WRITTEN BY Henry Thompson
Feb 2002

I was never a very religious person. Never in my lifetime have I quoted – or for that matter even read a passage of the bible. I’ve never attended a church function fully awake. I’ve never prayed to Jesus, god, or any other higher power. While the only thing I’ve ever worshiped in life was money, I understand many people are devoted to the church and nothing can break their beliefs of the divine powers of their characters from the bible – even if science or whatnot can prove that it’s all bull, which I’m not saying it can, I’m just saying. But if you do believe in god, which one? There are so many different versions of gods and different religions, which one is right, if any? I mean what do you base your choice on? Who has the best PR? What church/temple/whatnot times work best into your schedule? Which one looks cooler? Which one promises more? Which one forgives more? I don’t much know personally because I never much looked into it, but it has always been my personal opinion that buying into any one religion was limiting your options. It’s kinda like near where I live there is this gas station – an Exxon. Everyone in my neighborhood gets their gas there – but just two miles away, wedged between a Publix and a Wendy’s is a 711 which sells gas 5 cents cheaper on the gallon. That’s not much, but add up the gallons, and you’re making a killer saving. It makes you think. You know? Now, as I say, I was never much a believer in any form of religion. I suppose I have always been an atheist through and through – not like my cousin who is an agnostic (someone who believes there may be a god – just there is no proof of them, or you don’t know which one is right exactly, so you kinda leave your options open, I think) but when the Devil is sitting on your desk, looking down at you from your computer monitor as you’re downloading in your shorts. You tend to question your beliefs – or the lack there of.

Wait a second. Let me back track, tell you a little about myself.

My name is Ernest. I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. It’s not the greatest city in the world – but it’s my city and I’ll defend it to the death – as any true Cleveland-er would. When I met the Devil I was at that very fragile time in my life when I was old enough to loose my cherry, but no girl wanted it – that is to say, my virginity, not virginity in general. I looked like the poster boy for Clearasil commercials – the ‘before Clearasil’ boy. But I never let it get me too down; I just stayed pretty much to myself and did my own thing. I don’t mean specifically just stuff while the door was locked. At the time my own thing was pretty much heavy metal music and dark ‘hoodies’ and jeans. Thing is though, is that this is everyone else’s thing too, but somehow I was still always an outsider to the outsiders, which should have probably made me an insider by default, but it didn’t. Logic doesn’t much work when you’re a teenager. By my seventeenth birthday I was still classed as a loser-virgin-geek-boy… Parents can be so cruel… Kids at school weren’t much better; my friends would turn their back to me when ‘cool’ kids or ugly girls walked by. When a good-looking girl passed, they generally beat me up for appearances. I don’t know if it was my acne, my thick rimmed glasses, my pocket protector, or my shoulder length red hair… Or a combination of all four, I just don’t know. I tried to speak loudly and ‘en-un-see-ate’ as my mom told me to do, but it didn’t do me any good, I never had anything good to say to anyone even if they did want to talk to me. Which they didn’t. Whatever the case, one truth always remained constant in my daily routine. I was alone and ignored no matter how loud I was. Then it happened.
I remember it like it was yesterday – because it was. I was sitting in my bedroom, chatting in Yahoo Messenger, looking for local girls in a room called ‘Cleveland rocks’ unfortunately, it wasn’t a local listing, but a Drew Carey show fan club – and most of the girls were hundreds of miles away. I played along like I was his biggest fan, because I wanted acceptance. I even insisted I looked like him, to blend in more, even though I only watch his show to stare at Kate (his girlfriend in the fifth season) after an hour or two, I was booted out of the room. I IM’ed (Instant Messaged) ‘DroolinoverDrew’ who was a girl actually in Cleveland (so she said, you don’t really know on the internet) I was focusing mostly on her anyway, she was local, man! (I hoped she’d like to be ‘DroolinoverMeToo’) The message came back a few minutes later. ‘You’re boring, get lost’ I couldn’t believe it. I’m even un-cool in bold red Ariel 22pt. I’m not trying to have a flair for the dramatic, or even a flair of the theatrical, no flairs at all really. Just being honest: I slumped in my chair and sighed. “I’d sell my soul to be popular.” I said out loud as I closed my eyes. After a moment of silence I heard a small voice in my head. “That can be arranged.” I opened my eyes to see something you normally just see on people’s shoulders in cartoons. Real quick, I have to say: I am very impressionable. Since I saw Scream, I have always cautiously checked behind shower curtains before tinkling. After seeing Goulies I always checked the toilet for little monsters before sitting. In fact, I don’t even want to talk about bathrooms. They are horribly scary places. I still expect a T-Rex to come in when I’m doing number two. Point is, I’ve seen the Devil’s advocate with Keanu Reeves, and I’ve seen drawings in religious books – they have him pegged all wrong. He’s not big and Demonic and goat legged with a pointy tail and pitchfork and all that junk. So when I saw him, looking as he does and not as I would expect him to from those kinds of things, I knew he was real. I knew the Devil was standing there, on my desk, looking down at me. On my computer monitor actually. He is only three inches tall. To sum him up quickly, he is a small white guy with blonde hair, blue eyes, a cheap light blue suit, with a white shirt and blue tie and really small penny loafers. Oh and a brown briefcase. He extended his hand to me – open palmed. “Hi. I’m the Devil.” He said. “What up, I’m Ernie.” I said, discreetly closing the ‘Girls on trampolines’ video I was watching. Again, I’m not being theatrical, I swear. He looked at me with a dark smile and said, “I know… I’m the Devil, I know everything.” I pressed my index finger and thumb on his hand and shook it gently, I didn’t want to break his itty-bitty fingers. “Ok,” I said. “What’s twenty times thirty minus five plus eight divided by two (20×30-5+8/2)?” “I don’t do math.” He said and walked to the edge of my monitor and sat down, hanging his legs over the front of my screen, taping it gently as he kicked his feet in and out, like a little kid. “So… You want to be popular, eh?” Oh, I forgot to mention he was Canadian. I nodded my head. “It would be nice.” He rubbed his hands together and opened his briefcase. It had a distinct odor of Sulfur, Brimstone, and wriggly’s peppermint sugar free gun. He pulled out a small book of white paper. “Vanity is my second favorite sin, right next to dark chocolate Hershey’s.” He said. “Wait a minute. If I do anything with you, won’t I go to Hell?” Can’t get anything past me. “Ah, don’t worry about it, everybody does, it’s no biggy – But! If you do a deal with me, you get a VIDP card which means you get into the hottest clubs first, free upgrades from medium to large size popcorn at the movies, and free refills on sodas in most participating restaurants.” He smiled at me – a cheesy TV weatherman smile. “Wow, it sounds good… But, don’t I have to give you my soul in return for your services? I mean, am I getting a fair trade here?” I say. Mamma didn’t raise no fool – aside from my sister, she’s just plain loopy – but I know how to talk to these kinds of people – little people with briefcases, I mean. “Now listen Dave… Oh, can I call you Dave?” “I guess, but it’s not my name.” “Ok then, Dave. You may have–” “What do I call you? Satan?” I interrupted the Devil . How daring am I? “Actually my young friend, somewhere along the line some idiot misprinted it, I’m not naming names… But it’s caused me a lot of hassle – by the time it was out there, the cost to reprint, I mean… Every edition and all…” We kind of just stare at each other a moment. “Anyway, It’s Stan.” We stare at each other another moment. “Nice to meet you.” I say finally. He continues, “Dave, you may have read some nasty rumors on the Internet that you need your
soul and it’s a bad thing to lose it or whatever. But in reality it’s just cosmic excess baggage. You don’t need it floating around behind you everywhere you go, ever wonder why you get stuck in doorways sometimes? Soul! You don’t need that. James Brown had soul and you know how unhappy he always was. Moping around with all that grease on his forehead. That’s no fun. Honestly, the thing is like a kidney or Roger Ebert, you’ll never really miss it once it’s gone.” He does make a good argument. He senses I’m still (partially) skeptical and pulls out a really, really small portable DVD player from his briefcase, the screen is something like a centimeter in size. I can’t help but wonder if they have additionally small Chinese people work on these things in Hell – or if they just get em from tiny Malaysians in… Wherever Malaysians come from. The small screen flashes and comes to life. I squint to see the images but hear it clear as day. “Hi there!” An announcer in a tweed coat says, putting one foot up on a chair, resting his arms on his knee. “So, you’re thinking about selling your soul, but not quite convinced by the man, yes, I said man, himself? Well don’t decide until you’ve listened to these totally unscripted, non improvised, totally and completely true testimonials.” The image fades to a young man with a business suit on a sunny beach. “Stan took my brain tumor and transplanted it into my incredibly filthily rich wife, who then died a horribly agonizing death, which I avoided, leaving me with all her money! Thanks Stan!” The announcer walks up behind the guy, placing one foot on his shoulder and rests an arm on his knee while giving me a thumbs up and a huge smile. The image fades to a really ugly young guy with short blonde hair and sunken in eyes. “Stan got me the lead in Home Alone… End of story… Thanks Stan!” Another thumbs up flashes on screen in full and freezes, ‘DO IT!’ scrolls across the screen in big red letters and a really sweet and corny infomercial theme rings through my ears. “How can I really argue with such a well produced presentation?” Stan quickly gets some small forms from his briefcase, and points to a very small X. “Just sign here, please.” I hold my pen next to the sheet and wait a moment. “Can I be like, totally very specific in what I want?” “Sure. Gates was quite detailed. Go for broke!” His enthusiasm really impresses. I wonder if there would be more fans of god if he was more of a go-getter and not so hushed and somber all the time in church and stuff. I stand slowly and feel power and audacity growing eagerly in my heart, “I want to be good looking… Nay! I want to be beautiful. I want to be gorgeous… So absolutely gorgeous that the very memory of my image after I have left a room will leave people gasping for another taste of my presence and without it they will inconsolably cower to their knees and weep, lost in their own insecurities for days on end.” “So you want to be a woman, eh?” Stan asks. “No!” I say, offended as all poetry and power drain and my homophobia unleashes itself from its cage deep in my consciousness. “I want to be a man! I like girls sexually… I’d imagine… I… Definitely! I am a man!” I am justified in my convictions I feel. Given the chance I would be a man… Theory is power! “Ok, ok, calm down. I just didn’t understand the addition of the word beautiful. I have never found men beautiful myself.” “I am not gay!” “I didn’t say you were.” He can’t stop smiling and I can’t stop sweating. “I just thought you meant you wanted to be a woman.” Looking shocked I’m sure, I say, “Why would anyone want to actually be a girl? Uh, you know… Aside from… Girls.” “I don’t know, Dave. Who can explain why people want the things they want?” Cough! “Winifred Churchill.” Cough! “People have different dreams. Be very specific and take your time, I would hate to short change you, I have a reputation to withhold.” I calm down, some, and sit. Who’s Churchill? Bah, it doesn’t matter. I know what I want. “I am not gay!” I yell. “I know! Get on with it!” Ok… Take your time Ernest… Make dreams a reality. “I want short dark hair. Not dyed but natural. I want a square face – like Brad Pitt from Fight Club – the picture of masculinity! And no body fat, like Guy Pierce from Memento and not Christian Bale from the Machinist. I want bright blue eyes, like a Baldwin Brother, but not Alec Baldwin, his are graying a bit with age, I want William Baldwin’s eyes! Yeah,
William Baldwin, a forgotten Baldwin! Oh, and I want to be boyish too, like I’ll never lose my youth like Aston Kutcher from That 70’s Show, not the serious Kutcher from Butterfly Effect. And, well, I want a very large… Well, you know…” I see a tiny face with a giant TV weatherman smile. I can’t help but wonder if he questions my motivations in knowing who all these men are. The cage door opens again: “I am not gay!” His smile fades and I continue meekly, “I’d like a Dirk Diggler… Thing… You know, Marky Mark Walberg from Boogie nights… Yeah…” “I haven’t seen that one. Is it good?” “It’s ok…” Cage door… “You get to see a lot of naked chicks!” Smooth Ernest, close the cage… Stan looks to his papers and back to me, holding them out. I lean forward in my chair and sign a small E on the page. I can’t fit much else on it. With a smile he switches sheets and I sign another piece of paper. And another. And another. Then he winks and the small pages spontaneously combust before me, littering small beads of flame in front of my monitor which burn up and disintegrate into nothing before landing on my keyboard. At first I am impressed. I love magic tricks! They are so cool, right? Then I am mad, because I should have asked him for the ability to do that! I bet it would impress girls a lot. They love magic, probably… I used to think people like Seigfried and Roy must have girls lined up around the block… Then I saw their home videos… Those poor, poor tigers… As Manny might say ‘that just doesn’t happen in the wild.’ Then I am mad again, because I will have to sign all those things again! Then I remember he is the Devil and all, so it was probably a normal part of his job… Fire is cool. “Hey!” I bark at him as he stands to leave. “I’ll sell you my dog’s soul for a phat Doge Viper GTS, dark blue with that tight white racing strip across and some 18” Mac Rims with spinners and a mad crazy GT racing Spoiler!” “What do I look like to you? A rapper? I didn’t come here to pimp your ride.” He snaps his fingers and is gone.

The next thing I remember is opening my eyes and seeing my ceiling fan. Wobbling from the momentum of the blades. My room is the same. I still need to get a third screw into that fan for stability, one of these days it’s gonna fall to the floor and smash, as my mom always tells me. The sunlight streaming through the gaps in my blinds strikes a sharp blinding contrast over my tired eyes. It tells me I slept too long and better get up. I must have dreamed that whole thing about the Devil and all. Probably even dreamt about the girls on trampolines… Like most other nights. Heck man! I know there is no Devil! I’m so stupid! Ha, I should listen to my mom more often – never eat cheese before bed, you have the weirdest dreams. I cautiously enter the bathroom, carefully opening the shower curtain with a golf club I keep for this reason, no one hiding behind it… Today… I go to the sink and pray no spiders will come spindling down at me like in Arachnophobia, and get some triple-medicated-ultra-power-prescription-onlyexperimental-acne-remover cream from its container. As I look up to apply it I almost pass out. Either it has finally done its job, or my mom was wrong and everyone does bloom one day like a beautiful flower – even me! I am beautiful. I normally don’t like looking in mirrors for fear I will see something behind me that isn’t really there, but today… The exception is I’m afraid because my reflection isn’t there! In it’s place: Chiseled features – hell, I’d like to see someone try and chisel features more chiseled than these! Short dark hair, somehow already styled in a hip yet subtle, casually smooth cut. And bright piercing blue eyes – straight out of Stephen Baldwin’s close up in The Flintstones! Close enough, I figure. And oh my go… Devil! I have definition! I actually have definition! You can see where some muscles start and end, more than that! My breasts have been replaced with pecks! I quickly pull my Y-fronts down… That Stan is good; I’ll give him that! He certainly knows his junk… I pull them up quickly until I can feel safe and alone – a bathroom is not the kind of place I would like to be naked, ever. I run to my room and open my closet to get ready and show myself off – all of my K-Mart, WalMart and Target clothes are gone – and in their place is a slew of brand names I have heard of but have never actually worn! I feel overwhelmed and special, like I’m getting all these endorsements from these various companies. It’s like Christmas day – the ones in movies where kids actually get gifts!
My closet reads like a bus stand advertisement – Calvin Kline, Perry Ellis, Tommy Hillfiger, Hugo Boss, Gucci, Armani, Versace, Diesel, Levis, Nike, those shirts with the little Gator on the chest from a lot of ‘80s movies – even some of those Gray and Blue shirts with the little boat! I can’t believe this! I can’t believe everybody hasn’t sold their souls! Or maybe they all did already. I don’t remember anyone being anywhere near as much of a loser as me… Was I the only one? Did he get to me last? I’d be upset if I was the last one to get so pretty, but I couldn’t care because I have expensive clothes to wear! I check out my window and only see my dog sitting on the front lawn, rolling around in the grass. I can’t help but feel it’s kind of a waste. I mean, yeah a pet is for Christmas and all, but a car is forever. I skip breakfast and run straight to school – two whole miles. Something I would never even contemplate before today, but I have definition! Running seems to come as naturally now as masturbating had in my old body. I don’t even break a sweat in my green Mizuno wave legend 3 shoes, Diesel ZAF 710 jeans (a loose and delightful 28 waist! I know, I’m like what?!), a black Dolce & Gabbana Intimo ribbed American tank top vest under an open and free flowing white Theory Seth Calais short sleeve shirt with silver lining. Completing the ensemble is an incredibly delicate feeling pair of Blinde design ‘neo’ sunglasses from the Matrix! And underneath it all, a pair of snug Calvin Klein microfiber seamless trunks barely containing my impressive new crotch! I am a living, breathing, running, GAP commercial. It is the happiest most wonderful moment of my young pathetic life. I get to school less than twenty minutes after I left the house. I am amazing! I don’t think my pores will allow sweat to flow from them. I am too beautiful to be marred by a moist brow. I’m not even out of breath. I thumb my chin, imagining how I might grow out a little goatee over my cleft! I could never do it before, all of my hair grew out patchy and would roll itself up on my double chins, but that wouldn’t be a problem now. Not for Super Ernest! As I set foot inside, the room goes quiet. I can feel the tension in the air as all heads turn towards me. One of the hottest cheerleaders in school accidentally bumps into a locker as she walks by blindly, her eyes on me. No one laughs at her – it’s not the same as when I used to bump into things. For one, no one pushed her and pulled her underwear up from behind. I walk forward down the hall, strutting as I had seen Shaft do many times before; I move briskly and try to keep a straight face as not to betray my cool exterior with the huge smile I am holding back. This is unbelievable! I imagine no one will know who I am, so I will have to think up a befitting name to my newfound beauty. Maybe Huge G. Johnson… I should probably spend more time on this and think of a good one, I don’t want to sell how amazing I am short. I approach Missy Matthers with fresh groves of confidence riding high in my heart. She stands by her locker, pretending not to notice me as I get closer. I can feel her nerves pounding as I had once felt my own in her presence. Her friend beside her is secretly informing her that I am looking right at her and don’t turn towards me as I pass and oh my god, I am coming right to her! When you look this good, you have to have an appropriate walk. I switch smoothly from Shaft to John Wayne. My hands in my pockets, thumbs out, and bow legged. “Hey Missy.” I say. Holy crap! I sound so good and smooth. I instantaneously command my own respect! Missy’s friend is shocked. I can see the star struck expression on her face. She is thrilled to be around as I talk, she will probably write it down in her diary tonight with a few dozen little hearts drawn everywhere, sighing all the way home. “What’s going on?” I say and Missy turns to look up to me. I am a good six-five now, rugged and dashing and incredible. She is maybe five-ten and gorgeous. It’s kinda funny… I used to look up to her a lot, not because she was pretty or special or popular, but because she was just so damn tall. It occurs to me the other thing I should have asked for was retractable Adamantium claws, like Wolverine from the X-Men! Damn that would be cool! Well hell, I guess I can get the next best thing, I am so attractive now I’m a shoe in for young Logan in the next movie. Marvel would be crazy not to go for someone as purely gorgeous as me! Now there is a great name for me: Logan Wolf! Cool man! I reach over Missy’s head and lay my hand against her locker and press my weight against it, expecting it to break, but it doesn’t. My arm looks so sexy. I almost can’t take my eyes off it long enough to look down at her. “H-H-Hi E-Ernest.” She says nervously. Quivering – excuse the expression – like a little schoolgirl with a crush. “You ok?” She asks. I’m still me! I guess all that is different is how I look and stuff, but I’m still me. I guess he changed
their memories too… Wonder if I got up to anything exciting in my new past I don’t realize yet – hey! Is Missy my girlfriend? “Are you my girlfriend?” I ask quickly. Coyly she asks, “Do you want me to be?” Damn, I guess not. But she sounds interested, guess I should flex my exceptional verbal muscles. “Maybe.” I say, using my newfound authority over the opposite sex. “Lunch time, my place, yeah?” She bites her bottom lip and nods ‘yes’ nervously, stammering off a short ‘sure’ as I turn around quickly. As I walk away I don’t look back as I hear Missy and her friend squealing with pubescent banter and gossip. I know from watching movies that real men don’t look back, and neither do I, as I am a real man now. Maybe not in the juvenile sense of losing ones virginity – well I don’t actually know, I might have. In fact I’m just going to assume I have, as I am so amazingly hunky and at 17 looking like this, what are the odds I haven’t? Yeah… I so have! I just walked up to the hottest girl in school and she was utterly defenseless to my pure manliness, saying it is a dream come true doesn’t do this justice, because my dreams have never been this good. Two words keep running through my head so fast I can barely catch my breath: Tee Hee. I think I will still change my name, I mean Ernest is a good strong and respectable name and all, but I’m thinking maybe Brad or Steve or Adrian or Jack or John or James or Jonas or Gabriel or Ken. Something synonymous with being male. Something strong like my chin but also beautiful like my eyes but also sexy like my arms. Oh, maybe Chet! Oh yeah… Chet… Sweet! The bell rings and I almost slip into old habits and run for class, but remembering how cool I am, I just walk slowly and strut – Now Chili Palmer’s walk from Get Shorty, but not from Be Cool – and as I reach the doorway for Mrs. Hunter’s English class, something hits me. I am far, far too cool for school – no pun intended – but when you look this good, you really don’t have to know anything at all (jeez Mrs. Hunter wants me so much, it’s tragic! But I ignore it, cause I’m too cool for her). I run out of school and head for McDonalds but again, I am hit by a mind block of just how fantastically handsome I am. I cannot eat at McDonalds when I am so attractive that I could make Brad Pitt Jealous! So I went to Subway. Ham and double cheese with lettuce, mayonnaise, extra vinegar and oil, as I said to the sammitch boy after the normal girl who serves me left when she cut her hand because she couldn’t keep her eyes off me, “Spare no expense!” Sweet! I slapped my money down, grabbed my sandwich, a large Mountain Dew and a big Macadamia nut cookie and headed for the door. I had decided it was a damn shame to sit inside and eat when I should stand on the sidewalk eating where everyone can see me. As I step outside slowly – with a Tyler Durden swagger of casual arrogance – a little woman runs into me and almost falls over. As she looks up to complain she stops dead in her tracks and her eyes go as wide as Missy’s had. She puts her hands to her face, “Do you speak English?” She says quickly. I nod yes, but don’t say anything. My reflection teaches me I can have people hanging on my every word – even when I haven’t said anything yet. She scrambles in her handbag and pulls out a sleek Motorola cell phone. Man, I should get me one of those, then I’d be that tiny increment cooler! The short serious woman speed dials and quivers into the phone: “Marty… I’ve found him.”

Ten minutes, a 6-inch sub and a very tasty Macadamia nut cookie later, I’m sitting in this agent woman’s office in front of a white screen with a HI-8 video camcorder stuffed in my beautiful face. The casting director for some movie project watches me closely as the short and serious agent woman reads the first part of some dribble I don’t much listen to. I pretend to hear her as I read it myself some, flicking a few pages further in and checking it out. It’s a typical action movie: a two hour or so stretch of formulaic story based on some highly improbably plot point which links two improbable characters together who will invariably fall in love (lust) somewhere along the predictable plot turns and twists involving the other paperthin characters, filling the gaps with cheesy dialogue and over blown action set pieces. By and far, hands down, my all time favorite kind of movie! I hear her finish her dialogue and I manipulate my chiseled, dynamic features into a seductive yet striking look I perfected while I was eating. I look up from the script and into the lens of the camcorder and quietly say, “Would you like fries with that… Sir?” and cock my head to the side some to accentuate the word ‘sir’ showing off my bold dramatic nature. There was a moment of silence. For about a nanosecond I worried I didn’t do well, but then the
stillness was broken by a sniffle. “That was… Perfect…” The casting director said as he wiped away a tear from his eye. He rose to give me a standing ovation. “That was the best damn reading I have ever heard!” Oh man, I am good. You can’t honestly say to this face that I’m not, because I’ve tried and it just doesn’t work! I walk out of the serious agent woman’s office signed on for a three-picture deal with Universal. Who ever said good looks don’t get you anywhere was a filthy ugly liar! Probably had a hairy back too – unlike me who now doesn’t. Not to sound like I’m gloating but my chiseled shoulders are hair free naturally. I assume… Well they are perfect anyway… I decided to go for a long walk home, down Coopers Street and around the park. Stretch my legs and burn off some of my gleeful energy I keep amassing from nowhere. On both sides of me, the sidewalks swelled with gasps of admiration and desire. Women, men, dogs, cats, birds, they all seemed to be watching my every move with baited breath. I was in full swing now, strutting a Saturday Night Fever move, legs out large and proud like a 70s Cartoon with each step. Pure Supa fly. With each storefront and window I passed I had to pause and study myself. I felt like Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap, staring at a mirror image that is not my own – only there was no way I was going to do something right and leap outta here, I’m in it for the long haul! I don’t imagine when I get old I’ll look any less impressive either; I mean there are a lot of older guys who have kept their beauty. I can’t think of any really, but I’m sure there is. Besides, none of the really ‘good looking’ celebrities looked this good in their late teens anyway, so when I am older I will just dominate peoples imaginations and dreams! I know because I won’t be able to dream about anyone else but myself ever again. I passed a church and paused. I couldn’t help thinking how all those people in there are missing out on something utterly wonderful. With everything that is hard in life and bad, no one should have to save and slave away for the most basic of all human needs – the need to be beautiful! They are praying to the wrong god man! Why save an ugly soul when you can have a beautiful life? You only live once! I felt like running inside and shouting at them all to turn up their heavy metal records and play KISS backwards and burn some candles or whatever the hell you do. They should see how beautiful it is on the other side – well hell if I walked in there, they would when they see my absurdly delicious smiling face! I knew Tenacious D was onto something, but I had no idea! Flashing to the side of the church is a big illuminated sign for Bank of America which shows the time and temperature and whatnot, as well as their new interest rates and things. I suddenly realize that in my haste designing my beautiful self in the pursuit of happiness, I forgot about the joys of money! I can’t kick myself too hard or feel I got a bad deal for not remembering about the big green S’s with lines through them – because the clock flickers to 11:50. I’m meeting Missy at noon and no doubt within twelve minutes I won’t care about much else in the world. Besides, I’m sure they’re gonna pay me something for those movie roles. I didn’t ask, but I just don’t see how they can’t. I’m handsome, and what’s more, I am beautiful too. I run as fast as I can, all the way home. I pass a car dealership and wonder if I should run in and flash my smile and ask to take a car for a test drive, something sporty like a Porsche or a Jetta. The minute or so it would take me to swindle the girl – or guy, I’m no racist – into giving me a car would probably just slow me down so I figure I’ll do it tomorrow. I come to the end of Brown Street on the verge of Green Street, where I live, and I see her. Sitting on my parent’s front door step. As soon as she sees me she stands and smiles, patting down the front of her dress, getting any creases out. I used to stand on the side of the basketball court and watch her coming and going from school… Now she’s standing on my doorstep, waiting for me… It’s amazing. It’s a dream come true… This moment is my ‘69 come back special. I’m Elvis. Just not sweaty. I really don’t think I can sweat! Now how cool is that? Waking up today was like leaving a bad dream, realizing all the possibilities in the world are mine for the taking, and to top it all off, to just over-indulge, to just over-compensate for the darkness before the light, I’m going to lose my virginity (assuming I haven’t already, which I so did!) and what’s more… I’m going to do it in style! With the head cheerleader – which to my understanding is like driving a Lamborghini instead of a Ford. Waving to her, I see her cheeks well up red. I make her anxious and nervous – but in a good way
now. As I start towards her, foot over foot, I don’t lose my balance or feel faint, which is how I used to feel just thinking about her. My heart fills with admiration and justice and all that is right and perfect in the world. I feel my heart pound faster and faster with anticipation of her touch and smell and everything else I have seen through ‘Girls on trampolines’ videos. I am so excited. I am so happy. I want to dance. I want to sing! I want to sing the ‘My life is so perfect song.’ It goes a little something like this: “Ohhhhhh, my lifeee… My lifeeee is sooooooooooo perfect! Everyday is better than the last… I’m going to get a little asssssssssssssssssssssssssssss… How exciting is that? Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeahhhhh, my lifeeeeee… Is soooooooo perfect! Sooooooo much better than your-“ It’s about this time I am hit by the truck and killed instantly.

Suddenly, I am sitting in a large green room. There is a card in my hand, it says 052. An LED counter on the wall reads 046. Guess I am waiting for something. Looking around, I see there are a few other people in this waiting room, all wearing what looks like white hospital gowns mixed with prison uniforms. Clinical and restrictive. They all have cards too. Something tells me I won’t be seeing Missy naked. Thinking about it, rehashing the events of the day and all, I come to realize that somewhere in midsong I was hit by a truck and am pretty much dead and I am in Purgatory. Ahead of me is a pretty receptionist who looks like she’s been frozen in time and transported from the Sixties. To her left and right are two doors, both marked with the letter H. One has an up arrow, the other a down arrow. It’s a pretty sullen affair. No one looks very happy to be here. I guess I am not surprised. Whoever runs this place has a quirky sense of humor; the song ‘who wants to live forever’ (the theme from the Highlander motion picture) plays on a constant loop through bad speakers with wrecked treble and no bass and all the magazines are old issues of Vogue featuring specials on Oprah, Ricky Lake and Rosie O’Donnell. Within an hour I am ready to hang myself and end it all, but I’m not entirely sure it would do me much good, I mean, I already died once today. Knowing my luck I’d just come back as number 85 and have to wait even longer. Every now and then more people appear, but I don’t know from where. Sometimes they don’t seem so bad but after reading their card and listening to the music, some of them become very manic and start crying. One guy in the corner who looks a lot like Rodney Dangerfield is bobbing his head and mouthing the words to the music. It makes the whole scene even sadder somehow. Finally, after what seems like days, my number is called and I go up to the little Sixties reception lady. I guess she flirts with me some, I mean I am beautiful, but I can’t get too excited about it. I’m a little beyond caring about that kind of stuff now that I am here and all. Getting glanced at by a girl or flirted with or even trying to get laid just somehow doesn’t seem very important anymore… Maybe they drugged me. “It seems you’ve lived a fairly clean life Mr. Galecky,” She explains to me in a clinical tone, “With the exception of having masturbated over forty thousand times…” It’s not really necessary, I’m sure, but I can’t help but be embarrassed. She continues anyway, “But that’s not a damnable offense now is it?” I smile at her hopefully. My mom always told me it was. “You also seem to have been in possession in your mortal life of over 1,000 hours worth of ‘Girls on trampolines’ videos… But you didn’t actually make them, so that’s not so bad… You coveted… Well, everyone and everything… But we can over look that.” She smiles briskly. “Seems like you are all good and can go straight up to… Wait a second.” Her face goes stern and I feel my heart jump in my throat. “There’s a flag on your file… Ah, seems you made an agreement with Mr. Smyth on the twelfth for popularity.” “No, for beauty.” I say, realizing how stupid it is to site semantics in Purgatory. She smiles again, “What do you think it takes to be popular? Hmm?” I think it over and nod in defeat. “Well anyway, you’re condemned to an eternity of punishment downstairs, please proceed to the door on your left and relinquish your rental body. Have a nice day.” Oh, whoopity do, only for an eternity, huh? Just one? That’s no big deal… I lean in close to her. “I want to see your manager.” Another few days seem to go by before Stan’s lawyer finally comes in. He is the spitting image of the Devil in all ways except for darker hair. “Mr…” He eyes me in an expectant way. After a while I tell him my last name. “Mr. Galecky.” He says firmly in conclusion. “What seems to be the problem? You made a deal with my client on the twelfth for possession of your soul in exchange for goods rendered. My client held
his side of the bargain. You died and now must honor the agreement. I see no problem. Case closed, goodbye.” He turns to leave. “I only got to live my new life for two hours and I got hit by a truck! It’s unfair.” I say. “Mr. Galecky, my client is not responsible for any traffic violations or failure to look both ways before crossing an intersection after the stated agreement was in place now is he? You signed a legally binding document pertaining to the acquisition of popularity in exchange for you soul. Nothing more. Once the deal was brokered it was up to you to keep yourself healthy.” “It’s not my fault!” I scream sadly. “Perhaps it’s your parents fault for not raising you correctly and teaching you adequate road safety. It is certainly not my client’s fault. If he assumed for one moment you hadn’t been informed of looking left and right before crossing a road, he would have informed you of it himself! It is a shame not to know something so simple, yet so vital as to ones own survival.” I hate lawyers. I need to say something decisive that will make him see things from my side. I think about this carefully before speaking. “But it’s not fair!” I shout. “My client, as you may know, is the Prince of Darkness and he would love to show some compassion and hear out your grievances or give you a second change, reinvent his policies etc., but unfortunately, he doesn’t understand the meaning of the word – he is the Lord of the Underworld, you know.” “I shouldn’t have died.” I say quietly, crying. “It wasn’t my time.” “Not to speak out of turn here,” He said. “But you made in agreement with the Devil. Not a guardian angel. Not your fairy godmother. What did you really expect?” He moved in close to me and put a hand on my shoulder. “You did read the fine print, didn’t you?” I shake my head, no. “It was small.” I said, as I was lead in through the door on the right. “Have a nice day.” He says behind me. Everyone is so polite.

So here I am. In Hell, or as they call it ‘downstairs’ and I am a damn nerd once more. Long red hair, freckles, acne, pocket protector, hairy back and all. Every time I even approach someone like Monroe, even for an autograph (and by the way, her real body doesn’t look anywhere as good as her rental did, but I guess beggars can’t be choosers) they turn away laughing. I find myself spending most of my time in Barnes and Not-So-Noble, drinking Morebucks brand frappachinos but they are so cheap here! It’s always mostly ice and you never get whip cream and the chocolate is always made from powder instead of concentrate and they never have them little shakers of nutmeg and cinnamon and vanilla and stuff. The book selection is really bad too. There is only four sections: Demonic, Stanic, and Voodooism (the hobby section), the war section (I see Hitler there a lot, reading up and trying to figure out what went wrong), periodicals and entertainment magazines (mostly just issues of Vogue dating back to the beginning of time, I guess they have a subscription down here or something), and erotic fiction. But there are no pictures, so it doesn’t do me any good! Not to mention my VIDP card doesn’t get me anything good free, not even upgraded popcorn sizes or front line rights, I have to wait in line like everyone else and eat medium sized popcorn. Not to mention I am sick to death of watching the Omen, Rosemary’s baby, the Exorcist, Bedazzled, and Good Burger. The seats are cramped and don’t recline in the theaters and there is no stadium seating. There is no digital sound, it’s all in mono – and you can’t even put extra butter on your popcorn! Not that it would be any good as it all comes in some weird flavor called ‘sweet’, the hell is that about? The worst part is when I’m in the theater and forget for a moment where I am. When I walk back outside and everyone starts laughing at me as I pass by it brings it all crashing back to reality. And the reality of it is, I am forever in High School. Hell is all about status. Everyone falls into a certain group, like the cool kids, the OK kids, the nerds and so on. And it is impossible to escape your grouping because of the dress code. Everyone has these shirts they have to wear which display things about you no one needs to know, at least in my opinion. The shirts all list your name, if you sold your soul or not, how long you lived afterward, which sins you committed, how many times you had sex and how you died. Basically all the most embarrassing things about my life are slapped across my chest and back for all the underworld to see everyday.
All anyone ever sees is that I sold my soul, lived in my new shoes for two hours and got pelted out of them by a truck – all the while having never lost my virginity. I am the laughing stock of Hell. And just like in High School, what makes people ‘cool’ here is how often they got laid. I don’t know why, maybe Stan just likes sex, or maybe he just picks up on who is more animalistic and comfortable with the fact we are all animals and mate or something, I don’t much know, but I find it very insulting. I’d ask him about it but I never get to see him. He is always away on ‘business’ and on the rare occasion he is here and walking amongst us losers, he is always in the nicer clubs I can’t get into ‘cause I’m such a loser. I see him on TV occasionally hanging out with all these celebrities and famous lawyers and they all just look like average people to me, nothing special about them anymore. I see famous people all the time in the restaurant where I bus tables, they mainly just make fun of me and it has really shattered the mystique of celebrity for me forever. Not that it really matters. Chris Farley stands out as always being rather nice to me, when he makes a joke at my expense it’s often for my benefit as well as everyone else in earshot. That guy is like royalty down here too, so I feel pretty proud to be in his jokes instead of the butt of them. He is listed at 1,472 times… That’s just plain amazing. He’d be my hero if he didn’t keep stiffing me on tips. I can let most of life slip here: it’s not too hot, too cold, it’s just nice. Very humid though, like I imagine a place like Florida must be. There isn’t much fire, just a lot of streetlights, and you get used to the perpetual night of living in a never-ending underground cityscape. And I am used to people treating me like dirt, so knowing it won’t change as opposed to needlessly hoping it will is actually kind of liberating. But there are two things I really, really have a problem with here. Firstly, there are no fast food places, and I mean anywhere! No McDonalds, no Checkers, no Jack in the box, no Arbys, no Chick Fila, nothing, it is down right un-American! There is a burger king, but there is no way I’m eatin’ there. Dave Thomas keeps petitioning for planning permission to build a Wendy’s but the council of elders keeps turning him down. For the most part we have to eat melted chocolate all day and hard candy – trust me on this, it is not as good as it sounds. Everyone gets massive tooth decay and the dentists here all work like something out of Marathon Man. Even when you get a tooth removed it just grows back in like when you’re ten (only really painfully!). I guess this is what they mean by ‘punished for eternity’. Every day is just an extension and exaggeration of every small punishment life can dish out. I think I’d prefer to be chained to a wall and whipped all day long. But they don’t take requests here. They just play the songs they want to. My other big gripe is girls. They are everywhere, some of the hottest women in history are going out each night, looking for dates to spice up the tedium of everyday after-life and they all want nothing to do with me. I mean, Joan of Arc’s probably made out with every guy in Hell. Every guy but me. And why not? Because I am an ugly dork, again. I could try and build myself up and get muscles and shave my hair off and dye the roots or something, but there would be no point. Every morning I come back looking just the same as the day before. Like Groundhog Day or something.

It’s true what they say… Life is a bitch, but man… You should enjoy it while it lasts.

So, by now, I’m sure you are wondering – what is the moral of my story? I don’t really know. I am not a smart guy, I never was. Just an average American C-minus teenager. I guess all I can say is if you’re sitting there one night and the Devil creeps up on you and offers you what seems like a pretty sweet deal, read all the paperwork thoroughly before signing and think about your wish carefully. I mean hell. Money, fame, good health, perfection in body, popularity, a good burger. All these things seem like the perfect wish when you think of them at first – but I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and most are just so fleeting with no ultra long-term benefits. I mean, health deteriorates. Your body sags and creases as you age. You can’t be popular forever; life without enemies is like night without darkness. Money gets spent. No one can really be famous forever – look at Michael Jackson!
A good burger is delicious, but once you’ve eaten it… it’s gone for good. Just like… Life… … For something as trivial as popularity I scarified any chance I had of getting the things we all really want in the end… Friends. Food. Fun. Love… Good times, had with good people. Going to a Friday night movie premiere. Having someone to hold you when you feel bad. Rain. Long sunsets with loved ones. Writing. Reading. Drawing. Living… A good job. A good wife. Maybe some kids. Lightening storms. Christmas day with your family. Watching the kids go through their gifts. Dreaming. Those enjoyable moments we remember to the day we die – and maybe beyond. Life isn’t about money or power or fun or sex or entertainment or any thing… It’s about living.

To quote a great movie I’ll never see again, “I am jack’s broken heart.”

Anyway, I have to go. I’m hitting the blue room tonight and from row 332 I’m gonna see Kurt and Jimi perform together. It’ll be good I guess… I’ll be seeing ya.

Sooner or later.

Probably sooner if you don’t look left and right before crossing the street.

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