Street scene: Summer. The present. Man on a sidewalk named Lew Bookman, age sixtyish. Occupation: Pitchman. Lew Bookman, a fixture of the summer, a rather minor component to a hot July; a nondescript, commonplace little man whose life is a treadmill built out of sidewalks. In just a moment, Lew Bookman will have to concern himself with survival, because as of three o'clock this hot July afternoon he'll be stalked by Mr. Death.
A salesman, Lew Bookman, is told by Death that he is to die at midnight. Mr. Bookman argues that as a salesman, his life's work is not quite complete. He convinces Death to give him a stay of execution until he can give one last, great sales pitch- "a pitch for the angels" as Mr. Bookman puts it. Once Death agrees, Bookman then announces his intention to quit selling and find another line of work. He is proud of having outsmarted Death and virtually assured himself of immortality.
What Bookman hasn't counted on is that someone has to die at midnight. With his first victim out of reach, Death sets his sights on one of Bookman's small friends, a little girl who lives in the same building. Death arranges for her to be hit by a truck. As she lies comatose, he comes to claim her. However, as they wait for the appointed time, Bookman distracts Death with a sales pitch aimed at him. In fact, he is so compelling that Death is too enthralled to claim the girl, instead purchasing all of Bookman's goods. Midnight passes before Death even realizes that he has missed his appointment.
And so, Bookman has saved the girl's life, and in doing so, willingly sacrificed his own, since he has now made that last great sales pitch, one that could even persuade Death, that was the center of the original agreement. Before leaving with Death, Bookman packs up his case of wares, remarking, "You never know who might need something up there." He then adds hopefully, "Up there?"
Death responds, "Up there, Mr. Bookman. You made it."
Lewis J. Bookman, age sixtyish. Occupation: Pitchman. Formerly a fixture of the summer, formerly a rather minor component to a hot July. But throughout his life, a man beloved by the children, and therefore a most important man. Couldn't happen, you say? Probably not in most places, but it did happen in the Twilight Zone.
Next week, we invite you to take a walk down a Western frontier street at the elbow of a doomed gunman, whose salvation lies in nothing less than a magic potion and...a Colt .45. Mr. Dan Duryea stars in "Mr. Denton on Doomsday," next week on The Twilight Zone. We hope you'll be able to be with us. Thank you and good night.
A somewhat similar premise had already been used in the 1934 film, Death Takes a Holiday, which would in itself be later remade in 1971 under the same name as the original. The most recent such big screen adaptation is 1998's Meet Joe Black, starring Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, and Claire Forlani, and directed by Martin Brest.
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