Thursday, April 8, 2010

COFFIN NAILS ~ By Richard M. Johnson of Harbinger*33


By ~ Richard M. Johnson

              Damn! Philip Bantry thought as he sat on the ratty old couch staring into the Scotch bottle he had only moments ago finished. The only liquor left in his house, now, was a twelve-year-old-bottle of Port that he had been saving for a special occasion.

              He smiled grimly.  "Guess losing your job is as special an occasion as any..." The house replied with a slight creak, as it settled in for another miserable night of Philip boozing and puking.

              Philip caught his own reflection in the mirror on the wall across the room and he waved at himself.  The blurry figure beckoned back.  "At least I’m not drinkin’ alone." he slurred, "… it’s only a drinking problem if you’re drinkin’ alone." Laughing at his brilliant remark, the scotch bottle slipped from Philip’s grasp and rolled as far away, as it could, from the man who had just finished badly abusing it.

              “Oopsie!” Philip’s brow furred in drunken thought. “Oh, geez, I must be soused …” He spoke to his reflection, “I only quit cursing, when I’m really soused …”

              As he stood up unsteadily, his foot caught one of the numerous beer cans littering the floor and sent it clattering across the tile to rest beneath the couch.

              God, he thought, surveying his surroundings, what a dump.  He giggled as he did his best Bette Davis impersonation. "What a dump!"

              Philip was watching himself be an ass in the mirror when his left foot landed on the Scotch bottle that hadn’t quite escaped far enough away, and he fell.

              When Philip came to, he found himself eye-to-toe with a red cloven hoof.  He jumped back and struck his head on the coffee table. "Ow! What the hell?"
              "Precisely," the other replied.

              Philip crab walked back another few feet. "What … what are you doing in my house?"

              The man in red smiled malevolently. "I have come for you."

              "Yeah, right." Philip snorted.

              The man pulled his red cape about himself, the hem swirling up slightly as it dusted the floor. "I have come for you, Philip Michael Bantry!"

              Philip rubbed his bloodshot eyes. No, he thought through a half drunken haze, the man has horns on his head. It can't friggin’ be.

              As if reading Philip's mind, the man replied, "You are correct in your assumptions. I am who you think I am."

              Philip laughed as he stared up at the absurdly tall man. "Popeye?"

              "NO!" The man in red raged. "I am your worst nightmare!"

              "My ex-wife?"

              "NO!!!" The man in red’s cloven hoof stomped down hard, crushing an errant beer can, and putting a crack in the cheap linoleum flooring .

              Philip sniggered derisively."Then you must be the devil."

              The man hurled his pitchfork to within an inch of Philip's feet; it embedded itself into the floor. "Yes!" the man bellowed angrily. "And now, you will pay for your insolence!"

              Philip reached out nonchalantly and touched the pitchfork.  His eyes filled instantly with understanding and fear.  "Oh, God," he croaked, "it's real..."

              The man in red strode over to him, his hooves sparking on the dirty green linoleum as he walked. With one hand, he picked Philip off the floor and suspended him to where his feet dangled freely. "Little man," he sneered.

              Philip tried in vain to pry himself free from the man's grip. "I didn't mean it," he whimpered. "I thought you were the D.T.'s!"

              The man tossed Philip effortlessly onto the couch and turned for his pitchfork.

              Trembling, Philip saw that the man's back was turned. He grabbed an nearly empty bottle off the floor and charged the infernal figure.

              Faster than the eye could follow, the man spun about and pinned Philip's hand to the wall with the pitchfork. "Ah... a feisty one, I see."

              The cuff of Philip's shirt started to smoke slightly as the material began to slowly combust. He dropped the bottle. "I'm sorry. I don't want to go."

              The corners of the man's lips curled. "You have no choice in this matter."

              "But, I can't be dead ..."

              The smile on the man's face faded as he ripped the pitchfork from the wall, freeing Philip's hand and dropping a cascade of plaster at Philip's feet. "You're not!" the man screamed, then calmed and added, "but you will be. Soon."
              Philip's eyes widened. "Hold up there Sparky, you’re telling me that I'm not dead yet?"

              The man sneered. "No, but you are scheduled for a suicide in less than three hours. A very messy suicide.” Your story will open the morning news on TV.”

              “If it bleeds, it leads…” Philip mumbled.

              “What?” The man in red cocked an ear toward his victim. 

              "Doesn’t matter…” Staring at the palm of his own hand, the lifeline that etched its way across his palm seemed shorter than it did yesterday. Philip shook his head, trying to clear his vision. “So… I'm not dead now?"

              "No!" The man in red turned from Philip shaking with a barely contained rage.

              "Then what are you doing here?"

              "I fell behind in my work!" The man spun toward Philip and began to back him into the room’s corner. "I was picking up one of your neighbors, a Mr. Kasparian, I believe, and figured I could take you as well. You know, save myself a trip later."

              Philip's face gleamed. "Then, I'm really not dead!"

              The man pointed his pitchfork at Philip menacingly. "Quit being redundant!"

              Philip slapped the pitchfork away. "Hah! I'm not going!"
              "But you have nothing to live for."

              "I do now." Philip stepped past the man in red and headed to the kitchen. "I didn't know I was going end up down there."

              The man advanced on Philip slowly. "You’re still the man you were an hour ago. You're only going to make things worse for yourself … Add another nail to your coffin! You have no friends, no job, no money. Think of all your bills!"

              Philip's smile widened as he reached up into a kitchen cabinet and withdrew the bottle of port. "What can be done, can be undone." He pulled open a drawer and grabbed a corkscrew.  "It was the alcohol that screwed everything up.”

              “No it wasn’t!” The man in red growled.
“Still” Philip grinned, “I can make new friends, find a job, earn money." Philip opened the bottle, sniffed the cork, and then poured it into the sink.

              "But ..." the man started to say, but Philip cut him off.

               "Save it, dude. I'm not going." He handed the man in red the empty bottle and pushed past him.

              The man stared blankly at his own warped reflection in the bottle, then, in a sudden burst of fury, hurled it toward Philip's retreating form.  It shattered on the doorframe as Philip passed into his bathroom.

              Philip popped his head back out. "You are going to clean that up before you go, aren't you?"

              The man in red, literally, cut a path through the couch with his pitchfork. "You will come with me, NOW!"

              "No I won't." Philip laughed, stopping the man in red in his tracks. "I don't know where I read it, but I just remembered something about the fact that your kind can't directly harm humans. Is that true?"

              The man screamed and kicked a hole in Philip's old black and white RCA portable. "I thought not." Philip grinned and ducked his head back into the bathroom.

              For the next half hour, while Philip showered, shaved and dressed, the man in red ranted and raved, and tore the den to shreds.
              Philip re-entered the room shaking his head as he headed toward the front door. "What will the neighbors think."  He opened the door. "By the way, I am still insured. I was giving consideration to torching the place, for extra cash." With a smile on his face, Philip exited and closed the door behind him with a quiet click.

              The malice in the man's face faded. "And without even a good-bye." Quietly, the man in red set down his pitchfork, quickly climbed out of his costume and unfurled his wings. "Oh, that feels wonderful," he said.

              Removing the horns and placing his halo back on his head, the man in white knelt to pray. "Sorry, Lord, please forgive me for the destruction I caused. I do have a tendency to get carried away when I'm playing a part. Also forgive me for misleading Philip, but it was the only way I could think of to stop him from killing himself."

              "You, above all, should know how much harder it is nowadays to pull something like this off." Smiling benignly, the man in white picked up the red costume and silently disappeared in a shimmer of light, as the den began to slowly reconstruct itself.
(c) 2010 ~ Author Richard M. Johnson

FANTASY AUTHOR RICHARD: Kate, I'm glad to heat it up AT THE BIJOU by fitting my fantasy into the theme of the month. Be well, be brilliant,

ABSOLUTELY*KATE: Oh Richard, of all sides of the theatre experience, writing, directing, acting . . . and now resident drama critic here AT THE BIJOU, you always may a heart so pleasured to see you, to read you . . . even when your imagination flirts with hell.

RICHARD: Well Kate, I like to quote Muhammad Ali on that mighty writer's subject ~ "The man who has no imagination has no wings".

ABSOLUTELY*KATE: Words worth a fighting chance, always, dear sir. Your words go many rounds in many ways ~ three of your poems are seeing action in the online literary magazine, Hot Valley Writers; you're in print in the The 6S Book of Love anthology, to ring the bell on but a few.

RICHARD: Thanks Kate. You promotionally plug authors rather well. Hot Valley Writers will be live until April 1st, 2010, so seek me in the back issues. If you want you can then go to the Back Issues/Archives section under VOLUME 1/NUMBER 3 - SPRING, 2008 - and read my Non-Fiction story "Driving With Ray" or last issue's micro fiction "At Least Everyone Got Out Alive".

ABSOLUTELY*KATE: NEED MORE ENRICHMENT OF RICHARD?  Discover what he's doing, what he's proud of and even what makes his eyes light up revealed in our First Thursday Alert ~ AUTHOR! AUTHOR! THEY'RE NO FOOLS! {click, enjoy} recently playing to packed and traveling audiences AT THE BIJOU.  

for a fantasy of a fool

~ Absolutely*Kate
and our fine staff of renown



Anonymous said...

Richard, this was delightful. I loved the way you brought the story full circle. If I were a child, I would have been filled with fear.

Harry said...

Nice job Richard. I like stories where man frustrates the devil and gets away with it. You gave us that with a divine twist in the end.

foolishwriter said...

Thank you both for the compliment. Jeanette always enjoy your work, and Harry I'll see if I can find something of yours to read.