“I don’t need you any more,” says Mickey. He is in the best of good moods. He bounces from foot to foot, like a Dad dancing embarrassingly at a wedding.
The Devil has appeared as a little red sprite, little bigger than your thumb. It is one of his weekend forms. Think of it as a midweek gardening body which he uses when his Sunday-best body is in the wash.
“Toodly too, toodly toodly too!” chortles Mickey, cheerfully strangling a once-proud choon.
“And what is it that has cheered you so?” asks the Devil in a surprisingly large and booming voice for such a teensy body.
Mickey pumps out his chest. “I am now the owner of …”
Insert metaphorical drum roll here. Or any other kind of drum roll that takes your fancy.
“… a pig.”
The little pop-popping sound you can hear is the devil laughing so hard that he involuntarily flatulates in little mushroom clouds of acrid sulphur.
“It’s not just any old pig,” says Mickey. “This is the pig that lays the golden eggs.”
Work with me on this one. The Devil, in the form of a tiny sprite, stops his accidental air pollution and stares open-mouthed like a goldfish at Mickey. That’s one devil, tiny. Flatulence, stopped. Mouth open like a goldfish.
“I bought it from a man in the pub,” says Mickey. “For the bargain price of eight pennies. That’s nearly my entire week’s wages. But it’ll be worth it when it starts laying those eggs.”
“Has it laid any eggs so far?”
Mickey’s smile slips ever so slightly. “Well, um, no. But that’s because I wasn’t feeding it the right grains.”
“The right grains?”
“Indeedy,” says Mickey. “You can’t grow golden eggs from any old grains. Everybody knows that! You needs special golden grains.”
The Devil cracks a perfectly evil grin. “Let me guess. The bloke in the pub sold you the grains as well?”
“Well, of course. Golden grains was on special offer. Got ’em for a bargain.”
“And that cost you the rest of your wages, no doubt.”
“How did you guess?” asks Mickey.
The Devil is trying demonfully to suppress the outward signs of merriment. “Might I see this miraculous porker?”
Mickey produces the beast. Truth be told, it is a wizened old pig with knock-knees, a wrinkled snout and mismatched ears. It is so scrawny that it would hardly give Patti a decent bacon sandwich. Plus some lardons.
“Behold!” says Mickey, in his best Gandalf impersonation. “Here be the legendary pig what lays the golden eggs. When it’s got used to its surroundings, naturally.”
The Devil in sprite form flits around the pig. He lifts its snaggly ears and peers inside. Prods its hindquarters. Fondles its fetlocks. Nurses its nether regions.
“Aha!” says the Devil. “I thought as much. Come, look at this.” He cocks a come-here finger in Mickey’s direction.
Mickeys gets down on his hands and knees, all the better to see the feature to which the Devil is pointing. Said item of interest is on the underside of said farm animal, betwixt its bandy legs.
“And what do you think that is?” asks the Devil.
Mickey stares. “Well, it’s … um … it’s a thingie.”
“Thingie? THINGIE?” thunders the Devil. “Don’t be coy with me. I’ve seen your darkest thoughts about what you’d like to do to Rosie. Call it for what it is, my boy.”
“Well, if you insist,” says Mickey. “It’s … ahem … a pizzle. A babymaker. A whatnot.”
“Exactly! This pig has … (wait for it) … a penis!”
Mickey huffs a ‘so-what’ expression. “I knew that. I was going to call him Nigel.”
It is not often that the Satanic One is lost for words. He can normally find the right nuanced phrase for any particular occasion. A bon mot, or in his case a mal mot. A choice insult dripping with bile. At that precise moment, the evil sprite is bereft of inspiration. Struck dumb he is.
Mickey picks Nigel up and cuddles him in his arms. “Now, if you don’t mind, I don’t want to hurt his feelings. A contented pig don’t lay no eggs. That’s what the bloke in the pub said.”
The Devil hops onto Mickey’s shoulder. It his usual perch when he is in sprite form, all the better to whisper sweet nothings into Mickey’s ear.
“I have one question for you,” says the Devil. “Call it a riddle, if you will.”
“Oooh, I like riddles.”
“I don’t think you’ll like this one. What does the bloke in the pub get from the deal?”
Mickey cocks his head as if this is stooopidest question in the world. “Why, he gets eight pennies for the pig and two pennies for the golden grain.”
“And what do you get?”
Mickey points at the ancient pig in his arms. “Nigel”, he says. “Plus a regular income before tax in the form of eggs made of pure gold.”
“These eggs are worth more than the ten pennies you paid?”
“Ooh, yes, muchly,” says Mickey. His pride is currently hovering around a 10 on the smugometer.
“So why did the bloke sell you the pig?”
From 10 on the smugometer to zero. “He said it was on special offer.”
Mickey tries to think of a good answer, but none comes. He knows why he bought the pig, but he can’t understand the other side of the deal.
The Devil slips into lecture mode. “How many times have I got to tell you this? If someone tries to sell you something, it’s because they’re making a profit from it. It doesn’t matter whether they’re selling you a pig, a car, an insurance policy, online gambling, stocks and shares, whatever.”
“What are shocks and stares?” asks Mickey.
“We’ll talk about them later. For now, remember this. If someone sells you something, it’s because they are making a profit. So where in the name of all that is unholy is your profit going to come from?”
Mickey takes a moment to think about all of this. He looks at Nigel, who stares back at him.
“Well, it’s not all bad news,” says Mickey. “While we’re waiting for him to start laying his golden eggs, the bloke says we can get at least a pint of milk a day from him.”
“Oh, good grief,” says the Devil, who promptly vanishes.