Homily For the Devil

Two mourning doves in a garden, ambling like wind-up toys in the red-clay rows between the staked peppers and the boxed squash. The doves are ready to make a fuss whenever the Devil decides to clap his hands and trouble them into flight.

He wakes. Clap? Clap now?

He lies on a cheap duvet of a bed on the ground floor of a casino in Teays Valley, West Virginia. He hears the sound of clinking waiters and tries a new name for the one from this morning: Johnny No.

At 101, the Devil is as small as a mummy. His eyes water when he doesn't wear his glasses. Memories move in his mind like blind men bumping into furniture.   

A peahen on a garage roof and a preacher killing a dying raccoon with the pan side of a shovel.

An old writing prof and a voice like Tom Waits: Fu-trell.

His mother watches a pretty brunette straighten the young Devil's bow tie for Christian school prom. The gesture confirms his mother's idea of herself as a girl.

True or false? Jesus divided birds by walkers and hoppers.

The answer is always true.

The grackle is a walker. The robin too. Songbirds are hoppers. Pheasants and partridge? Righteous strutters. Vaudeville promenaders.

Scavenger birds bear further deliberation, and the Devil reaches for an index card in his shirt pocket like a clock struck the hour.  

The Holy Ghost tells him the Parable of the Killdeer. She's stubborn to not fly so she can bait her husband away from the nest. She'll walk until he's almost to her then lift on those white wings with the black bars to glide a few more feet out of reach again, to take him further away still.

This is the afternoon you’ll finally die, brother. You'll mistake the Resurrected Jesus for Leon Russell circa Mad Dogs & Englishmen. White pants. Holy Trinity shirt. Velvet top hat. When He draws close to the bed, He’ll hoist his white hair over a shoulder so it doesn't fall in your face. He’s here to carry you home like a sparrow in a gunny sack.

“Old hoss,” He’ll say.  

"Name me a better song than 'Space Captain,'" you'll try, just to buy another minute.

He can't. Who ever could? 

Bird Report

Today: hawk on a metal cross-arm of the transmission tower on Cortsville. It’s got something in its sights. It’s leaning forward. Masked and costumed and ready to dive, it waits for its cue like a wrestler on the top bar of the cage.