I do?”

“Remain clam, Hannah. Think of the tingling simply as the beginning of your new existence. Let the feeling flow up your arm to your shoulder. Release yourself from the prison of your aged body. You dont need it any longer.”

“Im starting to feel a tightening in my chest,” said Hannah anxiously. “You said this wasnt going to hurt. Make it stop. Im in pain.”

“Its only a brief twinge3, Hannah. Let go. Your soul already knows the way. Just let go.”

“I—I cant breathe. Stop—stop the pain.”

He heard the thump4 of something falling to the floor, then silence. He listened patiently for several minutes, but there were no other sounds. He glanced down at the open notebook on the desk, and dialed a new number.

“Hello?” answered a young man.

“Your Aunt Hannah just died of a heart attack, Mr. Fine.”

“I understand. How did you know that she had a heart condition?”

“I endeavor to know everything about my clients, Mr. Fine. By noon tomorrow, you will place the balance of my fee in the same location as before.”

“Thats impossible. Ill need at least a week to get that much money without arousing suspicion.”

“The money will be paid by noon tomorrow as we agreed, or your heirs will be inheriting your estate by the end of the week.”

“Dont threaten me, Im not some sickly little old lady. You cant induce me to have a heart attack.”

“No, Mr. Fine. No heart attack. Your death doesnt need to appear natural. With you, I can be more creative.”

The man at the desk hung up. He wasnt concerned. He knew he would be paid. One way or another, he always got paid.













































1. parasitic: 寄生的。parasitic religious group指靠他人施舍或供給的宗教团体。

2. out of thin air: 凭空(出现或消失),无中生有地。

3. twinge: 刺痛。

4. thump: 重击声。