County Lines by Bob
Okay, I admit it's true. The devil tried to take my soul while
I was reading a Harry Potter book.
I was turning a page in chapter seven, when poof!, he appeared
out of a puff of smoke. The red skin. The pointed tail. The horns.
The pitchfork. I immediately recognized him.
"Wow, man," I said, "what a groovy entrance."
"I've come to take your soul back with me," he said.
"Why?" I asked.
"You're reading a Harry Potter book," he said.
"Your brain's not functioning properly, is it?" I replied.
He scratched his left horn. Maybe he has a rash, I thought. Probably
from all that heat. "Why would you think that?" he asked.
"Poverty. Starvation. Violence. Crime. Greed. Hatred. Wars.
Death. Destruction. Drugs. Addiction. Prisons overflowing. Millions
living on the streets, sleeping in cardboard boxes, eating out of
garbage cans. Armed troops murdering children for throwing rocks.
A world gone insane and you're hassling me for reading a Harry Potter
book. Get real," I said.
He scratched his right horn. The rash must be getting worse. "All
those things are trivial," he said, "when compared to
reading a Harry Potter book."
Maybe I should try a different approach, I thought, to get through
his thick, red skull. He can't be a complete idiot even though it
appears that way. "Do you know what goes on in the other place?"
"What other place?" he said.
Pointing upward, I said, "You know, the other place."
"Oh, that place," he said. "Yes, I keep a close
eye on the competition."
"So, you know what goes on there," I said, "at all
"Yes,Ó he said, "at all times since the beginning of
time. I don't want them pulling any fast ones, like two admissions
for the price of one. They tried that during the time of ancient
Egypt. I put a halt to it quicker than you can say J. Edgar Hoover."
"You know J. Edgar?" I asked.
"Of course I know him," he said. "He's one of my
residents. Plays five-card draw with Lee Harvey Oswald and Jimmy
Hoffa when I'm not poking them with my pitchfork."
"Just like I thought, " I said. "They were in it
together. But they're down in your place. I want to know about something
up in that other place."
He scratched the back of one pointed ear then the other. The rash
must be spreading quickly. "What do you want to know?"
"When I was a little kid," I said, "a milk truck
squished my dog. I was wondering if he made it to the other place.
Poochie was a good dog, a little mean maybe, but he never bit anyone
who didn't mess with him first, except the milkman several times."
"Poochie's up there," he said, "playing a harp and
howling in the heavenly choir. But you won't see him again. You're
going with me."
"Darn," I said, "I've never seen a dog play a harp.
Does he strum it with all his paws or just the front two?"
Before he could answer, the phone rang. I picked it up and said,
"Bob speaking. If you're an ex-wife or the lawyer of one, leave
a message at the beep. Beep."
The voice at the other end said, "Did you remember to eat
the sandwich I made you for lunch? You know how grumpy you get when
you miss a meal."
"Yes, Pinchy," I said, "I ate the sandwich. But
you know I prefer the ham on the top and the cheese on the bottom."
"You should have turned it over," she said.
"Now you tell me," I said. "You should have left
a note on the refrigerator reminding me to do that?Ó
"I did," she said. "I'm stopping at the grocery
store on the way home from work. You want me to get you anything?"
"I do," I said, "but you better not. I might be
gone when you get home. Satan is here, trying to get my soul."
"Who's Satin?Ó Pinchy said.
"Satan," I said, "not satin. Satin is smooth cloth.
Satan is something entirely different."
"That's nice," Pinchy said. "You and your friend
have a good time. Bye."
"That was Pinchy," I said.
"Yes," the devil said, "I know. A mansion is reserved
for her in that place up there."
"It is," I said, "why is that?"
"For putting up with you,Ó he said.
"Oh," I said.
"Time for us to go," he said, scratching his red elbows.
"You better put something on that," I said, "before
it reaches the tip of your tail."
"Quit trying to change the subject," he said. "Let's
"I'm not going anywhere with you," I said. "You're
not real. I didn't believe in you when I was little. I don't believe
in you now. I'll never believe in you.
That hokey, superstitious nonsense might go over big in Third World
countries like Haiti, where they sacrifice chickens under a full
moon, but this is the modern world, where we have electricity and
sanitary indoor plumbing and freedom of expression and universities
of higher learning and doctors who treat patients with medicine,
not voodoo chants.":
I hadn't planned to go into a tirade. But when I finished, the
devil vanished as quickly as he appeared.
Was he ever really there? What do you think?
Overton County News
415 West Main Street
P.O. Box 479
Livingston, Tennessee 38570