Chapter 1. Coffee
The Devil sat in a very small office which, by the way, was not
hot. Not in the least. Truth be told, not all of hell is of the
fire and brimstone, boiling cauldrons type thing. They regulate the
temperature in much of it, forced air, thermostats, etc. People are
generally impressed by the heat references which is the main reason
theyre highlighted with such prominence.
At any rate this was not within the Devils purview. He
cared nothing about PR. People typically came to him and not vice
The Devils desk was terribly undersized almost to the point
of cruelty. He was much too large for it and he seemed to be in a
perpetual struggle to keep his office supplies from falling off, which included
an old typewriter, a calculator, a number 2 pencil, and a small yellow pencil
sharpener with shavings spilling from the little hole where the pencil goes.
The typewriter was missing a few keys including the S which
created the ceaseless need to press down on the key extra hard which irritated
him to no end. So much so that sometimes he opted to skip the key
altogether or replace it with a z and so his note would read
Dear Je u ,
With all due re pect I cannot agree with the latezt change in
protocol. It make no zense to give a credit for
good behavior when the only reward I can give the recipient iz -
what??? One lezz day in eternal damnation??
P : be t to your Dad.
In the center of the Devils desk was an enormous red spiral
bound ledger that took up most of the desktop. The ledger was open and he
was squinting at it, running his long hairy finger down a list of names and
Across from the Devil sat a very confused looking old man who wore
huge coke bottle glasses. He had thinning white hair and his pale
bespeckled head was as shriveled as a dried fig. He wore an
inexpensive looking light blue cotton jacket and white tennis sneakers. A
price tag was dangling from the jackets zipper. The man was staring at a
beautifully framed photograph that hung on the wall behind the Devil. It
looked like a family portrait.
phone rang on a file cabinet behind the Devils desk. As he turned
to take the call he knocked over a cup of coffee.
God Dammit!! Melody!!
Yes boss! responded a tiny goblin from the office
doorway practically before the dy in Melody left the
Devils tongue (which, by the by, was not forked). She was no taller
than a miniature collie and impeccably dressed in an outfit youd fully
expect for an office that was business casual, including a modestly priced
pants suit that was navy blue with pin stripes and practical low heeled patent
leather shoes. Her hair was pulled back in a tight bun at the back of her
large head, which was green.
brilliant multi-tasker, the Devil picked up the phone while pointing to the cup
on the floor, whispering I need another.
She whispered back, No. Youve already had three this
He was absolutely beside himself and ignited a large banana plant
that sat in a glazed clay pot in the corner of the office. Despite his
theatrics, she seemed unfazed.
He barked into the phone receiver, Who is it?! Well
tell him Im too busy. Im in the middle of intake with a
customer and theres three hundred thousand and thirty two more in the
fire alarm rang. He pointed at the flames desperately while Melody made a
casual show of watering a pot of petunias that sat next to the banana
plant. He threw the number 2 pencil at her.
Its nothing, he continued, must be a car
alarm. . . . Well if hes all knowing he knows Im too busy to talk
He slammed down the phone while Melody put out the fire by
creating a small gray storm cloud that hovered over the banana plant.
This was one of the few tricks allowed to goblins of her rank and she was
thrilled to utilize it in front of a guest. In order to make the
cloud disappear she made a complete show of things by waving her tiny hands in
an abra cadabra sort of way which actually mattered nothing at all
to the logistics of the operation. She picked up the coffee cup and
marched out the door, mumbling decaf before exiting.
The Devil sighed and looked over at the old man, who still looked
Chapter 2. New Jersey
Do you know who I am? he asked the man.
I have no idea. said the man.
Hmm, said the Devil. Whats the last
thing you remember?
The man frowned. I remember being in a store and
trying on this jacket. Looking in the mirror. My wife didnt
She told me to take it off. And when I did I felt a
sharp pain in my chest, saw a white light, and bingo the next thing I know
Im sitting here with you watching your pet chihuahua water the
The Devil nodded thoughtfully followed by a somewhat awkward
silence. It may seem surprising to some but this was the most difficult
part of the job for him, breaking the bad news. He had never become
totally at ease with it and often thought with dismay that his creeping guilt
was simply one means that management had of ensuring that Hell was both hell
for him as well as its residents.
He fumbled a bit with his calculator then fell back on one of his
I have some good news and bad news.
The man waited. The Devil cleared his throat.
The bad news is, youre in Hell. The good news is youre not in
New Jersey. Ha ha.
Tough crowd, thought the Devil. He tried another
tact. Would you like a cup of coffee?
Yes, anything to bring back your adorable puppy
She appeared in a puff of blue smoke in front of his desk holding
a tray with two steaming hot mugs.
You called? With the utmost show of deference she
placed one cup on the Devils desk and handed one to the old man.
I made yours light and sweet just as you like it Mr. Warren.
In what seemed like one fluid motion she managed to bow while tucking the tray
under her tiny green arm and exiting the office.
What a nice dog. said Mr. Warren.
If you only knew, thought the Devil.
Chapter 3. The Kiss
As the Devil continued to stare at the report summary he became
more and more concerned. His thick brow was creased and sweat began to
form around his horns. He read it through once then re-read
it. For the third time he hit the buttons on his calculator.
Its not adding up, he thought.
He looked up at Mr. Warren who seemed to be vaguely enjoying his
He even re-read the reports footnotes. But they seemed
to offer no clarification. Nada.
He sipped his coffee while perusing footnote 3532. A glimmer
I see here Mr. Warren that you kissed Marci Adams in the
playground in third grade.
For the first time since he sat down in the Devils office,
Mr. Warrens face lit up. His pale blue eyes sparkled with
remembrance. Yes sir, I certainly did!
Which of course was innocent enough, and yet just prior to
that you peeked up her dress while she was climbing the monkey bars,
I may have sir, though I cant swear to
Yet you remember the kiss?
Whats that sir?
That youd so definitively remember a kiss that
happened 84 years, 231 days, 5 hours, and 21 minutes ago and yet not remember
Mr. Warren began crying tears of joy. The Devil handed him
a box of tissues that Warren managed to accept between wet sobs. He began
wiping the tears from his drawn face and then blew his nose loudly.
I think not sir, he said and went back to sipping his
The Devil waited for further elaboration. None came.
He sighed. And why is that Mr. Warren?
One quite easily remembers the first kiss of a girl that
became your wife. I think so at least sir.
Hmm said the Devil, reading. Footnote
Chapter 4. Innocent Mistake
I dont give a good Goddamn if hes busy tell him
its important. And yes, you can tell him I used his name in
As the Devil stood outside his office shouting into his cell phone
he watched Mr. Warren through the office window. Warren appeared to be admiring
the half burnt banana plant. The Devil had been completely stumped both
by the report on Warren and the extended interview with him. The more he
read and the more he heard from Warren the more he was convinced that a mistake
had been made.
The man absolutely did not belong in Hell.
First off I have no idea what the protocol is for this type
of . . . snafu. And second . . ..
He sighed and looked over at Melody.
They put me on hold again.
She looked as concerned as he did. Should I bring in
another tray of cookies?
He shushed her. Yes, yes, Im still here. As I
was saying, second I need to know what to tell this man. If hes
supposed to be up there with you we certainly dont want it getting out
that someone nearly spent an eternity in Hell who didnt belong
He was put on hold again. He thought with dismay how being
the Master of the Underworld seemed to mean nothing to the angels in the Chief
Executives Suite no matter how piddly their rank including the ones who
answered the phone.
On hold again by some pee-on, he whispered to
Who by the way is likely a summer intern! she reminded
him with hushed urgency before marching back into the office.
And yet there was not a thing he could do about it.
Rank, rules, protocol, etc., were established well before his existence.
He was simply part of the greater design over which he had no control and
was not the maker.
He looked back into his office and watched as Mr. Warren providing
what appeared to be some vital bit of instruction to Melody about the banana
plant. Warren pointed to the base of the plant then dug his pale bony fingers
into the soil prodding it a bit before lifting up a clump and crumbling the
dirt back into the pot. She nodded while chewing on a sugar
And just like that, in a flash, it came to him.
Chapter 5. Horticulture
These peonies need more sun! Youre lucky
theyre still alive in fact. Atrocious. Did you get
that? Melody nodded and took notes while Mr. Warren continued to
walk her through the garden outside the Devils office. And
here, these azaleas are practically on top of each other! Youll
have a Devil of a time keeping these alive unless you spread them out. No
The Devil watched the two proceed through the garden while
reclining on a lawn chair, enjoying an iced tea in the shade of a flowering
Magnolia tree. It was footnote 5,652 of the report on Warren that
he recalled while watching Warren toy with the banana plant, which made
reference to Warrens means of livelihood. He had been a
horticulturist for nearly the entirety of his fifty working years. And an
enthusiastic one at that!
(Relegating ones profession in life to a footnote may seem
counter-intuitive. On earth ones job is typically front
and center in terms of understanding who the human being is. Not so in
the afterlife unless the means of livelihood is somehow relevant to the overall
good/evil assessment. For example, He was a local politician in the
thriving suburb of . . . or She was an esteemed lawyer working for
the law firm of . . . would never be dropped into a
The Devil knew full well that the best way to hide the truth was
to make up a plausible lie, and of course to deliver it properly which is where
most humans fell short. Even more effective is the lie that is somehow
attractive to the unwary recipient (think apple). And so it was that he
came up with a plausible reason for Mr. Warrens presence in Hell: the old
man had not been sent down for full time residency but merely a limited
visit. The garden outside the Devils office (named the Garden
of Heathens on an iron post at the entrance gate serving what the Devil
had hoped was a small reminder that he and his staff were not completely devoid
of humor) had been in the utmost disarray with dying shrubs everywhere, weeds
sprouting through the pathway cracks, bug problems, etc. And so
what better way to explain to Warren the reason for his visit than have him
provide expert advice on sprucing up the grounds?!
Chapter 7. Going Up
Goodbye Mr. Warren! Goodbye! shouted Melody
while both she and the Devil waved in unison from the gardens exit gate
as they watched the old man enter the huge brass and wooden elevator. The
elevator was located twenty yards away from the gate and sat on the ground
completely freestanding and unattached to anything else, looking on its own and
rather lonely. Mr. Warren turned around after entering the elevator and
waved his free hand at them. In his other he held a plastic baggie filled
Remember to push the up button! shouted
And he did.
Chapter 8. An Aside on Money
On the issue of peoples livelihood, it was unfortunate in
terms of the after-life that the concept of money was introduced into the
scheme of life. So what do you do for a living could just as
easily have gone the way of So what do you do for living? In
fact there were few issues in Heaven that created such a heated and unyielding
debate as the introduction of monetary value. Half the members of the
Committee on Human Affairs thought the need to earn money to survive would
leave an insufficient amount of hours for most human beings to commit damnable
offenses and the other half knew better. In fact 98% of damnable offenses
are directly or indirectly tied to money. The other 2% are purely the fun ones.
Chapter 9. A Final Note
Dear Je u ,
All iz good in Hell. Re pecting the Warren
incident that I called in about thiz morning, matter rezolved.
Undoubtedly it will come up during your weekly creening of
Hellz Affairz. I believe youll find when you review the
footage that Melody and I performed with the utmo t profezzionalizm and
all-in-all maintained our compozure throughout the near-cata trophic
Regarding the diverzion of truth, pleaze conzider: if you check
the Demeritz Manual youll zee it was relatively minor and arguably would
warrant a 0 were we being con idered for upreme Entry (a
white lie iz the term utilized by your beloved human beingz), and
it eemed abzolutely necezzary in light of the exigency of circum tancez.
Alzo, I expect youll find during your Fall audit that
weve been able to materially improve the condition of our garden in the
P : regardz to your Dad.