Me: *walking down street, hands in pockets, contemplative*
Devil: *leaning against Starbucks fixated on his freshly prepared Iced Cinnamon Cloud Macchiato, hold the ice, hold the cinnamon, hold the Cloud, warm it up with the latte steam thing, add eight shots of espresso, pop it in a blender, pour over ice, strain out the ice, add whipped cream, sprinkle with cinnamon* *sees me pass* *chucks drink into garbage, tiptoes up behind me and grabs my sides* Boop!
M: Oh my god!
D: Nope, not him. The other guy.
M: I mean… oops, sorry about that. Thank god you’re here! Shit, I mean— seriously, I’m so happy to see you.
D: You are?
M: Oh, absolutely. God isn’t really known for making deals, is he. No, I definitely needed to talk to you.
D: What do you want from me?
M: I think you know that.
D: I do, but I thought a little exposition wouldn’t hurt. Read a screenplay once in a while.
M: Okay, fine. My child was born too early. He is in the hospital, has been for months. All I want is for my baby to live, and to be happy and healthy to a ripe and comfortable old age, at least eighty years old I mean, and to lead a full, satisfying, meaningful life.
D: And in exchange for this, what would you give to me?
M: Oh anything. Anything at all. Or nothing, whatever, let’s start with nothing and work our way up from there. Would you accept nothing in exchange?
M: Okay then, Mr. Lover of Exposition, name your price.
D: Your soul, I think, that goes without saying.
M: Mmmmmmkay. *waits for other shoe*
D: But usually I like add in a little twist to make sure you don’t get exactly what you want, for just the price of one soul. Your wording, however, leaves little room for ambiguity. I could have perhaps done something with “meaningful” (meaningful to whom, for example), but I’m curious to see what else you might be willing to do for me.
M: As in?
D: As in…. Would you commit murder!?
M: Yes. Done. No problem, I got a guy in mind already.
D: Oh ho ho, not so fast!
M: Damn it.
D: You don’t get to choose your victim. This isn’t suppose to be fun for you.
M: Well you have to give me some kind of a choice. You can’t just tell me whom to kill. I thought, like, the temptation was the whole point.
D: Don’t tell me how to do my job. I was getting there, you just cut me off.
M: Fine. Tempt away.
D: What if I said you had to kill… your whole family?!
M: *facepalm* No. No, no, no. Jesus, no. What is this, your first day?
D: How about then, just half of your family? Just two, two members of your family, could you do that?
M: No. Look, if you’re going to go with people I know and love, this is going to take a long time. I mean, I know a lot of big-hearted people, and I’m sure more than a few of them would take that deal if I asked them to, including my wife and definitely including me. But let’s assume for a minute that me killing someone who is willing to trade their life for my baby’s life isn’t exactly murder, in the Dahmer v. Kevorkian sense of the concept.
D: You’re just going to rule out the most difficult category like that? What about the one that really hates you? Because one of them really hates you.
M: *raises eyebrows*
M: Look, there are a lot of people in the world, I’m sure you can come up with somebody I don’t know personally who might give me pause.
D: How about the pope?
M: Yes, good. Yes, I’ll do that.
D: Wow. No pause there, huh.
M: None. It’s a deal. Where do I sign?
D: Hold up. You barely had to think about it. That’s not temptation.
M: What? No! I was totally tempted into it. You got me good. I’m just trying to work fast, here.
D: *crosses arms and shrugs* Didn’t seem like you were tempted. Especially since, by all accounts, he’s supposed to be a pretty nice guy.
M: You don’t know if he’s a nice guy?
D: Well I mean, I’ve seen him at parties or whatever, we’ve just never had the opportunity to converse. Maybe if you could tell me why you decided to do it…
M: I mean, why not? Oh, right, the whole “he’s the pope” part. Well I guess some people would miss him, but I’m not all that religious, despite having just met you, an incarnate confirmation of at least some sort of mystical afterlife. Wait—are you trying to tell me that yes, the pope is literally god’s word made flesh, the voice of the almighty here on earth meant to guide believers into the kingdom of heaven? That Catholicism wins?
D: I will… neither confirm nor deny his importance in such capacity.
M: Alright, well in that case, to me he’s just another old rich dude who doesn’t pay taxes.
D: Okay. That’s pretty callous, but I can see where you’re coming from. Is it because he’s old? Or rich? Or both? Are there any other predetermined categories I should be aware of? Are you the get-the-women-and-children-to-safety type?
M: No, no, I’m not saying I’d definitely kill all old rich men. Nor are all women and children automatically safe. But in the interest of saving you some time, I think I’m generally disinclined to end the lives of people under twenty-five, because most of the mistakes you make before that age you don’t even know are mistakes yet. How about let’s say thirty. You should definitely know who you are and what you’re doing by thirty, and be representing yourself as such, meaning I would feel safer judging you for it.
D: Alright, let’s see… who just turned thirty… um, Blake Griffin?
M: Okay, sure, I guess. Wait, is he black?
D: Let’s see… *checks Wikipedia* Looks like he’s half Afro-Haitian, half ginger.
M: Whoa, hey! Hey! That is our word.
D: So… sounds like race is going to be a factor.
M: Actually, no, you know what? Screw it, I’m going to have to make some sacrifices here or I’m never going to kill anyone. Alright, yes. Blake Griffin, sure.
D: So Blake Griffin and the pope…
M: Wait, both?
D: Why not? The pope didn’t seem to give you pause before.
M: I don’t have anything against Blake Griffin, though. If you just tack him onto the pope murder, it’s going to seem like I had it out for him. How about this: no stacking, for now. If we can’t agree on someone maybe we can come back to it. Now let’s get serious, here. I want to get this deal done. Pronto. If we could, please.
D: The president?
M: *stalls for time to check the possible legal ramifications of such a statement on his blog* …um, which president?
D: The American president?
M: *scanning the Constitution fine print* Um… again, which one? We’ve had several.
D: *rolls eyes* *sarcastically* I don’t know, how about Reagan?
M: Oh— well yeah! Hell, yeah. You have any more dead people you want me to kill? Line em up.
D: No, I mean, Reagan when he was alive. He did almost get assassinated, once. Really shook the nation, libs and conservatives alike.
M: Okay then. Sure. I mean I think I was only three at the time, so I’m not sure how I would’ve pulled that one off, but yes. Maybe if you can get me into the limo with him after they rush him away, he’ll be too weak to fight me off and I can choke him with a Tinker Toy or something.
D: Are you sure? Pre-becoming besties with Gorbachev? The whole Cold War is still a thing? Maybe the Cold War never ends, if you do this.
M: How would that be any different from where we are, really. Besides, the Cold War was gonna end anyway, dude, I don’t know why Reagan always gets so much credit.
D: How about Kennedy?
M: Really? Do I look Kennedy-old?
D: I mean, honestly?
D: Hey, you could be seventy-five, for all I know. I have trouble with gingers.
M: Okay, listen, motherfu—
D: Anyway, forget all that timeline stuff, will you? I’m the freaking devil, I can make it happen. I want President John F. Kennedy dead. Will you do that for me or not?
M: Well… pretty sure you’ve already offered that one to somebody at some point…
D: I’m talking about pre-Cuban missile crisis Kennedy. Russia’s got the nukes on your doorstep, no Kennedy there to diffuse it, possible nuclear war, would you—
M: Fuck it. Yes.
M: Yes! If my baby gets the life he deserves out of the deal, yes. I would. I will. Is that on the table? Can we make this official? I’m getting impatient.
D: *strokes beard* No. I’m not satisfied yet. How about Martin Luther King, Jr.?
D: *jaw drops* Really?
M: I don’t know, he had affairs and shit, didn’t he? But I get to pick the time on this one, and I say I do it just seconds before he gets shot by James Earl Ray, and no sooner, non-negotiable.
M: Yep, why not. I could do that one-handed.
D: Lincoln? Pre- the end of the Civil War, though. You have to do it like a week earlier than Booth. The day before Lee surrenders. Non-negotiable.
M: Oh, come on…
D: Slaves are still slaves. Can you do that for me?
M: I don’t know, that was so long ago. This time-travel shit is making my head hurt.
D: Clock is ticking.
M: Okay. Fine. Another assassination victim, though, really?
D: You’d let the South win?
M: Sure, I guess! Again, slavery was doomed anyway. On its way out. If Lincoln hadn’t pulled it off, somebody would have. Hell, Sherman wasn’t just gonna forget how to set a fire, was he?
M: Maybe it would’ve been a little more cathartic, even, if the Confederate States of America or whatever had their own country for a while until the workers all rose up and murdered the shit out of their oppressors on their own.
D: *incredulously* Really, though?
M: I don’t know! It seemed to work out for Haiti, sort of! That was all so long ago! How am I supposed to know what fucking butterfly effect that would have on the people I know and love today? Look, can we just keep it current, please?
D: Dr. Phil?
M: Oh my god, yes. With like, a large, large hammer.
M: Yeah, but—I mean, she’s had a pretty good run, right?
D: C’mon, really? Oprah? What has she ever done—
M: I don’t know! She’s super rich, though! You don’t get super super rich without committing a few mortal sins. Besides, I’m not the judge and jury, here.
D: You are if you make the deal.
M: Fuck, fine! But I’ll make it quick and painless. Like carbon monoxide, or something.
D: Bill Clinton?
M: Let’s just assume all living politicians are off the table, please. I’m pretty sure I’m not even allowed to joke about such a thing.
D: George Soros? He’s the next best thing.
M: Okay there, Breitbart. But sure, let’s do it. For some reason a samurai sword seems appropriate.
D: Why do you keep specifying murder weapons? I’m the devil, remember? I could fashion you some kind of instant-death rod, all you’d have to do is point it at them and they’d drop down lifeless like they just got unplugged from the matrix.
M: Actually I’m really opposed to gun violence.
*both look at the camera*
M: Anyway. I don’t know why. It helps me visualize. Are we just playing how awful am I, or are we getting any closer to picking your price? Would it help if I spun a wheel or something?
D: Pat Sajak?
M: I’d solve his puzzle.
D: Alex Trebek?
M: [joke redacted]
D: Jesus, man! Too soon.
M: Hey, don’t ask if you don’t want to know.
D: Justin Bieber?
M: PERFECT YESSSSS wait I don’t knooowwww, how old is he now? Can I wait until he’s thirty, just to make sure?
D: Nope. Now or never.
M: Fine. Sorry, Biebs, sorry Canada.
D: Betty White?
M: Yes. God, you’re making me sound like such an asshole.
D: How would you do it?
M: For Betty? Easy, just hide her medication. Or, you know. Just procrastinate.
D: I’ve got to say, you’re actually making this really hard on me. It sounds like you would kill just about anyone who’s lived longer than three decades.
M: Nope, not anyone. I would not kill Hitler.
D: Ex-squeeze me? Baking powder? Did you say not Hitler?
M: I would not go back in time and kill Hitler.
D: In exchange for the guaranteed health and welfare of your son, you would… not go back in time and kill baby Hitler? The one heroic time-traveling fantasy pretty much everyone can agree on?
M: I would prefer not to.
D: Can I ask why in the fuck?
M: Because my son… the whole reason I wanted to meet you, to make this deal, is because this is the level of legendary I expect from him. I don’t know what his life is going to entail, but if he is only given the chance, I have no doubt that he will turn out to be so patently awe-inspiring that he wouldn’t need to barter with the devil to accomplish such a task on his own.
D: You don’t want to kill Hitler so that your son has the chance to kill Hitler. To go back in time and kill Hitler.
M: I don’t like it as much the way that you say it.
D: That’s the only way to say it.
M: Look, this is what my heart tells me when I hold him. This is what I see in his eyes when they look around the room, still two months prior to the day he was supposed to be born and he looks around the room. He’s clever like that. He pretends to sleep sometimes when we change him, not just closes his eyes, but actually limps his limbs and calms his breathing and fakes sleep. Nurses unfamiliar with him will say wow, he’s sleeping right through this, and my wife and I will laugh and say that’s just what he wants you to think. I watch him react to things. I see him learning, and growing, and all of it amazes me so much that if he did grow up to be the guy who went back in time to kill Hitler, I doubt that would even crack the top ten list of his life’s accomplishments. And besides, if I agree to kill baby Adolf, I’m essentially saying Hitler’s life lost is equivalent to my son’s life gained, which I think is undervaluing my son’s life.
D: Well, not for nothing, but a few billion other people might have an opinion about what some lives are worth in comparison to others…
M: *sighs* Okay, fine. I’ll kill Hitler, if it means that much to you. But I want my protest noted in the record.
D: *squinting* I’m beginning to think thou protesteth too much.
M: Okay! Fine! Whoever, just pick already!
D: The thing you waffled on the most was the president. The American president. I think we need to return to that topic before I can decide your price.
M: *looks directly at camera* One last time, for the record: As a proud American citizen, I would never under any circumstances, satirically or otherwise, suggest bodily harm come to any of our elected officials. I’m sorry, Satan, but the answer on that one is, and will always be, a big fat “no.” *flashes charismatic smile*
D: Okay then. How about Donald Trump?
M: *looks back to devil* Are you serious?
D: Yeah, why? You know him or something?
M: He is the American president. Like right now. It’s him.
D: *snorts out firebolt of rage* WHAT?! That disingenuous prick never paid up! Welching on a debt isn’t the same as being a master negotiator! Art of the deal, indeed! I’m sorry, I have to go, I’ve got to take care of this immediately… *exits stage left*
M: *puts hands back in pockets, sighs, turns to exit*
D: *pops back into frame* Are you sure? Because I had already agreed on fixing the popular vote for Hillary…
M: Nope. Goddamn electoral college got her.
D: *smacks forehead* Gah, the electoral college! How delightfully ironic! And I didn’t even do that one! *exits again, swearing forcefully*