A flash fiction story by Brian Robinson.
“Bloody hell! This place is rammed. Is it okay if I sit here? I’ll just put my coat on the chair while I get a coffee. Are you sure you don’t mind?”
“Be my guest, but I’m not in the best of moods though. I’m having a bad day.”
Man returns with coffee and sits down.
“I used to get bad days, but it’s different now, I’m on the run of a lifetime.”
“Yes well I’m afraid every day’s a bad day for me. I haven’t got a job; I can’t hold down a relationship; I’ve more or less run out of money; you name it.”
“What sort of work are you looking for? I might be able to help. I run a large corporation in the city.”
“I’m not being funny, but you don’t look as if you run a big business.”
“Listen, when you’re the boss you can wear what you like. Besides, it’s cool to look a bit scruffy these days.”
“Well, I’m definitely not looking for anything physical. I’m not cut out for that sort of work. And I can’t wait tables or do hotel work. I’ve tried that. It would have to be something that pays really well and has lots of promise.”
“Okay, so what skills do you have? What did you study at uni?”
“I didn’t go to university. I wanted to start earning straight away, and I’ve only done unskilled work since.”
“Right, well, to be honest, I don’t think there’s much chance of you getting the job you’re after. You have to have something to offer, either brains or brawn. I’m afraid it’s as simple as that.”
Man begins to cry.
“Hey, hey, hey! Things can’t be that bad.”
“I know you’re trying to help, but it’s no good, I’m beyond help. If I threw myself under a bus tomorrow I’d be doing everyone a favour.”
“Look, there’s always a way. Trust me. I know what I’m talking about. Have you ever thought about selling your soul? Now that could change everything.”
“Sell my soul? What to the devil? You’re having a laugh.”
“It worked for me. I was just like you once, I had nothing, no prospects. Now I drive an Aston Martin; I have my own yacht; and I don’t have much trouble finding women.”
“I don’t believe in that devil shit.”
“Then you’ve got nothing to lose have you. Think about it. I just need to take a few personal details: name and address; place of birth etc. I’ll then do some checks and get things rolling. There will be a contract to sign of course, but apart from that, it should be fairly straightforward.”
Man’s interest perks up.
“So, what’s the deal then?”
“This is how it works. The devil gives you all the riches you could possibly want for the rest of your natural life. And then after you die, you have to do his work for a set period of time. It’s only a set period though. It doesn’t go on forever.”
“What’s in it for you?”
“Yes, well, I do get a commission, but not a financial one. I’ve already got money to burn. But for everyone I introduce, I get ten years taken off my work commitment in the afterlife.”
“Okay, I’ll give it a go.”
“Right. Leave it with me and I’ll get back to you. I’m in here most days.”
Ten days later, the two men meet up in the cafe again.
“How did it go?”
“Not too good I’m afraid. We can’t go ahead. There’s a problem.”
“What sort of problem?”
“Well, I hate to say it, but it turns out that you’re going to die in three years time. You can see the problem. It wouldn’t be right to draw you into a contract like this when you’re going to die anyway. I’m sorry, but business ethics forbids it. Even the devil has to comply.”
“Are you sure? I don’t believe you.”
“I don’t think we’ve made a mistake. Can you confirm your mother’s maiden name and your father’s name just to make sure.”
Man gives details.
No, that tallies exactly. Look, I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do. Right, well, I’ve got to press on. You know how it is…places to go…people to see.”
The man, looking more disheartened than ever, goes to the counter to get more coffee.
“Do you know the man I was just talking to?”
“Bob, you mean Bob? Has he been winding you up?”
“Is he a wealthy businessman?”
“A businessman? You’re having a laugh. He lives just across the road. A one bed flat above the butchers. As far as I know, he’s never worked.
He’s in here every day. And he’s always talking to someone. Bothering people I call it. Don’t ask me why he does it. Julie here reckons he’s a scammer. He tries to get personal information from people and then sells it on to third parties. You haven’t told him anything have you?”