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Stan the Man - Flash Fiction - May 2024


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Flash Fiction First Friday is an effort to publish something small and fun on the First Friday of every month. The goal is simply to write more and to share more, and not get completely bogged down in huge projects. These pieces can spawn from writing exercises, prompts, or just freewriting. I'd love to see your flash fictions pieces if you participate, too! Either use the tag #flashfictionfirstfriday or comment below with a link to your blog. 


 

Stan the Man

Another night of insomnia had me on the couch in front of a flickering TV. It was some time past midnight, but I was avoiding looking at the clock. All that was on was infomercials. I thought the mindless content would bore me to sleep, but the overly enthusiastic voice of Billy Mays only spiked my adrenaline.

 After Billy came the lesser-known infomercial hosts—the budget ones, for the sketchier products.

"Stan the Man here, bringing you the best deals late nights can offer!" said the host, doing his best Billy impression. He wore a red polo and had slicked-back blond hair. “I know the only people watching right now are the ones who can't sleep.”

"Yep, you got me." I pulled my snuggie around me. No regrets from that late-night purchase. Unlike the slap chop, which I never used. Or those weird workout videos I bought a few months ago that turned out to be more about “power breathing” than jazzercize.

"And maybe you're just waiting for this hour to end so you can watch those softcore porn shows that come on after two."

"Maybe." I hadn't been planning on it, but it wasn't a bad idea. Or maybe I'd fall asleep first and surprise us both.

The background of his set was a deep navy blue, almost black, eschewing the normal bright white void. What was he selling? Hell, if it was sleeping pills, maybe I'd take the leap and order some.

"Not sleeping pills, Cory," he said. Or I think he said. No, he was back to his normal sales pitch. One low price of thirty-nine ninety-nine. Mail-in rebate. I must have been dozing off. Finally.

Stan the Man had a nice baritone voice, unlike Billy Mays’ shouting. It was soothing. He really did manage to sound like a professional… Professional what?  

The snuggie was too warm, and I kicked one of my feet out from under the fleece, but the air on my bare skin was like ice. I was sweating but couldn’t make myself take the blanket off. My nose hurt from cold. Had the apartment’s furnace broken down again?

And now I was fully awake again. Dammit. I’d left my fuzzy socks in the bedroom.

Stan had launched into his hard sell. I’d missed what the product actually was again.

“If you’re falling asleep, stay with me just a few more minutes!” he said from the staticky TV screen. Looked like the antenna needed adjustment again. “This hot deal is thirty-nine ninety-nine for this late night program only! Don’t wait to call ‘til morning. And if you’re still not convinced, wait, there’s more! I haven’t told you about the upgrade package yet!”

Maybe if this upgrade package would miraculously fix the building’s furnace. It had gotten frigid.

“—as close to a miracle as you’re going to get,” said Stan the Man. “This deal is hot, hot, hot!”

“What are you selling?” I asked out loud, almost as frustrated that I’d kept missing it as I was at being awake at all.

“A solution to all your problems, Cory.” Stan was staring directly into the camera as he spoke through luminous white teeth.

It was as if he could see me. He could see me. I’d never been less asleep. Even the cold air didn’t stop me from letting my snuggie fall away as I leaned closer to the flickering glass of the screen.

Stan smiled. “A solution to the insomnia, to the dead-end job, the existential dread, and the weight of your mortality.”

“For thirty-nine ninety-nine?”

“Well, no, that’s what you get with the upgrade package. And trust me, you need the upgrade package.”

“What’s the cost to upgrade?” Why did they always take so long to name the price?

“Your soul,” said Stan.

“What’s it do? I mean, what are the specs, the features?”

Stan stumbled for just a moment. “It is a deal. A bargain. A guarantee between you and me. I’ll give you a sense of purpose, take away the constant threat of death. You’ll give me your eternal service. And your soul.”

“So, there’s no, like, gadget? A lever to pull or a button to push? Not even a Velcro strap to adjust?” He was promising a lot but had so little to show. Had he even done a demonstration on that black-draped table in the back of his set? I was getting dubious. “Is this another power breathing video?”

“I’m offering you whatever kind of power you want. Power breathing, sure, power to manipulate space and time, power over other people—”

“I’ve been duped on these kinds of deals before. I just want to understand the fine print. Will I get tapes in the mail?”

“No, upon signature, you’ll immediately be transported to my domain, where you’ll begin your service to me.” Stan had grown somewhat frayed around the edges. More static distorted the corners of the picture.

“Transported? This sounds way higher-class than the power breathing. Your broadcast isn’t very strong, though,” I said.

He stepped closer to the camera and came back into focus. “Yes, time is growing short, Cory. I must secure your signature before three or this deal will be gone forever.” Stan’s eyes were a shocking shade of green. Almost unnatural.

“Sure, I’ve heard that one before. Three in what time zone?” They always said something like that to make you feel pressured. I’d learned their tricks.

Stan glanced down at a gold watch, fiddled with the settings. Black and white static distorted the whole picture. “Time zones—how—of course. The deadline is coming now—”

“Ah, you must be based in New York. Fine. I’ll sign up for your course or whatever. On one condition.”

“Oh? Let me guess, prodigious musical talent? Bottomless coin purse? Fame and beauty? Name your price.”

“The Power Juicer. I missed them while they were on TV and I always wanted one.”

“That’s all?” Static flickered over Stan’s placid face. “Very well. Call the number on your screen now to secure your deal. Hurry before time runs out. Our operators are waiting for your call.”

A phone number appeared at the bottom of the screen in large red text. 1-800-666-1318. I dialed, gave my credit card number for the thirty-nine ninety-nine, and suddenly the apartment’s furnace kicked into overdrive.

There was a knock on the door. “Stan the Man here!” 


 

Copyright KR Holton, 2024


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