Lyrics from the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil.
Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul to waste . . .
. . . “So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I’ll lay your soul to waste, mm yeah. . .”
(Gasp! I have to admit I’ve never really been a Stones fan. I can remember the lyrics to only one song. I used that as my premise.)
With a snap of his fingers, a flame appeared. Lighting his cigar, he blew smoke rings that quickly became nasty beasts, with sharp fangs and talons.
He leaned back; at least he took the singed comfy chair.
“How can I be of assistance?” he purred.
“Release a few souls. I have a list”
I put it on the table between us; I was glad that I was a bit distant. A case of Scope would do nothing to sweeten his brimstone breath.
“Release this mob?” He ran his long fingernails (in desperate need for a manicure), along the names until the paper burst into flames and drifted upwards (a surprising direction).
“Don’t worry, I brought along extra copies. Let’s try this again, and fingers off the paper.”
“Quite an eclectic mix. May I ask why these souls in particular?”
“I have my reasons. Now, do we have a deal.”
“You know the price,” the Devil inquired with a leer on his bright red face.
“Oh, course I do.”
He produced a standard legal contract word processed on 24 lb cream colour paper. No parchment, gothic lettering, sealing wax.
“I had my lawyer draw it up.”
I wondered who that could be. Someone evil enough, slimy enough, buyable enough, crooked enough, ruthless enough to serve as his lawyer. It only took a second to answer my thought. Many lawyers, judges, and politicians could apply for that position.
The Devil, early in our discussion, had pulled a notebook from his briefcase. This was obviously made of fireproof paper. You would think the contracts would be too. I assumed his was checking the names I had on the list.
“You aren’t listed in my volume to go down. You’re already scheduled to go up! What’s your game.”
“All the more reason for you to accept my offer. One up (excuse the pun) for you.”
He sat back, running his hands up and down his pointy beard. I didn’t want to imagine what was going through his mind. He sighed. “You win.”
“Sign here, here and initial the next three pages, oh, I forgot you have initial here.” His fingernail brushed the list. Smoke and burning paper filled the already noxious room.
“Don’t worry,” he said, “I have lots of extra copies.”
I signed and initialed at all the requisite places. He put out his hand. “I hope you’re not too insulted, but I pass on the handshake.”
I stood up, folded my copy of the contract, and tucked it into the pocket of my jeans. The room melted away and I was back on the street. I had gotten my two tricked friends’ souls back.
As well as the worst of the worst of lawyers. They made contemptible a compliment. Who knows, maybe they had been his lawyer at one point. They each owed me big time and I couldn’t ask for a better defense team against the Devil.
Devil, I have no sympathy for you, but you are gonna wish I did. Oh, go cry me a river Styx.
I smiled and stepped in front of the train.*
* an oblique reference to Chris DeBurgh’s Spanish Train.