|"There's something about unfinished business, you know. For those most dedicated to their craft, the reminder of such is a constant anchor to forward progress--the ol' inner organs serving a pin cushion for the prodding strikes of memories that can never be repressed! Sometimes its remnants leave a trail as only the pointer to what might have been; such is the case of our pal Mark, whose 'heart-eating' escapades did wither but bore fruit in the form of this short story--a comedic tale whose participants, Soma Cruz and Hammer, engage in some business of their own. And, well, I'm not sure what I just said."|
Just Another Day at Hammer's Shop
By Mark Patraw
"Hey, if it isn't my best customer, Soma Cruz!" Hammer exclaimed. "Say, you'll never guess what happened between me and Yoko the other day!"
More like only customer, Soma cursed mentally. Why the hell did Hammer have to do this every time he came into the shop? Soma could care less about the latest disaster in the ex-soldier's unrequited love affair with Yoko Belnades, the beautiful blonde witch who offered soul synthesis services across the street. All he wanted to do was offload the pile of rancid Cloth Tunics (which, for reasons Soma was happy not knowing, Hammer always seemed to want to buy) that he'd gotten off of the hordes of zombies he'd slain earlier in the day and get out again. After all, at $150 a piece, he'd only have to sell a mere 2,000 of them to afford the $300,000 Soul Eater Ring he wanted so badly (very reasonably priced, according to Hammer). Lately, Soma had been entertaining the idea of forgoing honest labor and just blackmailing a succubus into assuming Yoko's form and getting the ring for him--Hammer would almost certainly give the diabolic decoy at least a 50% discount if she flashed a little thigh and blew him a kiss.
Completely oblivious to Soma's silence, Hammer continued to rattle on. "Well, I got her this nice box of chocolates, right, the package and the candies were both shaped like hearts ya know, 'cuz that's the kind of stuff high class broads like Yoko really dig, and I really want her to know how I feel about her."
"Well, she was all happy and everything, and I thought I was really making some headway, but . . ."
"What?" groaned Soma.
"She . . . she came back to the shop later in the evening, and, boy, was she mad!" Hammer began to sob. "There were no chocolates in the box . . . she said I had some nerve giving her an empty box of candy that I'd already eaten. Then, then she called me a bald-headed pig and said she never wanted to receive another gift from me again!"
Hammer reached his meaty arms across the counter, grabbed the lapels of Soma's overcoat, and pulled their faces close together, fixing Soma with a watery, soul-searching stare that made him incredibly uncomfortable. "What am I going to do, good buddy?"
My God, just shut up and give me the money for these pus-ridden Cloth Tunics that smell so bad I want to retch, Soma wanted to scream. Instead, Soma forced himself to calmly retort, "Well, it's your own fault for eating the chocolates, Hammer."
"But, that's just it, Soma, I didn't do it! The package still had the cellophane wrapping on it when I gave it to her, and you could hear the chocolates rattle around inside if you shook the box! I was framed!" He wailed.
It was at times like this that Soma really wished that he'd chosen to embrace the evil side of his nature, became the new Dark Lord, and wiped humanity, or at least Hammer's shop, from the face of the Earth. He could always dig the Soul Eater Ring out of the rubble afterwards.
Up in the rafters, deep in
the shadows, an unusual insect, its gigantic head twisted into the shape of
a many-fanged heart, buzzed happily to itself. As it slowly licked chocolate
residue from its' impressive overbite with great relish, the Heart Eater gloated
over Hammer's anguish. That'll teach you to cheat me, you wretched human,
it thought. My friends and I wandered lost in the sewers beneath the streets
for two weeks and almost got chopped in half by that crazy suit of animate
armor and his "I'm not overcompensating for anything" comically-oversized
axe, no thanks to that shoddy, incomplete map you sold me--worst hundred bucks
I ever spent!