Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before

By Jay Stringer

This is one of those 'clip show' type entries into DSD canon. I posted this story once before on my defunct noir blog. It's the end of a bank holiday weekend over here and I've been doing about a million things. Thought I'd kick back and show you an older story of mine. My voice has moved past this point, and there are things I'm tempted to change. But it's fun to look back. In fact, that's sneaking some merit into this; a good way to remind yourself sometimes of how much you've learned is to look back at old work.

Some days you just can't lift that imaginary pen, and you feel like you have no talent. Pull out a story you wrote a year ago, two years ago, three years ago. Chances are, you'll find something in it that you really like, and find inspiration from it. You'll also probably find a lot of bits that you would do differently now, and that reminds you how much progress you've made.

Try it.

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before.

Paul had long gotten out of the habit of looking up every time a customer walked in through the door. The novelty soon wears off, and you come to the realisation that Angelina Jolie isn’t going to walk in and smile. The top ten of the FBI’s most wanted is not going to take at seat at the bar and order a whiskey.
So the stranger was at the bar before Paul paid him any mind.

“A shot, please,” the guy spoke in an accent free voice.
He was smoking a cigarette and sat slumped forward on his stool.
“Problems?” Said Paul.
“You could say that. I’m the Devil.”
Paul took that in his stride. You heard everything working in a bar. Once, a guy told him he was Mickey Mouse in a previous life. The major supposition there being that Mickey was dead.
“Cool,”said Paul, “Can you turn me some water into wine, I mean if its no trouble.”
“No. That was Jesus.”
“Okay then, a lesser miracle, can you get Wolves promoted?”
“I’m really not about miracles, i'm more into the dammed.”
“Oh, you’re a punk then?”
“Yeah, I was the very first.”
“Okay, you’re the Devil then, for the sake of argument, what’s wrong?”
The Devil finished his drink and took a long drag on his cigarette.
“I’m just feeling a bit, I don’t know, down.”
“Isn’t that the point? Being down?”
“Funny. You’re very funny. Case in point though. I’m feeling misunderstood.”
“You’re the Devil, and you feel misunderstood.”
“I’m not a bad guy.”
“And I bet you hate that. Being an okay kind of guy totally fucks with your job, I suppose.”
“Not really. It I was never really a bad guy, that was never the idea. It started with original sin, and went downhill from there.”
“No kidding, that’s just what the Bible says too.”
“No, no. Be grateful. I’m branded as evil simply because I’m the only honest voice you’ll ever hear. I gave you people choice.”
“Get over yourself. You gave us an apple.”
“Don’t push me Paul, I know what you did in the summer of 1989, just a bit of extra cash, maybe, but it stains.”
Realising he’d never told this guy his name, Paul decided maybe it was best to find something else to do, something else that involves standing two feet further down the bar.
He walked away and began loading the dishwasher, one eye on the television, sky sports news updating the evenings European cup results. The Devil didn’t take the hint, and didn’t seem to see the extra two feet’s distance as an obstacle to conversation.
“You see, the problem inherent in the whole system is you guys.”
“Well, Demons, they are generally inclined to do bad things. And the Angels, they are generally required to do good things. But you want something really evil doing, something that was truly born in the dark heart of madness, you need a human. Humans can come up with things I could never dream of.”
“You mean Like Hitler?”
“No, I mean like Walt Disney. That mouse is fucking evil. There’s something in his eyes, it gives me the creeps’.
“But I thought Mickey was dead.”
“The mouse isn’t dead. He’s just sitting and watching. He’s waiting.”
“Have you thought about talking to God about this little mid-life crisis?”
“Seriously, you ever tried talking to her? There’s not a lot of two way conversation goes on there.”
“Not even for you?”
“Especially not for me, she hates me. It’s a thing.”
“Well, you did lead a rebellion.”
“No I fucking didn’t. That’s just all her friends talking for her, giving me a bad name. What I did, I cheated on her.”
“You and God were a couple?”
“Too fucking right we were. Then, well, in the days before, there was nothing to do, really, and there were all these seraphim floating round, and looking all angelic…”
“You cheated on god?”
“And boy have I paid for it. I’m stuck down here with you lot, who are far worse than I ever was. And you know what? She created you in my image. Damned to spend eternity surrounded with copies of myself, to be reminded what a shit I am.”
“So that’s it. The whole thing. The hole point to life, for us, is a break up”
“And doesn’t that explain a lot for you? Your whole constant feeling of missing something. The slight uneasy notion that you are really just a bit of a shit?”
“You’ve got an answer for everything, haven’t you? Some witty line for all occasions.”
“That’s the point, of course I have.”
“That’s impossible. Not every question can be answered, can’t be done.”
“I’m living proof.”
“I tell you, I can come up with a question you can’t answer, I bet you.”
“Yeah, sure, why not.”
“You know my price.”
The devil pulled out another cigarette, already lit.
“I can do it, no hassle”
“I mean, think about it first, I’ve heard everything.”
“No, lets do it, I bet you, and when I win, you’ll make it so I own this bar.”
“That’s it? All of time and space, all of creation, all the money in the world, and the sum total of your ambition is to own this bar?”
“Not even, like cbgb’s? studio 54? The viper room?”
“Nah, this place will do me”.
They shook hands.
Paul noting how the Devils palm was warm.
“Okay, here we go. You ready?”
“I can’t wait.”
Paul cleared his throat. “Why?”
“Is that your question? Seriously?”
“Yeah.” Paul not feeling so good now.
“I mean, when I said ‘i’ve heard everything’, that included debated with sixth form students and drunks underneath the expressway."
Paul dried a glass.
The force of his grip almost enough to shatter it.
The devil stood up of his stool and blew smoke in Paul’s face.
“The answer you’re looking for,” he said with a scary smile. “Is ‘Why not?’”
He downed another dink.
He winked at Paul.
“Thanks, I’m feeling a lot better.” He said, “And I’ll see you later.”


Paul D Brazill said...

Smashing! Did enjoy that.

Thomas Pluck said...

I should have seen that coming, but you win some, you lose some, and the Devil is a tough customer.

Al Tucher said...

"Humans can come up with things I could never dream of."

Love it!