Oh, to be nineteen again and work in the A & P and ring up a queen of a girl in her bathing suit for a can of I-can’t-remember-what and quit my job and leave my co-worker, Stokesie, and the manager of the store, Lengel, behind and walk out into a whole new life. Sometimes you get a chance and you take that one chance and everything changes. It was such a good spring day to be alive and the air was sweeter than any I have breathed before or since. It was a good day to go out and see the world.

The girl and her two friends were gone when I got outside, but that didn’t matter. I was a man now because I had made a man’s decision. I had said goodbye to all the things I hated when I walked out of that store, and there was no going back. I walked over to the blue ’54 Chevy my dad gave me for my eighteenth birthday, got into it, checked my gas gauge and decided I had enough fuel to get me to the beach five miles away and back. I knew I had see that girl again, and there was no better time than then to see her.

I drove to the beach and parked my car, then ambled over to the food stand. “Where does a guy go around here if he needs a job?” I asked the man inside the stand, improvising my way through this part of the day.

“What kind of job you looking for?” he wanted to know.

“Lifeguard,” I said, continuing to make things up. Surprised that things were going in the direction they were going in.

“You a good swimmer?”

“The best.”

“Better’n me?” He pulled off his apron.

I gave him a good up-and-down and decided just maybe. “I didn’t bring a set of trunks.”

He reached down and pulled a pair out from under the counter and threw them at me.

“You can change over yonder.” He pointed toward a men’s room several yards away.

I took the swim trunks and ran to change. Several minutes later I walked back to the stand. I handed him my jeans and shirt and shoes. He put them under the counter. “They’ll be safe here,” he said and locked the stand up.

We raced down to the water and I was first in. The water, cold but not too cold, came up to my waist. I dived in and headed for the platform floating in the ocean. About halfway there, the guy pulled ahead of me. I was a good swimmer but this guy was a fish. He got to the platform and crawled out of the water and stood watching me. Grabbing the edge of the wood, I pulled myself up onto it. I steadied myself. He hauled off and hit me hard with his fist. I hit the water. What the–?

I swam under the wooden floor, came up on the other side, crawled up on the platform and rammed into him. He fell back into the ocean. I watched him go under the water and then his head appeared again and now he was trying to get his breath. I jumped in and grabbed him. He fought me hard, real hard. But soon I had him up on the platform and I was breathing mouth-to-mouth, scared as all get-out. He was not moving. Then water shot out of his mouth.

Slowly he sat up. Then he looked at me with that look that made me think I was lucky knowing him. “You got the job,” he said.

On the beach, the queen waved to me.

The Night the Devil Came Down to Georgia

I have to thank Robin Graham for her picture of The Porch at the Number 560. I used it for a prompt. This is the story that came. 

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 hunger. 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, 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.

Prompt: A Dog Named Bob.

How could I resist this prompt The Daily Post: You have 20 minutes to write a post that includes the words mailbox, bluejay, plate, syrup, and ink. And one more detail… the story must include a dog named Bob. Here goes:

Bob, my cocker spaniel, ran out to the mailbox, carrying his bluejay buddy, Feistus, on his back. He opened the mailbox and ink poured out. It was as sticky as that plate of syrup he got into yesterday.

Listening to Sinatra

Listening to Sinatra, Blue Eyes
sipping his blues on the rocks, cigarette smoke
curling up into another September song,
three a. m. in his soul in some half forgotten
side street bar, alone and far from eternity
on the nightside of town. Just listen:

to the Sultan of Swoon with the Dorsey swing,
to the Hollywood songs by The Voice,
to the loss and heart aches remembered
as the music ripened, a fine wine aged.
Frank, like DiMaggio, perfect grace and style,
this Hoboken kid sure made Little Italy proud.

All “high hopes,” “young at heart” and counting
his “pennies from heaven” those very good years
“the summer wind blew” as he flew us to the moon
“nice ‘n’ easy” on The “Guys and Dolls” Express.
Sang those “old black magic,” street-of-dreams tunes
his way, Pal Joey in Vegastown.

Luck was his lady a second time around
during the Rat Pack days of Frank, Sammy
and Dean, his “Oceans Eleven” gang playing
“Robin and the Seven Hoods” just for laughs.
With his gambler’s heart he threw the dice
and scored a great American songbook.

“There used to be a ballpark” where he sang
of Emily and Nancy with the laughing face.
Then the autumn days, the summer years gone
and his once upon a time, ‘til suddenly
he was eighty with only duets left. Just listen
to this Chairman of the Board, Zen-maestro of Song.