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Meeting Mr. Jenkins

October 31, 2013

The following is a short story I wrote a few years ago.  It’s not my best work, but I think it fits the holiday…HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!


Meeting Mr. Jenkins

Paul Marcus was ready to go home.  Tuesday, January 15th was the longest day he had ever spent at work.  Come Tuesday evening, Paul wished he could have forgotten everything about it and never worry about it again.  As he went to catch his bus, he tried to remember something but had a hard time doing so.

At 8:15 he arrived at the bus stop.  At 8:22 he wondered why there wasn’t anyone else waiting there; at 8:23 he remembered this particular bus line stopped running at 7:30.  Had he more energy Paul would have cursed the fates but instead he let out an ironic laugh and slouched so far on the bench that he nearly fell off.  Chuckling to himself, Paul sat back up and just decided to remain there, watching the cars go by, not even really thinking about anything let alone a way to get home; by this point he wasn’t in any hurry.

Paul’s watch alarm went off at nine.  He was supposed to be meeting his girlfriend at the museum but after today he knew that he would never be meeting her again.  A sigh evaporated into the night air as he cancelled the alarm.  Staring off into nothing, Paul didn’t notice the elderly gentleman sit down on the other end of the bench.

“Good evening, young man.”  Paul nearly jumped out of his skin.  His sudden movement startled the greeter.  “Jumpy fellow, aren’t you?”

At the other end of the bench sat a man of no less than 75 years, yet who exuded a youthful spirit.  He had a kind face and a bald head.  He wore wire-rimmed glasses, like a grandpa would wear, and was dressed in an ash-gray suit with a red bowtie.  The older man had an old-fashioned briefcase set upright in his lap with his arms resting on it.

“Sorry,” apologized Paul.  “I didn’t see you there.”

“Quite alright,” the man warmly replied.  “You look as though you’ve had a long day.”  Paul nodded.  “Well, you’re going to have a longer night if you stay here; this bus stops running everyday at 7:30.”

Paul smirked, “Yeah, I suddenly remembered that at eight thirty.”

The older man chuckled, “That sort of thing isn’t supposed to happen until you get to be about my age!”  Paul smiled; he noticed that in spite of the weight of the day’s events, his mood seemed to lift while talking to this guy.

“So why are you here?” asked Paul.  The older man told him he had arranged for his ride to pick him up from that stop.  Paul acknowledged with a nod and then just sat in silence, not sure what to say next.

“You could ask me what I do,” the man suggested.

Paul felt a little foolish and said, “Right, sorry – what do you do?”

“You go around asking strangers what they do?  What are you, some kind of nutcase?”  The older man let out a hiss of a laugh that turned into an old man’s guffaw.  Paul wasn’t sure what to think.  The older man thrust out his left hand and said, “The name’s Jenkins, Thomas G. Jenkins.”

“I’m Paul Marcus,” Paul replied, taking Jenkins’s hand and shaking it.  “Good grip,” he remarked.

“I may be older, but that doesn’t mean I’m old!” Jenkins shot back followed with another hiss-guffaw.

“Right,” Paul said, still not sure what to think.  “So now that I know you, what do you do?”

Jenkins replied, “You know, you can talk to a man for days on end, learn his name, his habits, his history and know volumes about him, but never really know him.”  Paul processed this and nodded slowly.  “But I’ll tell you what I do: I start conversations.”  He smiled and winked at Paul who was even more puzzled at this point.

“Are you some kind of salesman?”  Jenkins considered that for a moment, looking up and around with his eyes and slowly bobbing his head back and forth.

“You could say that.”  Paul felt as though he was being baited, but aside from the verbal exchange he had with his former boss, this was the only conversation all day that didn’t start off with yelling.

“Door-to-door?” Paul continued.

“Heavens no; man on the street,” Jenkins replied proudly.

“What do you mean?”

Jenkins opened his mouth to answer, but then closed it as he reconsidered his response.  He then narrowed his eyes and looked straight into Paul’s.  “You’re what, 23, 24?”  Paul laughed quietly.

“Just turned 28.”  Jenkins narrowed his eyes even more, almost to the point of shutting them entirely.

“I’d say closer to 23,” he whispered.  Paul was almost certain this man was a loony.  He continued in his normal voice, “But you’re still pretty sharp; I think you can handle it.”

“Um, thanks?” Paul replied.  “And I can handle what?”

Jenkins’s smile went from kind to crafty and his eyes widened ever-so-slightly.  When he spoke, his voice took on a bit of a gravelly harshness, “What I do; who I am.”

Paul started to feel a little nervous but his curiosity got the best of him.

“Okay, who are you?  What do you do?”

The two sat silently, eyeing each other.  Finally, Jenkins answered.

“I’m a demon.”  Paul blinked.

“You sell life insurance?  Used cars?”  Jenkins laughed straight from the gut this time.  “Or do you sell stuff for the Deacons?”  The laughter died down and Jenkins asked what he was talking about.  “The basketball team; you know, the Demon Deacons, Wake Forest.”  Jenkins was genuinely puzzled for a moment and then realized what Paul was talking about and let fly another hearty laugh.

“No, no,” Jenkins said as he calmed his guffaws.  “I’m a demon.  I’m what some consider to be a ‘fallen’ angel.”

Another moment of silence passed between the two men.  Natural skepticism was brewing in Paul’s spirit.

“A demon from hell?”

“Goodness no, not as you understand the term, anyway; technically speaking, hell hasn’t even been constructed, yet.”  Paul felt as though his train of thought had derailed. 

“So…where do you…hang out?”  Jenkins was bemused with the question.

“I and my kind ‘hang out’ wherever we want.”  Paul nodded and wasn’t sure where to go next so he asked about his wings.  “Wings?”

“Yeah, aren’t demons supposed to have scaly wings?”

“Who says I don’t?” the old man countered mischievously.

“Well, I figured maybe you hadn’t earned yours, yet.”  The old man chuckled and slapped Paul’s shoulder; he thought he caught a whiff of sulfur.

“It’s your imagination,” Jenkins said offhand.

Paul had to think for a moment then asked, “What is?”

“The smell of sulfur; I don’t have any on me and I know my aftershave smells better than that.”  Paul did a double-take.

“Wait, I didn’t say anything about…”

“You didn’t have to; I heard your thought.”  A chill ran down Paul’s spine.

“You mean you can…?”

Jenkins had a faint smirk on his face.  “I can hear your thoughts.”  Paul felt his eyes swell with fear and disbelief.  “Don’t worry; it’s not something I do often.”

“I thought…I heard,” Paul stuttered.  “I heard once that demons can’t do that, only God can.”  The old man winced a little.

“So you’re not entirely ignorant of my world, eh?  Well, the old man is a bit more practiced at it than I, but no, he’s not the only one who can.”

“When…do you…?”

“When do I do it?” Jenkins asked.  “Whenever it’s useful (I didn’t do it just now, in case you were wondering; I merely guessed what you were asking).” 

“I’m going to need a little more convincing than that.”  Jenkins arched his eyebrow again.

“Would you like me to tell you of the time your uncle took you up to the mountain cabin when you were 12?”  Paul became as a statue.  “How about the time you caught Regina with your best friend?”

“What the-?” Paul whispered.

“Under construction,” Jenkins replied with a wink.

Paul turned his gaze forward and just stared into traffic.  After a couple of minutes the traffic petered out and all was quiet on the street.  “Hmm, now this is odd, isn’t it?”  Jenkins observed.  Paul could feel cold beads of sweat forming on his brow.

“Are you doing this?” he asked.

Jenkins chuckled, “No.”  He looked at Paul for a moment.  “You know, for a man of faith you sure seem uncomfortable.”

“Well, it’s not everyday you meet a demon.”

“You’d be surprised.” 

Paul had no response.  He asked, “Why are you doing this?”

“Talking to you?  I told you, it’s what I do; start conversations.”       

“Yeah, but…why me?  Why tell me all this stuff?  Are you…going…to…possess me?”  The night seemed to grow darker around Jenkins and the stars disappeared from the sky.  He leaned toward Paul and when he spoke his voice was low and deep and seemed to come from all around.

“Would you like me to?”  The question hung in the air like a corpse from a noose.

Paul’s face turned pale and he managed to squeak his answer: “No, thank you.”

Jenkins’s expression melted into a warm smile and the stars reappeared in the sky.  He sat back on the bench and said, “Very well.  I wouldn’t have been able to if either of us wanted to anyway.  You see, and don’t tell anyone I told you this, but I neglected to renew my license last May.  Besides, I’m getting too old for that kind of foolishness.”  Just then a car pulled up to the bus stop.  “Ah!  This would be my ride.  Can I give you a lift?”  Paul shook his head.  “Alrighty.  Have a good evening, Paul Marcus!  I doubt we’ll meet again.”  He stood up, got into the car, and rode away. 

Paul didn’t move from his spot until the paramedics found him the next morning.



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