American Culture

Submitted for your consideration: Crossroads Redux

By Ann Ivins

The time: round about midnight

The place: an overgrown junction of two abandoned logging roads, deep in the Piney Woods of East Texas

A handsome brown-eyed man stands alone, almost invisible in the filtered moonlight. If sweat beads his upper lip or pools beneath his shirt, no observer can tell. Slowly he raises his arms, slowly he tilts his chiseled features upward… and a sudden full-throated cry shatters the stillness.

MR: In the name of the Father, in the name of the Son, in the name of the Vice President – I BID THEE RISE!

A crash and a clash as of cymbals, an eye-searing cascade of ruddy light, and from the smoke a form takes shape, a hideously familiar form: blonde helmet of hair, sensible pumps, tastefully unattractive suit. The brown-eyed man begins to babble in terror.

MR: Hil… Hilllla… Hil Hil Hil… oh God I knew it…

The Archfiend (for so it is) doubles over with raucous laughter. When the demon rises, it has assumed the classic horns-tail-pointy-beard manifestation.

S: Got you good, didn’t I? Hoo-ah! Man, I love this job! Ooh, boy! (wiping teary eyes) Whew. Well now, Bubba, what can I do you for?

MR: (utterly off-balance) You are… I mean, you are…?

S: (mimicks him) I are… I are… I ARE the one you’re looking for; leastways, I assume I are. You wasn’t looking for the Angel Gabriel out here in the middle of the night, now? Because I’m a busy disincarnate, son, and if this ain’t a deal in the making… ( growing larger and more horrific)

MR: No! I mean yes, yes! What we talked about before. I’m ready now. I see it all so clearly – you were right. I need your help, and… (he shudders) and I’m willing to pay the price.

S: Well, now. I don’t know as I can help you.

MR: WHAT?

S: That talk we had was a while back, Slick, and I made some other deals since then. As I recollect, you was pretty sure of yourself. Didn’t need my kind of help, now did you?

MR: (already beaten) That was before. I thought I knew who my friends were. I thought… I thought a lot of things.

S: (with dawning understanding) This is about PeeWee, ain’t it? That wily ol’ son of a bitch lined up behind a genuine New York City politico. (chuckles) Scared the starch right out of your drawers and now you come running to me. I could have told you what he’d do right off – if only you’d asked me.

MR: You knew? Then you – he’s the one! He cut a deal with you first!

S: Who? Me and Rudy Jewels? Son, he ain’t had nothing left to bargain with since Ought One. Naw, anyone could have told you where PeeWee was coming down. How come a bright boy like you couldn’t figure it for himself?

MR: But it makes no sense. We have everything in common…

S: Except for that extra scripture.

MR: Well, almost everything! Family values, pro-life, pro-marriage; I don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t cheat on my wife…

S: (yawns)

MR: …and what does he do?

S: (shaking a shaggy head) He puts his money on the fastest horse. Look here, ol’ PeeWee may be apey, but he ain’t stupid. A few dead babies and some riotous sodomites don’t cut much cotton against millions of them godly dollars swirling down the bowl. He reckons your chances to be exactly nil – and listen to me good now, Bubba: he’s right.

MR: You mean – no. No!

S: You. Will. Not. Be. President.

MR: (burying his face in his hands) Then it’s over. It’s all over. You can’t help me. I can’t win. There’s nothing left. (muted weeping)

S: (enjoying the show, then reluctantly) Now that ain’t exactly what I said.

MR: (between sobs) If I cannot lead this great nation back to the path of righteousness, what is there left for me to do? Why am I here? I’ve given my life to the Party; I was willing to give my soul. What else can I give?

S: Maybe…

MR: What?

S: Maybe you can’t give ‘em nothing. But maybe, just maybe, you could get something for that Grand Ol’ Party that no one else can… that no one else has… that every one of ‘em wants…

MR: (slowly raises his head to stare Satan full in the face) You mean…

S: The Answer, son. The Answer. There ain’t a one of your esteemed colleagues got the guts and the price on hand… except you.

MR: (hypnotized) The Answer. The Answer…

S: And who knows? Selling your soul for the greater good might even get you some slack in the end.

MR: No one else can do it?

S: No one. Trust me.

MR: The Answer… (clenching his fists to the sky) I will! I will! May God forgive me! I will!

S: (almost purring) Now this might hurt just a bit…

As the brown-eyed man’s soul is ripped from him in one never-ending extreme of agony, he screams The Question again and again…

MR: HOW… DO… WE BEAT… THE BITCH?!?

And shifting back into a more comfortable form, the Devil leans over the shattered husk lying crumpled on the red dirt and whispers The Answer:

S: The bitch… is YOU. (with a parting stilettoed hoof to the kidneys) And tell your buddies to watch their mouths, Bubba – that kind of language just ain’t funny.

She stalks away.

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