The Devil Has Other Concerns

The Devil keeps his bangs in place with two-sided tape. This morning opaque strips of it wave from the passenger visor like pennants in a gymnasium. It's 2016. He and I are going to Biscuit World before the Michigan-Ohio State game. I’m driving. He’s mastering his bangs.  

“Roll,” he tells me when he's done, making a spiraling motion with his finger and looking at his reflection in the passenger side window. The male gaze.

Here’s how the Devil taught my wife to remember our offensive line this year: Kyle Kalis, Big as a Palace. Graham Glasgow, the Glau-coholic. Drop the mic for MC Mason Cole. Ben Braden, Don’t be hatin’.

Who’s the right tackle, sugar?

Jake Butt?

No again, beautiful.

He buys her flowers from Walmart. He leaves a poppy seed bagel on a napkin on her desk at work. The Devil is no help to my marriage. He makes nicknames for the clothes my wife wears that he knows I don’t like.

“The Bath Mat,” he calls the winter coat covered with nubs.

“Cat Fancy,” he calls the woolly sweater.

The Devil stays sweet on my wife. He can’t forget those legs, her hands on her go-go hips.

He asks me how often she's having congress with me.  

“Exactly,” he says, even though I don’t answer.

During the game he’s doing squats in the basement. He’s wearing jeans. No shirt. He tilts a cheap mirror against the wall like my roommate in grad school, Kurt, built like med school Tarzan, whom I’ve long thought my wife preferred. Or would have. Or, in my darker moods, should have.

The music is loud down there. I can hear the bar rattling and the Devil yelling encouragement at himself when he finishes a set.  

Hell, yeah!"

Michigan loses again. I’m standing alone in my living room watching OSU fans on the field, surging this way, moving that way. If you're high enough above your crisis, you can't see individual elements of disintegration. I tell the Devil that God doesn’t want me to win. The Devil says I care too much. I tell him you're exactly right: I care too much. More than God does. Which makes me more loving than Him. The Devil has the corner on blasphemy. He doesn’t like to hear it coming from anybody else’s mouth.

“Cool it, slick,” he says.

“Where’s Jesus in all this?” I ask him.

“Next time,” he says.

He talks to me from the bathroom. He’s in a towel after his shower. He’s staring at his profile, mousey white hair on his knobby shoulders. Finely wrinkled skin on his neck. Cellulite on his lats. He’s patting talcum on his armpits and chest and humming a song from 1906: "If It Takes My Whole Week's Pay."

My moods wear on my wife. Jesus in my heart. But it's only half the rent.  

The Devil believes in the power of positive thinking: happiness is a choice. He learned that from my her. He’s mouthing something in the mirror. He’s poking a finger into a stringy bicep, swiveling his hips.

“I’m saying ‘yes,’” he’s saying to his reflection.

Bird Report

Three vultures in the road gauging their interest in the carcass of some small animal. Skunk? I see a streak of bright red in black fur. As I pass, the vultures flutter upward like table cloths and then return, lightly, to the road.