Dan rubbed the hood of his brand new, cherry colored Chevy Corvette Stringray with a clean cloth, then stepped back to admire it. His chest swelled. He’d longed for one of these ever since he could drive. He leaned in to continue cleaning then—
A cough from someone at the end of his driveway.
His face fell as he turned, sparks flying through his mind, seeking the memory of how he knew this man. The guy was tall and thin, with a cigar that just barely dangled from his lips. Dan’s blood pressure dropped. Had it been twenty years already?
“Hello, Danny-boy,” the man said. “Good to see you again. Years have treated you well, I see?” At this, he glanced at the car, his gaze dripping with want.
Dan clenched his fists. “I—I—”
“Breathe, Danny-boy. You’ll give yourself a heart attack.”
The man’s mouth curled into a hungry grin that made Dan’s skin crawl. “Please, don’t take my car. I’ve worked so hard for it…so many years—”
“No worries. I’m not here for the car, Danny-boy.”
Dan’s shoulders slumped in relief, then immediately tensed again. “What do you want, then?”
“Dad?” a small voice came from the garage.
“Tyler, go inside the house. This doesn’t concern you.” Dan nodded his head and hoped the ten year old would obey, for once.
“Oh, but this situation very much concerns Tyler, Danny-boy,” the man crooned.
Dan furrowed his brow. “What do you—”
“The most valuable thing you possess, Danny-boy. That wouldn’t be some rusty old car, now would it?” The man choked on his laugh.
Dan froze as bile fought its way up. He looked from his son back to the man. Heat laced his neck and engulfed his face. “No. You can’t be serious.”
“Dad?” Tyler said.
“Oh, but I am, Danny-boy.”
“What does he mean, dad?”
“He means, you belong to me now, kid.” The man puffed on the cigar twice. “He made a deal with me, a long time ago. Said he’d give me the most valuable thing he possessed if I gave him some silly old bike.” He laughed. “Not a smart choice, if you ask me.”
“Tyler, don’t move,” Dan said. His nostrils flared as he tried to force his body to stop shaking.
“The most valuable thing he owned?” Tyler said to the man.
“That’s right kid. Which means, you.” The man pointed at the boy with glee.
Tyler scrunched his face in concentration, then, “I’ll be right back.”
“Ty—” Dan gasped as his son disappeared into the back of the garage.
The man smiled. “Looks like your son can accept the inevitable, at least.”
Tyler returned with a bike, beaten and worn, red paint chipped and both tires flat as pancakes. He shoved against the kickstand. “Here’s your payment.”
“Nice try kid. It doesn’t work that way,” the man said.
“From what you’ve told me, it does.” The boy put his hands on his hips. “You said the most valuable thing my dad possessed. But you didn’t say when. At the moment you made that deal, this was the most valuable thing he would’ve possessed. So this is what you bargained for.”
The man’s jaw fell to the ground and his cigar dropped out. “But—that’s not—”
Dan blinked. He watched as the man squirmed in his spot, bit his tongue against words he couldn’t say. Tyler was right! He’d found a way out of the deal. The boy smiled as Dan ran over and grabbed him into a bear hug.
“Here. Take it. We don’t want it anymore,” Tyler said. He pushed the bike toward the man who, it appeared, could no longer control his own limbs. He moved in jerks and twitches, as he stepped to the bike, retrieved it, then lurched away. As if he were made to do something he didn’t want to do.
As if the curse had worked against him, this time.
“Sorry I gave your old bike away, dad,” Tyler said. “I know how much you liked it.”
Dan shook his head. “I didn’t want that thing anyway.” He glanced at his car. “Hey, wanna go for a spin?”
“Now you’re talkin’!” Tyler squealed and ran to the other side of the Corvette.
As they pulled out of the neighborhood, Tyler spotted a kid on a canary yellow scooter, the one he’d wanted for the past year. But his dad had said no. The boy scowled as he looked out the window.
Then he saw a strange looking man, short and fat with a twinkle in his eye, and an identical scooter in hand, walking toward Tyler’s house.
©Laura L. Zimmerman 2017