HTML • by David Bright

My ex-wife took a hammer to my cell phone so now it was time for a new one. New phone, new life. “Make sure it has HTML,” someone told me. I wasn’t sure what that was but it sounded important so I chanted it all the way to the phone store. The store was way too big and eerily quiet with only two employees and no other customers.

A smug young salesman came over. He had that look about him, like he was better than his job, better than me, better than everyone. He needed to be slapped. I should have done it right then and there. Right off the bat I told him he wouldn’t be getting a commission because I was just going to find the phone I liked, then have a friend order it online as a free upgrade. “No problem,” he sneered. “Maybe you’ll be back for some accessories,” making it clear that such a small sale was beneath him.

He showed me this phone and that phone, talking down to me all the while.

“This one has HTML, right?” I asked, partly to be sure, but mostly to irritate him.

“Do you even know what HTML is?”

I looked at the phone he was showing me, slid the keyboard out, slid it back in. I looked back at him. “Yes I do,” I finally answered, my voice rising. “Here’s to My Lord! is what it means. Here’s to My Lord!”

He blinked, bemused.

“And you know what? Every single time you see me — no matter where in the world it may be — I want you to raise your glass and shout out, ‘Here’s to My Lord!’ You got that?”

“Do we need security?” squeaked his coworker. Annoyed, he shook her off.

I pointed the phone at him. “What’re you gonna say?”

He avoided my eyes and tried to move away, but I blocked his path. “Go ahead. You can say it. It’s alright.”

He looked at me, the weakest of grins indicating he thought he could save face by humoring me.

I pushed the phone into his solar plexus. “Go ahead. Say it!”

“Herestomylord,” he said quickly, softly, running the words together to give them less weight.

I knew I could make him say it louder and more convincingly but I told myself he wasn’t worth any more of my time. I turned to leave but right there in front of me stood a hand clapping, foot stomping choir like you might see in a Southern Baptist church on Sunday morning. The men wore blue gowns with caps and tassels like at graduation and the women wore white caps and gowns.

“Here’s to My Lord!” they sang over and over, swaying and clapping, filling the whole place with feeling and love instead of corporate sterility and arrogance. I joined in, softly at first, then louder and louder. “Here’s to My Lord! Here’s to My Lord!” I felt good. I felt free. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better the voice of Aretha Franklin herself soared above it all as she stepped forward and sang the refrain slowly and powerfully against our joyous, quick time rhythm. We kept praising and praising the Lord Almighty — lifting me and the whole great world (except for the snotty saleskid) higher and higher until we all joined together as one.

A path opened and I headed for the door. “Glor-y hal-le-lu-jah,” sang Aretha, slowing it down even more. “Here’s . . . to . . . My . . . Lorrrrrd.” The smile on her face was beatific. Without looking back I pushed the glass door open and stepped out into a new day.

David Bright‘s work appears in flashquake, 100 word story, The Cafe Irreal, and other journals. He edits Gemini Magazine.

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Every Day Fiction