Mickey is not feeling best pleased. He has just discovered a hole in the knee of his best trousers. They are also his working trousers, his Sunday best trousers and his Rosie-courting trousers.
Truth be told, they are his only trousers.
He picks at the hole, hoping beyond hope that pulling at the loose threads will make the hole magically disappear. I know it’s not very logical. It’s a man thing.
“You’ll be needing a new pair of trews, my young customer,” says the Devil, appearing out of nowhere as suddenly and unexpected as a hole in the knee of your trousers. Only with a more pronounced smell of sulphur. You don’t get that from wardrobe malfunctions. Usually.
“Nah, I’ll ask me Mum to put a patch on it.”
“A patch? A PATCH?” thunders the Devil, with caps lock on. “And how will you attract the eye of fair Rosie with a patch on your kecks?”
“How many coins have you got?”
Mickey does a quick count. “Eight pennies an’ a brass farthing. That’s got to last me till payday.”
“Why, but you are in luck,” says the Devil. “It just so happens that I can sell you trousers from the future. Hard wearing, fashionable, comfortable. They even come with a ridiculously tiny pocket inside a pocket that has been there for so long we have forgotten what it’s for. And which is frankly too small to be much use.”
The Devil is holding a neat bundle of cloth of such a beautiful blue that it looks like a summer sky. Or Rosie’s right eye, on account of her left being made of glass. He strokes the garment seductively. Mmm. Soft and silky.
“I dunno,” says Mickey. “I was saving it up for a pint or three this e’en.”
“I’ll tell you what I’ll do. Seeing as it’s you. These trousers from the future normally cost many many of your pennies. But there is a sale on today. They will only cost you eight pennies.”
Mickey gives him a sour onion smile. “Aye? The exact same amount what I’ve got in my pockets? That’s some coincidence, ain’t it?”
“Plus a farthing for the sales tax, naturally,” says the Cruel One. “It’s a great deal. You’re saving hundreds compared with the normal retail price.”
“I don’t know …”
Satan hugs him close, a strange smell of stale sweat and brimstone. He points a horny hand at the far horizon. “Let me tell you a story about these trousers…
One day, brave mariners will set sail over the endless ocean of the setting sun. They will be looking for a short-cut to a curry, but we don’t need to worry about that right now.
After many days of sailing, they will find that the endless ocean isn’t endless after all. There is a whole new continent waiting to be discovered. A land of gold and riches that men will call Americky.
Then the call will go out across all the lands of Europe. There’s gold in them thar hills! And men like you will travel for hundreds of miles in search of fame and fortune.
“Do they find gold?” asks Mickey, who can never resist a story about the ends of rainbows.
“After a fashion,” says the Devil. “Now if I can return to my italics…”
Many thousands of folks made that dangerous trip. Across the pitiless ocean, dodging icebergs. Then across a hostile continent full of indigenous folk that they will call Indians because they are still looking for that curry.
They will find gold, but not where you think. Some hard working folk will dig gold out of the ground, plant corn, grow cattle. But a few clever folk will make fortunes by selling stuff to the miners and farmers. The clothes that they wear. The railroads. The banks. Ladies of easy virtue. Burgers and pizzas. Double glazing. Motor cars. Consumer electronics. Mobile phones. Widescreen televisions.
“Huh?” asks Mickey.
The Devil ponders for a little while. “Maybe you’re not quite ready for that yet. Trust me on this. One day you will covet every single one of these things.”
“The bible says I mustn’t covet my neighbour’s ass,” says Mickey, dimly remembering from one his few trips to church.
“Does your neighbour have a nice ass?”
“Not as nice as Rosie’s.”
“That’s the spirit,” says the Devil. “You see, you humans are never truly happy. It doesn’t matter what you’ve got. You always want a little bit more. The next big thing. An upgrade.”
“I’d just settle for a new pair of trews and Rosie’s affections,” says Mickey.
“Really? And how’s about a mansion? A horse drawn carriage with a full leather interior, 24 inch alloy rims and a full complement of cup holders?” The Devil’s words are honeyed balm, sweet and beguiling enough to talk even the shyest virgin out of his or her undercrackers.
“Well, of course, I’d want a mansion. And a four horse GTI. Who wouldn’t?”
“Then you’ll be needing a new pair of trews. You can’t walk into your mansion with Rosie on your arm if you are dressed like a ragamuffin. Or any other form of baked breakfast comestible.”
Mickey is hovering somewhere between unconvinced and wavering. “I don’t know. Those eight pennies will buy a lot of beer.”
His Satanic Majesty throws a brotherly arm around Mickey. Given his day job, he has quite a pile of spare dismembered arms, brotherly or otherwise. But this is the Devil’s arm, still attached to the Devil’s shoulder.
“Mickey, my friend, there are two kinds of people in this world. There are wolves and there are sheep. The sheep are never happy, because the wolves are whispering in their ear about the next new shiny thing. Even shinier than their last shiny thing. And of course, the wolves are the ones selling the shiny things.”
“Aha! Got you!” exclaims Mickey. “And you’re asking me to buy a new pair of trews? Doesn’t that make me a sheep and you a wolf?”
The sweet smile on the Devil’s face could charm a nun out of her virginity. “Ah, but don’t you realise that all the wolves wear trousers just like these?”
Mike waivers, quavers, hesitates, cogitates, gives in, capitulates. He hands over the eight pennies and brass farthing. One might say he hands them over sheepishly.
The Devil gives him the wondrously soft blue trousers. “Here you go. In the future they will be called blue jeans and will be the height of fashion.”
“Turn around,” says Mickey.
“TURN AROUND? I am the Dark Lord. I have seen into the deepest and most depraved corners of your soul. You have nothing to show me that I haven’t seen a thousand times.”
“Oh, alright then.” Mickey quickly wriggles out of his old trousers and into the new blue jeans. The result is quite a picture. From the waist up, he is medieval peasant. From the waist down he could be any yoof on any high street.
“Hang on a minute,” says Mickey. “These trews have already got holes in them!”
The Devil grins. “That’s how all the young dudes are wearing them. Now, you’ll be needing a loan until payday. It just so happens that I could lend you eight pennies and a farthing. At a piffling rate of interest, of course.”