“You have something I haven’t been able to find,” Steven said with the air of conspiracy. “And I have something you will want when you see it. I think a trade is in order.”

Steve was the kind of guy you half-ignored. It didn’t matter what he talked about with you, it always sounded slightly off — not crazy, but starting to eclipse crazy. I responded with a noncommittal grunt.

He pointed to the pentagram on my chest. “I want to trade for that. Can’t find one like that ’round here.”

“I’m a bit partial to it,” I replied. “No trade.”

“But you don’t know what I have.”

I sighed. “I’ll still say no, but whatcha got Steve?”

He reached into his backpack and pulled out a wicker basket, grinning ear to ear.

“Well?” I asked, getting impatient with the man.

He opened it and inside was a raven skull, boiled clean and intact.

“Found this by the beach, though he had a little more meat on him when I did. Cleaned it up for you, pretty sure you’d like a raven to add to your sacred tools.” He held it closer. “Big bastard, too.”

I held onto the pendant I wore, contemplating.

“Fine,” I said taking off my pentagram and handing it over to him. “Apparently we both have something the other wants. “Deal”.

He slipped the satin cord over his head and handed me the basket, a shit-eating grin on his face. “I know things, Mick. I knew I had something you couldn’t resist.” And then he skipped down the street to the waterfront, making me wonder if there was something else I owned that he coveted.

© Michael Raven

I’ll keep this short.

This was largely a true exchange. The actual conversation mostly lost to time and memory, but “Steve” was an incredibly short man I knew when I lived in Seattle, someone who had also befriended a recovering heroin addict (that really should have had a support group more than me and “Steve”, as she thought her teenage boys’ love was what would keep her off smack — boys that saw her for one whole mandated day — hours really — a month and refused to talk to her on the phone). Anyway, I met him through the addict that I at first found attractive, but then just liked her as a friend, especially when the depth of her addiction became apparent. We rarely hung out as a trio, but he found out the cafe I hung out at when I wasn’t cutting hair or dancing myself to exhaustion at the fetish club. He was a bit “off” and claimed he was both gypsy and Cherokee, which may have been the truth. He also barely reached my shoulders in height (though not showing signs of being one of the little people) and always had a wild look in his eyes like he had done a shit-tonne of coke before he bumped into me at the cafe. When he saw the dead raven, he knew he would more than likely be able to trade me for the pentagram I wore that he apparently coveted. It was a simple welded silver wire piece, nothing special — but that was the thing… You could only find medallion or fancy/fussy-looking ones around Seattle at the time. I could vouch for that. And it seemed right on him, once he slipped it over his head.

I still have the skull.

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