The Signature

Why is Coach K so good?

*  *  20  *  *

The moon shone down, bathing the Earth in its blue light. Mama Killa strolled across the park toward a single white bench on the far side where a man was waiting. She watched him look over at her, down at his watch, then back up at her. In a blink, he was standing next to her, his unnaturally bright green and yellow suit filling her vision.

“You’re late,” he said with a smirk.

“You’re early,” she responded, never slowing her stride.

The man shrugged. “Potato, tomato.” He took her arm and escorted her to the bench where she sat down heavily. The man seemed to make no noise as he sat next to her. “So have you considered it?”

Killa began to dig around in her purse. “Yes, I’ve thought about it.”

The man watched her for a moment, feigning patience. “And?”

She continued to dig. “And I don’t think anyone will take it.”

“That’s not really your concern, now, is it?” he said indignantly.

“Aha!” Mama Killa said as she pulled a handkerchief from the depths of her purse. “I knew it was in there somewhere!” She began to gently dab her forehead. “It is my concern,” she said, “when you’re talking stakes like this. No one would be foolish enough to take such a deal, and you know it.”

The man smirked. In a blink, he was behind Killa, rubbing her shoulders. “If you’re so sure that no one will take the deal, give me a chance. What harm could it do? Let me offer it to someone.”

“That’s just it,” she replied, now dabbing the handkerchief under her arms. “The way you’ve structured it, you don’t have to make one deal. You have to make the same deal 26 times. Do you really think you’ll be able to find 26 people over the next seven centuries who are willing to go along with this?”

“Honestly,” the man said, now pacing in front of the bench, having apparently grown nearly a foot, “I’m not sure. But that’s not the point here. Is it?” He leaned over, placing his hands on Killa’s knees. “Will you or will you not give me permission?”

Mama Killa sighed. “I suppose I don’t have much of a choice. If I’m going to put my big smelly foot in my own mouth, I better be ready to find out what it tastes like.”

The man was sitting next to her once more, a grin smeared across his face. “Wonderful. Shall we make it official?” With a flourish, he pulled a large pink quill from inside his jacket and began to move it through the air as though writing. “I, Old Nick,” he said, as though writing out a contract only he could see, “do hereby accept the authorization granted me by the illustrious Mama Killa to bargain with a line of mortals for the fate of the world according to the terms laid out in article 73 subsection ii of Vor’s Testimony.” He handed Killa the quill. “If you would, my dear.”

Mama Killa stared at him, pursing her lips. “26 people.”

“Yes.”

“All of the same ethereal line.”

“Correct.”

“And they each have to take the bargain? Every generation?”

“Absolutely.”

“And if you miss a generation?”

“Game’s over.

“But if they all take it . . .”

“Then it’s all mine.” The man grinned.

Mama Killa sighed, lifting the quill. “No one would take that deal.” With a flick of the wrist, a series of sparks flew out of the end of the quill, forming her signature.

The man in the green and yellow suit, now standing on Killa’s other side, snatched the quill from her and returned it to his jacket pocket. As the signature faded away, he started walking across the park. “We’ll start with A.”

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