Ambition, Part II

Continued from part I.

Azrael stood up, gripping his cup of pale, sugary coffee.  He slid over the barrier between the booths, dropping into the seat opposite the mousy-looking salesman at the next table.  The man glanced up as the newcomer slid into his booth at the diner, but he didn’t seem to be unduly surprised or put off.

As the angel leaned forward to stare into the man’s eyes, searching for some sign of what might be lacking, Mephistopheles sauntered around and slipped into the seat next to the salesman.  The waitress, noticing that her two customers had changed tables, came over and dropped the devil’s plate of greasy meat in front of him.

“Hello there,” the angel ventured, speaking to the man as if he was a small child.  “What’s your name?”

The man looked back at the angel without much interest.  “Arthur,” he replied.

“Hello, Arthur.  And what do you do?”

The man gave a shrug.  “I sell insurance,” he responded.  Azrael waited politely for the rest of the speech, but nothing more was forthcoming.

The angel’s eyebrows dropped down.  Now that wasn’t right.  One of the most defining qualities of any insurance salesman is their insistence that, no matter how much insurance you might have, you always need more.  So to not be immediately deluged with “one low price” offers was more than a little surprising.

“You know, I don’t happen to have any insurance,” the angel ventured, poking the bear.  He kept on peering closely at the man as he waited for some sort of response.  Nothing seemed to be coming out of the man’s mouth, however.  He just nodded vaguely and continued gazing straight ahead.

Next to the man, Mephistopheles had managed to get his hands around the large, meaty burger that had been brought to him.  He took a big bite, chewing with obvious relish and ignoring the little flecks of mush that flew from his lips.  “Weird, ain’t he?” he asked with enjoyment.

“You definitely took something from him,” Azrael agreed.  He turned his attention back to the man.  “Arthur, did you know that I’m a genie?  I’m here to grant you one wish!  Anything you want!”

Arthur blinked a couple times.  “I could maybe go for some cheese balls,” he spoke up.

Azrael’s eyes narrowed.  “I just gave you a wish for anything,” he repeated in tones of mingled disbelief and righteous anger, “and you want to wish for some cheese balls?”

“Maybe some crisps,” Arthur ventured.

The angel’s hand twitched as it wrapped around his coffee cup.  He took a long drink, steadying his nerves, and then turned to Mephistopheles.  “You took his ambition, his drive,” he told Mephistopheles.  “The poor guy’s a husk.”

“Lucky guess,” the devil said through his mouthful of food, but he raised one of his greasy hands and snapped his fingers.  Another little cloud of smoke burst around Arthur’s head, and he blinked a few times and looked around, as if seeing the other visitors at his table for the first time.

“Oh, hello there!” he commented to the angel and the devil.  “Didn’t see you folks sit down.  Now, are you totally satisfied with your current insurance?”

*

Instead of answering, the devil and the angel simply stood up and walked back to their table.  Arthur watched them go, a slightly crestfallen look on his face, before he was briefly distracted by something flitting in front of his face.  When he pulled his eyes back to the two retreating figures, he couldn’t remember why he’d been looking at them in the first place.

“I liked him better without any ambition,” Mephistopheles complained.

“I know, I know,” Azrael comforted him, patting the devil on the shoulder of his suit.  The fallen angel felt slightly greasy, but the angel resisted the temptation to wipe his fingers off.  “But you lost, so you have to pay for the meal.  Rules are rules.”

Mephistopheles nodded, and tossed a couple heavy gold coins onto the table with a clink.  The waitress came by, scooped them off the table without stopping, and made it several steps before she stopped and looked down at her hands with a confused expression.

“But next time,” the devil insisted.  “I’ll get you on the next round!”

Azrael just lifted his coffee cup to his lips for another sip.  The sunshine was streaming into the windows.  He leaned back in the booth, savoring the moment.

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