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(a story in five parts)

d. Page

She sings sweetly through the evening. She sings like the great club-crooners of the romantic era, the style often emulated by some two-dime talentless pop-star. This girl's got it right, though. It's not the dress, not the looks, the song, voice, eyes. I'm not sure what it is but she's sure got it down. I can almost imagine that it's the twenties again.

It's not good to remember such things. Just listen.

Johnny runs a swinging club, a real gentleman's place that runs through five times as much gin as anything else. I like to come here at night, listen to the singers he hires. Every night, every god-damn night I'm here, for almost eighty years now. Doesn't bother me that it's not the same Johnny that runs the club anymore; mere details. The club is simply where I come to be bored of life. I get bored a lot nowadays. It's time to move on, I think. Time to start a new life.

"You alone?" a prim-looking woman asks me. She's been sidling up the bar, in my direction, for the past twenty minutes. Brown hair, too much make-up, plain dress, no breasts, nice legs on tall heels.


"Really," she says, somewhat lost for words. She's probably a secretary or some such during the day. Obviously not used to picking up guys. I silently look over my drink, scanning the room for the group of friends that must have put her up to this.

They're grinning and laughing at a table in the corner. Girls' night out.

I give the woman a side-long glance. Not too bad. I could have a bit of fun with her tonight, especially tonight. Boredom is old now. "Really," I say.

"You come here often?"

I chuckle. "That's usually the man's line."

"It's the nineties," she says, turning a small joke into a lame excuse.

"I suppose you'll be trying to buy me a drink next."

"It's only half-way through the nineties."

I laugh out loud, completely taken by surprise by her sudden wit. I hadn't been expecting any spirit in such a working girl. "Sit," I say, consciously trying not to sound commanding. It's too easy to slip into old speech habits like that.

She sits and taps her glass at the bartender. We sit in silence as the guy frantically blends something bluish with far too many ingredients.

"What's your name?" she asks after the bartender has taken her money and gone down the way to talk to a waitress.


"That's a pretty uncommon name," she comments as she expressively puts the straw of her drink into her mouth in an attempt to be seductive no doubt. If I were in a better mood, I'd grade her technique clinically.

"It was not too uncommon at the turn of the century." I finish my drink, tap the glass. A new gin and tonic is in front of me almost instantly. The bartenders know me here -- they know just how long it takes me to finish a drink, how many I'll take each evening, how much I'll tip. This is my home away from home.

"Old parents?"

"Immortal. What's your name?"

"What?" she asks, not thinking she heard me right.

"What's your name?" I repeat.

"No, before that."

"What's your name?" I ask a third time, then wincing at tone of my voice. Too commanding, tune it down.

"Kathy. What was that first part before?"

"I'm immortal. I don't age. I took the name Phineas in 1918, right after I got back from the war."

"This is a joke, right?"

"No. You can leave now if I'm scaring you."

For a moment I can see she's considering taking me up on the offer. "Tell me more," she says, curiosity getting the best of her at last.

"Not much to tell."

"So you're like a...vampire? Or one of those guys in the Highlander movies? An angel?"

"Nothing so interesting, sorry."

"What then?"

"Don't know what you'd call me offhand. Sorry."

"How old are you?"

"Don't remember. I forget a lot of things nowadays. Too much in my head to remember."

Sanity makes a last desperate ploy in her mind. "You're making this up," she accuses me. "Why would you be telling me this?"

"After a millenia or two, I think I've become a good judge of human nature. I know I can trust you," I manage to say with a straight face, ernestly. It's a struggle not to laugh in her face.

Kathy says nothing but a faint sigh escapes her lips. I steal another glance at her friends in the corner, who are watching us intently. I grin to myself and smother the expression in my glass. I'll have to make sure Kathy doesn't spread the story too believably, or at all.

"Want some proof?" I say nonchalantly as she's still staring at me. I know she'll jump for it; I've got her. She's so curious now she's absolutely beside herself.


"Follow me out to my car. We'll be back in a moment."

She hesitates. Then: "Okay, but only for a moment." One of her hands delves into her small leather purse, no doubt fingering a canister of mace in reassurance.

I leave some money on the bar, far too much for drinks and tip. I won't be coming back I realize; this was my last night, though I'm not sure when I made that decision. Kathy takes my arm and we march out to the parking lot to my new grey Camaro.

"Nice car."

"You can do a lot in long-term investments when you're immortal."

Kathy laughs. I unlock the trunk of the car and pull out a briefcase, holding it out for her until she takes it in her outstretched hands. With a swift motion, I open it and let her look at the stacks of money inside. It's filled with crisp hundred-dollar bills in tight, cliched little bundles. She gasps.

"Keep it," I tell her.

"No way!"

"I've no use for it anymore. It's time for me to move on, take a new identity."

She's overwhelmed so I close the briefcase for her. She holds onto the handle uncertainly.

"Don't be worried. I don't want anything in exchange."

She blinks. "Uh.."

"Go back inside," I say. "Go show your friends."

"Are you sure..."

"I'm sure. Go."

She hesitates for a moment before moving away backwards, step by step. The guarded look in her eyes tells me she's trying to go before I might change my mind and take the money back. This is good, this is funny. More fun than I've had in decades.

"Wait," I say suddenly. "I do want something from you."

She stops and looks at me warily. "What?" she asks.

"Your soul!" I screech as I leap at her. She screams and begins backing up furiously, tripping over her own heels. I curse to myself as she lands with a thump on her butt. This was going to be harder than I thought.

In an attempt to stall, I make pawing motions in front of my face and hunch my shoulders, pretending as if I was changing into a werewolf or some such monster. She squeals, a sound pathetic and small coming from a grown woman's throat, and jumps up. I lunge at her, purposefully missing with a growl and she's off and running, leaving her ugly red pumps behind.

I don't follow. She'll never talk about me now unless she gets drunk. Enjoy the money, Kathy.

Laughing to myself hysterically, I pull my Camaro out of the parking lot. It's a long drive to Tennessee and the Changing Hill, but I've nothing else to be doing anymore.

I spend the time listening to the radio and trying to decide on a new name for myself.

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