Sympathy for the Devil

The blood oath ceremony disturbed Jerry deeply.  When it was his turn to leave the hooch, he flashed the “thumbs-up”, gripped the ersatz door jambs, and propelled himself into a frenzied run for Chris’s garage.  He grabbed his bike, and pedaled east at a furiously pace.

He stared down Canterbury Street’s dark asphalt pavement, focusing on the black strip   bordered by a white cement curbs on both sides.  It seemed to him the earth had split open and was quaffing the light in huge gulps as it spilled into pools from the two street lamps and from behind the curtained windows of the houses.

Imagination and reality commingled.  Nothing looked familiar as he pedaled toward home, not the cars, nor the houses, which now seemed dull and lifeless, almost as though the evil power at work that night had already sucked the people into the earth’s rapacious gullet.

Crossing Bayview Road to 40th Street did not help.  He was haunted by the feeling that something awful would happen for having set Dill’s house on fire.  And that feeling dogged him as he turned the cranks on his bicycle.

40th Street stood opposite Canterbury. 14 high ranches in seven neat rows measured the space between old and new followed by an abrupt transition.  Well-manicured lawns and an expansive road gave way gravel and mature overhanging trees.  The only sign of life were rural mailboxes and lights twinkling through dense woods.

The lower portion of 40th Street was among the oldest byways in Bayview.  Formerly a narrow country lane called Rabbit’s Run that provided access to an enclave of early black settlers and Secatogue Indians, it was widened to accommodate cars in the 40s and given a layer of gravel in the 50s. The road perpendicularly intersected the main north-south road just shy of the border between Baywood and Bayview proper, from which the narrow byway led east three quarters of a mile into the woods until it dwindled to a small footpath, leading finally to a small shanty village that straddled Stewart’s Creek.

Jerry gripped the bike’s handlebars harder and compulsively ran  his left thumb over his now bloodless index finger, feeling the cross shaped cut as he steered his bicycle onto the gravel road of lower 40th Street.  The upside down cross dripping with blood cast a dark shadow on in his mind.

The blood oath played in a loop. The light from the lantern took on a more sinister greenish yellow glow, the background transformed from dark to red, Joey’s features–lost in the gloaming–took on villainous affect.

His scarecrow face wore a look of terror, the china blue eyes swept the road before him. Jerry shuddered.  “I made a deal with the devil.  I’m going to hell.”

Just past the place where 40th Street changed, Beelzebub sat in the back seat of a candy apple red ’57 Chevy Bel Aire.  The car had a fully worked 327–balanced and blueprinted, bored and stroked, two Holley 1200 CFM carbs, Accel Distributor, uncorked headers.  It was jacked up in the rear with Gabriel air shocks to accommodate the 12 inch wide L 50s mounted on Cragar SS mag wheels.  In the front were a pair of G 78s, with chrome moon hubcaps.  Two of the devil’s minions idled against the trunk.  Both wore black boots, black peg-leg jeans, black T-shirts, black leather jackets, and their black Ray Ban Wayfarers hung rakishly on their pointed ears.  There was no escape.  It was if Jerry a whirling vortex drew him inexorably towards the barrier.  He veered to the left to avoid capture.  The nearest thug reached for his handlebars.

“Where you goin’ in such a hurry kid?”

The Fiend himself emerged from the car.  A black cobra skin shoe, topped with a black silk sock, lowered from the open door.  The other foot followed. Beelzebub effortlessly climbed from the car’s back seat.  He stood bolt up right and reflexively smoothed the wrinkles of his black jeans.  Bub’s outfit (that’s what the Minions called him) was completed with a black silk shirt, and the same sunglasses as the minions.

Wearing a toothy smile, Bub reached into the wallet pocket of his jacket and produced a folded contract and a fountain pen.

Jerry knew what it was and wanted to run away.  The black clad flunkies held tightly to his bicycle.  His urge to resist diminished as Beelzebub drew nearer, until finally all will was gone.

Bub laid the contract on the hood.  “Sign,” the fiend demanded.  He twisted the top of the fountain pen off and, with a manicured hand, proffered the writing instrument to Jerry.

Trembling, the frightened boy scrawled his name on the dotted line in red ink and Bub said, “Glad you could join us.”  A broad, toothy grin grew across his face–both his upper incisors were gold plated.  Bub and his minions started laughing.

When Jerry came to his senses, he was lying on the ground in a pile of rubber and metal. Chester Green, his father, stood over him with a good-natured grin on his face. The first thing the boy felt was embarrassment followed by twinges and burns from the bruises and scrapes scattered along the right side of his body.

“What the hell’s ‘smatter?  I heard a loud crashing against the garage door and found you on the ground.” Said Chester.  He started laughing.

Tears leaked out of the corners of Jerry’s eyes.  He started moving after he realized that the laughing came from his father’s mouth.

Sensing his son’s embarrassment, Chester asked, “You okay?”

“Yeah I’m fine.”

“Why the hell did you ride your bike into the garage door?”

And then answering his own question, Chet added, “You been drinking son?”

“No dad,” replied Jerry in a deadened tone.

“C’mon get yourself up and c’mere. Let me smell your breath.”

Jerry complied. He crawled out from under his bike, stood up and brushed himself off.  He walked toward the breezeway, where his father stood.  Against the light, Jerry still saw a hulking silhouette and an image of his meeting with Lucifer.  The vision barely lasted an instant.

Bending down to Jerry’s face, Chester said, “C’mon now.  Blow.”  Satisfied his son hadn’t been drinking, Chester Green started to laugh again, “Damnedest thing I ever saw.”  And he walked away, “Pick up your bike and put it away.”

Just as they closed the garage door, a throaty rumbling disturbed the silence. The sound approached slowly.  After a few minutes a red ’57 Chevy Bel Aire slowed to a stop in front of the Green’s house.

The engine idled roughly from the racing cam.  The window rolled down.  A voice called out,   “Hey Mr. Green.  It’s Glimpy, uh, Bob Fallon.  Everything okay with Jerry?  We were parked up a ways enjoying the night.  We said hi.  Kid screamed and rode off like he was being chased by the devil. ”

“He’s okay.  What’re doin’ around here?” replied Chester. The sound of two girls giggling tumbled out of the car .  “Never mind.  Thanks for stopping by.”

The Chevy made a U-turn and rolled slowly away.  A few moments later, thunder and squealing erupted followed three loud chirps as Glimpy ran up the tach and power-shifted.  “That guy’s got some car, huh?” said Chet

Jerry grunted and put away his bike.

Leave a Reply