“Is that it?” asks Mickey. “I was hoping for something a little more …”
Hopping from cloven hoof to cloven hoof, the Devil jumps over the line he had scored in the ground. His horny tail flicks from side to side like a sidewinder watching tennis. He looks to be enjoying himself immensely. Far more than a sidewinder would if, for the purposes of simile, we forced it to watch tennis.
Snakes and ball games are not normally a good mix, whether as a spectator or participant.
If we were being needlessly cruel we might say that the Satanic One’s prancing was one part Dad dancing at a wedding and one part Ibiza yoof party after too many vodka shots. But seeing as he is the Prince of Darkness and has the power to damn your soul to eternal sizzle at gas mark 12, 400 degrees frankencelsius, it’s probably best not to say it. Not to his face.
Very fine dancing, your Fiendishness.
Mickey strokes his chin. “I mean, you promised me the secret of wealth, love, success and time. I thought you’d just …”
The Devil stops his cavorting. Little puffs of steam flick from his nostrils as he tries to pretend that he isn’t just a teensy bit out of breath.
“Let me guess … you want a shazam, don’t you?” asks Lucifer. “A sudden flash of magic? An instant shower of gold at the end of the rainbow? All six numbers plus the bonus ball plus a supermodel’s telephone number? Right here, right now.”
“Well … um … if it’s not too much to ask. You are the Devil, after all.”
The Devil throws up his hands in exasperation and looks down to the ground. It is his version of the mortal gesture of looking up to the heavens. Only for his Nastiness up is down and down is up. And so he shrugs by staring down at the Underworld.
It’s a demon thing, you understand.
“Always a bloody shazam,” says the Devil. “You humans are all the same. Forever in a hurry. Rush, rush, rush. You’re mammals not chuffing gadflies, for devil’s sake!”
“I see,” says Mickey, feeling a bit of cheekiness coming on. “If you can’t do it …”
The Satanic One fixes him with a glittering dark eye, the colour of beetles. And no I don’t mean John, Paul, George and Ringo. “Of course I can do it. I’m making a point.”
“Making a point, eh? Is that what it’s called?” Mickey can’t resist a smile.
“Listen, mortal. Why should I want to do anything quickly? When I torture a soul, I like to spend a hideously long time. Years, decades, centuries, millennia. You really get to know someone when you boil them in brimstone for more than a thousand years. Imagine trying to squeeze that in between 10 and 11 on a busy Monday morning!”
“That doesn’t sound very nice.”
“It’s not supposed to sound nice. And when you stare at Rosie through her bedroom window, you don’t want that to be over in a flash. Do you?”
Mickey blushes. “You know about that?”
“Of course I know. I’m the Devil. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing slowly.”
“Hmmm,” says Mickey, thinking impure thoughts about Rosie.
“Yeuck,” says the Devil, reading his mind.
A little green demon flashes into existence on the Devil’s shoulder. It chuckles like a mad thing for a few seconds. Its portly sides heave and twitch as it guffaws, chortles, giggles and does all manner of other things from page 252 of the thesaurus. The Devil clicks his fingers and the green demon disappears.
“Okay, okay, I’ll give you a shazam,” says the Prince of Pain, the master of fifty shades of ‘ooh bloody hell, that hurt’.
He waves his hand in a mysterious gesture side to sidey gesture. In another universe it might convince the weak-willed that these aren’t the droids you are looking for. You can go about your business.
A weird ghostly haze descends over the village. It is a bit like a sparkly 1970s disco version of an uncanny zombie fog. Think dry ice and sparkly glitter. That’s the one. You’ve got it.
Mickey stares on intently. This is more like it. This is real magic and not this mumbo jumbo about jumping over lines.
“The village folk can’t see the mist, can they?” he asks.
“No they can’t. It’s only there for illustrative purposes. It’s a metaphorical fog. Now watch.”
Mickey can make out little pin pricks of light moving between the houses. They are scuttling along the ground, like … like … like little pin-pricks of light scuttling along the ground. Fireflies. Fire ants. Something like that.
“What are those little pin pricks of light scuttling along the ground like little pin-pricks of light scuttling along the ground?” asks Mickey, extending the joke a little too far.
“That’s what I wanted you to see,” says the Devil. “That is money, wealth and happiness. Escaping from one house where it isn’t happy. Running to find somewhere more to its tastes. That’s the first rule of money. It doesn’t stay put.”
“Huh indeed, my friend. But look more closely. Where is the money going?”
Mickey looks back at the village. The ghostly pin pricks now look like coins. Fat little anthropomorphic coins with legs. Some of those legs terminate with chunk hobnail boots and some with running shoes. Mickey spotted at least one coin wearing Jimmy Choos with killer “Friday night” high heels. In white.
Mickey feels a stirring in his nether regions. It is a coin from his pocket, the brass penny he was saving to buy a pint and a pie at the Slaughtered Lamb pub. Mickey tries to catch it, but the penny is too fast. It wriggles from his grasp and runs like a Jamaican sprinter away to the village.
He tries to convince himself that it’s only a metaphor. It still feels like he is a penny poorer than he was.
Then Mickey notices something. “The money … it’s going from the poor houses to the rich. Surely that’s the wrong way round?”
The Devil claps him on the shoulder with the force of a twenty stone Llanelli prop forward tackling a ballet dancer. “That’s it! I’ll make a devil out of you yet. That’s what most people can’t see. Money is born in the fields and dug up with a farmer’s honest back-breaking swink. Then the poor folk give it to the rich folk. How do you think the rich get rich?”
“Um … ah … well … now you come to mention it. I don’t know.”
“The line, Mickey, the line!” says the Devil, returning to his jumping. “Some folks live their life in debt. They’re living below the line. They borrow money and give interest to the money lenders. They throw their money away with gambling. They give their money away.”
Mickey’s eyes burn with latent socialist tendencies and dreams of being Robin Hood. “That so unfair! We must do something.”
The Devil points to his cloven hooves jumping over the line. “Of course we must do something. We must be one of those people on the happy side of the line. We must get people to give money to us.”
“Oh,” says Mickey.
The Devil grins. It is a shazam of sorts. Nothing changes in the world. Mickey isn’t one coin richer than he was before. But there is the slightest of gleams in Mickey’s eye. The beginning of understanding.
“Cheer up,” says the Devil. “Tomorrow we can watch money fornicating. That will be fun.”