“Pundit Puffs.”, the Prince of Darkness answered my unasked question. “Popped, using their own hot air to do the deed. They go down smooth, provided you don’t give a thought to the ingredients.” He said with a cackle.

I concentrated on the game, contemplated the next move on the board. “See the green splotches?” He held up a shriveled, frightened soul of a woman whose calls for killing in MY name did enrage me to no end.

“That,” he stated with a Creator’s pride, “is distilled  stink of filthy lucre.” I waved away the offering and watched as, with a shrug, a lip-smacking sucking of  air, and a swallow, my host consigned the harpy to her fate.

Did I say My host? I did, and it sounds ironic on first hearing. But All that I see, all that IS, is mine, even the fiery pits beyond the barren mountains. A good landlord keeps an eye on things. Labor Day is as good a day to congress with tenants as any. Besides, both of our staffs have the day off, there is really no one else spend the holiday with. So here I am, after a seven-level tour of the facilities, a board game on the table between us, rolling the bones with my fallen-yet-still-useful archangel. I have to admit, he runs the place efficiently enough. I want him to put in more sound-proofing, though.

The bones tumbled out of the shaker, the ribs formed a ‘4’ and the tibias a ‘3’. A seven; he avoided my wrath, landed on Hellbound or Heaven-sent? and drew a card. “Gitmo Prison to Remain Open, advance 2 steps.” That cackle again. “Those who raise no hand against me do my work.” I sighed, took the shaker and and threw them onto the unlevel playing field. Demons are such jokers. A pair of dice stopped rolling; six and a five, ’11’.  Oh, I could have had cherubs appear, holding up cards with the correct numbers, but showy isn’t my way. I passed The Beginning and collected my indulgences.

My opponent looked at me with baleful eyes. He rattled the cup, eliciting groans from deep within, but showed no inclination to roll. “Care to make a deal?”

“No deals, you know my rules.”

“Laws ‘a’ mighty!” He put on his hurt face. “It’s just a game, for Your sake!”

“Let’s hear it, damn you!” He laughed at the mention of our little joke (said at least once at each encounter; when He said it, my response is always ‘got you first’), then his face expressed what a mortal would see as genuine concern.

“Have you decided what to do about the polluters?” I knew he meant the rig that sunk, the oily mess that was being dealt with so poorly.

“Eons ago.” I answered.

“I know I get the board of directors, the test-fakers, the government inspectors, and the ones who ginned up the disaster prep statement.” These he counted off on his elongated, elegantly manicured fingers. “Now, how about the spokesman? If it was up to a vote, he’d be mine. And those who are falsely claiming to be hurt by the spill, and getting money for lying, at the same time diminishing the amount that honest people will receive?”

I mulled his offer as I looked out the floor-to-ceiling windows. I had allowed him this extravagance, a chalet in Purgatory, as a meeting place for our thank-Me few face-to-faces. The view was fantastic, except for the mass of forlorn souls milling about, uncertain of their ultimate fate. The moans and cries of the tardily repentant were to Satan as the sound of water rushing over rocks is savored by a Japanese gardener. He arranged them by their vocal range, conducting them in a choir of regret, terror, pain, and all the vices which brought them here in the first place.

“The place looks nice, who keeps it up?”

“The rich ones who cannot enter heaven I employ as servants; toilet cleaners, some I turned into cockroaches, to nibble up spilled food.” He leaned back in his chair, took a puff from a cigar he had stuck on one horn. He blew the smoke out as a series of perfect rings. His eyes glazed over, then cleared. “Yes, it’s my little corner of Heaven, you might say. So, about my offer?”

“The CEO you don’t get, he is clueless, not evil. And the greedy parasites I will decide on a case-by-case basis. Some are suffering through hard times, and just want to feed their families.”

“Stealing is stealing, is it not?” When he exhaled this time, smoke rings came first, followed by wispy shapes suggesting agonized faces that were squeezed by the rings before the display dissipated.

“They all will get to see your horrid visage. The ones on which my mercy shines will join me in time. The Congressman who apologized to BP is yours; nothing he will do in the future will make up for that.” I had spoken, discussion ended.

With a sulphurous belch, he shook the cup and threw snake-eyes. Real snake’s eyes. I smote him before he could move his marker.

Do no harm to innocent creatures! Only with man may you perform mischief.” I thundered. The ground outside shook, the temporary residents outside looked up at the house from where they milled about.

From the floor, holding his bleeding proboscis, I heard him mutter about me not taking a joke very well. He regained his feet, picked up the chair, and delicately tucked it under the table before sweeping the game off onto the floor with a swish of his tail. He actually tried to meet my gaze, but thought better of it, as I knew he would.

A mis-shapened goblin I recognized as Stalin limped over and picked up the mess while his overlord composed himself. “So, I guess we can work out the parameters concerning the mosque in NYC at a later date?”

“We can discuss it anytime. It has been worked out.” He rubbed his smitten nose, tried to push the cartilage back into shape, but I would not allow it to stay.

“Just how long do I go around like this, Father?”

“For all time, vengeance is mine.”

“Sheesh, you’re judgmental.” He waved the bag of Pundit Puffs in my face. “My ‘people’ are all over this, swaying minds and ramping up hate. America will look like the bigoted and violent country that it is.”

Turning, he kicked Josef down the stairs, then floated down behind the lost soul, fading away before he reached the door. Stupid parlor trick, but it impresses the idolators.

I took as my exit the door leading out onto the balcony. I looked out at those trapped in limbo, and made a light coughing sound. when the crowd looked up, I did show them my face for the barest of nano-seconds. The mass of recently deceased humanity backed away as one, as if recoiling from the light of a thousand suns, many were stampeded, and everyone who found their voice called my name, not his.

Who says I don’t have a sense of humor?

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