Posted on: January 1, 2015
Keaton D’Amato once asked me if I’d heard of Robert Johnson. Sure, I replied. Old blues man. That’s right, replied D’Amato. Went to the crossroads, sold his soul to the Devil so he could play the blues. Hmm, I said.
Years later I’m staring down the crossroads. I’ve come to sell my soul to the Devil so I can play my own type of blues, an endeavor that might prove useful thanks to my precarious position on God’s existence. There are however some hiccups in this logic, the old chicken or the egg question of the Godly folk. Can you have the Devil without God?
The blind gypsy man that sent me here said, sure. He said, I don’t know much ‘bout God but me n’ the Devil is real close. He had a cackle laugh and wore a bracelet made of turtle bones. He who’d spent too much time in the Louisiana bayou, too much time with his handmade-dolls whom he called his kiddies, one too many fried gator tongues for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. After I meet the Devil and make the soul-transaction, I plan on writing a short story about the gypsy man -- Wallace was his name.
So like some southern gothic Odysseus signpost, old blind Wallace pointed me west further into the swamp. Out there innit! He pointed and cackled and we both disappeared into the darkness going opposite directions.
As I sludged deeper I thought of my mother. She was dead but once she’d been grand, beautiful like purple clouds spitting lightning during a summer storm, a chill in the air, a breeze on your cheek. She was a believer and a good person, but she died too young. Ain’t nobody say it’d be like this she wheezed, her last words on a bed with bad springs, in a room with yellow water stains on the ceilings and harsh light. Oh well. So it goes.
The surrounding sounds had a life of their own, given my imagination. The wind played tricks with my mind and my senses went spinning in all sorts of misshapen directions, like my inherent fear was dealing with a nasty bout of vertigo. After some time in the dark, as the sky got light and the day’s engine choked to life, I turned a corner and saw three lovelies.
Three, my favorite number. Rolls off the tongue like honey. Better than a pair and stronger than a group. An equal balance with one in the middle, the trio was tied to a whipping post, wearing black scraps that once looked like clothes. Help! they cried, so I went and took my knife, bent low and released them. I gave them water and they were grateful. My name is Mary Lou, said the most beautiful. She had ringlets of blonde hair matted with blood red mud, and in the morning light the swamp was like a church of crimson, a mysterious mist of burgundy that I had not encountered before nor since. The remaining pair were lookers as well with red hair like fire that stood out even from the scarlet swamp. They were named Suzy Q, and Jenny Boo. Respectively.
It’s a fine mornin’ for a rescue, said Suzy Q. We appreciate you kindly. I asked them what had them all tied up and they looked to the ground like little girls, and rubbed their toes in the mud like they was ballet pointing, and finally Jenny Boo - speaking like Nabakov’s Lolita - said, It’s the Devil that done us like this. I told them that was awful unjust, however, I had dealings with the Devil and if they could point me in the right direction I would forever be on bended knee in great appreciation. Mister, asked Suzy, What kinda business you got with that ol’ rascal? I told them of my plan to barter my soul, and they all three shrugged and said in a ghostly chorus, Ain’t no weight in a soul misplaced. I got the shivers right down to my little toe when they pointed me west, but I thanked them kindly and went on my way. I could hear them giggling for miles after that like they had been carried by the wind.
The sun hung up in the sky like a lightbulb, and it musta’ been damn near noon when I came across the building with the peeling paint walls. I came upon a long hallway feeling fine until I heard a noise of rustlin’ at the far end like a creature coming out of the brush, like when me and Daddy went pig hunting, and at that moment the sky went dark and the sun got all eaten up by the hungry sky. It was dark and chilly and that rustlin’ kept getting louder and I was truly afraid.
That darkness seeped into me, and from it came a voice like a thousand crying angels and it said, I’ve been waiting for you, boy! I couldn’t see nothing, but I could feel a presence on the other end of the hall moving slow and sure towards me, creeping and crawling like a rabid dog. There was breathing through a stopped up nose like after Momma used to get the allergies real bad, and a smell most akin to sulphur leaking from the bowels of the world.
I’ve come to make a proposition! I shouted. I’ve got one good soul for a life of fine art! It was then I could see the beast’s eyes floating in the dark. Of what use to me is a good soul? asked the Devil. Well, I replied, I s’pose it’s one less to worry about when the deal goes down. I suppose it is, said the Devil keenly. And what do you want in return for this one good soul? he continued. I want to create great works of art, I said. Works that espouse the human condition. Works that inspire and transcend the cages of the form in which they are binded by. I want to be an artist of great reverence, a genius of Einsteinian proportions. Recognized, is what I want to be.
The devil laughed a shrill laugh and said, I can’t give you that boy. But what about the others that came to the crossroads? I asked. Myths that romanticize - a human condition, answered the Devil. Only so many ways to escape all that drudgery. I nearly began to cry, but the Devil spoke, Neither madness nor lust can get you what you want, though they might have brought you here. Stalwarts of your humanity that they might be, they do you no good in your mission here today. But if you please, the Devil continued, I will tell you the secret of creation.
Awake! he bellowed and fire pierced the darkness and seemed to engulf me. But I felt no heat. I felt no fire. And when I opened my eyes the Devil was gone, the sky was bright and blue making love with the sun, and the crossroads was an empty hallway with peeling paint.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Written by: Logan Theissen
Photograph by: Jennifer Stevens
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
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