He shifted on the soft, padded seat. It was very comfortable but he still felt … uncomfortable. He didn’t know why though.
“S-see, it’s j-j-just that m-my w-wife is the w-w-one who usually–”
“We understand, Joe.”
The tall man looked like a magazine ad. One for clothes maybe; those fine, fancy clothes from one of those shops where soft violin or piano music drips from the ceiling and walls. He wore crisp, dark, neat clothes. His tie had no flawed edges, no stray wrinkles. His hair was gray around the ears and jet black on top, and every strand, every piece, sat in its place, perfect, a plastic statue, movie star hair. The rugged lines in his face drew Joe’s eyes.
Joe swallowed hard. It was just spit but it went down like he’d swallowed a tire. He almost gagged. “Y-you … You do?”
The Crisp Man nodded. “Of course we do. We know all about you, Joe.”
Joe listened whenever the Crisp Man talked. He couldn’t help it. His smooth, rich voice was hot maple syrup on a cold winter morning. Joe felt better when he heard that voice. He wanted a voice like that.
Joe shifted again. He didn’t like the idea of someone he’d never seen before knowing all about him. He didn’t care for the thought of someone who knew all about him. It felt like someone went through his underwear drawer, or found his dad’s dirty magazines under his mattress.
“B-but I d-don’t know who y-you–”
“It’s all right, Joe. Really. We understand you can’t read the agreement.”
Joe’s blood chilled. They knew him all right. Knew that much, at least. He never told anyone, but they knew. He couldn’t go anyplace where he’d have to write his name, or his address. He couldn’t visit libraries and no one ever saw him with a newspaper in his hand. It’s a small town. People talk. Everyone probably knew. Still, an icy hand gripped his heart when the Crisp Man spoke his secret shame.
Joe shuddered and stared at the paper. The jumble of letters and words seemed alien and threatening. He glanced at the Crisp Man with narrowed eyes, and tried to muster all the fight he had into his words.
“And all I have t-to d-do is m-make my m-mark on this paper? And y-you’ll g-g-give m-me m-money?”
The Crisp Man smiled again and his perfect, TV-star teeth shined at Joe. “That’s all. And take the medicine, of course.”
“Right. The m-medicine. W-what’s it f-for again?”
“It’s for many things, Joe. It will make you everything you want to be. Strong. Smart. And it will take away your stutter.”
“J-just for t-taking the m-medicine?”
“And making a mark in your own hand on the paper, yes.”
Joe looked down again. The letters seemed to shift and crawl over the paper. He stared at the gold pen gleaming on the table, reflecting from the glossy varnish, and the paper next to it. Then he focused on his own reflection in the table. His wild hair, his ragged clothes, his scruffy beard, his hollow eyes, all stared back and urged him to pick up the pen, make the mark.
“We know you don’t have a wife, Joe. You lost her years ago in the fire.”
Joe shuddered again when a chill twisted up his spine. He wiped the sweat from his palms onto his dirty overall legs and put them back on the table. How could the Crisp Man know he was about to lie again, say his wife usually does all the reading and signing for him? But he knew. Somehow, the Crisp Man knew. He could read Joe’s mind, maybe. Like some folks read books and magazines, the Crisp Man saw into Joe’s skull and picked his thoughts out. He couldn’t hide anything from the Crisp Man.
Joe licked his lips. His heart pounded. The Crisp Man reached out and nudged the pen toward him with trimmed, clean nails which glinted under the recessed lights above. The room felt hidden to Joe, dark and mysterious beyond the circles of light from above. The warm carpet and rich table didn’t make the room cozy or friendly. Joe felt very alone, very defenseless, and very watched.
“N-nothin’ bad’ll happen to me from the m-medicine you said, right?”
“That’s right, Joe. Nothing bad.”
“And this p-paper s-says y-you gotta p-pay me t-t-to t-take the m-medicine, right?”
“That’s right. More money than you’ve ever made before. Just for making your mark on the agreement and taking the medicine.”
Joe drew a deep breath and seized the pen, found the line at the bottom of the paper and made a large, clear X on it. He dropped the pen and sat back in the embrace of the soft chair and folded his arms over his chest.
“Very good, Joe. You won’t regret this. Now I’ll have someone drive you home and your first pills will arrive later. We’ll call you and let you know when you need to come back for tests. We’ll send a car when it’s time. Do you understand, Joe?”
Joe nodded. He couldn’t speak. He felt bad, like he’d done something wrong.
“Don’t worry, Joe,” the Crisp Man soothed. “We know all about you, and we’re going to take care of you.”
He watched the Crisp Man get up from his seat and vanish through a door he couldn’t see somewhere beyond the ring of lights. Joe thought, no matter what the Crisp Man said, he might’ve made a big mistake.
A big one.
All original content © J. Dane Tyler 2010
All rights reserved
10 thoughts on “#FridayFlash: The Crisp Man”
“The Crisp Man” is such a great description for who I think this might be. Poor Joe.
Warm maple syrup… nice.
Thank you Jen! I appreciate you stopping by and offering a read, and letting me know what you think. Much appreciated. Thank you for the compliment, too. 🙂
Nice draw! Certainly makes one want to come back and read more! Well written. Is Mr. Crisp Satan? No, don’t tell me. Sometimes not knowing is even better!
LOL! I won’t tell, Louise, but you certainly have the same train of thought as my wife did when she read it. 🙂 Thank you for coming around and reading it for me, and letting me know you liked it. 🙂
Oohhhh… Nicely done. Will there be more in the future? I love the description of the Crisp Man. Great stuff.
Thank you so much Vanessa! No, this is just a vignette; nothing more planned for it. I think certainly I could work this into a larger context if I tried, but I have other stuff on tap right now. So for today, this is all there is of The Crisp Man, but I’m very glad you found it enjoyable enough to want more. Thank you so much for such a wonderful encouragement. 🙂
Ever since Faust did it, it’s never been a good idea to sign on the dotted line!
Or “X” on one.
Great title and characters!
Thank you so much Marisa! I appreciate the time to read and comment; I’m glad you enjoyed it. 🙂
Hmmm you called him ‘Mr. Crisp’ and you mentioned maple syrup- he must be a CEREAL KILLER!!!!
Aw, Al … I hoped for so much more from you. 😉
No but seriously I liked that a lot… we only see the middle of the tale but the beginning and the end are like a shadows just out of sight.
I’m very glad you enjoyed it Al. It’s a high compliment coming from someone who’s knocked them out of the park as consistently as you have. Your stuff’s been awesome bro. I appreciate the read and comment.
Oooh, I love the hanging ending. You did the slow reveal very well throughout this.
Thanks, Tony, I’m flattered and glad you liked it. Thank you so much for the time to read and comment — much appreciated! 🙂
This was really scary, “Suspense” was definitely the right genre to pick in Jon’s collector!
Thank you so much Mazzz! I wasn’t sure it would fly as “Horror” though that’s what I normally (try to) write. I appreciate you saying it’s scary — the highest compliment to me. 🙂
The Crisp Man is a great concept/description
Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. 🙂 Have a terrific weekend!
“His smooth, rich voice was hot maple syrup on a cold winter morning. Joe felt better when he heard that voice. He wanted a voice like that.” Oh JDT, you brung this one on home with crisp Mr Crisp descrip down to the store his shoppin’ got done at … music backgrounding of course.
Kate, thank you so much, what a great compliment from someone of such strong voice. 🙂 Much appreciated.
Ahhh, and then YOU went into backgrounding. Poor J-j-j-oe. He sat not a chance under the serious scrutiny your powerful protagonist persuaded … “X” marks a damn good spot for readin’ when you’re up at bat.
Still got grinnnn,
Aw, thanks, Kate! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for the time to read and remark. You always manage to make me smile. 🙂
This is so delicately eccentric. The depiction of his stutter distracted me at first, but once I got in, it was kind of touching. Like Jen, I think “The Crisp Man” is a great name.
John, thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the piece. I know I overdo things like dialect and stutters, but unlike an accent, a stutter really doesn’t stick in a reader’s mind. I’m glad it didn’t throw you out of the story too much or too often. And I really, really appreciate the honest feedback.
Have a great weekend and thank you again. 🙂
I’m gonna be late for work if I type out how awesome this is, so I’ll just say that the whole time I was going “NO! NO JOE! DON’T MAKE YOUR MARK!”
And also I really like this. ❤ You're amazing.
Aw, Emmsy…you’re too sweet for words. I’m glad you liked it. And I’m so happy to see you here. Thanks for stopping by and don’t be late for work! 🙂 God bless, hon.