My hand slid across the small table and pulled the plate towards me. I picked up a grape and popped it into my mouth. “What do you do?” I questioned.
He smiled at me, that half smile that always made me squirm. “Haven’t you asked me that before?”
I shrugged, doing my best to appear nonchalant. “Yes, and I will continue to ask until you tell me. So what are you waiting for?”
“I count time.”
That confused me. How could anyone have a job counting time? “You mean you are a clock maker?” I asked, hoping for more of an explanation.
There was the smile again. I felt myself shudder but controlled it quickly. “No. I count time. I look at people and I guess how long they have left.”
I tilted my head to the side and took another grape. “What a peculiar job, I see why you were reluctant to tell me.”
He flashed another smile. “No, you haven’t even begun to guess. The world is built upon the lives of ordinary people. What I say, affects so much.”
A new question came to me, and I voiced it. He thought for a few moments before saying, “You must have 9 years left… Being inquisitive often shortens the life.”
This time, it was my turn to smile. I did my best to replicate his spine tingling one, but I came short. He didn’t flinch but stood there normally. “I’m afraid you’ve got it all wrong. It won’t be my curiosity that kills me, I won’t live long enough for that.”
It was his turn to be curious. After all, no one can resist asking a person why they doubt having 9 more years to live. “Please, few people question the predictions I give, at least those lucky enough to hear usually don’t. Tell me, why not?”
“Who do you work for?” I wasn’t going to tell him until I was ready; after all, I had the upper hand.
“Wouldn’t you love to know?” He winked at me and added another creepy smile.
“You are correct; I would and you would want my answer.”
He turned his head to the side a little, probably unintentionally. I knew I’d won. “I work for the medical departments. If you factor out disease and bizarre accidents, how long will people live? I answer that. I tell them how long life can be prolonged.”
“So maybe I do have 9 years,” I mused. I shrugged a little, I knew better than to waste my time thinking about how long I’d live. “But I’m afraid I have a different problem. The doctor said I have less than a year.”
“So time is precious for you?”
“Yes…” I replied, looking into his deep blue eyes, “as it ought to be for everyone.”
“A wonderful lesson to teach,” he responded. For once the smile was sincere. “I’m certain you’ll make the best of this year. You have a good heart.” With that, he walked away.