Speculative Funny Contemporary

"Let me get this straight: you summoned me because of a toaster?"

"Yeah, you got it, bucko. That orange one right there. See it?"

"Of course I see it, mortal."

"Okay. Good. So, I was thinking. Maybe you could just wave your hands and do your magic mumbo jumbo and make it work again, Satan."


"That's your name, isn't it?"


"Lucifer, then?"



"Now you're just being racist."

"Well, you don't have to say it like that. And you can nip that eye-rolling in the bud, too. I tell you, kids these days have no manners. No respect for their elders whatsoever." 

"You speak of respect, yet we're having this conversation because you called me the wrong name. Thrice."

"Backtalk. That's another thing you kids are good at."

"I'll have you know, unlike your precious bedtime fables would lead you to believe, my name is neither Satan nor Lucifer nor Beelzebub. It's Jimothy."

"What kind of name is that for the devil? Timothy."

"No. Jimothy."



"Hmm. Well, can you fix the toaster or not, Jimbo? It's on the fritz. See, look. I put the bread in and it comes out just as white as my keister. What kind of morning is it if there's no toast?"

"I cannot believe you summoned me for this."

"My wife used to be the one who did this stuff. She was real good with all those fancy contraptions. Toasters, computers, light bulbs. That kind of stuff."

"You don't know how to change a light bulb?"

"What, you think I have this pentagram of candles here because I'm trying to set the mood or something? Anyway, she up and died on me last year, my wife. Well, you probably know about that. I figure she's down there with you now, pestering people about using drink coasters and pissing in the toilet instead of the shower. She always did like hot weather."

"Do you have any idea how many eternally damned souls—"

"Hey, here's an idea. Maybe you can take a look for her after you're done here. Her name's Mary-Ellen Ross. Maybe you've seen her. About yea high. Missing two of her teeth, here and here. A real silver vixen."

"A repairman first and a messenger second? Does your insolence know no bounds, human?"

"Tell her that her husband Lester's thinking about her with all his love. Would you do that for me, Jimbo? Would you grant an old man his dying wish? After you're done with the toaster, I mean."

"No. And you're not dying. Not yet, that is. On my schedule it says you're not set to join us for another few—"

"Oh, come on. You're not still ruffled about the Beelzebub comment, are you? I didn't mean anything by it. Honest, I didn't."

"Listen well, mortal! Invoking the name of the devil is a serious endeavor. In the past, I have helped men win wars, conquer lands, gain political power, and leave the tattered remains of enemies in their wake. I have aided the likes of Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, Mister Rogers. People call upon me when they want to see the life drain from the eyes of their adversaries. I have no time to be bothered with a simple toaster."

"Hmm. Okay. Okay, I think I get it now. So, what you're saying is, if I wanted to become the mayor of this town, you could use your powers to make that happen?"


"And if I have someone I want to see bite the big one, you can help me with that too?"

"With a snap of my fingers."

"And if—and I'm just spitballing here, just thinking out loud—if I, as town mayor, wanted that person to meet their untimely demise by way of electric toaster, that's something you could arrange as well? You can nip that sighing in the bud too, Jimbo. I was only asking a question."

"Jesus Christ."

"Are you allowed to say that? I mean, being the devil and all. God, I'm all jumbled up now. Oops. Sorry. Was that offensive? Using 'God' like that, I mean. It's not another one of those Beelzebub situations, is it? You know, there used to be a time when Freedom of Speech meant something in this country and—"

"Enough! You win! If you wish to destroy your enemy with that toaster, if you truly need it to carry out the reign of evil, I will make it so."

"Really? Well, you don't have to go through all that trouble, but since you're offering, who am I to stop you? Hey, what'd I tell you about that sighing? And the eye-rolling? And watch out for the candles, don't knock them over. You know how hard it is to set up a pentagram when you don't have any light bulbs to guide you?"


"Oh, I see. You have to be next to the toaster to use your powers to fix it, huh? That makes sense. Oh. Oh! You're supposed to plug that thing into the wall. Gee, Mary-Ellen could've at least told me that before she kicked the bucket, don't you think? So it works now?"

"Try it if you don't believe me."

"Alright...Boy almighty, would you look at that! Good as new. You ever seen a more evenly-toasted piece of bread in your life? Just smell that."

"Yes, yes. Very good. Now, the time has come to destroy your enemies and bathe in the rivers of their hot, red—"

"Oh. Yeah. About that. You know, on second thought, I sort of changed my mind."


"I mean, what the hell am I going to do as town mayor at my age? Honestly. It would be a waste of my time, I think, and there's nothing I hate more than wasting time. God knows I probably don't have much of it left. Oops, there I go, using the G-word again."

"You dare renege on a deal with the devil?"

"'Renege'? Now who's being racist?"

"Silence! To hell with the schedule. Lester Ross, the day of judgment is upon you. For your impudence and insubordination, I now sentence you to a fiery, smoldering, merciless—what is that infernal smell?"

"Jeez, Jimbo, you don't look so hot. You're all red in the face. Well, you know what I mean. You need a glass of water or something? That cough sounds pretty nasty."

"That bread. What did you do to it?"

"Hmm? This? It's just poppy seed. You want some? Mary-Ellen used to bake it all the time. It's not as bad as it smells."

"Poppy seed?"

"Funny, she can pass along the recipe to that, but when it comes to working the toaster, it's like breaking into Fort Knox. Hey, maybe you should lie down or something. Seriously, you're rocking like a three-legged horse at the Kentucky Derby."

"That smell. Can't breathe."

"What are you, allergic or something? Oh. Well, you should've said so earlier. Still, it's pretty good. Made it myself. Here, I'll break you off a little piece. Oh please, it doesn't have that many poppy seeds. You'll be fine. Stop being a baby. That's the problem with you kids nowadays. Hell, back in my day, we had to walk three miles to school, uphill, both ways, barefoot, in the snow. And then we had to eat the snow!"


"Hey, where are you going? You didn't even take a bite. Huh. Alrighty then. Well, thanks for fixing the toaster, Jimbo. Guess I'll see ya when I see ya. If you run into her down there, don't forget to tell Mary-Ellen I said hello. And thanks for the recipe."

February 22, 2023 07:44

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Laurel Hanson
20:31 Feb 23, 2023

The prompt was a lot of fun to play with and your submission here is a really enjoyable read. Straight up dialog can be kind of taxing on the reader when it isn't done well. Here, you have developed clear as well as amusing characters and laced it throughout with humor. I love lines like: "What, you think I have this pentagram of candles here because I'm trying to set the mood or something?" / "Now you're just being racist." / "Must retreat." Additionally, the deviousness of the MC as he seeks to get his own way from the devil (and not give ...


Zack Powell
22:32 Feb 23, 2023

If your first winning piece is any indication, you would've done this prompt a lot of justice, Laurel. (I really enjoyed the prompt and story you settled on, though, so it is what it is.) Having previously written a(n awful) all-dialogue story, I can, from experience, completely agree that it's easy to bungle, so I'm glad to hear the characters were developed alright here. Big thanks for the confidence boost!


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Naomi Onyeanakwe
12:19 Feb 23, 2023

Hi Zack! Good to see a story from you this week. And unusually early lol. I love how silly and unserious this was. As someone who already finds old people annoying, I kind of felt for the devil tbh. I also really like the character voices. My favourite line in this is, "She always did like hot weather". I don't know why but it really got me😂


Zack Powell
19:18 Feb 23, 2023

Thank you, Naomi! Was equally good to see a story from you as well. (And I would've very likely procrastinated on this story this week were I not trying to submit a second one by tomorrow - you know how I roll.) Really happy the silliness came through - sometimes it's fun just to write something whimsical and absurd instead of taking myself so seriously all the time. And the hot weather line had me giggle-fitting when I wrote it, so I'm glad it got you too.


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Suma Jayachandar
08:25 Feb 23, 2023

Haha, What pun-filled fun! This brought back the humour from 'Wish you were here'. Although this is decidedly more light-hearted. The banter was warm throughout and the twist, in the end, was delicious. Poor devil getting the short end of the stick like that! My fave line - She always did like hot weather (lol) A close second -God, I'm all jumbled up now (rofl) Thanks for a good laugh, Zack!


Zack Powell
19:14 Feb 23, 2023

Thank you, Suma! The "Wish You Were Here" comparison is great because I was trying to channel that mindset while writing this one. And your favorite lines were some of mine too, especially the hot weather one. Thanks again!


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Mike Panasitti
21:36 Feb 22, 2023

Not the usual Powell fare, which metes out fringe-gender drama tinged with tragedy. Enjoyable, but somehow I think I would have better appreciated seeing one of your previous characters (perhaps the one who shoots his former boyfriend in the Civil War battle re-enactment) asking the devil to patch up a broken relationship in exchange for a guilt-stricken soul : ) Take care, Zack, and, as always thanks for sharing.


Zack Powell
02:49 Feb 23, 2023

Very true. I took a step outside the ol' comfort zone for this one. Just a little something to shake off the rust of not writing for a few weeks. Though now that you mention it, it would be pretty interesting to revisit that couple from the Civil War piece. Who knows - it might be in the cards in the future, if I can ever wrap my head around interconnecting my stories.


Mike Panasitti
19:19 Feb 23, 2023

Most of your characters are so honestly convincing and convincingly heartbreaking, that I'm sure many, if not most, of your emotionally masochistic readers (the ironic and baffling beauty of heartache!) wouldn't mind seeing them back for a follow up story or two. Definitely worth a try. I hope your MFA studies are surpassing their weight in tuition costs. At 53, I might be the oldest student in the cohort, but I'm considering applying to a program myself. The thought of studying the writer's craft at NYU makes me wishfully giddy. How...


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Zatoichi Mifune
15:52 Jun 15, 2023

Hilarious! Only one thing: You made my face hurt from grinning the entire time :)


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