📅 Published on July 27, 2022


Written by Stephanie Scissom
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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Bo woke to something wet dragging across his face. It took him a moment to realize where he was.

“Duke, cut it out!” he mumbled, trying to shield himself from his dog’s slurpy affection. His muscles screamed in protest.

“Pee on him, Duke,” his Mam-maw groused. “Maybe he’ll get out of my way then.”

Bo rolled onto his side, allowing her room to climb the front steps he was sprawled across.

“I’d ask,” she said. “But I don’t wanna know.”

Bo pulled off the blanket she’d covered him with. No shirt, no shoes. His pants were muddy and wet, his knuckles bruised and bloody. Had he been in a fight?


Last night’s adventures came back to him. Handfishing catfish in the murky waters near Toledo Bend. Yeah, he’d rather not tell Mam-maw about that. He could hear her now.

What kind of damn fool dives underwater at night to stick their bare hands in a nest. Boy, haven’t I taught you anything?

In Louisiana, catfish weren’t the only things that might bite. But enough tequila and he’d been down. He squinted at his muddy truck and wondered how he’d gotten home.

Bo dug in his pocket. The baggie was still there, inside another Ziplock containing his wallet and phone. He used his debit card to chop a line of cocaine right on the porch.

He could tell by the sun’s position that he was late. Kat would probably fire him this time. Bo pushed himself up and went inside to shower and dress. Mam-maw met him at the door as he jerked on his boots.

“Boy, you’re gonna kill yourself if you don’t slow down. I’m too old to get a visit from the sheriff telling me you’re dead.”

Bo stooped to kiss her wrinkled cheek. “I’m fine, Mam-maw.”

She grabbed his arm, her face grim. “I’ll pray for you.”

Bo froze, then winked before letting the screen door bang shut behind him.

That was new. In his whole life, he’d never heard her mention prayer. In fact, people in the parish had always called her a witch. Ever since he could remember, she’d done tarot readings and sold little gris-gris bags of love spells to the local housewives for extra cash. He guessed he was going to have to let up on her a little.


Kat was pacing outside by the time he pulled up to the office. She gave him a scathing look, but Travis saved him by yelling, “Hey, you coming?”

Bo grinned and jogged to the dock. She’d get him later, but first there was money to be made. Kat would never interfere with that.

His excitement dwindled when he surveyed the group waiting for their swamp tour. He hated fares like this one. Two girls in their early twenties, ogling him with blatant interest, and three preppy guys about the same age. Statistically, the worst tippers ever. But, it was better than hanging back and listening to Kat rant, so he smiled and started his spiel while Travis handed out life vests.

Bo twisted his still damp, long hair up and stuck it under his cap. The August sun beat down unmercifully as he told them about the bayou, and how Katrina had impacted the area. Nobody was paying attention. The guys looked bored, searching the water for gators. The blonde girl glanced at the redheaded girl, then gave him a seductive smile. They were attractive, but with every smile they shot him, he felt his revenue dwindling. The guy in the Gucci sandals didn’t look happy at all. Bo needed something to happen.

Then he saw it.

He tapped Travis on the shoulder and pointed at the thick, black snake swimming on top of the water, its triangular head raised.

“Angle around!” he said.

“Please don’t,” Travis said, and Bo gave him an impatient wave.

“Hurry, before it gets away.”

Bo reached down and grabbed the moccasin behind its head, barely avoiding its bite. The girls screamed when he pulled it into the boat. Its thick, dark body writhed desperately.

“This is a water moccasin, also called a cottonmouth. A mature one is usually two to four feet, so this guy’s been around awhile. They’re North America’s only venomous water snake. You can’t see, because I have my thumb there, but they have a distinctive, skinny neck and bulky head—”

“That’s not a water moccasin,” Gucci sandals said to his buddy. “They’re olive-banded.”

Bo bristled. “The older they get, the darker.” He stuck the snake’s head a little too close to Gucci sandals’ face, making him withdraw.

“See the heat pit behind its nostrils? That’s how it senses prey. Also, cat-like pupils. And, of course, the white lining of its mouth, where it gets its name. Single scales on the bottom, not double like a non-venomous snake.”

“I think it’s a cottonmouth,” Gucci’s buddy said, because Google told him so.

Bo asked the girls if they had a pen. When the blonde handed him one, he used it to milk some yellow venom from the snake’s fangs.

He definitely had their attention now. Bo talked a bit longer about the snake, then managed to release it without getting bitten. Travis gave an audible sigh of relief and the redhead clapped.

They approached one of his favorite pockets in the swamp. Bo surveyed the area, pulled off his shoes, and looked at Travis, “Cooler loaded?”

“Bo, don’t,” Travis said, but he nodded. For some reason, Bo knew this part didn’t scare him as badly as the snake stunt had.

He removed his shirt and saw the blonde nudge the redhead as he lobbed it at Travis.

Bo knew he was good-looking. It was perhaps his one saving grace. His looks and recklessness had gotten him things someone of his status would otherwise have a hard time acquiring—like Renn, although she was probably still not speaking to him.

She’d come around. She always did.

“That’s some scar,” the blonde said, tracing a long mark on his abdomen with her fingertip. “How did you get that?”

He winked. “Jealous husband.”

He was losing the guys again, but he was about to make them offer up some big tips. Bo reached into the cooler and stuffed two handfuls of raw chicken into the cargo pocket of his shorts. Then he sat on the edge of the boat, checked his surroundings again, and jumped in. This time, even the guys gasped. He stood in neck-deep water, pulled out a piece of chicken, and waited.

“To your right,” Travis said.

Female alligators tended to hang in the same area, while males roamed a bit. Bo knew this one, but no need for the group to know that. The seven-foot-long female waddled off the bank and dipped into the water. The boat erupted in hushed conversation as she swam toward him.

“Get back in!” one of the girls pleaded.

Bo ignored her, focusing on the alligator swimming toward him. He trusted that Travis was scanning, watching for others. The alligator swam right up to him, bumping him with her nose.

He held the piece of chicken above his head, and she opened her jaws wide, like a dog waiting on a treat.  Keeping one hand under her throat, he dropped the piece of meat in her mouth. She closed her jaws and lay her head on top of his for a moment, like she was snuggling.

“Incoming,” Travis said. “Dead ahead.”

This one was already in the water and might present a problem. It looked bigger and was probably male. It approached him passively enough, but its sheer size made him nervous. He fed both of them calmly until his pockets were empty.

“Okay,” he said. “Time to get back in. Travis will give you some marshmallows. Kindly toss them to the area to my left. The gators think they’re turtle eggs.”

They pelted the water with soft, white blobs and the gators slowly circled toward them. The male’s tail smacked Bo as he turned. Bo gave them a moment, then turned to let Travis and Gucci haul him back into the boat.

“Dude, that was amazing!” one of the guys said as Bo toweled off with his shirt. “Can I post this on social media, or—”

“It’s fine,” Travis said. “Thankfully, neither feeding alligators nor stupidity is illegal in Louisiana.”

They all laughed, and Bo knew that even if they didn’t see anything else on this tour, he was still going to get paid. Everyone was animated now, talking over each other, comparing photos.

“A positive review, including our names would be most appreciated,” he said, and three of them started typing on their phones.

The rest of the tour was relaxed. Pleasant. Travis showed them the video of Bo winning the last Gator Wrestling Championship.

“Dude, what’s something crazy y’all do here, besides swimming with gators?” Gucci asked.

“Are you talking like, airboat races, or noodling?”

“I don’t know. Just something cool we can talk about when we go home. Something different.”

Bo grinned. “I know a thing, but the buy-in is $500 each.”


Kat sat in the swing in front of the office, watching them return. Bo gave her a little salute as he tied off the boat and helped his passengers disembark. They wanted photos with the guides, so he motioned Kat over to take them.

“Remember,” Bo whispered as she approached. “Don’t mention the game in front of the boss. You’ll get us canned.”

The girls slid in on either side of him in the pic. They gushed to Kat about their tour, while she gave them a resigned smile.

“Thanks, guys,” Bo said. “Come see us again.”

In about eight hours, he thought. After closing time.

Kat waited until they left to say, “You have another group coming in twenty minutes, so I’ll keep this short. I want you here at nine a.m. tomorrow, just like everyone else, or you’re fired.”

“Eh, how about I come in at eleven, and work a couple of hours late. The sun doesn’t set until nearly eight now.”

Bobbi burst out of the office and came running down the steps. “Mom,” she said, handing Kat a slip of paper. “We have a big group coming in tomorrow at noon. They’re pretty sure they’ll have to split into two or three smaller groups, but they all want Bo and Travis and said they’ll wait.”

“Tell them we have other guides here and it’ll be more expedient—”

“They said if they can’t have them, they’ll go to Bayou Boys Tours. I’m supposed to call back.”


Kat sighed. “Tell them to come on. We’ll work with them.”

Bo grinned at her and said, “See ya at eleven.”

Of course, each tour was different and he didn’t get in the water again, but each group was different, as well, and Bo had no trouble impressing their other guests. Kat was still mad, but most of her five-star reviews on social media listed his name as the guide. She wouldn’t say much unless he missed a booking.

Their tip bucket total for the day was over half what they’d each make in wages for the week. Bo always split it down the middle. No short-changing the guy who watched your back.

He had a couple of phone numbers in the mix, slipped to him by the blonde from the first run and a school teacher from Mississippi on the second. He kept them both.

“How could you be so stupid?” Joe, another guide, asked.

“To be fair, he’s probably not the best person to ask,” Travis said.

“Renn is so hot,” Joe said. “What I wouldn’t give—”

A warning look from Bo cut him off. Bo waited until they both walked away to check his phone. Renn still hadn’t texted. She’d left him on read two days ago, after Inez told her about that girl from the bar. Well, he wasn’t going to beg. She knew where to find him.

Bo went to get something to eat, giving Kat time to close up and clear out, then he headed back to the office. He changed clothes beside his truck, then loaded materials for the game onto one of the airboats. He’d copied most of the keys by now, without Kat’s knowledge. Everything was ready by the time Travis and the others arrived.

Gucci—also known as Brett—had brought friends. In addition to the five from the day trip, there were four new faces. Excellent. Once Bo won, it would be a hefty little payday. He’d made it clear that everyone who rode in the boat kicked in their entry fee, whether they chickened out or not. Then, Bo had pushed his luck and asked for an additional $200 for supplies and gas. Brett had handed it to him so readily that he wished he’d asked for more.

Travis took them deep into the swamp. Bo could guess by the way the girls huddled together that they wouldn’t venture far from the boat, and he had his doubts about a couple of the guys. Easy money.

He and Travis had run this one a few times. It was usually over pretty quickly, and with minimal injury, but it was a rush, even to him. They instructed everyone to stay on board until they hung a few lanterns and set the squares in place.

Bo shone a light around, looking for any unexpected gators or snakes while Travis collected the money. Bo added his to the stack and motioned everyone off the boat. They all looked intimidated, but a few of the guys were posturing, cracking jokes. Travis would not be playing. He’d be running the camera for these assholes to have a video to show to their friends back home.

“This is how we play Boar Poker,” Bo said, gesturing to a wooden spool set in the middle of a clearing. “You see the 2×2 squares of plywood circling the spool. Pick one and stand on it. If you abandon or are dislodged from your square, you’re out. The only exception is that you can jump, but even then at least one foot has to come back down on the square. Understand?”

They all nodded.

He took the barrel from atop the spool. “This is corn, sweetened by strawberry syrup. They love this stuff and they will go straight through you to get it.”

Bo walked around the spool, shaking the coated corn around its base.

“Pick your squares.”

They all took squares and Travis started videoing. Bo took the square they left him and gave a long call of “Wooooooo, pig! Sooie, Sooie!” that was mostly for theatrics and Travis rang a bell. These pigs were trained to know that sound.

The brush rustled and something grunted. One of the girls screamed and ran to hide behind Travis.

“Most of these guys top out at about 150, 200 pounds, but the largest killed on record here was nearly 800 pounds. They are generally three to six feet long, and can run up to 30 miles per hour.”

The first boar charged into the clearing, and two people darted from their squares at the sight of him. Big and squealing, with wiry black hair and three-inch long tusks, he was moving fast. He charged straight at Bo.

Bo jumped him and came back down on his square. The boar hit the spool so hard he nearly toppled it as he attacked the candied corn.

“Did you know a boar can eat a man in 30 minutes?” Bo asked Brett, who laughed.

“I think they’re more interested in that corn!” he yelled, as he narrowly managed to skirt one.

Boars of all sizes poured from the forest and cleared most of the field. Soon, only Brett and Bo remained. Ironically, a small piglet nearly cost Bo his square as he dodged a larger one and nearly tripped over it. He managed to right himself just as a sow ran at Brett.

Brett launched himself in the air, successfully jumping it, but he tripped coming back down. He stumbled off his square, landing on his ass.

“Winner!” Travis yelled, and Bo abandoned his square to jerk Brett to safety before he got trampled.

“Dude!” Brett yelled, and slung his arm around Bo’s shoulder. “That was awesome!”

When they were back on the boat, Travis nudged Brett and said, “Check it out!”

The replay delighted Brett, even though he’d lost. Travis gave him the footage and he chattered all the way back, excited to look like a badass to his friends back home in Michigan. He’d also gotten a nice little scrape on his leg. Bo had seen the square pop up, but if Brett wanted to tell people it was from a tusk, it made no difference to him.

They invited Travis and Bo back to their motel room to drink and do some pills. Travis declined—after hours boar poker was as far into lawlessness as he ever ventured. Bo checked his phone. Still nothing from Renn.

“Hell, yeah,” he told them. “I’m in.”

“Room 252, at the Continental,” the blonde said.

Bo and Travis watched them leave, then split the money.

“Be careful,” Travis said. “See you tomorrow.”

In his truck, Bo looked at his phone again, then tapped contacts and called Renn. She let it go to voicemail.


He hid his part of the winnings in an empty Marlboro Red box and stuffed it beneath his seat. Then he drove to the motel and partied with them until nearly 3 a.m. When he left, he did not leave alone. When the rest of her crew passed out from the booze and pills, the blonde grabbed his arm and said, “Let’s go.”

Bo knew he shouldn’t be driving, not in the state he was in, but at this hour there wasn’t a lot of traffic, especially where they’d be going. He hit the backroads and was headed to the lake when the blonde started kissing his neck and trying to unfasten his belt.

“Hold on,” he said, trying to push her wild tangle of hair out of his face. “We’re almost th—”

Bo drifted over the centerline, then over-corrected. His tires hit loose gravel and he lost control. The truck flipped at least three times. His head hit the roof, then the windshield.

When Bo opened his eyes, he was lying in the grass, staring straight up at a big orange moon. He felt weird, light, but basically unbroken. He sat up.

The twisted wreckage of his truck crumpled against a tree a few yards away. The blonde hung halfway out the windshield, looking like a broken doll. He saw her try to move and scrambled to her.

“Hang on, hang on!” he said. “I’m calling for help.”

But his phone wasn’t in his pocket. He couldn’t find it anywhere.

“I’m going to get help!” he said.

“Don’t leave me!” she screamed. “Please don’t leave me!”

Not knowing what else to do, Bo stumbled toward the road, hoping to flag someone down.

It was over. His life was over.

He thought of his Mam-maw. Of Renn. He’d go to prison for this, and never see either of them again. Bo staggered down the road. He wasn’t sure where he was, or how far from town. All he knew was there wasn’t a goddamn thing moving on this road, and that his head was pounding. He pressed his hand to the back of it, and it came away wet with blood.

Something orange glowed off the road, in the distance. He squinted at it.

Was that a campfire? Out here?

Maybe they had a phone.

Bo stumbled onto the campsite, if it could be called that, because there was no tent or camper. Just a lone man in a black hoodie and dark jeans sitting on a log poking the fire. He didn’t look up as Bo approached.

“Hey, man, do you have a phone? We’ve had an accident. A girl is hurt.”

“She’s dead now,” the man said, and looked up. “Might as well have a seat.”

Whether it was some trick of the light from the dancing flames or Bo’s head injury, the man’s features seemed to shift like sand. When he looked away, they fell back in place. He looked somehow familiar.

Bo felt disoriented. Light-headed.

A concussion, he thought. I have a concussion.

The man patted the log beside him. Bo swayed on his feet, then—almost as if he didn’t control his own body—he walked over and took a seat.

“Please,” he said. “A phone?”

The man shook his head. “Too late for that. Too late for her … too late for you.”

His face seemed to slide again as he turned back to the fire. Bo couldn’t discern if he was young or old, or pin down even one distinguishing characteristic of his features. It was like looking into a rippling pool.

“Your poor grandmother,’ the man said, with a mournful cluck. “Wanna see her face when the sheriff comes to tell her about you?”

He pointed at the fire with the end of his stick and helplessly, Bo turned to look at it. For a moment, he saw nothing but flames and embers, but then, a picture emerged from the shadows. Shaky at first, the focus tightened until Bo could distinctly make out his Mam-maw’s house, and the sheriff’s Blazer driving up to it.

Bo’s grandmother came out to greet him, and the sheriff took his hat off and held it in his hands. “Jessamine,” he said. “I have bad news.”

“Nooooo!” she moaned, her face crumpling. “Not my boy, Fred. Not my boy.”

She took a staggering step, then hit her knees. The sheriff bounded up the steps as she crashed backward. He had his radio in his hand, screaming for dispatch to send an ambulance.

The hooded man chuckled. “Guess she wasn’t lying, huh? She really couldn’t take getting that news.”

Bo swung at him and nearly toppled into the fire when his fist passed straight through. He gasped and tried to push himself backward, but he couldn’t move. The hooded man laughed. For just a moment, it was like looking into a mirror, then the man’s features dissolved again.

“Am I dead?” Bo stammered. “Are you Death?”

“Yes to the first, no to the second. When people die, sometimes it’s obvious which way they’re headed. We don’t tie up in a lot of bureaucracy here if it can be helped, and I thought it was pretty safe to assume no one would argue my claim on you. Don’t you agree?”

The eyes beneath his hood suddenly glowed redder and brighter than the fire.

“You’re … the devil?”

“You can call me Lucifer,” he said casually. “After all, we’ll be seeing a lot of each other now.” He grinned. “How about the lovely Renn. How do you think she will react?”

A vision of Renn appeared, sobbing on the floor of her bathroom. She retched and vomited as her mother tried to comfort her.

“You really missed the boat with that one. What a beauty. And you treated her like shit, didn’t you?”

“Why are you doing this?” Bo demanded. “Just … take me on to wherever you’re taking me then.”

“Consider this phase one of your punishment. You get to see how your miserable life affected everyone who loved you. The sad thing is, Renn doesn’t even get a break now that you’re gone. Guess what? She’s pregnant. The gift that keeps on giving. Will she keep the little bastard, you think?”

Bo’s chest ached. He couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t think. He watched Renn through the flames, crying inside the doctor’s office while her mother sat beside her.

“Don’t do it,” he whispered. “Renn, don’t do it.”

She jumped up and ran from the room, while her mother shouted at her to think about what she was doing.

The fire shimmered, then the scene was Renn, huge with his child, sitting on her front porch with Parker Singleton.

Bo had always hated Parker, the banker’s son who’d always been in love with Renn, but if he were to be honest, it was because he was everything Bo wasn’t. So, this was good, right? Parker would take care of her.

“Her, maybe,” Lucifer said, reading his thoughts. “But what about the brat? I’m sure he’ll love that reminder. If she even keeps it. Shall we see?”

His next vision was the delivery room, of the nurse placing the baby in Renn’s arms. A blanket obscured most of the infant’s face, and Bo found himself yearning to see it.

Parker smiled when Renn glanced up at him, but that smile disappeared when she looked back at the baby.

“Congratulations! It’s a boy.” Lucifer poked the fire, stirring the embers around until he settled on an image of the infant suckling at Renn’s breast. Bo’s first clear glimpse of his child took his breath away. So beautiful, with a thick headful of dark hair and Renn’s button nose.

“She names him Remy, if you even care. Kind of a dumbass name, if you ask me. Renn, Bo, Remy … you all have dumbass names. He’ll probably get beaten up in kindergarten.” He stirred the coals. “What’s this? Maybe at home too.”

A little dark-haired boy of about five lay on the floor, coloring. Bo knew immediately it was Remy. A blond boy who appeared to be around two or three reached to grab the box of crayons and Remy snatched them away.

Parker seized Remy by the hair of the head and jerked him backward so hard Bo thought his neck would snap. He slapped the boy, sending him crashing against the sofa. When Renn tried to intervene, he slapped her, too.

“No!” Bo cried.

Renn grabbed the boy and crouched over him, shielding him with her body. Parker yelled something, then stormed from the room. When the boy stopped crying and went back to coloring, Renn poured herself a drink and gulped it down, tears streaming down her cheeks as she looked at her children.

“Well, I’m sure she does the best she can,” Lucifer said sympathetically. “So … do you think he’ll turn out to be a sack of shit like you, or a sack of shit like Parker? Maybe a lush like his mom?”

A teenage boy fought with Parker on a lawn. The sight of him stunned Bo. He was almost a doppelganger for himself at that age, except he had Renn’s eyes. The boy connected a wild swing that sent Parker reeling, then stalked toward the motorcycle in the driveway. Renn ran down the steps in her nightgown, trying to stop him. He shook her off and she fell in a drunken heap on the grass as he peeled out of there.

Remy drove to the graveyard, where he parked and stalked toward one of the monuments. Bo read his own name etched in the marble.

“Well, how sweet,” Lucifer said. “Look, Dad, he still comes to visit. Oh. Oh, dear.”

Lucifer touched his fingertips to his mouth in mock dismay as the boy pissed on the tombstone. Then, Remy sat on the grass to cry.

To Bo’s horror, Remy took a syringe, a spoon, and other paraphernalia from his jacket pocket and tied off his arm as he prepared his dose of heroin.

“It’s too much,” Bo said. Even though he’d never done heroin, he’d seen it and knew this was too much. “Please, stop him!”

The devil’s face shifted again as he smiled. “You, good sir, have nothing to bargain with, and also, this is just a preview. Little bugger has a good seventeen years to work up to that level of misery.”

Bo watched his son convulse and vomit, then go still.

“Well, that’s that,” Lucifer said. “We could watch a little more Renn, but that even depresses me, watching a beauty like that go to seed, so I’ll summarize: a few more years of drinking, a few hundred more Parker punches, then she wraps her Mercedes around a tree suspiciously close to where you died. People will always wonder if she meant to do it, but really, no one cares at that point. Let’s see, who else will care when they learn you’re dead … Travis, a little.” Lucifer scrunched his face, wiggling his hand in a side-to-side motion. “But he’s such a goody-goody he’d care if anyone died, so you’re not special. His job just got a lot safer, for sure. Who else?” Lucifer shrugged. “That’s about it. Wow, that didn’t take long.”

He clapped Bo’s shoulder. “Oh, cheer up. I’m just poking at you. You may not have had many people who loved you, but your death sure wrecked the ones who did. I suppose that counts for something, right? A lasting impression.”

Bo buried his face in his hands and sobbed. Lucifer didn’t speak, didn’t rush him. Bo’s mind raced, trying to think of any deal, anything he could promise to save them. He didn’t care what happened to himself, but he’d do anything to keep Renn, Remy, and Mam-maw from those fates. Surely there was something.

When he lifted his head to ask, he found himself sitting behind the wheel of his truck. Both he and the truck were whole and unharmed, parked outside the motel. The clock on the dash read 1:13, which was the time he’d arrived.

Bo touched the back of his head, which was damp from sweat, not blood, then he threw the truck in reverse. He headed to Renn’s as fast as he dared.

She had her own place, a tiny house in Clare. He clipped her mailbox and nearly forgot to put the truck in park before he bounded out of it and ran to her door.

He beat on it with both fists until the porch light flipped on.

“What do you want?” her sleepy voice demanded. “Do you know what time it is? I have to work tomorrow.”

“Renn, please, let me in. I have to talk to you.”

“Well, I don’t have anything to say to you. Leave before I call the cops.”

“Look, I know this front door isn’t the only thing standing between you and me, but I’m gonna make it right. I love you, Renn. Please.”

Silence from the other side of the door. He’d never told her he loved her before. Never told anyone that except for his Mam-maw, and he hadn’t told her enough.

Renn cracked the door, leaving the chain in place. Bo took one look at her face and started to cry. Ugly, heaving sobs. For whatever reason, he’d been given another chance. He wasn’t about to let it pass by.

The chain rattled and Renn jerked open the door. “What is it?” she demanded. “Has something happened to your mam-maw?”

Bo seized her in his arms and buried his face in her hair. She held him as he bawled like a baby.

“Is it Mam-maw?” she asked again, and he shook his head. She pulled back and peered at his pupils. “Are you high? What have you taken? Why do you smell like smoke?”

Once she determined he was sober, she let him in. Even though he knew it sounded crazy, he wasn’t going to lie to her. He was done with that.

“I saw the devil tonight, Renn. He showed me the future.”

Her pretty face turned red and her nostrils flared. “Bo, I swear to God—”

“I saw him,” he insisted. “I was gonna die tonight. He showed me what it would do to Mam-maw, and you, and our son—”

“Our son? If you’ve taken something, you need to tell me, so I can get you to a hospital.”

“I’m telling you the truth. You’re pregnant, and—”

“I’m not pregnant.”

“You are,” he insisted, and gave her an abbreviated version of what had just happened. She sat quietly until he finished, then took his hand.

“Look, I can tell that you believe this happened—”

“It did.”

“But Bo, I’m not pregnant. I’m not even late.”

“You will be, but it’s okay. I’m going to take care of you, Renn, and him. I love you, and I’m done with all the wild stuff. You always know when I’m lying. Look at my face.”

Her green eyes searched his blue ones, then she sighed and brushed a soft kiss on his mouth. “I know you think this is true—” She shushed him with a finger to his lips when he opened his mouth to interrupt. “And I want to believe you can change, because I love you. I really do, and I always have. But what happens a few weeks from now, when you find out I’m not pregnant, and this was just some dream or trip or something? Are you going to break my heart again, because I can’t do this anymore.”

He brushed her long, brown hair back and kissed her. “One chance. I know I don’t deserve it, but please give me one last chance.”

She closed her eyes and bit her top lip, considering. Then she looked up at him and said, “Okay.”

Later, as he lay his head in her lap and she stroked his hair, she said, “But why would the devil try to warn you? What would he have to gain?”


Even though the hour was late, Jessamine sat on her back porch, contentedly snapping green beans and tossing them in a bowl. She’d just gotten off the phone with Bo, who’d called to tell her he was spending the night at Renn’s and would see her tomorrow. Also, that he loved her and that he was going to straighten up. Something in his voice told her he meant it.

She sensed her visitor before she saw him. Her old eyes weren’t what they used to be, but she knew trouble when it walked up.

“Witch,” he said.

“Devil,” she replied.

“I’ve come for what you promised me.”

He climbed the steps and sat in the rocking chair beside hers. Jessamine stood, wincing at the arthritis in her old joints, then put the bowl in his lap and shuffled inside the house.

“Extra hot sauce?” she asked through the screen door, and the devil replied, “Please.”

He snapped beans until she returned with his bowl of gumbo and a glass of sweet tea. Lucifer traded bowls with her and gave an appreciative sniff. He sighed when he took a bite.

“Still the best cook around, I see.” Spooning another mouthful, he said, “I think I got our boy straightened out.”

“Thank you. I wish I hadn’t waited so late in life to have him. That boy’s just about worked me over. I wanted to make sure he was going to be alright before I kicked the bucket.”

“Well, you have to hang on a bit longer,” Lucifer said between bites. “Because I know you’ll want to get your hands on that new grandbaby. Renn’s expecting, but she doesn’t know yet.”

Jessamine clapped her hands in delight. “That is going to be a lovely child!”

“Of course he is,” Lucifer scoffed. “I mean, look at his parents and grandparents. You were always so breathtaking.”

She blushed, then said, “A boy! Isn’t that something? Bo was the most endearing little thing. I was always sad that I could never tell him I was his mother, but I was already seventy years old by the time he was born.”

“He knew you as his mother in every way that mattered.” Lucifer smiled. “But you could’ve used a glamor spell. He didn’t have to see you old.”

Jessamine snorted. “Easy for you to say. Those things take way too much energy for a human to maintain. Better not to fight it sometimes, but I do miss the days when nothing ached.”

“Then this one’s on me,” he said, and waved his hand in her direction.

Instantly, the years melted off Jessamine. She stared down at the body she’d had at nineteen. “Wow,” she said, cupping her breasts. “I forgot these used to be up so high.”

Lucifer laughed, long and heartily, then reached for her hand and pressed it to his lips. “Dearest Jessamine. When you die, this world will be a much lesser place. I don’t father many children anymore–the human side is too unpredictable–but I’m glad I fathered this one. He’s been so entertaining to watch. Absolutely fearless.”

“That has not always been a positive quality. Combined with your good looks, he’s almost lethal.”

Lucifer patted her hand and smiled. “He’s going to be okay. I’ll keep my eye on him. You have my word.”

Jessamine grinned, and he looked offended. “What? Even the devil wants his children to be happy.”

She put the bowl of beans aside and stood. “Oh, that’s not what I was smiling about.”

Jessamine took his hand and drew him up beside her. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she said, “How long did you say this glamor will last?”

He rested his hands on her hips and smiled. “A good five hours or so. Just what are you proposing, witch?”

She pushed his hood back and kissed his cheek. “Just a little reminiscing between old friends. What do you say, my handsome devil?”

“I think that sounds like the best idea I’ve heard in ages.”

Lucifer picked her up and carried her into the shack.



Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Stephanie Scissom
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Stephanie Scissom

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