The Krishnas were sitting in a circle on the floor in preparation of their evening meal when Daniel arrived. Those assigned to serving carried bowls of rice and vegetables, placing them in the middle of the circle while others lit candles or passed out paper plates. The crowd wasn’t very large, just four or five families, a couple of novitiates, the elders, and a hippie or two who’d wandered in for the free meal. They let Daniel pass in silence.
The week before six o’clock had been twilight with orange haze hanging over the city and just a whiff of decay. Now six o’clock was dark and funereal. He could hear the girls singing as he climbed the stairs to Marcia’s. They were off-key. So off-key that Daniel began to dread having to sit and listen to them politely. There were so many young people with guitars singing protest songs off-key, each believing they had talent or a gift. Most ended up on the streets. He thought of turning around and then a voice – God? – told him he must proceed.
Martin stood with his back to the poster of Che Guevara. The comparison between the two was vivid; Che, so full of passion that even in two dimension and long dead he made Martin look like a bloodless vapor. Like all good demons, Martin claimed a familiarity: “Daniel, old man. How splendid to see you.”
Marcia’d met Martin at the coin-operated, all-night laundromat down the street, a Tuesday date she generally shared with Daniel and Daniel alone but he’d been late. He wasn’t generally late but a darkness had come over him and certain thoughts refused to budge from his head. So he’d stopped and bought sunflowers, remembering they were Francesca’s favorite flower and hoping the sight of them would make Marcia smile and they would remember younger days and her smile would cast light into his dark soul.
And then he saw Martin through the fogged up plate glass window, one hand on a dryer and the other painting a lie for Marcia with long effeminate fingers. Lies told in a British accent, lies about a Dickensian childhood, lies so thick they snaked over each other but Daniel was too late. She’d already invited this Martin person, this devil, back to her place to share in a post-laundry tea ritual which previously had been theirs and theirs alone. Couldn’t she see that he spoke in an accent reminiscent of Henry Higgins, not Alfred P. Doolittle, and his hands were too unblemished to be a dockworker, as he claimed?
After listening tensely for an hour, knowing every word out of his mouth was a lie, finally Daniel pulled his childhood friend aside and asked. “Where’s his laundry?”
Of course she’d chided him, “So now demons are trolling for souls in all-night laundromats?”
He couldn’t leave her and so he’d stayed until dawn when the demon sulked away into the mist. Funny he couldn’t remember much else about that night, other than the relief when Martin disappeared and now, after a year, he was back.