For your reading pleasure, below are two short excerpts, one from my own story titled "Ghost in a Bottle" and one from Giovanni Valentino's "Tort Reform for the Devil".
... So, on the way to the pavilion, I see this little booth with this guy shouting something about ghosts in a bottle, get your ghosts in a bottle! I nudge Tim with my elbow and say, "Get a load of that." There's a group of people standing all around the guy, so we walk over to listen.
He says, "Folks, this is your once-in-a-lifetime chance to get your very own patent-pending Ghost in a Bottle. I employ professional ghost hunters to track down phantoms, specters and poltergeist, and then I use my own personal patented technique to trap the ghost in specially prepared vessels—"
"You mean beer bottles!" Tim shouts.
"—specially prepared beer bottles," the guy goes on without missing a beat. "Ghosts like a cold one just like the rest of us, sir." And the crowd laughs at Tim instead of the huckster. That guy was slick, I'll tell you that.
What? No, the bottles didn't have beer labels on them. He must've soaked 'em off. They just had these little homemade labels. So anyway, the guy yells, "Folks, for the infinitesimal sum of four dollars and ninety-five cents, tax included, you too can have your very own Ghost in a Bottle! But do not open the bottle, or you risk releasing the wrath of a very irate spirit!"
No, of course I didn't believe it, not then. But I thought Miranda — she's my girlfriend — would get a kick out of it. So I tell the guy to give me a ghost, and make it a good one. He hands me a bottle this unearthly shade of green, with a label that says "Ghost in a Bottle (Patent Pending). Scorned woman. Open at your own risk."
Sorry, what? Yes, Miranda's my girlfriend. I told you that already. We've been going together for about six months.
She said that? No way, man. She never told me she was seeing other guys. I don't believe it.
Look, you want me to finish telling you the story or not?
... The office door swung open slowly and the temperature of the room dropped ten degrees in a matter of seconds. A tall broad-shouldered man strode confidently into the room. His white Brioni double breasted suit fit his body like it was tailor made. His hair and thin beard were meticulously groomed into sharp angles and his eyebrows pointed up in the middle.
Allen jumped up from his desk and met the man mid-way. He extended his hand and said, “Lou, it’s good to see you. I wasn’t expecting you to show up for a nickel and dime case like this.”
Lou grabbed Allen’s hand and shook it firmly, placing his other hand on the lawyer’s elbow. “I’d hardly call this a nickel and dime case, Al. Or did you think I wouldn’t figure out that Artie Thedford was the legal name of Lance Combat, the Blockbuster action star of the silver screen.”
“Well, it never hurts to try.” Allen stepped back behind his desk and motioned for Lou to sit down.
“’Nothing ventured, Nothing Gained’ my old buddy Ben Franklin used to say.” Lou smiled and tilted his head to the side. “Actually, I think I heard him say that just last week.”
“If it isn’t the prince of Darkness. Mephistopheles himself.” Artie rolled his scooter forward and held out his hand but the man made no movement toward taking it.
“It’s Lucifer, if you don’t mind.” Lou stepped around Artie, slipped into the chair and pulled his briefcase on his lap.
“Right, Lucifer, a.k.a. Old Scratch.” Artie pointed toward him with gun hands, making barely audible shooting sounds.
“No, it’s just Lucifer. What is it with you monkeys and the need to create demeaning nicknames? My name means light-bringer in Latin and morning star in Greek. Where do you get Prince of Darkness from that?”
“Sorry,” Artie rolled his scooter back. “I was just trying to lighten the mood.”
Lucifer continued his rant without even acknowledging Artie’s apology. “Like ScarJo or J Law. Why do you need to give these wonderful actors a diminutive? Scarlett Johansson is a master thespian and Jennifer Lawrence is a national treasure. And they did it all with their own natural talent. I don’t have contracts for either of them in my case and they still manage to out gross your films.”
“Well ... It’s fun and catchy. It goes viral faster and helps their careers. I know Scarlett Johansson doesn’t like it but Jennifer Lawrence has told the press she doesn’t mind.”
“This coming from the man whose parents named him R2-D2.” Lucifer rolled his eyes. “A name you never seem to use I noticed.”
Allen glared at his client. “R2-D2?”
“I was born in the late 70’s. Star Wars mania was sweeping the country. The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded, you know.” Artie chuckled.
“You know if that’s your legal name, a lot of the documents you’ve signed for me might not be binding.” Allen shook his head in frustration.
“Can you two cover this later, Al?” Lucifer scowled, tapping his foot impatiently. “I have other appointments today.”
“Sorry, Lou.” Allen pulled out two copies of a massive contract from his desk drawer. The documents were each over 700 pages long and must have weighed sixty pounds. He dropped one in front of Artie and the other in front of Lucifer. “Here is a copy of the agreement for each of you to follow along with.”
“No thanks. I have the original.” Lucifer popped open his briefcase and the scent of sulfur and brimstone flooded the room. He pulled out a thick black leather-bound tome. Letting out a sigh, he moved his gaze between Allen and Artie. “Do we really need to do this, Al? I’ve read this over. It’s airtight. Your client negotiated a very good deal for himself. Better than anyone else gets. A movie career. Tons of money. Tons of women. And he even got an eighteen-year term instead of the standard ten.”
“It can’t hurt to look, Lou.” Allen said.
“Need I remind you that it can.” Lucifer’s expression filled with genuine concern. “This isn’t like the old days where every idiot got to challenge me. If you can’t at least present one relevant breachable point, I get your soul as well. I’m telling you, there isn’t one and you can’t win this one. Unless you have a death wish, I strongly recommend we end this here and now.”
For more on these and the anthology's other stories: