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Ken Goldman is a high school English and film studies teacher at George Washington High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Over 85 of his short stories have appeared in publications such as Rictus, Aberrations, and Terminal Fright. "Soul Man" appeared in Freezer Burn #5.

Dark Planet is designed and edited by Lucy A. Snyder. If you spot any errors, or if you have any comments, please contact her at lusnyde@indiana.edu.

All materials copyright 1996-1997 by their respective creators. No stories, articles, poems or images from this webzine may be posted or published without the written consent of their creator(s).

Soul Man

by Ken Goldman

     "Are you shittin' me?" Trenton Webber asked the lanky kid who stood alongside his locker wearing the kind of horn-rimmed glasses reserved only for the most dyed-in-the-wool dweebs. Webber studied Harvey Dittman's eyes with an expression that indicated he believed his classmate had developed a severe leak in his think tank. The kid's offer seemed just the sort of trick an egghead like Harvey might think he could pull off, one that would make Hazelton's star quarterback feel mentally deficient in the presence of a superior life form. A computer geek like Harvey was not much good for anything except pushing chess pieces around a board. Maybe the ugly little dink felt the need to exercise his peculiar brand of oneupmanship to compensate for the fact that he could never get laid anywhere outside of cyberspace.
     "Nope. No shitting of you going on here, Trenton. No sir," Harvey avowed, casting a sideways glance to ensure their conversation had not been overheard. He handed Webber a manila folder containing several sheets of paper, a series of fancy looking contracts followed by a list of familiar names. "See? There's twenty-three other signatures listed here. Seniors, mostly. I wanted to give the upperclassmen first crack at this offer. A bargain at half the price, wouldn't you say? But I can't guarantee the same offer will stand tomorrow."
     Poring over the list of other Hazelton students who had signed the sheet, Webber simulated an expression that might have passed for deep thought had it appeared on the face of a gorilla.
     "Let me get this straight. You'll give me ten dollars right now, and all I have to do is sign this paper? You'd better not be dickin' me over, Dittman. Not if you're fond of havin' teeth. You hear me talkin' to you?"
     "The money is yours, even as we stand here," Harvey assured him, handing Webber a pen. "Add your name to this list and the tenner is in your palm. I consider it a fair exchange, my friend."
     The beefy senior recognized the familiar buzzwords of a sales pitch. Dittman's forms looked far too complicated to read in their entirety, presenting a particularly challenging undertaking for a kid who had never read more than three pages of anything in one sitting during his entire life. Still, he was not buying the skinny kid's sales pitch. Not yet.
     "A fair exchange for what?" he asked with a smirk that suggested he had not fallen off the turnip truck yesterday, but possibly had done so the day before.
     Harvey Dittman smiled the toothy smile of a seasoned entrepreneur.
     "Your soul, Trenton. Only your soul and nothing more."
     Silence. Cold, stone dead silence from the quarterback in the midst of the Monday morning chaotic rush to class among Hazelton High's student body. The burly gridder attempted his own smile, a questionable grin that almost made it halfway home before cutting off completely. A sneer supplanted it and the contentious expression traveled quickly to his eyes.
     "Fuck you, Dick-man," Webber growled, sensing the trappings of a practical joke. He considered punching the kid's lights out right there, but instead pulled an armload of textbooks from his locker. "I got better things to do with my time."
     "Mr. Alexander Hamilton here says you don't," Harvey answered, holding out a crisp ten spot to him without losing his smile. "There's no catch, Trenton. The money is yours. Do we have a deal?"
     Webber took a more lingering look at the names on the list. Spotting several familiar signatures the wide grin returned to his face. He snarled something unintelligible, took the pen from Dittman and scribbled his name on the paper. The deed done, money exchanged hands and the two officially closed their deal.
     "My soul, huh?" he sneered at Harvey. "So, what're you supposed to be, Dittman? The devil?"
     The lanky kid flashed a broad, toothy smile right back at him. "Do I look like the devil to you, Trenton?"
     Silence again, a longer and distinctly more uncomfortable one this time.
     "Christ Almighty, Dittman. You're a real piece of work, aren't you? But it's your money."
     "No, Trenton," Harvey corrected him. "It's your money now ... and it's my soul. A pleasure doing business with you, my friend." Before Trent Webber had the opportunity to laugh himself sick right in the little puke's face, Dittman had already disappeared down the corridor.
     Fifteen minutes later Webber was busy flunking his fifth consecutive Geometry exam in as many weeks. Ten dollars richer, Hazelton High's star quarterback had forgotten the matter of his bartered soul entirely.
     Harvey Dittman, however, busied himself for the duration of Monday morning collecting more signatures for his list. By noon he had added a drum majorette, three kids from the Dramatics Club, a handful of cheerleaders, one student teacher, and the president of the student council. Each soul had been signed for and delivered at ten dollars a pop.
     Harvey was happy to hand over the cash.
     It all came down to simple economics. The Sunday school preachers did not matter. Nor did the parents or the well-meaning teachers and humanitarians who talked ad nauseum of the importance of ethics, morals, and a life free of sin. Those people had it all wrong.
     It didn't take sex, drugs, or rock and roll to snatch a young soul in the buyer's market known as high school.
     All it took was ten dollars.
     A bargain at twice the price ....