Let’s Make a Deal – Caleb Echterling [Fiction]

Sweat glistened on Abby’s arms as she lugged the crate full of music into a record store. “I hear you guys buy used 8-tracks. That true?”

“Depends on the genre.” The clerk didn’t look up from his phone.

“I’m dead broke, and if I want a new citrus juicer, I’ve got to sell my soul collection.”

The screams of a thousand mortals in everlasting torment filled the store. A cloud of smoke materialized and dissipated to reveal a gentleman with hooved feet and nubby horns. “A little birdy told me someone wants to sell their soul.”

Abby shook her head. “Your avian spies got it wrong. I’m selling my 8-tracks of soul music.”

“Righy-o then.” Lucifer pulled his cape across his chest and disappeared, leaving cloudy haze in his place.

The clerk rummaged through Abby’s music. He snorted through his nose, and summarized his feelings with a dismissive pfft. “These are all crap. The best one you’ve got is Barney & Friends Sing the Stax Back Catalog. My final offer is the whole box for a whiff of baked goods that may or may not trigger a pleasant childhood memory.”

Abby’s body sagged. “A Proustian bargain? I was hoping for actual cash.”

The karaoke styling of a thousand demons, enhanced by stage-effect smoke, descended on the record store. “Did someone request a Faustian bargain?” Lucifer asked.

“No,” Abby said. “I was making a literary reference. Sorry.”

“Too bad. See ya later, alligator.” A trail of smoke left a reminder of where Lucifer had stood.

Abby sighed. “I guess I’ll take the deal. No one else buys 8-tracks.” The clerk produced a sealed container, and peeled back the lid. Abby sucked a deep sniff through her nose. The corners of her mouth turned up as the other muscles in her face went slack. “Ahhhh, that’s the stuff. Totally worth it. But now I gotta pee. Can I use your restroom?”

The clerk shook his head. “Don’t have one. Try the deli across the road.” Abby stumbled out to the sidewalk sporting a blissed-out grin.

The clerk screamed and clutched his head as smooth jazz assaulted his ears. Lucifer arrived in a chariot of smoke. “Did I overhear someone asking to meet the devil at a crossroads? That can be arranged,” Lucifer said.

“Dude, this is a non-smoking building,” the clerk said. “So take your soul harvesting outside. No one in here wants it.”

Lucifer disappeared in a puff of smoke. After a pause lasting half a second on either side of the clerk’s muttered yeesh, the sound of castanets heralded the reappearance of Lucifer, who straddled two shipping containers like a reborn Colossus. “Hey man, do you really buy 8-tracks? I’m upgrading to cassette.”

By Caleb Echterling


    1. I forgot to say that I never thought I would read a story that cites both Proust and Robert Johnson–and it works.


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