The devil owned a donut shop. It wasn’t that large of an establishment. In fact, it was only a food truck-sized cart with no means to tow it. Even without a way to get around, this didn’t keep it from turning up in whatever lonely alleyway you happen to look down, precisely when you thought to yourself for a fleeting moment: a sugary confection might possibly solve all my life’s problems.
Sooner than your mouth could water, there it was: poised and glittering. A glossy-wet lacquered red husk trimmed with gilded leaf, the likes of royalty. Paper lanterns hanging from its quaint tile roof spilled rich red light generously down the path at your feet. An unnatural violet glow hung inside the cart’s gaping window, without lighting it at all, and a welcoming set of teeth inset a black lanky shadow beckoned you off your intended course to come have a look at the colorful menu posted on the wagon’s flank. Circumstance placed this sugar-smell emitting vehicle here just for you. It’d be the saddest thing in the world not to check it out.
There aren’t any prices listed next to the pictures; the menu with but a hand-full of absolutely gorgeous frosting topped beignets. You try to rationalize treating yourself to just a little something. While you stand weighing your guilt against a slightly different type of guilt, you ask the eyes on the other side of the countertop a seemingly unrelated question. You know, to divert attention away from the fact that you’re being awkward whilst making up your mind.
But the question you end up asking isn’t random, or light, or conversational. It’s the most honest and important question you’ve ever asked in your life. Here you are throwing it at a stranger. As it rolls off your lips you’re confused where it came from and why you thought to say it just then… but there it is… The smiling teeth on the other side of the countertop are already reacting to what you laid bare. They lean out of the violet light, shadow dripping out of shadow, voice soft and harmonic: the answer you’ve always known deep down.
You stood and vented for twenty minutes or so, then felt you had to order something now, after gushing your thoughts, unsolicited. The smiling teeth gives you a half dozen on the house. They appreciate your candid small talk. Maybe they pitied how fucked up you are. Maybe they were just being nice. You could feel ashamed over it, but you push the moment out of your mind. The donuts were pretty good. In all honesty, the best you’ve ever had.
The next day while walking the same avenue, you glance down the gap between the buildings to see if the donut shop is still there. Though you’re a little embarrassed to admit it, you’ve been thinking about that custard cream-filled eclair all night. But the shiny red cart is gone. The asphalt where it sat is just a warped collection of puddles and scattered trash. You weigh the possibility that you hallucinated it all, and stood talking to yourself alone in an alleyway for an hour or so just to carry with you the memory of donuts. You feel a little better about life today, so if you imagined the experience… you’re strangely okay with the private lapse of sanity. Real or not, the devil was a good listener and could make one hell of a donut.
–story and illustration by Sarah Petkus 2021