Wilbur Watson had made up his mind. He was going to sell his soul to the devil. At thirty-three years of age, Wilbur had to admit he was a hopeless case. A professional hard luck guy, that was Wilbur. Not once in his life did he ever do anything right.
He never had a job in his life. He was useless with his constantly shaking hands, and his pea-sized brain was just as useless. He had once even gone into a local grocery store to inquire about a CUSTOMERS WANTED joke advert.
Another thing about Wilbur, unsurprisingly enough, is that he never had a steady girlfriend. What else could be expected from some one who opened his chat-up lines with “what’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this”? or “do you come here often”?
Wilbur’s full name, as a matter of fact, was Wilbur Walter Watson. How on earth his parents could have lumbered him with such a moniker was totally beyond any understanding.
But Wilbur knew the solution to his problem. If he could only be a millionaire he could have all the girlfriends and respect he craved. And Wilbur knew exactly how to become a millionaire. All he had to do was sell his soul to the devil.
The following day, Wilbur paid a visit to his local library. In his thick Aran jumper, big collared shirt, flares and platforms, he looked ridiculous enough…even without the Stetson on his head. He took the hat off to the lady at the information desk. She had an old fashioned schoolteacher’s look about her with her thick glasses and stony features.
“Hello, ma’am”, he said, just as he always did when greeting women he didn’t know. “I’m looking for a book on the devil. You know, black magic and stuff?”
Such a request would likely have raised a few eyebrows, but not from this lady. Her job was to give information, not opinions. She directed him to the Occult section where Wilbur, no doubt, was hoping to find a book entitled HOW TO RAISE THE DEVIL IN ONE EASY LESSON. Instead, he found what he was seeking in the form of THE CALLING OF DEMONS.
That night Wilbur found himself kneeling in the centre of a chalked pentagram on his tiled kitchen floor. The light was off and some candles surrounding the pentagram illuminated the darkness. For several hours he had been waving his arms about muttering all kinds of hocus pocus when suddenly a blinding flash of light nearly knocked him clear off his feet. He could see nothing but a thick cloud of smoke, which had a sulphuric smell. When it cleared, an elderly man stood before an astonished Wilbur. He was about five foot eight, had silvery grey hair on the back and sides of his head (bald on top) and wore glasses, though not as thick-lensed as Wilbur’s.
“Who are you?” Wilbur asked stupidly.
“I am Satan”
Lord of hades
as hell. Tel: 666
“But,” Wilbur stammered, “you’re almost totally bald, you’re wearing glasses and…is that a hearing aid I see? Yes, it is. “
“Oh yeah?” the devil said angrily. “What do you expect from someone who’s countless centuries old? Peter Pan?” He looked Wilbur up and down. “Anyway, who are you to criticise anyone’s appearance? You’re not exactly an oil painting yourself.”
“I didn’t mean to offend you.” Wilbur apologised. “It’s just that you look nothing like how I imagined you would”> Wilbur, needless to say, had always pictured the stereotyped devil with horns, goatee, and tail and cloven hooves, usually holding a trident.
“Let’s go somewhere more comfortable,” said the devil. “This kitchen is too cold and I’m not used to cold places.”
Wilbur brought the devil to the living room. The fire was lit but the coal was taking its time in catching on.
“I’m thirsty”, the devil said. “I don’t suppose you have a beer or two handy?
Wilbur shook his head. “Sorry, I’m all out.”
“Some host you are” the devil said as he sat down on an armchair. “You call me up and don’t even have a drink to offer me.”
Wilbur felt guilty, but he’d never counted on the devil requesting a drink. “Can’t you just snap your fingers and make a can of beer suddenly appear in your hand?” he asked.
The devil nodded his head. “I could but I’m not going to. That would be like inviting a neighbour into your home and expecting them to bring their own tea.”
Having no answer to that, Wilbur got down to the business at hand. “I want to sell you my soul,” he declared.
“Really?” the devil asked in a less-than-interested tone. “And here I was thinking you called me up to admire the décor.”
“All right, all right,” Wilbur snapped, thinking there was nothing worse than a smart arse devil. “Just listen, ok? My life hasn’t been worth a toss since the day I was born, but that would all change if I were a millionaire. I’m willing to sell my soul to you for a million Euro.”
The devil massaged his chin in exaggerated consideration and said. “Is that so? And what makes you think I’d have any use for your crappy soul?”
“Let me ask you something, Wilbur,” said the devil. “Can you count the amount of hairs on your head? Or the number of stars that are in the sky? No you cannot. Therefore, you cannot possibly imagine the number of souls I already possesses. I tell you, Wilbur, there are more souls in my domain than there are grains of sand in the Sahara…so I’m hardly desperate for YOUR soul.”
“Besides.” The devil went on, “that chap upstairs, the Almighty God to you, is a very jealous Fellow. I mean, I was living the high life in Heaven until he discovered I was just as good as he was, if not better, so he kicked me out on my arse. So I reckon the chances are he’ll be so peeved at you coming to me in the first place that he won’t want you. It looks very likely that I’ll get your soul anyway, at no cost.
Wilbur stared aghast at the devil. He had never taken this into consideration. Was this what his life had come down to? Couldn’t he even make a pact with the devil without goofing up? Tears of frustration swelled up in his eyes.
“Please!” he begged. “For once in my miserable life I want to do something worthwhile.” It could well have been argued that making any form of pact with the devil was far from “worthwhile”, but such an argument would’ve falling on deaf ears to Wilbur Watson.
He devil sighed. “Oh do dry up! A big hefty fellow like you ought to be ashamed, blubbering like a baby. Very well, you may have your million Euros. Anything to shut you up. But we have to make the deal legal.”
The devil clicked his fingers and conjured up a contract for Wilbur to sign. Wilbur read the contract (I, Satan the devil, agree to purchase the soul of one Wilbur Watson for the sum of one million Euro-daylight robbery if you ask me-and I…etc…etc). The devil’s signature was already on the contract, and Wilbur had to sign his agreement to the devil’s terms. “Here’s a pen”, said the devil, conjuring up a ballpoint.
Wilbur looked confusingly at the pen. “Don’t I sign in blood?”
The devil shrugged. “If you wish, but I do think you’ll find it easier to use a pen.”
“But,” said Wilbur, “I thought these contracts had to be signed in blood.”
The devil tutted. “Where have you been for the past ten thousand years? That was only a rule in medieval times because pens hadn’t been invented. Anyway, there are two good reasons why I never liked having my contracts signed in blood.”
“And what are they?” Wilbur asked.
“One reason,” the devil replied, “is because although no two signatures are alike, loads of blood types are the same, so I’d never be able to prove I had a person’s blood mark. Therefore, I’d get a lot of lousy welchers.”
“I see,” said Wilbur. “What’s the other reason why you don’t like blood signatures?”
“The sight of blood sickens my stomach.”
“Oh,” said Wilbur, not really knowing what else to say. Deciding there was nothing else for him to do; he signed the devil’s contract.
“That’s that.” The devil said, folding the contract and putting it into his
pocket. “Tomorrow you’ll receive a cheque for a million Euro.”
“Yeah,” Wilbur said sarcastically, “and it’ll bounce like a basketball.”
The devil looked genuinely insulted. “You don’t think I’d cheat, do you?”
“I don’t know,” Wilbur admitted, but you don’t exactly have an honest reputation.”
“No,” Wilbur replied, almost apologetically. “The Bible makes you out to be a real stinker.”
“Is that so?”
“You’ve never read the Bible?” Wilbur asked. He thought it very strange that the devil had never read a book (or, to be more precise, a collection of books) where he had a major role.
“I am the lord of evil, Wilbur,” the devil reminded him. “What would I be doing reading a holy book?”
“Good point,” Wilbur conceded. “Anyway, the Bible doesn’t have a single favourable thing to say about you.”
“Well that figures,” said the devil. “This Bible is the word of God, so it’s obvious He’ll glorify Himself and run me down. I’d sue him for slander if he didn’t have the best solicitors in his pocket.”
“I never thought of that” Wilbur admitted. “But how do you know the Bible is God’s word if you’ve never read it?”
“Wilbur,” the devil sighed, “have you ever read any Shakespeare?”
“No,” Wilbur answered. “I could never get my head around it.”
“But you know all about Hamlet, don’t you?”
Wilbur nodded his head.
“I rest my case,” the devil said triumphantly.
So Wilbur, having no answer to that one, decided to trust the devil not to cheat him. He really didn’t have much choice.
The following morning, Wilbur awoke to the sound of an envelope being popped through his letterbox. He leapt from the bed and raced downstairs. Filled with indescribable excitement, he tore open the envelope and removed the cheque. Then he kissed it. It was the most glorious thing he had ever set his eyes upon. He beamed as he read: TO PAY WILBUR WALTER WATSON THE SUM OF ONE MILLION EURO ONLY.
When he read over the cheque again, however, he began to cry his eyes out. He started shouting at the top of his voice, cursing and swearing, and stamping about like a spoilt toddler throwing a tantrum.
The devil had kept his part of the bargain. The cheque was one hundred percent genuine, of that there was no doubt. But for all the good it was going to do Wilbur, he might as well have used it for wiping his arse.
How was he ever going to cash a cheque, which had FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF HADES, printed on it?
Written by Jimmy O’Beirne. 29/6/03.