First published in 1979 by Leonard Wibberley
As you perhaps know, I am in the habit of holding conversations now and again with people of historical importance, whether I am acquainted with them or not.
The other day, having little to do, I summoned up His Satanic Majesty for a chat. Always courteous, he appeared immediately and offered me a low-tar cigarette with a huge filter on it.
“I have taken to carrying these around,” he said “for I do not like to hurry people out of their mortality. Once I have them the game is over – the love affair ends as it were. It would actually be better if you did not smoke at all, but then I have always known how difficult it is for you to resist temptation.”
“I hardly expected you and the Surgeon General to be on the same side of the fence,” I said. “And as for temptation, it is only the attractive ones that I have trouble resisting. Unattractive temptations I can put aside with impunity.”
“There are such temptations?” he asked.
“Of course there are – exercising, for instance, following a diet, taking prescribed medicines regularly. Acting sensibly. All these are unpleasant temptations with which I can readily cope. But what I wanted to do, my dear Lucifer, was to congratulate you on the tremendous progress you are making in capturing men’s souls. You are not, I trust, a feminist, and will understand that by ‘men’s’ I mean the souls of both men and women.”
“Give me a for instance,” he said.
“Well, there was the case of that 91-year-old woman in Texas, turned in by a grocery clerk for stealing a few dollars worth of food. Surely the legions of Hell held a torchlight parade in celebration of that victory over Christianity.”
“My dear foolish Leonard,” he replied. “What a disappointment you are to me. If you have any hope at all of winning your way into my domain, you are just going to have to do a lot more thinking than you seem capable of now. Sending a 91-year-old woman to the pokey for stealing food isn’t the kind of rich, high quality malevolence which wins Hell. It’s just following the rules. I will have absolutely nothing to do with people who just follow the rules, and if you are going to write up this interview please put it down plainly that Hell is not filled with Heaven’s unimaginative rejects. We require something more spirited than that.”
“But wasn’t it a piece of high quality evil to arrest a poor old lady for stealing food which she needed badly?” I asked.
“Of course not,” said Lucifer. "There was no intention to be deliciously heartless. I’ll admit it was a failure of Christianity and perhaps even Zen Buddism, and I did call Heaven (we have an emergency line, you know, for consultation over matters of mutual interest) and commiserate with them over the poor showing. I got the usual stuffy reply – there’s really not much sensitivity towards us up there.”
“What was the reply?” I asked.
“Oh, they’d only been 2,000 years at the job. Give them a million and I’d see the difference. And when reminded that they probably hadn’t got much more than 25 years left, they said that was my fault – the stuff about the serpent and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Have you any more for instances for me?”
“There was the man who kicked a child to death for interrupting a television program.”
“Please,” said Lucifer. “Please. Let’s not mix up pathological behavior with the creative malevolence which I demand from my followers. I simply will not fill Hell with the mentally unbalanced.”
“So I was quite wrong to offer you my congratulations on your success in enslaving the souls of men?” I asked.
Lucifer smiled. His smile is fascinating – it lies somewhere between that of the late Clark Gable and the gleam of a silver nameplate on a coffin.
“Creative malevolence,” he repeated. “That’s the key. Do turn on your television set every now and then and take a look at the quality of the programming. That’s what we hold our torchlight parades through the glowing canyons of coal for. Interrupted, as is only proper, by commercials for dog food, and items of feminine hygiene.”
Leonard wrote a series of murder mysteries about a priest-turned-amateur detective named Father Bredder who both solves crimes and saves souls under the pen name Leonard Holton.
The series was made into a television show in the 70s starring George Kennedy called "Sarge."
The next book in the series, A Pact With Satan
, is now available for the first time on Kindle. To read a free sample click here:
Father Joseph Bredder thought Mrs. Wentworth must be deranged. How could a sane woman expect him to believe that her dead husband was trying to burn her to death? Dr. Wentworth had died in a road accident when his car had crashed into a pylon and burst into flames. Now his widow heard his voice at night, threatening her with the same fate…
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