The Entrepreneur

It was a dark and stony night at the Scarlet Eh Toke and Snack. The rain came down so hard it obliterated the stars, giving rain a bad name. Inside, the Eh was smoky. The table-tenants occupied their spots, having laid down a sawbuck for the night’s rent of a table.

Sitting over by God-knows-where, Call-Me-Ishmael held a joint between his fingers. It was the best of weed. It was the worst of weed. It was the best of weed because there was a lot of it. When there was a lot of it, Ishy could get buzzed sooner than later. It was the worst of weed because there was a lot of it. When there was a lot of it, Ishy would never get un-stoned. Not that he thought there was much to say for the un-stoned life.

Ishy looked at the joint between his fingers and said, “I dub thee Moby Dick.” Then he lit up and took a puff. “Man, that’s good.” It was good enough to give Acapulco Gold a run for its money.

H. P., the legendary Hester Prynne and proprietress of the Eh, moseyed her svelte figure over to Ishy’s table in the corner. “You wanna share, Big Boy?” she asked, a bit of demand in her Mae West voice.

“With you?” he said. “’Course I wanna share. Take yourself a little sitsky.”

H. P. never refused an offer she couldn’t refuse. It just wasn’t polite. She dropped into the chair across from Ishy.

He passed the doobie over to her. She took a long puff. It went down easy. Real easy. She released the smoke, making several rings Gandalf would have been proud of.

“That’s some buzz,” she said.

“Ought to be. I grew it myself.”

“You don’t say.”

“I do say.” And he did.

“It’s a bomb,” she said, smiled and passed the big fellow back to him. “Very cannabistic. A real blitzkrieg.”

“You do know that it’s a long way to Temporary?”

“Hadn’t thought of it that way. It did look like you’d been babysitting them smoke rings long enough for them to grow feet and make for the border.”

“Not a bad thought if you ask me.” he took another puff. “I was just taking a bake break.”

“I can see you’ve reached your destination.”

“That’s cause my brain has been ashed.”

“In other words, you are blazed.”

“There’s no other words about it. I done went and got myself blitzed.” Ishy would have suggested a walk to walk off the stony. But there was no possibility of taking a trek out into that night. So, here he and H. P. were, communing with Alice B. Toklas. It was enough to make a Rastafarian weep.

“Ishy.” H P had a moment of absolute brilliance. It was as if the Archangel Gabriel came down and tooted in her ear. “Why don’t you go on ‘Shark Tank’. Raise some money to entrepreneur yourself into a nice little business.”

Ishy took another hit of fatty and passed it back over to H P. “I don’t like sharks. Besides I can’t swim.”

She toked on Moby Dick. The smoke going down and lifting her higher. “No, man. Get some folks to invest in your weed. Once they toke on one of your joints, they’ll be in. Big time. Then you can retire and do the Maynard G. Krebs you’ve always wanted. It’s a future.”

“You mean–”

“I do mean.”

“I won’t ever have to–” he hesitated to say the hated word, but finally it came out like water bursting through a leak in a dam, “work.”

“That’s what I mean.”

“I think I hear the angels rejoicing. Have I died and gone to the big pot store in the sky?”

“Could happen.”

Ishy took himself a little looksee through the window of the Scarlet Eh. The rain had stopped. The dark had parted like the Red Sea back in Moses’ time. There was at least twenty-two stars shining down on Call-me-Ishmael that night. He wasn’t sure whether he was seeing clear or it was the weed hallucinatin’ his brain. It really didn’t matter.

All he knew was that the day began with the sun rising and nothing to show for it. Now here he was at the end of the day with a Plan. That Plan was going to help him reach his ultimate goal of sitting on his butt and roller coasting through this life and the next one. Hallelujah.

The Night the Devil Came Down to Georgia

The devil shows up at my house last night. Then all hell breaks loose. He knocks on the door. Our door at 560 Wayside Lane. My wife answers. She lets him in. I can’t believe that she invites the dude in. She’s like that. Just invite anybody in. While I’m still at work too.

She sits him down at the kitchen table and gives him a cup of coffee. He’s the devil for Christ’s sake.

They have this discussion. “How much do you want for your soul?” he asks.

She can take a joke. “How much you offering?”

So off they go. Back and forth, back and forth. Till finally she says to him, “I want you to get rid of my husband.”

Geez. I am a nice guy. Why does she want to do that? I thought she loved me.

He laughs that big laugh of his when he knows he’s got himself a deal. “I’ll get rid of him but you have to help.”

“No, sirree,” she says. “No can do.”

So off the two go again. The devil knows he’s got his deal. He just has to wear her down.

“C’mon, Baby, let’s have some fun.” He hasn’t called her Baby before. She kinda likes it. He is a looker after all.

“I would kinda like to be there,” she says.

“Well, you can,” he says.

“Won’t I get caught?” she says, worried a little. She’s never done this kind of work before. Getting rid of a husband, that is.

He reaches over to her hand and assures her. “Of course, you won’t.” Yeah, right. He’s the devil for God’s sake. You can’t trust that guy. “I just can’t do the job alone. How long do you think it will be before he gets here?” the devil asks.

“Oh, a while,” she says. “He gets caught in that Atlanta traffic. You know how it is. Want some more coffee?”

Devil shakes his head yes and watches her walk out into the kitchen, admiring her as he does.

She returns and sits the coffee down in front of him. “Would you like something to eat?”

“I am kind of hungry. What did you have in mind?” He takes a sip of that coffee. “That’s good. Can’t remember when I’ve had a better cup.”

“What would you like?” she asks. “To eat that is. I do make a mean scrambled eggs.”

“Eggs sound fine.”

“Coming right up,” she says and heads off into the kitchen.

He follows her and grabs her hand before she opens the refrigerator. Spins her around and kisses her hard on the lips.

She pushes him away. “Not now. Not until you’ve earned it.”

He steps away from her and drops her hand. “Yeah. You’re right. It’s just that you’re so hard to resist.”

“Now, now, Luke,” she says. “I can call you Luke, can’t I? You know. Short for Lucifer.”

He smiles. “Of course, you can.”

“Well, a deal is a deal. You get rid of my husband and I am yours.”

While my wife is fixing his eggs, Luke heads out to the car and brings back in a small, folded box. He starts opening it up.

She walks out of the kitchen and sees the Box. “We’re not going to do it in here, are we?”

Luke shakes his head. “Of course, we are.”

“No, no, no. Not in my house.” She is insistent.

The devil realizes he has no choice. “Where then?”

“How ’bout the garage?”

“The garage will do fine.” She smiles and heads back into the kitchen.

Luke folds the Box back into a small cube, then carries it into the garage. Unfolding the Box, he opens it out into the empty garage. He takes a look at his work. It’s way too lopsided but what can he do. The Box vendor has sold him another shoddy item. He shakes his head, thinking how hard it is to get good craftsmanship any more. He paid retail for this one too. “Man, I have to get a new job. This soul trading business just ain’t what it used to be.”

He walks back into the house through the side door. Gets to the dining table and takes his place. Being a hungry devil, he is ready for his eggs. She brings out the food. The eggs and bacon and toast and her potatoes. The special ones. The ones with chocolate sauce.
Luke gobbles down the food and cleans his plate. He looks up at my wife.

“Man, I sure do love this southern hospitality.”

“It’s what makes us southern.” She picks up his dishes and walks them back into the kitchen, then returns to the dining room.

About this time, there’s the sound of a car driving up into the driveway. It’s me, coming in from work.

I head for the door all unsuspecting-like. I even whistle a tune. I’m glad to be home. They say a man’s home is his castle. It’s great to be back to my castle. Little do I know what is waiting on me.

Inside I see a man slouched over and falling to the floor. I hurry to Gabby. “What happened?” Then I see the smile on her face. “What did you do?”

She says, “What can I say. He liked my eggs. It’s not my fault he is allergic to chocolate.”

I look at the body again and recognize who it is. “I thought you weren’t going to do this kind of thing again.”

She kisses me, then she says, “It was so easy. I couldn’t resist.”

“Let’s see. This is three. First, Beelzebub, then Abaddon and now Lucifer. You really have to quit this.”

I shake my head and stoop down to see if he’s still breathing. He is.

She looks over at me with that you-just-don’t-get-it look. “He wanted my soul.”

“I know. They all want your soul.”

“And he wanted yours too.”

That was a new turn of events. “What did he want with my soul,” I asked.

“Maybe he figured two for the price of one.”

“Figures.” I stand up, shaking my head.

“He put the Box in the garage.”

I lift him up and throw him over my shoulder. He’s not so heavy. When I get to the garage, I open up the door on the Box and set him down in it, then I close the Door and lock it. It’s a glass Box. I can see inside. He isn’t going anywhere so I head back to the kitchen. Gabby is waiting. She hugs me and asks, “You still love me, don’t you?”

We kiss like the lovers we are. Then I give her the a-okay. “Of course, I love you.”

She sighs her relief.

“But you have to quit this,” I say, releasing her from my arms. “This has got to be the last one. Otherwise you are going to have to see someone.”

After dinner, and it was a fine dinner too, Gabby and I head on out to the garage. There he is in the Box, slamming himself against its wall.

“Luke, you’re not going to get anywhere that way.” Then I laugh.

He stops and yells at me, “Let me out. You can’t do this to me.”

“Oh, I’m afraid we can,” Gabby says. “You were about to do this to us.”

“That was business,” he says. “I was just doing my job. This is personal.”

“That’s what Hitler said,” I say. “You ought to know better.”

“You  can’t do this, Michael,” Luke says. He turns to Gabby. “You know you have a real problem.”

Gabby doesn’t take it personal. She knows she’s on top of things. “Then I’ll just have to see someone. In the meantime–” She goes over and pushes the button. A humming sounds starts.

“No, no,” Luke screams. He falls to the floor of the Box. He’s in agony.

“Say bye bye Miss American pie to that soul of yours.” She walks over to me. Arm in arm we watch as his body shrivels up and then goes still. A few minutes and the Box finishes its job. All that is left are some ashes.

Gabby goes over to a shelf and takes a metal urn. Then she scoops Luke’s ashes into it. She tops the urn and takes it over and places it on top of a shelf beside two others. On the way inside, she hums “Another one bites the dust”.

I dismantle the box and shrink it to a small cube, then I drop it into the garbage can and go inside. Gabby has a cup of coffee waiting for me. I take the coffee, then I sit down at the table.

She joins me with that smugness on her face she always has when she’s done something well. She looks at me and says, “You have to admit, Michael. This sure beats all that sword and shield stuff you used to do. You never really got anywhere with that, did you?”

She’s right. I never got anywhere that way. Gabriella was always the smartest one in Archangel School. Now she is proving it at Number 560 Wayside Lane.

The Lute Player and the Grand Inquisitor

Some are good with the harp, some with the guitar, some with the lute. They say that Mozart had the gift of music. The same thing was said of Seamus O’Shaunessy. He too had the gift of music and he had it with the lute. From the very day he was born, he strummed his Da’s lute and gave the strings a golden voice.

How did he come by such a fine gift? One story went that his Da made a deal with the leprechauns in the days when the lad was no lad. His Da chased that proverbial pot of gold all the way to the end of the rainbow. He hid it, leaving the leprechauns without a pot to piss in. For when the leprechauns pissed, they pissed gold.

“As soon as you give the lad-to-be the fingers of Apollo,” his Da laid down the law to the fairies, “I will release your pot of gold.

What choice did the wee folk have? So they surrendered to the bribery. They gave the man’s lad-to-be his gift. And he released their pot.

When Seamus played his music, women swooned. Men thought they had died and gone to heaven. And his Da was as proud as Saint Patrick was when he chased the snakes off the Emerald Isle and converted the Irish.

The rumor went about that Seamus had the fingers of an angel when he played that lute. Kings and Emperors begged him to play.

“Just for a little while,” he told each.

As the old wise women used to say, “T’ain’t nary a free ride.” With the blessing of music came a curse. Seamus had wandering boots. He did his two week run at one court, then he was on to other parts unknown.

Then the pope asked if he would play for his court. “Of course, Your Holiness, I would be honored.”

The first night he stood before the pope and he strummed his lute. The pope and the cardinals were all enchanted. They believed it was an angel come down to earth. That is, until the Grand Inquisitor pointed out, “He is bewitching you. He is a witch.”

“It can’t be,” one of the cardinals responded to the acquisition. “This is a holy place.”

The Grand Inquisitor was adamant. “I believe it is Satan himself.”

The pope intervened, “There’s only one way to find out.”

The court knew what that meant. They would throw him into a lake. If he floated, he was the devil. If he sank and drowned, he was innocent.

Well, the lute player was not the devil or a witch. He was not innocent either. He was a foxy chap, being an Irishman. So the next morning, the papal court gathered at the lakeside. The Grand Inquisitor brought the lute player before the court.

“Your Holiness, I am innocent,” Seamus pleaded. “I only want to bring beauty into the world.”

“It is true,” His Holiness pronounced, “that your music is beautiful. But it enchants. It makes us forget ourselves. It takes us to places we have never been.”

“That is the mission of music,” the lute player answered the great man. “To enchant us. To give us a little piece of heaven.”

“Blasphemy,” the Grand Inquisitor screamed.

“I am afraid that Grand is right,” the pope pronounced. “I am sorry, my son.”

Then the lute player came back with the unexpected. “If music is not from God, why does the Scriptures say different of David. ‘So whensoever the evil spirit from the Lord was upon Saul, David took his harp, and played with his hand, and Saul was refreshed, and was better, for the evil spirit departed from him.’” Then the lute player asked the Grand Inquisitor, “Are you saying that King David, the Lord’s own anointed, was truly a disciple of the devil, or a witch?”

All the court looked at the Grand Inquisitor. His Holiness then asked, “Well?”

The Inquisitor in all his days of inquisitioning had never come across a question of Scripture he could not answer. It had taken an Irishman to corner him into a quandary. If he answered that he was a witch or a devil, he would be condemned as a blasphemer. If he answered nay, then it must be true that the Irishman was not a witch or a devil.

“Your Holiness, it is obvious he is a son of Satan,” Mr. Inquisition said.

“Obvious to whom?” the Irishman asked. “It is obvious that you are the son of the devil, are you not?”

“I am not a son of that demon,” Inquiz responded.

“I think you’re lying,” the Irishman said. “Why don’t we find out?”

Grand looked at the Pope, His Holiness looked at Grand. The Pope shook his head and beckoned the Swiss Guard to do their thing.

The Swiss Guard seized the Grand Inquisitor and threw the man into the lake. The Grand Inquisitor did not float. He sank and drowned.

The pope rose, shook his head in sorrow and pronounced, “Too bad. We are going to have to come up with a better test. I lose more cardinals that way.”

Here’s wishing one and all a happy St. Patrick’s Day.


The View

Manny and Hazel are a couple who have been married for 35 years. They are touring Europe for the first time. They are in Berlin and standing at the top in the dome of a government building. Hazel loves the view.

Manny, this is some view.

It ought to be. They spent a fortune on it.

C’mon, Manny, don’t be a spoil sport.

Who? Me? A spoil sport? I’m just pointing out the facts.

Why don’t you just enjoy the view?

We liberate these people from the Nazis. Spend a fortune. It’s cost us I don’t know how many lives. And they don’t pay us back.

Now, Manny, these Germans are nice people.

Under all those nice clothes we’re seeing are people that still owe us money.

Geez. Sometimes, Manny, I don’t know why I do it.

Do what?

Drag you along on these excursions. You’re nothing but a sourpuss. You know that?

Yes, Mrs. Sunshine. You never ever rain on my parade.

When do I rain on your parade? Tell me?

When I go play golf.

You know golf is such a stupid game. Now bridge, that’s a game.

Is not. It don’t take no skills to sit on your butt and play cards. Any doofus could do it.

You try it and see if it takes no skill. You’ll see.

I am not going to play bridge. I don’t care what you say. Oh, look. I can see where the Eiffel Tower.

See. I told you it was a nice view.

At least, we didn’t pay for it.

Manny smiles and takes his wife’s hand.

The Lovers

Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all.

“Such a beautiful rainbow,” Melanie said to Walt.

“I made it just for you,” Walt said to Mel.

“You didn’t,” she said. “You can’t make a rainbow.”

“Oh, you think not,” he said, squeezing her hand just a little to show his love. “I spent several years at the rainbow-making school. I was their star pupil.”

“Were not.” She laughed. She liked it when Walt made up stories just for her.

“I was.”

They two stared at the rainbow, thinking beautiful thoughts. Walt thought about a Mel who could walk, Mel thought about a Mel who could walk. And they were very very happy.