Red Devil Rag

"Stay, Mephistopheles, and tell me, what good will my soul do thy lord?"

In the streets of New York a miserable wretch wandered anonymously through the crowd, a short, bald, ugly man trailing the tails of his army greatcoat, which covered his feet and spread around him on the sidewalk. He saw a gorgeous young woman in spike heels and a fake leopard skin coat waving at taxis that didn’t stop, and fell in love. 

“Hi,” he said. His voice was bestial, guttural. “Nice shoes. Can I smell one?” 

She waved strenuously at a cab but it passed. 

“Want to have anal sex?” He smiled. “I guess I’m just a moldy little rat.”

Frantic now she stepped out to stop a taxi but it honked and veered around her.

“It’s a physical world!” he pleaded. “We’re implicated!”

She put her finger on her tongue and made the puke gesture at him.

“I’m a baby on the floor here! If you could see me with spiritual eyes—” 

A mini-cab stopped. She got in with a contemptuous flash of thigh and roared off as he stood there.

That night he was warming his hands at a burn barrel when the flames flared into a ten-foot Devil. The wretch stared up in awe, but soon found his voice. “Can you make her fall in love with me?”

“Well, I can’t touch the center of her being,” said the Devil, “but I can break her! Torture her into submission! You wouldn’t want that.”


“What about a car accident? Make her a quadriplegic! Then you could rape her and she wouldn’t be able to resist!”

“Yeah! Yeah!”
“Could you handle the guilt?”


“The guilt! Could you handle the guilt?

“Fuck are you talkin’ about?”

“Are you infinitely less sophisticated than I am, or infinitely more sophisticated than I am?”

“Can I have her?”

“Well, maybe if you didn’t look like that—”

“Yeah! Yeah! Make me beautiful!”

The next day the young woman was at the curb when the impossibly handsome Cary Clooney stepped in front of her and flagged a taxi down, then turned as if only now aware of her. “Oh, sorry. How could I not see you?” He got in first. “Can I drop you?”

She looked at her watch, looked for another cab and, pressed, squeezed in.

“Where you headed?”

“Madison and Fifty-First,” she told the driver.

“You know, you got legs like some kinda fuckin’ dream or something. I don’t even care if you have a human soul!”

She hesitated. “Yeah?”

He farted. “Oh, sorry.”

She screwed her face up and said “Stop here” to the driver.

“You must forgive my perhaps imperfect breeding,” said Cary, “Let’s have some air.” He opened his door, another car sheered it off, and it went clattering along the pavement. The driver turned to him as he watched her struggle out.

“Go ahead! Fuckin’ chicken-cluck brain o’ yours!” He handed her her purse after her. “Park that in your hangar! Lotsa room in there!” And to the driver, “Fuck are you lookin’ at?”

“It doesn’t work,” he told the Devil. “You gotta change the inner me.”

“The what?

“I don’t know anything!”

“Nobody knows anything. They’re all just pretending.”

“Make me—Make me—”

“Look, grow up! She’s an illusion! A mirage! A trick of light mounted on blood and veins! A Technicolor mist as you move through the maze. Digital! Go rub oil on your dick!”

“Please!” (Cary wept,) “Just give her to me! I want her!”

In the morning as she was looking for a taxi he approached and waited patiently while she ignored him. He put a hand in his pocket with elegant style. “I hope you can overlook what happened yesterday. I wasn’t myself.”

“That must have been a relief.”

“Perhaps we could start anew.”

A cab pulled up and she got in with a flash of thigh.

“Not even a goodbye?”

“You don’t say good-bye to something like you, you wipe yourself!” She slammed the door and the taxi screeched off.

He stood before the fire staring at his thoughts. The flames flared, the Devil appeared, but Cary didn’t even look.

“Well, I tried everything to make you human. You’re a wart! An unsqueezed pimple on the face of life!”

Cary could only nod. The Devil threw a gesture of disdain at him and pop!—he was again the wretch, still staring at his thoughts. 

Then he brightened: “Hey! Why don’t you gimme a magic spell to make her do whatever I want?!”

“Put a human soul under your power? So you can make her perform whatever foul and stinking act you want her to? I don’t know, it’s a big responsibility. What’ll ya gimme?”

“I’ll give you my soul!” 

Your soul!” The Devil laughed an echoing laugh.

“All I got is my soul! I’m givin’ it to ya!”

“Oh, all right.”

The next day as she stood at the curb the wretch came to her. She gave him a glance and looked for a taxi while he said the magic words: “Hunky-kadunky! Scoobledy-joads! Snoabledy-bloabledy hoopendy-hoads!”

Suddenly she was nude but for the heels and, shocked, covered herself with her hands as best she could. He walked away coolly and, without looking back, snapped his fingers and beckoned her over his shoulder, and she shuffled along after him, horrified.

In the alley he led her past other desperate staring men to privacy before the Devil’s burnt-out can.

“You are now under my power and will perform whatever foul and stinking act I want you to,” he smiled. 

She wept. He watched, and became sad, and turned and walked away. “Fuck! Shit Jee-yay-sus H. Jumping McFucking Christ!”

Over his shoulder he snapped his fingers and she, suddenly dressed, looked at herself in wonder.

“I don’t give a speck of fly shit!” he shouted. He turned to her, still walking away: “Shit-wise, I don’t give one! I guess I’m just a—I guess I’m just a—” He stood there, weeping.

She looked at him, then came to him. She had to bend, almost to kneel, to be his height. He bawled. She was tender.

“I guess I’m just a—”

“No you’re not!”

“Yes I am!”

She held his shoulders while he sobbed. “Let’s get to know each other first!”

“No. It doesn’t work.” He swallowed and recovered a little. “Can I touch your tits?”

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