Where They Meet For Coffee, Paper Jesus and the Devil Often See Dave Chappelle

The Devil has the DTs and an MFA in fiction from UNC-Greensboro.

Money, wait up, he says, shuffling through index cards he keeps in his shirt pocket for story ideas.

He and I are walking through Rural King, a farm supply store in a building that used to be a Wal-Mart. It smells like hay bales and popcorn at the front and Round-Up everywhere after that. The lighting is dim. The glyphosate gives me headaches. I need a specific brand of poison worms for the moles in my yard.  

Violence is in the air at Rural King. In the clothing section everything is camo. At the gun department the target deer are velvety and wear the blank gaze of sex dolls. There’s the skull-and-crossbones trade in the extermination aisle where I need to go—bird nets and raccoon cages, powders, dust bombs, sub-terranean traps, spring-loaded guillotines. I find my worms. The Devil is using the bathroom in the back of the store by the live chicks and the blue light of the employee break room.

He meets me in the only open check-out lane. He smells freshly boozed. His picks look redder. I ignore his teeth—getting worse, veiny brown like a horse’s. The line is long. There’s a problem ahead at the register, a teenage cashier on her tip-toes waiting for a manager.

Patriotic country music plays. The Devil studies the mole pictures on the panels of the box of worms. He has an interest in burrowers. When he was on Ambien, he thought he heard Dave Chappelle’s sister digging a tunnel into his basement. She lived down the street from him then. The Devil went to his doctor and told her he was having sensory hallucinations. Chappelle’s sister’s tunneling, for one. Or he could feel it raining when it wasn’t. Or when he stood, his insides would shift like a collapsed house. For others.  

Your body is your book, she told him. She wanted him to know she knew he was a writer. The Devil’s silver tongue.  

*

Yo.  The Devil nods toward an open lane.

I can help somebody o’er here! the manager is saying.

To have one celebrity in a small town is more disorienting than to have many, and to see Dave Chappelle vaping next to a mosaic trashcan or to hear his voice behind you in a parking lot or to be startled by him and David Letterman sitting on a bench in front of the bookstore you’re entering—is to desynchronize the psychic field. The body continues into the bookstore, but the mind remains at a distance.  

The Devil and I are at a table in Dino’s coffee shop when Chappelle comes in. He’s wearing sunglasses flat as a sleeping mask and short pants that knot at the knee like a colonial farmer’s. A pair of Jordans. A muscle tee the color of the earth’s crust.

We note again: Chappelle is jacked.  

HGH, the Devil says.

We’re near the door. Chappelle can’t help but see us when he leaves.  

What’s up, fellas, he says.

Hey, we say, tipping our cups to him without really lifting them, already too late.

Bird Report

Driving on Cortsville Road. I’m closing the distance on a telephone pole that a red-tailed hawk is gliding toward from the opposite direction at the same rate of speed. Time and space go wonky when the hawk pulls up mid-air by flaring his wings to slow his descent. I can see he’s aiming for the top of the pole, but he’s wobbly as a paratrooper and seems to be skidding. I’m past before I see what happens.