Bonus Time

Posted on: December 17, 2015

“Meredith. Over here.”

Meredith turned towards the sound of the voice and saw Catherine waving to her from the table in the corner. She shuffled her way across the busy cafe and flopped her weary body into the booth. Hot coffee sloshed over the top of her cup, singeing her hand and staining the sleeve of her sweatshirt.

“Shit.” As she reached for the napkin container she upended her purse, dumping the contents onto the floor.

“Double Shit.”

The two women scrambled to pick everything up and sop up the coffee. When they were done, Catherine took a sip of her herbal tea and smiled a perky smile.

“Mondays. They’ll get you every time,” she said.

“My entire life is a fucking Monday,” replied Meredith. She surveyed her friend. Baby weight gone. Hair styled. Clothes unwrinkled and unstained. Makeup. Who in the hell has time to put on makeup? It’s like she isn’t even a parent.

“I’m sorry,” said Catherine, her voice chipper and grating.

“Catherine, you know I love you, but seriously, some days I want to stab you. What is your secret? How in God’s name do you find the time to put on makeup when I can’t even manage to brush my hair?”

“Well, you know, you’ve got to manage your time.”

“Seriously? That’s it? I spent an hour today removing M&M’s from the heating vents and your answer is ‘to manage your time’?” Meredith’s voice seethed with frustration.

Catherine glanced around to see if anyone was eavesdropping. Her face got serious. She motioned for Meredith to lean in close and dropped her voice to a whisper.

“Do you really want to know? I use Bonus Time.”


Meredith glanced at her phone, double checking the address on the GPS against the piece of paper Catherine had given her. Everything seemed to be entered correctly, and Catherine had warned her about judging the place based on its appearance, but this still seemed like a mistake. She worked her way down the dilapidated white fence until she came to a gate. Behind the gate was a small overgrown yard and a house, rickety and paint-starved. Just as she was about to flee, a woman, young and comely and draped in a delicate gossamer dress, opened the door of the house.

“Meredith, please come in.” The woman’s voice was like a cold breeze, raising the little hairs on the back of Meredith’s neck and turning her exposed flesh into dimpled chicken skin. Meredith took a deep breath and thought of Catherine and how relaxed, how together, she always was. She wanted that. She needed that. She took another deep breath and stepped through the gate. Once inside the house the woman closed the door behind them.

“How did you know my name? Are you…” Meredith started to ask, before the woman cut her off.

“No. I am his assistant. He is in there.” She pointed towards a door. “He is expecting you.”

The man behind the desk looked to be in his early fifties. He wore a navy blazer with a crisp white shirt. His dark hair was beginning to gray on the sides. Neither ugly nor handsome, he was the type of guy you could see ten times a day and not remember.

“Not what you were expecting?” he asked, and once again Meredith’s skin turned to goosebumps. “Would it be easier if I had on a black hooded cloak, scythe in one hand, hourglass in the other? Or perhaps if I looked like Brad Pitt?” The man laughed, a throaty chuckle that almost made Meredith regret coming here. But she stood, silent and terrified yet firm in her resolve, staring Death in the face.

“I am assuming that Catherine filled you in on how this works?” he asked.

She thought back to their hushed conversation in the cafe.

“What is Bonus Time?” Meredith asked.

“This is going to sound crazy, but hear me out. You get this watch. And on this watch is a button, and when you press the button, everything stops. Like Zach used to do on
Saved By the Bell. But for real.

Everyone and everything is frozen in time. And you can use that time, Bonus Time, do whatever you want. But there’s a catch.”

“What catch?”

“For every twenty-four hours of Bonus Time you use, you lose one month at the end of your life.”

“An entire month? For using just one day? That’s seems like quite the markup.”

“Give up a month of sitting around a nursing home, drooling all over myself, for twenty-four glorious hours all to myself right now?” Catherine took a sip of her tea. “Doesn’t seem like such a bad deal to me. Just make sure you don’t go overboard.”

“Yes, she explained everything,” Meredith said.

“Good,” said Death. He pulled a silver pocket watch from the inner pocket of his blazer and dangled it by the fob. He pushed a contract across the desk. “Just sign here, and you’re all set.”


“My God, Meredith, you look fantastic,” said Catherine as she sat down at the their usual corner table.

Meredith smiled, and with a steady hand, raised her coffee in a mock toast.

“To Bonus Time,” she said.

“You haven’t been overdoing it, have you?”

“No, not at all. I only use a little at time, and I’ve been keeping track.” She pulled out her phone and looked at her notes. “I’ve used just under four days so far. And besides, I’ve got good genetics on my side. All my grandparents made it to their nineties.”

Meredith took a bite out of her scone just as she saw the two people enter the cafe. The man she wouldn’t have noticed right away, but the woman she would have known anywhere.

Meredith gasped.

“What is it?” asked Catherine.

Meredith tried to talk but fear gripped her throat. Frantic, she pointed towards the two people that were headed towards her, but Catherine didn’t seem to see them.

“It’s time to go Meredith.” The woman’s voice was frigid.

Catherine put her arms around Meredith’s mid-section and pulled up and in repeatedly, trying to dislodge the scone from Meredith’s throat.

“I’m sorry it had to be this way, Meredith,” said Death. “But if it’s any consolation, this is better than the car accident you were originally scheduled for.”

Written by: Ben Cook
Photograph by: Jennifer Stevens

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