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New project . . .

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Joined: 13 Apr 2004
Posts: 1767
New project . . .  Reply with quote  

No idea if this is any good . . . comments, bring it.


Pancake knew – just knew – Satan was going to be a prick about it.

Not that Satan wasn’t normally a prick. Being the Prince of Darkness entitled the man to moodiness, but one would think he would try and curtail it with a bit of practicality. You couldn’t have all that drama and darkness without something to balance the scales. Maybe just a dash of level headedness, or a teaspoon of emotional detachment?

But that wasn’t Satan’s strong suit, which meant Pancake’s ass was proverbial grass, and this meeting was going to result in bad things.

The demon of the second order, Darvid of the Nightchills – who called himself Pancake after the box of Bisquick he spotted upon his first trip topside – shambled down the hall. He was fashioned like a Minotaur, with a bull’s head atop a man’s body. His shoulders were wide enough to fill most doorways, his neck and arms corded with sinewy muscle. His upper torso was kept bare, with two quarter sized silver hoops dangling from his nipples. His lower half was crammed into a tight pair of blue jeans, bare hoofs poking from the hems.

There were facets of earth-living Pancake learned to appreciate over his seventeen years topside. Jeans and piercings were two of those things.

Breakfast food was another.

The doors leading to the master’s chamber were called the Screaming Slates. They were black slabs of rock, forged of the souls of the vilest sinners. Even from this distance, Pancake could hear the wretched cries of the damned. Their voices chorused over one another – screams, wails, moans. Some begged to be released from eternal enslavement, to be free of the doors, while others yearned to see the light again.

And some asked for some really weird shit; he’d heard a pony, a tricycle, and a six pack of Vanilla Coke. Oh, and pork rinds.

Cause you know, the damned needed pork rinds.

Pancake squared his shoulders, cracking his knuckles before entering the demesne. This wasn’t going to be pretty, but it was better to face the music now than to delay any longer. At least, that’s what he told himself so he didn’t lose his bacon cheddar omelet all over his jeans.

As his hands touched the Screaming Slates, he felt the surface change, the icy material forming the visages of men. They wailed all the more, feeling his touch, burning beneath the heat of his fingertips. He ignored the loudest voices – one demanding a pack of Luckies, the other asking him to scratch a little to his left - and stepped inside. The doors slammed closed behind him, the cries ceasing like someone had hit a switch, and he fell to his knees, genuflecting before his master.

“Hail Satan, King of the Darkness, Prince of Shadows and all that walks beneath God’s Grace. Lord of the mighty . . . “

“Can it, Cake. And get the fuck off the floor.”

Pancake rose, daring to look upon the one he served until the end of time. Satan wasn’t what most would expect. In fact, those brought before the Morning Star for the first time couldn’t hide their surprise. He looked positively benign. He kept to jogging suits and sweats, his feet wrapped in a pair of Keds with ankle high sports socks. His face was unlined, eyes and hair a murky brown with nary a distinguishable feature.

He was the most average looking man Pancake had ever seen. A Fred Rogers look alike in sporty casual.

Satan shifted in his seat, his pale hands stroking the orange tabby cat purring contentedly on his lap. The portly feline – named Mister McNaughtybottom – eyed Pancake through jealous yellow eyes. Mister McNaughtybottom didn’t take kindly to anyone claiming Lucifer’s time, and Pancake had zero doubt he looked like three hundred pounds of prime beef to the little beast.

“Let me see. It’s been seventeen years, four months, eleven days, and,” Satan peered down at his wrist, studying an imaginary watch. “Three hours since I last saw you. Tell me you found him.”

Pancake shifted his weight from one hoof to the other, slipping his hands inside his jeans pockets. “I’ve found him, Lord.”

“And?” Satan gently shooed Mister McNaughtybottom to the floor, giving the grouchy cat a kick in the behind to get him moving. He waddled off, glaring at Pancake over his shoulder.

Don’t worry little guy. After I tell him this, I’ll likely be your next meal.

“Fifty three. In southern Massachusetts. Cape Cod. He’s married, with a teenaged son.”


“He owns his own home. He works . . . “

”Oh, Caaaaaaake.” Satan leaned forward in his chair, two rows of perfect teeth blazing in an overly confectioned pseudo-grin. “What is he like? What does he do?”

This was where it was going to get ugly. Pancake braced himself, his stomach clenching into an ugly little knot. “He . . . “


“Your son is a postal worker, Lord.”

Satan blinked stupidly, his mouth falling open, wide enough that he could catch flies. There was a small mewling sound emanating from the back of his throat, reminding Pancake of a cat with its tail stuck in a door.

“Care to repeat that?” Satan managed, though the words were strangled out on a gasp.

“A postal worker. And he likes football. A lot. It’s a bit unnatural, actually. His wife can’t stand it.”

“No. Wait,” Satan held up his hand as if warding off a blow. “You’re telling me, after seventeen years of searching, you’ve found my son – the anti-Christ – the one who will bring the fall of man-kind and get me out of this shithole, and he’s a postal worker? IS THAT WHAT YOU’RE TRYING TO TELL ME?”

“Yes, sir. I suppose that’s what I’m trying to tell you.”

Pancake flinched as Satan threw himself from his chair, the ebony throne skittering across the glossy floor. He paced from one end of the room to the other – fireplace to blood red couch and back again, forcing Mister McNaughtybottom to flee. The cat squeezed his rotund body beneath Satan’s black silk bed, until only the bush of his tail was visible.

“A postal worker?” he demanded again over his shoulder.


“My son delivers mail?”

“That’s what a postal worker does, sir.”

“I send you topside to find my boy, and instead of finding a world dominator, or even a quasi-important crime lord, he wears ugly shorts and gets mauled by dogs?”

”No dog maulings yet, though Mrs. Patterson’s Boston Terrier really doesn’t like him. I think it’s . . .”

“Stop. Just - just don’t talk, unless it’s to tell me you’re joking, or you aren’t sure he’s mine.”

Pancake wisely closed his mouth, wishing that he’d decided to play for the other team – the good guys. The heavenly host sounded a whole heck of a lot better right now, even if they were fitfully boring with their wings and haloes and lame harp music.

“Crap! Crap, crap, and double crap!” Satan’s palms erupted into flame, fire shooting up his arms to wash over his body. Pancake retreated, unwittingly stumbling into the Screaming Slates. They didn’t budge, nor did they make a noise, but he could feel the surface creeping as the souls inside writhed around one another like a mass of snakes.

“Ugh! Does he remember anything? Does he have any memory of me? I planted the memories as a child. Does he know who he is?”

“N-not that I can tell, Lord. He goes to work, he comes home, he turns on the television. There doesn’t seem to be any evil in him. Unless sloth counts – and maybe gluttony.”

“Sloth and gluttony? Those aren’t sin sins. They’re the stupid ones.” The red flames flared before simmering down to a shallow red glow, casting eerie shadows on the floor beneath Satan’s feet. “Damn it. What to do? What to do?” The pacing continued, the Lord of Darkness muttering nonsensical things beneath his breath.

Pancake held still, like the rabbit before the very hungry coyote, trying to be as insignificant, as small, as his eight foot frame would allow him.

Who was he kidding? He was as unnoticeable as a 250 pound woman in a string bikini.

“Wait! I have an idea,” Satan said, his eyes narrowing to tiny slivers of brown and white. He approached his demon, closing the gap between them. At a foot apart, Pancake could feel Satan’s fire – the coldness of it. It was flickering ice, little darts of pain snapping at his chest.

“I exist to serve.” Pancake started to genuflect again, but Satan grabbed his bicep, his fingers denting the muscle. Red flame spit where they touched, burning, and Cake had the sensation his flesh was peeling from his bones. It was very much like the time he’d stuck his tongue to the flagpole to see what would happen.

Damn that had hurt.

“You’ll go. You’ve been the boy’s watcher – you know him, his habits. You’ll tempt him. You’ll make him my creature.”

”What? How, my lord? How do you want . . . “

“Take human form and tempt him. Turn him into my creature. Sex, drugs, vice. All of it - teach him. But don’t get caught. The other side will be watching, and you’ll have to be subtle. If heaven’s asshole brigade gets involved, we’re toast.”

Tempting Larry Feeney is easier said than done, Pancake thought, remembering the portly postal worker with the football fetish. The man barely had a pulse, never mind a desire for true, honest to goodness respectable old sin. Hell, he didn’t even whack off, the lazy shit.

“But,” Satan continued, meandering back to his throne. He made kissy noises at Mister McNaughtybottom, trying to lure the cat back onto his lap, but the stubborn feline just lashed his tail to and fro underneath the bed. “You won’t be alone. You’re not the manipulator. For this, you’ll work with one who knows the dark places of the human soul.”

Pancake had a sinking suspicion where this was going. “Of course, sir.”

“Roderigo The Sly will accompany you.”

Pancake wanted to die all over again – like the first time hadn’t been painful enough. Roderigo sucked. He sucked more than a fat guy with a chicken bone. He sucked more than a veteran porn star. He sucked like sucking was the most important thing in the world.

Too bad being a minion didn’t come with a ‘work exception’ clause. Maybe Pancake should start a unionization movement to avoid situations like these.

But then, that’d probably piss Satan off.

“Certainly, sir.”

Satan clapped his hands together, the palms sparking as they collided. “Brilliant. It’s settled then. The two of you will corrupt my boy, train him for me, and then . . . when he’s ready, we’ll unleash the apocalypse, and I’ll get out of this pit. This is going to be ducky.”

Pancake affected a smile, though he was sure he looked more like he was ready to vomit than burst out laughing. “Yes, sir. Ducky apocalypse. Right away.”

Sometimes, being hell’s lackey was a shitty, shitty job.

Last edited by Hillary on Tue Dec 28, 2004 10:20 pm; edited 1 time in total

Post Wed Sep 15, 2004 10:22 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website

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Part Two - Married Bliss  Reply with quote  

“Your meatloaf’s getting cold, Larry.”

Larry’s shoulders wilted at his wife’s intrusive voice. Why was it she had to talk to him when he was on the crapper? Every single friggin’ time, like something in her genetic makeup forced her to ruin an otherwise pleasant bathroom experience.

“Yeah. Gimme a minute.” He stood from the toilet, ceremoniously flushed, and deposited the magazine into one of those wicker baskets women used to store ‘stuff’. He didn’t bother zipping his fly as he shuffled from the bathroom, his orthopedic slippers clip-clopping upon the white linoleum.

Ellen eyed him from across the kitchen. “I didn’t hear you spray. And you left the door open. I really don’t want to smell . . . that . . . while we’re eating.”

“No need to spray. Didn’t poop,” he replied, sliding his wide bottom into a chair that squealed its displeasure.

“Well if you haven’t been pooping, what have you been doing? You’ve been in there for a half an hour. Dinner’s waiting.”



Larry shrugged, grabbing a napkin off the table to wipe at the smears polluting his glasses. He couldn’t eliminate them; instead, they now looked like hysterical whirls of white crud, but he supposed he didn’t need to see his dinner. It was meatloaf. He’d been eating the same meatloaf for twenty-five years.

“You know something?” Larry said, returning his glasses to his face. He rested meaty forearms upon the table, his fork and knife clamped in his swollen red hands. “Bathroom spray’s a dumb idea. I mean, it’s not like people don’t know what you’ve been doing. If it all of a sudden smells like Lilacs, nobody’s going to think you got a garden. Everyone knows you just took a shit.”

“Larry!” Ellen was shaking her head as she slid into the seat across from him. She grabbed the fake butter sprinkles and lightly tapped them over her green beans. Larry thought the ensuing snow resembled dandruff. When she offered him some, he refused; it had a slightly oily aftertaste that reminded him of the paste he’d consumed in mass quantities during grade school. Paste was okay then, but now it was just wrong.

Ketchup, though . . . ketchup was the nectar of the gods. He poured it until his meatloaf was swimming in an orangey sea of condiment. “Well, think about it. I mean, how many times have you gone in there after I’ve done my business, smelled flowers, and not known what I’ve been doing? If the bathroom smells like a goddamn florist’s, it’s pretty common knowledge that somebody just shit.”

Ellen’s well-trimmed fingernails began tapping on the tabletop. “Can we not talk about crapping at dinner? Please?”

“I’m not talking about crapping. I’m talking about spraying. It’s different.”

Ellen rolled her eyes. “It’s the same thing.”


Ellen dug into her meal with the ferocity of a rabid wolverine. “I know what we should talk about. Let’s talk about the fact that you came home from work today, barely muttered a ‘hello’, and then tromped off to the bathroom. When you come out, your dinner’s waiting, you don’t say ‘thank you’, and you inform me that you weren’t doing anything in the bathroom except avoiding me so you could read one of those stupid magazines. Let’s talk about that.”

“Rather talk about spraying,” Larry said through a mouthful of half chewed food.

“I bet you would.” Ellen fell into petulant silence, and Larry followed suit, unsure of how to disentangle himself from this particular mess. He wondered how it was that he could say a total of ten words to his wife on any given day, and they were inevitably the wrong ten.

It was a talent, that.


And so it was that Ellen and Larry Feeney settled into a night of television, reading, and ignoring one another. What they didn’t know – couldn’t know – is that they weren’t alone, and that they wouldn’t be for a rather long time.

It had begun.


“You want us to go where?”

“The fish tank. We’ll be in their environment. To observe, to see, to feel their emotions. I want to know them, to understand them, before we proceed.”

Pancake groaned. “I’ve been observing him for six months. We don’t need to . . . “

Roderigo held up an elegant hand with long, slender fingers. At least, he would have held up an elegant hand with long, slender fingers if he’d been in his usual form, but currently, he had assumed the shape of a squirrel and was sitting in an oak tree, peering into the Feeney’s living room. The hand he held up was short, furry, and equipped with sharp claws.

As far as squirrel hands went, though, it was rather dashing, if he did say so himself.

“I am a first order demon. What order demon are you?” Roderigo asked, his voice a nasally whine that could make plants shrivel.

“Second,” Pancake muttered, grabbing his own bushy tail and plucking it free of vermin. He’d been itchy ever since Roderigo had decided that they’d do reconnaissance in the tree. Squirrels had it a lot tougher than Pancake ever would have guessed.

“And does second order outrank first order?”


“So what are we going to do?”

Pancake wanted to push Roderigo off the branch, but doing so wouldn’t accomplish much. There wouldn’t be any satisfactory splat when he hit the ground, so what was the point? “I guess we’re going into the fish tank.”

“That’s right. We’re going into the fish tank. And why are we going into the fish tank?”

“Are you done?” Pancake demanded, stomping his miniature foot. “I said we didn’t need reconnaissance because I’ve already done it.”

“Ah yes, my little Pancake, my dear little Darvid, but there is time to spare. Our Lord wants this done right, and we need to act wisely. We cannot know too much.”

As much as Pancake didn’t like admitting it, Roderigo might have a point. Haste could destroy them. Satan couldn’t interact directly with the human world – at least, most of the time he couldn’t. Certain ceremonies and planetary alignments would permit brief topside visits – a la Larry’s conception – but that was extremely rare. His power to tempt, destroy, and cause mayhem was limited to his control over his minions, which meant Pancake and Roderigo were quite literally his eyes, ears, and hands while they were here.

Being as such, fucking this up was unacceptable. If Pancake and Roderigo failed, Satan failed.

Which would be really, really bad.

“All right. I’ll concede that, but why the fish tank again? It’s going to stink.”

“You question Roderigo the Sly? I have tempted kings, fool! I have broken the will of the strongest men. I have made virgins submit their virtue to ravaging hoards, and put the glean of doubt in a holy man’s eye. I have . . . “

And so on, and so on, until Pancake thought he was going to throw himself to the ground and hope for the splat.

Roderigo was a first order demon – hated by most for his arrogance and persnickety ways, but valued by Satan for his particular skill set. Like most first orders, he had the ‘my shit don’t stink’ attitude (not that Pancake or any other demon actually shit, but he remembered that particular saying from his mortal days). First orders believed they were better than the rest of hell’s labor squad because they’d been angels at the dawning of creation. They’d fallen with Lucifer.

In some ways, it was a true assessment, in others, it was not. They weren’t necessarily more powerful than a demon of the second or third order, but they were closest to Satan’s breast, they’d been around the longest, and he trusted them. His support made them powerful, and thus, among the mad throng, firsts were the lieutenants and advisors of hell.

Second and third demons were still powerful – and in some instances, more powerful than firsts – but they’d all started off as mortals. When they arrived in hell to serve their penance after Saint Petey’s Judgment, Satan would sometimes catch a glimmer of ‘that certain something’ – an unidentifiable trait as far as Pancake was concerned – and he’d offer them damnation or servitude.

As damnation sucked, everyone always took servitude, and thus, the other orders of demons were born.

Right now, listening to Roderigo prattle on about his various accomplishments, Pancake wished he’d taken the damnation.

Unable to take it anymore, he decided to make peace, else be stuck listening to Roderigo for the next six years of his un-life. ”Rod, it’s okay. I believe you. I know all about the temptation of Sinatra. Chill, man.”

Roderigo took a deep breath, halting his impassioned speech. He squared his squirrel shoulders, puffing out his chest. “Yes. Well. I am . . . chilled, as you say.”

“Sure you are, Rod. Sure you are.”

Post Mon Dec 27, 2004 9:57 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website

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Ellen Feeney was a young looking fifty. Her short hair was dyed a golden yellow – admittedly achieved by dousing herself in bleaches and harsh chemicals – her skin rosy and unwrinkled. She had bright blue eyes she hid behind wire-rimmed glasses, and a smile that would make Betty Crocker pale.

“I look like two pounds of shit in a one pound bag,” she muttered to no one in particular, running her hands down her soft, flabby middle. The shirt fit last year, but now, it stretched to near transparent across her boobs, and she could see the outline of her fat rolls. She pinched a chunk of skin, pulling it away from her body before releasing it, letting it thwap back like a rubber band.

“Goddamn it.” She undressed, pulling one of Larry’s sweatshirts over her head instead. At least it made her feel small; Larry’s shirts could be used to tarp a pool.

She wandered down her steps and towards the kitchen. Her shift at the local bookstore ended at three, which gave her two full hours of quiet before her husband came home. Not to say that it got loud when he got here; it seemed like her husband didn’t have anything left to say to her. After twenty five years of experiencing life together, she supposed the same old stories could get old, but every once in a while, she couldn’t help but feel lonely.

They lived with each other and around each other, but they didn’t really communicate anymore, and she found that distressing.

She set about making tomorrows lunches, stuffing fruits and puddings into brown paper bags before assembling tuna sandwiches. Larry’d piss and moan about it like he always did, missing his brownies and cupcakes, but the doctor told him he needed to take weight off, and Ellen was in wholehearted agreement. The two of them looked like Tweedle fat and Tweedle fatter. She needed another Little Debbie like she needed a third nipple.

She was scooping light mayonnaise into a bowl when her eye fell upon something unusual. At first she thought she was seeing things, but a few blinks later, she realized she wasn’t crazy. She wiped her hands on her jeans and crossed the kitchen, leaning down to inspect the aquarium.

There were two new fish in here. Larry hadn’t mentioned stopping off at the pet store, but then, Larry didn’t mention a lot of things.

“Hello,” she said to the bright red fish hovering next to the glass. A smaller purple fish sidled up next to him, and both animals stared at her, content to float within the water.

Friendly little buggers.

“I haven’t seen you before, and I bet Larry didn’t name you. So I guess I’ll call you,” she tapped the glass in front of the red fish, “Red. And you,” her finger slid across the pane to the purple, “will be Grape.”

She snagged the fish flakes from the basket below, liberally sprinkling some across the water’s surface. The other fish darted to the top to scarf the fare, but not her new additions. They were content to examine her – almost as content as she was to examine them.

”Welcome to the family guys. Eat before it’s gone, kay? Oh, and don’t mind the tuna. Nobody you know.”

And with a welcoming little wave, she walked away.


“Creative, ain’t she?” Pancake said to Roderigo, communicating via telepathy.

“Whatever do you mean?”

“Red and Grape? Come on. She wasn’t even trying.”

Grape – aka Roderigo – swam around excitedly. “Yes, but did you smell her self doubt? Her vulnerability? She may be the key.”

“The key to what? Larry doesn’t even know she’s here most of the time,” Pancake said, darting down to swallow another Tetra. They weren’t exactly Sushi – a little too sour – but the taste was starting to grow on him. He’d decided that if he had to be a fish, he was going to be a goddamned carnivorous one. None of the fairy flakes for him.

“Oh, he cares for her. I could tell last night. He was looking at her longingly across the table, when she yelled at him.”

“Sure. Whatever you say.” Pancake let out a belch, watching a blue scale float out of his mouth. It was caught in the current of the bubble bar and sailed away to land behind a plastic plant.

“So how do we want to handle this?” Roderigo asked.

“Why don’t we get out of the fish tank for starters?”

“No, you fool!” Roderigo whipped about, shaking his tail fins until he was bouncing in Pancake’s face. Pancake wondered if he could swallow him whole, too. “We’ve learned much here, just from that brief exchange. We have yet to attract the attention of Satan’s son. I want to smell his soul before we abandon our post.”

“Larry doesn’t give a shit about the fish. I’ve never once seen him . . . “

”The woman will ask him about us.”

Pancake sighed, turning away to eye an angelfish hiding in the corner. He was wondering if he could eat it, even though it was considerably larger than the tetras. It couldn’t be more than a bite or two. He closed in on the unsuspecting creature, the Jaws tune parading through his head.

“Where are you going?” Roderigo asked, following close behind like a yappy puppy. “I wasn’t finished speaking with you.”

“I’m going to go over there and eat that angel fish, Rod. And then, when I’m done, I’m going to float down above the bubble bar and let it blow against my nuts. I’m officially done with the tank thing. When you need something, come talk to me.”

”But . . . “

“No buts. Angel fish, bubbly nuts. Let me know when you’re done waiting for Larry.”


And on the fourth day, Roderigo conceded that Larry Feeney could give two shits about a fish tank.

It was time for a new plan.

Post Wed Jun 22, 2005 8:00 am   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website

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From May to October, Cape Cod bustled with activity, the tourists falling upon the land like a ravaging hoard. They wore ugly bathing suits on public beaches, blinding the year rounders with their cellulite and Speedos. They mangled Cape rotaries, annoying year rounders with their inability to merge in and out of traffic. And they crammed themselves into Cape restaurants, inhibiting the year rounders access to a decent meal.

But by far their biggest sin, their most foul trait, was spending money. Lots and lots of money. So much money, in fact, that they destroyed the year rounders right to bitch and piss and moan.

Because without the tourism, the Cape would die.

It went without saying, then, that the Post Office was madhouse during tourist time. Larry’s branch upped hours, and even allowed overtime to cover the influx of deliverable mail. Larry was no exception. His walking route took an extra hour and a half, his mail sack twice as heavy as a January bag. By all rights, he should weigh half of his two hundred and sixty pounds, but his propensity for snacking on the ‘crap of the earth’ as Ellen called it nullified the benefits of his exercise.

It was a Tuesday morning, around 11 a.m. on a sunny June day, and the blissfully unawares anti-Christ had just delivered the Thompsons’s usual wad of pornographic magazines. He slipped them into the box and scampered away, knowing it was cowardly to run, but gut instinct forced him to ‘fight or flight’. The customer – 76 year old Earl Thompson – loved to talk. He’d talk until his lips fell off. And his favorite thing to talk about was porn. ‘Ain’t nothing like comparing the racks of Miss Booby Barbie and Nipply Nadine, eh son?’ he’d say, holding up a page for perusal. It was impossible NOT to notice the geriatric wood Earl packed, too, which Larry found terribly disturbing.

Thus he ran from the door, as fast as his trunk-like legs would carry him, breath coming in short pants. He’d be safe if he just got around the corner, and . . .

“Now where are you running off to, son?”

Larry stopped in his tracks, his face shriveling like an overripe tomato. “Hey Earl.” He turned, acknowledging the senior citizen with a manufactured a smile.

“What’d you bring me today?”

“Just the usuals.”

”Eh? Let me see . . . oh! Looky here. Naughty Nurses. You ever seen this one before?”

Only about a dozen times. “I think so.”

“You’ve got to see this. Really. “

Larry looked up at the summer sky, ecstatic that a blob of clouds was blocking the sun. “Looks a bit overcast. I’d really like to get my route done before it starts to pour.“

“Oh. It’s all right I suppose,” Earl said, his frail shoulders drooping. “You’re right. It’s just that, well, you know.”

Ah shit. Larry knew where this was going. He had to abandon ship now, take the lower road and flee. Danger, Larry Feeney. Danger! “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Mmmm. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t.”

“Now, come on Earl.”

“Come on what? Hell. I ain’t as young as I used to be. Seventy-seven next month. This old heart might just stop tickin’, and then bam! I’m on the floor quicker than a whore staring at a fat bankroll.”

Larry was defeated. He knew it even as he shuffled up to Earl’s doorstep, kicking dust in his wake. Earl wasn’t a bad guy. He was just a pervy old man, and if something ever happened to him – if the son of a bitch really did just fall over dead - Larry’d feel awful.

The guilt. Goddamned Catholic upbringing.

“So what are you looking at?”

Earl’s smile was dazzling. He let the rest of his mail fall to the porch, his weathered hands gliding over the glossed pages of Naughty Nurses, stroking them like a woman. Larry found it slightly revolting, but he managed to maintain the smile.

“Miss June. Ain’t she a beauty?”

Larry’s eyes fell upon a pair of softball sized silicone breasts that could double as flotation devices. They were crammed into a too tight top, nearly bursting the buttons of the blouse. The trampy looking blond was licking her fingers in what was supposed to be seductive pose, but her face was so thin, so gaunt, all Larry wanted to do was give her a sandwich. She was a Sally Struthers poster child with hooker makeup and boobs bigger than twin suns.

“Yeah, she’s swell.”

“Look, page forty. Nipples.”

“Great. Really. You know, my route . . . “

“Oh for Christ’s sakes!” Earl rolled the magazine into a club, smacking Larry on the arm. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were queer. Don’t you like women?”

Larry blinked, wondering exactly how he’d gone from Earl’s best nudie-mag friend to a near-queer in under three seconds. “It’s not that. She’s just not my type, that’s all. And my route. It’s getting late.”

“To hell with your route. Life’s too short. My Eliza understands that I like looking at nekkid women, and she says ‘S’long as you’re not pokin’ ‘em, I don’t care.’ She’s a good woman. Like your Ellen. Oh. Saw her at the store the other day, by the way. She’s still a fine piece of ass. Even with that butterball ass.”

Larry’d never heard anyone refer to his wife as a ‘piece of ass’, and he wasn’t sure if he was supposed to be indignant or disgusted. Thinking about Earl’s flagship boner, he supposed disgusted.

But what could he say? He’d known Earl for years, and ignoring the problem would make it go away. Wouldn’t it? “Yeah. Umm. I’m a lucky man, I guess.”

“You guess? You’d be happier if you could appreciate the fairer sex. Like Ellen, and Miss June and her huge – Oh MY CHRIST!” Earl yelled, his forehead crinkling with worry lines. His eyes were as wide as saucers. “You should have said something, my boy. I should have realized – of course. You poor son of a bitch!”

Larry was so taken aback by Earl’s exclamation that he whirled around, his head snapping left to right and back again. As far as he could tell, everything was normal in the quiet suburban neighborhood, but Earl’s expression suggested he’d just seen Charlie Manson holding hands with a Girl Scout. “What? What’s wrong?”

Earl’s hand clamped on his shoulder. “You poor kid,” he whispered. “You wait right here. Just a second. Old Earl will take care of you.”

“What are you . . . where are you going, Earl?” Larry said, craning his neck so he could watch the old man disappear into the house. Larry had no idea what the hell was going on, and he scratched his scalp, his fingers worrying his bald spot.

A few moments later, Earl wandered out, his expression solemn. “You know you can talk to me about anything, don’t you, son? We’ve been acquaintances for over twenty years, you and me.”

“What am I supposed to be talking to you about again?”

Earl looked at Larry – hard - before shaking his head. “Nevermind. A man’s got to have his pride. Here, take these. I shoulda known when you didn’t wanna look at . . . well, take ‘em. They’ve been this old man’s best friend, that I can tell you.” And before Larry could process what Earl was doing, his fist was being pried open, and something warm hit his palm.

He looked down.

Little. Blue. The end-all and be all cure for Erectile Disfunction. Earl Thompson had just handed him four Viagra.

Larry was so taken aback that he almost dropped them. “I don’t need . . . “

“Now, now. None of that. Pride’s a deadly sin. And don’t you worry about thanking me. You take those things, and you’ll be giving the misses a good stiff one in no time. Why do you think Eliza’s always grinning? I smack it to her bony old ass three or four times a week thanks to that shit. It’s God’s wonder, I’m telling you.”

The concept of the seventy something year old Thompsons having sex was doing horrible thing to Larry’s mind, and he did everything he could to erase the imagery, but it was no use. The wrinkles, and the sags: it was like two bloodhounds under a hose. Things were moving that just shouldn’t be.

He wanted to scratch his eyes out. He should have just said ‘no’ to coming up onto the porch, but his resolve was as solid as pudding. Goddamned guilt. Goddamned Earl Thompson.

Trying to get away, needing to escape the old man with the sympathetic smile, Larry slipped the Viagra into his pocket and backed down the steps. He had to get away from Nipply Nadine, Earl’s boner, and the feeling of complete and utter disgust erupting inside of his stomach.

“I’ve got my route, Earl. I’ll see you tomorrow or something.” He swallowed past the uncomfortable lump in his throat. “And, uh, thanks for the, you know. Stuff.”

Earl waved. “Two of them and you’ll be right as rain, my boy. Harder than concrete, I guarantee.”

”Yeah, thanks.” With that, Larry ran down the street, devoting every ounce of his energy to delivering mail. He’d never completed his route quicker. He wanted more than anything to forget his exchange with Earl Thompson.

And by four o’clock, he’d managed, quite handily, to do just that.

It was his first mistake.

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