Jeanne Tomlin Word Count: 800
By: J. R. Tomlin
On the warmest afternoon in August, I sold my soul.
The sun shone through the slats of the blinds in dusty bars. Sweat tickled as it ran down my face since I couldn’t afford to run up the electric bill by turning on the air. I held the statement from the bursar’s office in my hand. I’d known I wouldn’t have the money for the next semester but kept hoping that the money would come in from somewhere—a grant, some unexpected scholarship. Now here it was. Four thousand dollars or I was out on the street with my doctorate only half finished. My transcript would be good for paper training a puppy—if I had one.
There had to be something I could do. Anything! I’d been a good girl all my life. Studied. Hardly ever got drunk. Never did drugs. Top grades--never cheated. Even went to church with my parents whenever I went home. Damn it, this wasn’t fair.
I smelled the cigarette smoke and jerked my head up. I never smoked. The building didn’t allow smoking anyway. What the…
A soft chuckle made me leap to my feet. My desk chair skittered away. A man stood in half shadow just inside the closed door of my apartment. I gasped and grabbed my chest as my heart leaped. Then the cigarette gave off an orange light, and I could see his face. It was an unearthly white—blank typewriter-paper white. He was bald and wore round-lens dark sunglasses and had a half-smile on his lips.