by Beverly Forehand
Table of Contents|
The Chuck the Demon series
|part 1 of 2|
I quit and that’s all there is to it, really. And I really mean it this time. And sure, I know what THEY always say, “Quitters never win, and winners never quit,” but let me tell you, buddy, that’s all complete and utter bull. I know. I should. I’ve done just about every type of no-good, useless job there is at this point — everything under the proverbial sun — and let me tell you it all sucks. Every time you think you’re a little ahead, just the moment you’re feeling like you’re on top — that’s when the hammer falls.
There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it, either. Do a good job or do a piss-poor one and it all amounts to the same thing in the end — and that’s your ass on the line. Sure, I just try to do my job. I even try to be a nice guy. And what do I get? “Good job, Chuck,” or “Nice work, Chuck?” Hell, no. All I get is complaints. Well, I’m tired of it. I quit.
But, there’s just one problem. Thankfully enough, it isn’t really my problem at all. It’s just that THEY keep saying I can’t quit. That’s the problem when you’re a Demon — there’s no contingency for quitting, and the vacation plan really sucks, too.
Not that the other side of the coin is a lot better. I mean, I was an Angel, then a Demon, then an Angel — okay, so I wasn’t an up-and-up Angel, but I was the Angel of Death and that does have the big “A” word in the title, right? And now, the way I see it, is I’m unemployed, or between jobs, or comfortably freelance. I’m completely and utterly Chuck for Hire, Freelance Demon (or Angel or whatever.)
The one thing that I am completely and totally sure of is that I’m not going back to that work-a-day grind they call “doing your job.” What did I get out of it anyway? I didn’t even get paid, really. Why bother?
So, here I am sitting on my sofa (and I use that in the loosest construction of the word since this piece of springs and torn cotton can barely be called anything) in my crappy apartment with the paper-thin walls and trying to ignore the doorbell.
You see, I know exactly who it is. I know for a fact that THEY don’t have to use the doorbell — or the door — for that matter. But I keep up my charade just for the sake of my own demonic sanity and keep watching TV and eating chips out of the bag (and from wherever they fall.)
But the doorbell keeps ringing, and the knocking continues, and now I can hear my neighbors pitching hell. They’re wearing me down. That’s their plan. It always has been. I guess it works, because against all my better instincts I find myself answering the door.
And there THEY stand. Both of THEM. Representatives of the respective two-sides-of-the-coin. Not looking too chummy, I notice. But, not looking that ill at ease with each other as you might expect. After all, they’re both in the same business, so to speak. You could hardly have one side without the other.
“May we come in?” Metaron asks very politely, as if I could stop THEM from coming in if I wanted to.
I nod. Because I know perfectly well that THEY are coming in. After all, THEY don’t just show up at your apartment and go away when you don’t open the door.
In fact, THEY don’t usually pay housecalls at all, the way I hear it. Which means that I’m probably in a lot of trouble again. But then again, maybe not. I think that this time, maybe, I’ve finally gotten everything all figured out. I’ve quit. And there’s not really a lot left THEY can do to me.
I have been to Hell and back — and I have to admit that on a really hot day in L.A. waiting in traffic in my rust-wagon of a car with no A/C and no hope of moving for the next hour or so, I have to say, that I might prefer Hell. At least in Hell you get to meet some interesting people.
So, I hold open the door a bit and Metaron nods and smiles back at me and then The Other One pushes past and lights a cigarette. HE takes one look at my apartment, puffs on his unfiltered stick, and says in that buzzing voice of his, “Man, Chuck, this is real crap.”
“Thanks, I guess I wouldn’t have noticed without your astute comment.”
HE takes another drag good and slow and blows smoke right in my face. “Damn you, Chuck,” HE says, “You’re really starting to piss me off.”
“Well,” I say, “I’m sorry to be an inconvenience, but you could always get the Hell out of my apartment and let me get back to watching TV.”
HE just glares and puffs.
And then Metaron speaks. “There’s really no need for all this difficulty, is there?” He asks sweetly. “We can all behave like adults, can’t we?” He asks looking at “B.”
“B.” smiles with his perfectly capped teeth. “Yeah, sure, whatever,” HE says. “This is more your show anyway.”
Metaron nods and smiles again. Then He takes a step forward and adjusts his tie in that business-like way that all middle-managers and HR consultants have down pat. “Chuck,” He says, “This is an intervention.”
“B.” laughs snidely, and I say, “What? A what? What do you guys do all day? Sit around watching Oprah?”
“B.” glares and Metaron smiles sadly with just a little sympathy thrown in, like a talk show host talking to a crack addict. “Now, Chuck,” He says, “There’s no need for hostility. This is for your own good.”
“Oh, I don’t really see how that’s possible,” I say, “I’m perfectly fine here with my TV and my chips.”
“Really? says “B.” snidely, “Well, how fine would you be, I wonder, if your chips were turned to scorpions and your TV sank into the fiery bowels of Hell, huh?”
“I guess I’d just buy new chips and a TV.” I smile and light a cigarette of my own. Metaron looks displeased and pulls out a linen kerchief. Then he sneezes a tiny, disapproving sneeze. “B.” rolls his eyes.
“They’ll be no more talk of scorpions or such things,” says Metaron. “That’s not the way you do these things.”
I half expect him to pull out a “How to Host an Intervention” booklet or maybe “Intervention for Dummies.” I can definitely see how this tactic is appealing to both sides. It has the benevolent condescension that Side A is so fond of and the general annoyance that Side B thrives on.
“Enough of this BS,” says “B,” with a puff, “Let’s just get on with this. Chuck is pissing a lot of really important people off — and by ‘people’ I don’t mean ‘people’ at all. Now it’s time for Chuck to get off his ass and get back to work.”
“Said with little eloquence,” says Metaron, “but nonetheless the truth. We can’t have you sitting here doing, well, whatever it is you do. You have to do something.”
“I am doing something,” I say, “I was watching the game I had taped. That was until you two came in here with your little song and dance. And if you would be so good as to get the Hell out, I guess I’ll get back to watching the game.” I gesture to the still open door.
“It’s not so simple, Chuckie old boy,” says “B.” “Oh no, we have a job for you to do, and you’re going to be a good boy and do it.”
“Yes,” says Metaron, “We don’t expect you to like it.”
“But,” says “B.” “You sure as Hell will do it.”
“And what if I say no?” I ask.
“No one says no,” says “B.”
“No,” says Metaron, “They never do.”
“Never?” I ask.
“Never,” says “B.”
And I know that HE means it. Never. No one says no. Ever.
“So,” I say, trying to sound nonchalant, “What exactly is this job that no one ever says no to?”
“Oh,” says “B.” “That’s the best part.”
“Yes,” says Metaron, “We’ve been instructed not to tell you.”
“Then how, pray tell, am I supposed to do said job if I don’t know what the Hell it is? Maybe in fact I’m doing it right now, huh?”
“You’ll know it when you see it,” says “B” with another drag on his now almost a stub of a cigarette.
“We are terribly sorry we can’t provide more information,” says Metaron, “but as you know, rules are rules.”
“Oh, sure,” I say, “I get that. Rules are friggin’ rules.”
“Yes, indeedy,” says “B,” flicking his cigarette butt onto my ragged green carpeting, “they sure are.”
I stand there just looking at THEM and willing THEM to leave, and finally with infinite and utter slowness THEY do. And suddenly the entire day has just gone stale for me. The TV, the chips, my nice comfy place on the sofa, the annoying pounding on the wall from my neighbors — I just can’t stand any of it right now.
I grab my coat, which is actually really nice, and I check the pocket to make sure I have my lighter and my keys, and then I close the door on the whole sorry day. Driving always makes me feel better — even if it is in my car. I like to be out. I like people. I’m a people-person if you can believe it. I figure that people cheer you up because someone, somewhere is always having a worse day than you.
I get in the car, slam the door with a really satisfying thud, and I’m just lighting a cigarette when I feel Her looking at me through the passenger-side window. She has that kind of intense stare that you only get from lunatics and the Divine. You know how they say that cats can hypnotize their prey? Well, I feel sort of small and furry just looking at Her.
And then She blinks. I know She doesn’t have to, and that makes it a little more galling. She smiles, showing a few too many teeth, all of them pearly-gate white, and says, “Hello, Chuck, I suppose you’ve been expecting me.”
“Does it look like it?” I say, taking a drag.
She smiles again and my cigarette goes out. “They say it’s bad for your health,” She says.
“Who’s They?” I ask, as if I don’t already know.
“We really do have a full day ahead,” She says, “We should probably get a move on.” Before I can say anything more, She opens the passenger’s side door — which I really do remember having locked.
And all of a sudden it hits me. She smells just like she looks — immaculate and expensive like a French Manicure or a new car. And even though getting into a car isn’t exactly the most graceful thing in the world, She somehow makes it look like some kind of dance. And let me just say that the old saying is true. Ignorance is bliss because knowing what you’re dealing with can sometimes scare the crap out of you.
I start to say Her name, but before the words even get out of my mouth or even through the thickness of my brain, She says, “Really, there’s no need for titles here, is there, Chuck?”
Only, when She says “Chuck,” there’s just this tiny echo where I can almost hear my true name, and I have to work hard not to shudder.
“Call me whatever you want,” She says, “After all, I’ve had many names over the years. What’s in a name, eh, Chuck?”
Copyright © 2007 by Beverly Forehand