North Texas State University, Denton Texas, 1962: When several of us lived in a house in Shady Shores on Lake Dallas, there was kind of a ‘girl gang’ who came to visit.
Jan was round and pretty, and she liked Hardy.
Jill was thin, clever, and funny, and I liked her.
Shayna was mature, beautiful, and she liked Paul, who was actually engaged to someone else, though that didn’t seem to interfere much.
They’d all show up at the lake house. We laughed a lot. I remember nights with a bonfire on the beach, a lot of beer. I remember driving to some dive up the road where, again, we drank a lot of beer. I grew sleepy and closed my eyes and pretended to be blind for a while.
“Come on, blind man!” Shayna said, “Stay with us!”
She was Jewish, daughter of a well-to-do Dallas family who owned a milk company. I didn’t know much about being Jewish and asked questions. She said they didn’t believe in the Devil, and so I asked if she would sell me her soul.
She said she would.
So I bought it, for five pieces of silver, writing up the contract on my typewriter, an impressive red IBM selectric inherited from my stepfather’s office.
She took the five dimes and signed the contract. So I have owned Shayna’s soul for many, many years, because I kept the contract safe in my red box of important stuff.
The red box stayed with me through college, Dallas, St. Louis, England, Los Angeles, Texas, and San Francisco. There were a lot of documents in there, transcripts, and government cards, and drawings, and other stuff, including Shayna’s soul.
But this is getting ahead of myself. Back at North Texas, the next year I got a tiny apartment across from the English building, and rarely saw the girl gang. There was always a blitz of study right before Christmas Holiday, and unlike my friends, usually I didn’t go home right away, but rather stayed in my quiet apartment.
The campus was empty and thoughtful, the weather clear and chill. Restful, it was, though I had no money. One night I spent the last of my cash on cigarettes rather than supper, and in the morning I woke up hungry.
Down on the corner in the early morning light, I saw the bread truck parking to deliver to the Hob Nob. As the driver went inside, I crept from the bushes, jumped into the back of the truck, stole a loaf of bread, and ran.
As I glanced behind me I saw Larry Burns, the young man who operated the Hob Nob, standing in the back doorway. He was watching me and laughing. Damn!
Holed up with coffee and bread and cigarettes, pondering starvation, I remembered that, during the holiday vacations, the cafeterias of all the dorms closed, except for one. The same dorm where the girl gang lived.
So I called on them about lunchtime, and discovered that any dorm students stranded on campus over the holiday took meals there in the girls dorm. I walked into the dining room between Jill and Jan. Lunch!
Free lunch! Lots of lunch! Plenty! Free!
The cafeteria ladies, seeing so many unfamiliar faces, just assumed I lived in one of the dorms, and fed me along with everyone else.
I went back every day.
That was the last time I saw the girl gang. Things happened, and you lose track.
And twenty years later, in a flat overlooking Geary Boulevard in San Francisco, where I lived in a small room at the back of Network Answering Service, I found Shayna’s soul stored carefully in the red box.
Through her family’s milk company in Dallas, I located her, married long since and living on the coast north of Los Angeles. I called her.
She didn’t remember that I owned her soul. She hadn’t missed it. We hadn’t much to talk about. Things had changed.
After the phone conversation, since I had her address, I mailed her soul back to her.
It was the least I could do.