“It’s your call,” said the demon, in his reasonable, man of the world voice. “No skin off my nose.”
Bob ran his razor along his upper lip. “Let me get this straight,” he said, peering at his reflection. “When Ethel…” his voice dipped, “when Ethel departs, I’m going to meet another lady?”
“Got it in one,” said the demon, jumping down from the shelf and jigging grotesquely on the cistern. “Young, beautiful, hot. A red-hot mamma to hang off your arm. You’ll be the envy of every man in the golf club.”
Paying careful attention to the contours of his neck, Bob shaved the knob of his Adam’s apple.
“We all got to go sometime,” said the demon, grinning from ear to ear. “It’s the way of the world.”
Eyes fixed on the beads of bright red blood spurting from his chin, Bob nodded his head.
“Yes,” he said, “I can see that.”
Next morning as Bob and Ethel sat down to a breakfast of boiled eggs and toast, the phone rang. Some minutes later Ethel returned, her face the colour of alabaster. “That was the hospital,” she said. “They want to talk to me about that scan I had for my tennis elbow.”
Ethel’s decline, according to her obituary, was lightning fast. A merciful release, as one friend put it. She wouldn’t have wanted it any different. Ethel wouldn’t have wanted to become a burden. Still and all, it was hard for Bob, and when the time came to consign her to the angels, he experienced some pangs of misgiving. She had been a good wife. They had had a good life; there was the boat, the holidays in Malaga, the weekend game of bridge. Admittedly, Ethel’s interest in matters carnal might have waned somewhat over the years but she made a stonking good apple pie.
A respectable amount of time lapsed before Bob next met the demon in the bathroom.
“I hardly like to mention this,” he said lathering shaving cream on his sagging jowls.
“What’s that,” said the demon, lurching forward, eyes bulging. “The woman you mentioned. The pretty young thing…”
“Oh, that,” said the demon, sitting back, feigning nonchalance.
“I was just wondering when she’s going to show up?”
At this, the demon doubled over, his little body heaving like a steam bellows as he spluttered and guffawed.
“Mate,” he said, when he finally caught his breath. “She’s not going to show up. You’ve got to suck in your big belly and go find her.”
“Where might I look?” said Bob, clutching hold of the heated towel rail.
“Ever heard of Tinder?” said the demon, wagging his finger close to Bob’s nostrils.
Inadvertently, a vision of Ethel, straight backed and precise at the winter production of La Traviata passed before Bob’s eyes.
“Tinder, you say?” said Bob, blinking heavily.
“Who knows?” said the demon, shrugging his bony shoulders. “You got to take your chances just like the next man.”
Marie O’Shea is a short fiction writer living on the Beara Peninsula in Ireland. Her work has been published in Trasna, Storgy, Popshot, Spelt Magazine and other places.
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