LUCKY

The devil is a well-dressed white man with a drawl more syrupy than your mama's apple pie. Those he's friends with know him as Lucky, those he ain't friends with know him as death, as the last thing they're likely to see before the lights go out.

Lucky's got a good thing going. Lucky lends you money when you most need it, when no one else'd lend you it. Sometimes Lucky lends out to people he know ain't never gonna be able to pay back what they borrowed, just 'cause he likes punishing them so much. Men, women, kids, they're all the same to Lucky. Once I saw him beat a mad lil' girl for throwing dogshit at him just as hard as he beat a man for missing three payments straight. Neither the man nor the lil' girl ever walked right again.

Summer of '53, not too many years ago, I got a talk with Lucky. I told him, my papa knew business, my papa's papa knew business, they sold everything from dairy to tabacco to condoms, and damn it all that I hadn't got the money to get into business, too. I told him, he's got a certain reputation but I've been to every bank around and none of them are loaning out money to a poor negro man. I told him, lend me some money and I'll buy up some shops and with a little time I'll multiply that money ten-fold at least. Lucky smiled, real wide. Unnatural white, those teeth. He told me sure. He asked me, how much do you want?

And so I got the money, and so I got the shops, and so everything was going well up 'till some ofays got drunk one night and burned up my shops and raped the girls who were working them. I'd gone to the police, and they glared and talked at me like I was the one who'd done wrong, and they told me boys'll be boys and told me I'd best make no trouble with their sons, who'd helped with all the burning. I'd gone to Lucky, I told him I ain't got the means to make a payment this month, I'm spending everything I got on repairs. He said ok, make it next month. Next month comes around and I still can't get nobody to work my shops anymore, they're all scared the white boys are gonna come around again. So I work 'em myself, best as I can, and I don't even get enough money to feed myself right. Lucky says then, if I don't pay up next month I'm done for. He don't have to say it outright for you to know what he means. He means he's gonna get the rest of what he's owed right out of my hide, and he's gonna keep on getting it out of my hide 'till I am dead or wish I was, just like he did the guy before me who couldn't make his payments anymore, just like the guy before him.

I could run, but they say Lucky always catches up with you. They say Lucky knows where you run to before you even start running. One lady, she thought she'd skip town soon as she got money from Lucky and then she'd never have to pay it back. She got all the way to Louisiana and Lucky was there ahead of her, she opened up her motel room door and there Lucky was, and he took his money back and beat her within an inch of her life and killed her unborn baby.

They say, too, that Lucky don't get old. They say he can't get killed. They say no one's stupid enough to try.

I don't got the money to buy a gun, so I steal one. I steal some bottles of liquor and I stuff some rags into them. I drive to Lucky's casino and almost kill myself on the way, my hands are so shaky and my eyes so blurry. I pull over close to the casino and run up on the sidewalk and some white lady in heels taller than anyone could walk in kicks my tire and falls back on her ass. I get out of the car, and the lady's screeching at me until she sees the gun, then she shuts up quick and crawls away. I go in the casino with the gun in one hand and a bag full of firebombs in the other. The floor opens up into a maze of slots and cards and strippers and I look around until I see Lucky there, at the bar, sitting watching a girl dance, and he's dressed in a sparkly white suit with a red tie flipped over his shoulder. He smiles and shows his teeth, brighter than the whitest part of his suit.

I go to grab a bottle out of the bag and my damn trembling hands drop the whole thing and the bottles break and liquor starts pooling on the floor. Some folks look up at the noise and see me and shrug and go back to their games. Lucky stirs, too, but he don't look away. He keeps his eyes fixed on mine. I'm not close enough to shoot him but I point the gun at him anyway. Lucky stands and straightens his red tie and he walks up to me, bringing his smile along all the way. He stands right in front of my gun. He tells me he likes my guts, he tells me he knows what I've been going through, I should go with him to his office and maybe we can work something out.

I nod and I lower the gun, real cautiously, half expecting him to somehow drop me dead right there. But Lucky walks, and I follow, and we go into his office and he sits me down on a chair across from his desk. Behind me he shuts the door, then he sets the deadbolt. Before I can even turn my head to look back, he's on me, there's a cord around my neck, it digs into my skin and I feel warm blood gushing out all around my throat. I feel his raspy breathing on my cheek and his breath smells like strawberries. My chest aches. I wait for him to say something to me, anything, but he doesn't. I feel like my chest could explode. Lucky lets up on the cord, just a little, and air seeps into my lungs, and I cough and hack and try to squirm away but it's not doing any good.

Lucky's hand splays out on my forehead and he pulls my head back and makes me look in his eyes. I see something in them and behind him I never saw before, but maybe a part of me always knew was there. I see the icy liquid darkness of hell, the wailing lonely souls, and his unnerving smile makes it clear: He intends for me to join them. He intended all along.

Written by Sophie Kirschner