After the Halifax Fire Department left my apartment building - the dryer vent caught fire, created a big stink and cleared the building - Satan dropped by. He was bored with the Leafs-Habs game and wanted some cheap conversation.
He asked for a beer but I advised him that there hadn’t been any since I moved in 6 years ago, and that I gave away the last bottle of wine 2 years ago. Undeterred (or maybe, apathetically), he proceeded to go for my Ovaltine.
"You know, Jacques: this had been a great week in sports for me", went the Unholy One. "Hockey is back, the Super Bowl is coming, and my boy Lance is coming home!"
"Lance Armstrong? The disgraced Tour de France cyclist?" I figured if Hell had a special place, it would be reserved for Armstrong, even though that being a cancer survivor should give him enough latitude to earn a place in Purgatory, currently being governed by the late US president Richard M Nixon.
"Actually, Lance Kerwin. But that’s for a different time.” Satan, Lord of Lies, is also the Haut Seigneur of Sarcasm and Archduke of Dry Humour, even though various bloggers from all political and social persuasions would try to usurp his supremacy in these areas. “But Armstrong - ahh, that Lance Armstrong - he knows that the game is up and I’m ready to collect.”
Nonplussed, I replied, “Him, too? But that fucker got caught with his pants down and lied about it. He bullied everyone who challenged his version of events, probably used some of the money from his Livestrong charity to bribe those to parrot his party line, and accused those who came clean on steroid abuse for being hypocritical. He’s using this ‘Oh, woe is me and my sorry ass’ routine because he misses his endorsement money.
"And anyways, don’t you always collect as soon as the person expires a success rather than pariah?"
Satan laughed. Was it at my ignorance of demonic politics? The absurdity of human nature? Our assumptions of prices to be paid upon death for successes, triumphs, fortunes?
"Let me show you this," he hissed. I get annoyed when he does that because it tends to be so grating on the ears. He produced a foul-smelling, mouldy and blood-splattered page. Although slightly illegible in some places, it was written in perfect King’s English. Signed at the bottom, in stale crimson, was the name "James Savile”.
"This man paraded himself as a good Catholic, but he made a deal with me first," Satan continued. "Back in 1941, he was lusting over everything his beady eyes could catch. He first begged Jah and Jebus to give him the power to posses his fellow beings, but they rebuffed him. Then he came to me. I explicitly stipulated that I were to get his soul as payment upon death for all the good fortune and legacies, that he were to serve on my left hand and carry out my bidding in any and all ways possible as I saw fit.
"Unfortunately, I saw his depravity and his abuse of my granted powers. He was supposed to bring happiness and bliss to the masses, just like what he promised me upon the signing. Instead… well, you know the story. You’ve trolled the interwebs. You know what ultimately went down.
"I wanted to strike him down for that after the first couple of transgressions, but then I got into an argument with Jah over who had to do it. Needless to say, I eventually pulled the plug on him. By then, it was too late. The damage was done. Heads rolled. Fingers pointed."
"Aren’t you supposed to be the Lord of Chaos? Wasn’t all that mayhem what you wanted?" I had never seen Satan upset over scandals before, with the possible exception of the Canadian figure skating scandal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.
"Not like this, my friend. I’m for death, destruction, jealousy, pettiness and the lamentation of the masses. Domination by deception. Contentment through deceit. I’ve given self-styled prophets of gods inspiration to create strife ensuring my goal of ‘balance through chaos’.” As much as he is the Prince of Lies, this guy appeared to not make much sense.
"But sweet Lance Armstrong - behold his well-executed, PED-free signature,” Satan announced while we pulled out another blood-soaked contract, “he followed my instructions to a ‘T’ and had amassed great fortunes. He had won every race, given people hope when he fought cancer and crushed his enemies with the gifts upon him I had bestowed. He had served his purpose, and unlike Savile, whose soul to the Eyeless Manticore I had fed upon receipt, on my left side shall he sit forevermore.
"Not to worry, Jacques. I’ve kept him on a short leash all this time, like the Borgias, Caligula, Nero, kings, caliphs, genocidal tribal warlords. They all had contributed to keeping my good buddy Jah busy and now they’re my most favourite pets."
"But Satan, Lance Armstrong fucked up at the end. He got fingered. He got outed. Everyone now hates his guts even when he confessed to Oprah Winfrey, which by then was too late. His silence, evasion and denials did him in. The damage is done. He’s now stuck in a deep hole that would take a miracle to have him extricated. Why in God’s name do you think he has done your bidding?"
"Jacques - haven’t you read the fine print, my dear?"
I stared at it, first adjusting my reading glasses, then grabbing the magnifying glass to make out the slightly-smudged print. I then sighed.
In it went the following…
"In the case of exposure shall you create any story or conspiracy to deflect or pervert any accusations. If unsuccessful, to the nearest agent shall you present yourself for confessional, on condition that transparent, sincere (true or fabricated) and public it shall be, with neither protestation nor negotiation.
"Failure to follow under any and all existing circumstances shall result in eternal destruction and eventual digestion in the Eyless Manticore."
"Damn, Satan. Oprah? SHE IS YOUR AGENT?"
"She paid up front."