That's Just Peanuts
By Talyn Gray
Please note that this story is not meant to offend anyone; it is only meant to be a good read.
"Hey, Cole, you know…"
"I really like peanuts."
"I know. My mom bought me some yesterday, you want some?"
Elaine reached forward, dove her hand into my plastic bag, and pulled out a handful of her favorite nuts. These encounters I had with her were always a little off-kilter. Heh. Off-kilter. I always liked that word. Or words. Whatever. "I love you, Cole."
I nodded my head. She knew I hated her saying anything like that, but that was exactly why she'd said it. Plus Elaine wasn't exactly one of those…things that you could tell what to do. But I was nice to her. I wanted to be nice to her because it would increase the chances that I would end up with her sister in the end.
There was a knock at the door and without hesitation, I called, "Come in!"
My mother walked in, her eyes pink with a tissue in hand. I looked to my side. As usual, Elaine had gone, along with my bag of peanuts. I swear on Elaine's sister, my mother cries too much. Given that she has had license to cry for days considering what had just happened to me. She, as well as the doctors on my case was astonished at how well I took the news. But see, last year is when I met Elaine.
"You've been a very bad boy," she said as she shook a petite finger at me. "Very bad. In fact, you'll die next year due to kidney cancer. But I'm here to offer you a deal. They call me Elaine. I can save you."
Now don't get the wrong idea here. I'll laugh at you if you call her an angel just because her name means 'bright light.' No, the irony in this is that Elaine is just the opposite—the extreme opposite. Elaine was the Devil. Yes, the Devil.
"Why did I come here to offer this deal to you all by my lonesome self? What makes you so special?" she asked, "Well, the truth is, Cole Coleman, you are not special. I'm underhanded in Hell as it is in making these deals. Jeez. My sister gets all the perks. Oh. Are you staring at me because you expected the devil to be a tall, intimidating male with horns and a tail? I can get pretty close, but sorry, I'm not a guy. If guys ruled the afterlife, nothing would ever get done. Just look at your world. Look at you! All ready and set to go to Hell. Why aren't you female?
My mother took a seat beside me and clasped at my hand. "Honey," she said, "Dr. Walker says that you can take the surgery. They can even schedule it for tomorrow—"
I wasn't really paying attention to her—I was too busy watching Elaine make faces above her head. I really didn't need to listen to what my mother was saying anyway. The only decision I had to make to save my life was with Elaine.
"You know, Cole," she said over my mom's head. Of course my mother couldn't hear her. Elaine was only heard when she wanted to be heard; only seen when she wanted to be seen, "you know your mom cheated on your dad three years ago? Wanna know something else? The guy was Dr. Walker. Didn't you wonder why they seemed so awkward around each other?"
It was hard to tell when Elaine was telling the truth. Aw, hell, you could never tell when Elaine was telling the truth she was so good at it.
"Cole, are you listening to me?"
"Yes, mom," I answered mechanically and looked back down at her. I could tell she'd finished her proposal about my surgery, so I said, "I'll think about it, I really just want to be alone tonight."
"Okay, honey. If you need anything, you know I'll just be a phone call away."
"So, are you going to take the surgery?"
"You tell me. You're Death."
"I'm not Death dear, that's my cousin. I'm the Devil. Doh."
"You have such a morbid family."
"I have it the hardest."
"So I've heard."
She smiled impishly, her long golden hair sliding over her shoulder. "You know, I think I should have taken her place, my sister's, I mean. I look the part. Golden hair, pale skin, blue eyes, don't you think I look the part of God? My sister looks like a devil. She's got black hair, dark skin, blackish eyes. Don't you think it would've been better fitting if she was the Devil and I was God?"
"Whatever," I replied. "Should I take the surgery or not?"
"Well, you still haven't made your decision about life or death. Live longer and come to Hell when you die, or die now and you get a fifty-fifty chance of going to Heaven or Hell because of all the screwing around you've done. 'Course there's still a small margin you'd land in Limbo either way."
I heaved an exasperated sigh. Sell my soul to the Devil herself and live longer… or die now and I still wouldn't have a guaranteed spot in the great beyond. Joy.
"But you know, Cole. Either way I think you'd have to have the surgery."
"Fine, fine, I know you have to get surgery. If you decide to live, I can't just go 'woolly woolly WHOO, you're healed,' things just don't work that way. You need the surgery. If you choose to be visited by my dear cousin, you'll die during surgery. If you choose life, you'll survive the surgery and heal. Which one is it?"
I bit my lip. "I don't know."
"Spend eternity with me, Cole, I think it'd be fun." She smiled. Elaine's smiles were never pleasant. They weren't the kind of smiles that always had an ulterior motive. They were the kind of smiles that were never genuine. They were the smiles that hinted darkness and bloodshed. They were the smiles that sent shivers through your body like an ice cube rolling down your spine at the speed of snail. "My sister's so boring anyway."
Somehow, it was hard for me to imagine God being boring.
"How long do I have to wait before I make my decision?" I was stalling, I don't know why.
"Tomorrow," she answered. "So go and tell your mom's ex-lover that you'll take the surgery and make your decision from there. I'm getting impatient, you know."
I swallowed. The last time Elaine got impatient, she killed my cat. My cat, Spike—he's in Hell now, or so she says. Maybe I should join him in a few decades?
The morning of surgery I still didn't know what I was going to do. Die, or live? Live, or die? For some reason I thought I'd be a little bit more panicked than this. I thought that this life altering decision would at least rattle me in the slightest. But I had been eerily calm throughout the whole thing since it started last year. Strange. Maybe I should just die. But then again, I kind of wanted to live.
"Have you decided yet?" Elaine questioned at my side. Her appearance never changed. She still had that long, bleach blonde hair and dangerously sparkling eyes. However, today she was wearing a dress. It was black.
"No," I answered sheepishly. "I don't know what to do."
Her ocean eyes narrowed. "Cole..." she growled. "Decide, or I'll decide for you, and you know what I'll choose."
I audibly swallowed.
There were a lot of ways I used to settle disputes when I was younger. There were a lot of different ways to decide things. My favorite way was flipping a coin. Perhaps I could do that now? Could a simple coin toss decide my fate? I found it a little sad that a coin could decide if I should live or die, and I couldn't. Was a coin really more decisive than I was?
I glanced at Elaine. Her eyes were turning red. Apparently her appearance did change. Now I wished it wouldn't. "Okay," I said. "Okay. I got it."
Her eyes turned back into endless cobalt. "Really?" she asked, grinning another one of those haunting smiles. "What did you decide?"
Instead of answering her outright, I went to the drawer where I'd kept all the clothes I'd worn thus far. I pulled out my vintage wash jeans and found a penny in the pocket. My lucky penny, I guess... or more like I hoped.
Elaine studied me with curious eyes. And when she realized what I was doing, she raised a delicate eyebrow. "My, aren't your creative."
She shrugged. "I've seen worse. What's heads?"
"Death right now—my chances at Heaven."
"And Hell is tails. Somehow I find that fitting."
I smiled. It felt strange.
With a slight swallow, I fisted my hand and rested the penny on the tip of my dirt-encrusted fingernail. I licked my lips and flicked it.
It flew in the air, a token of shiny new copper; a token of what my life was to become. Heaven, Hell, Limbo, where was I to go? One of the shiny sides blinded me for a moment as it reflected the bed light before falling to the floor with small, bell-like sounds. So insignificant. To the world, this penny was one cent. Did you know that a penny isn't technically currency? That's how unimportant it is.
But to me in that moment, that penny was the most important thing in the world. It was as important as my life; it was my future, and I felt all of the anxiousness suddenly creep up on me. It stalked me, circled me like prey, then pounced and swallowed me whole. I had just gambled my entire life—my existence on a penny. A penny!
The door to my room opened. "Cole?" It was my mother. "You should get ready. They're going to take you in just a minute. Are you okay, honey?"
Apparently, I was pale.
"Fine," I replied stiffly. My eyes moved back to the penny, but much to my chagrin, Elaine had picked it up and pocketed it in her little black dress. The black was a stark contrast to her skin, I noted dully. Funny how you notice all these things when you're fate is hanging in the balance. We made eye contact, but her eyes betrayed nothing. "Am I going to die today?" I asked her.
"Oh, honey," my mom said, running into the room and throwing her arms around me. She was heavy. My mother was a little more than overweight, and I just felt like a two-ton truck hit me with full force. "You won't die! You won't! You'll live and get older, and have ch-children and g-grandchildren! I won't have to bury you, I won't—"
Again, I wasn't paying attention. My eyes had never left Elaine, who simply smiled, a sweet, syrupy smile. I hate that smile.
"Am I going to die?!" I demanded her. Elaine's smile fell. My mother was weeping in my arms. I found myself getting angry. "ELAINE!"
"You won't know till you get there, will you?" she winked.
"Elaine! Tell me!!"
The smile faded, and her face was blank. "You know, Cole…"
My breath caught. Tell me. Tell me, Elaine, you little… "What was it?" I ground out.
"You know, Cole…" she repeated.
I sighed, ignored the sobbing woman in my arms and took the bait. "Yeah?"
"I really like peanuts."
A/N: This is my school's Lit Mag submission. I hope I win. I really want first, but I know I'm up against some hefty competition –shifty eyes- anyway, please be VERY critical, but not ego-shattering. :D
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