Short As Fictober #30: “There’s a Catch”

The only light shining on the four-way stop outside of town came from a thumbnail moon and the swaying red glow of a solitary traffic signal. I finished the summoning ritual from the book I’d found in the second-hand shop, and an old busted Corolla ground to a halt in the middle of the intersection. I took a step back, clutching my guitar case. A frail man climbed out of the car and slammed the door behind him.

“What do you want?” he asked, stepping into the circle of red. Up close, I saw that he wore a faded, snagged sweater vest, and glasses thick as tumblers.

“I wanted to cut a deal,” I said.

He checked his watch. “Fine, fine. What are you looking to get?”

I said, “I want to be the world’s greatest guitarist.”

The frail man scoffed. “What you got to trade isn’t worth ‘world’s greatest guitarist. I could get you best local guitarist. There’d be a little renown and steady pay.”

“I don’t know. Doesn’t sound very fair.”

“Look, I’ll level with you, mister. You’re not going to get a square deal, not when you’re dealing with us. But   there are perks.”

He pulled out a pack of cigarettes, shook one loose, and lit up.

“I’d be the best in my region?”

“Sure. Like one of those hometown heroes makes good type of deals.”

“Okay. I guess I’ll do it.”

“Wonderful.” 

He flipped a notebook open, and began scribbling.

“Do I need to sign anything?” I asked.

“Hmm? No, that went out of fashion years ago.”

He climbed back into his Corolla, and rolled down the window.

“So am I good now?”

He shook his head.

“Not just yet.”

“When do the skills go into effect?”

“Depends entirely on you, and how much you want to practice.”

“Practice?”

“Sure. I’ll be at your house every Thursday afternoon for a lesson. With dedication, you could be the best regional guitarist in about a year and a half. Alright, I better go. I will see you Thursday.”

The Corolla clunked away leaving me in the faint glow of the traffic signal and thumbnail moon, wondering what the hell just happened.

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