Devil and Saxman

(Excerpt from None So Distant, novel in progress) 

  The devil on the side of the highway got tired of standing and sat down on his briefcase waiting for history to catch up or to pass away altogether. It didn’t matter which happened. It was all the same to him. Time was not his domain nor his master. Time was a castrated juggler with a death’s head moth tattoo painted on its shoulder. Time the cogitating synagogue, the sleepless boar. Its forms were eye candy for the visually impaired. That being said, the devil’s costume had been rented from a novelty shop on Broome Street, and the shop kept regular hours….

   In the devil’s inestimable experience, a soul is a drop of coital silver, usually shaped like a bird or star, which preferred the darkened habitat of amber vials. The devil was a migrant apothecary, hauling countless vials. All of them empty. Each one containing the ongoing fiction and altar and ceremony of souls expressed in the form of coital silver drops shaped like birds like stars … there is no shape to life … only movements … the devil’s roving old gold prospecting eyes knew this. Bird-stars and dust. The devil saw and because of this he had been exiled. He found himself existing on an exclusionary basis, vagrancy his north star and norm. I keep the company of bird-star souls and dust,was one of the songs he sang to himself while making his way. Another was—Every time we see each other I split and grow fonder.

   There were no shortage of songs in the devil’s lost and found catalog—I know a billion of them, scratch that, a trillion, without songs and stories there would be no me, nor you for that matter, and the people who clearly understand this also understand that it could very easily be them wearing this cheaply made devil’s costume rented from a novelty shop on Broome Street, and with it would come the temporary moniker … Devil. Right now, you are Methusaleh, Max or Mary, but you could easily be Devil if you were wearing the rented costume.

   It has started raining, slashing torrential sheets of rain blowing slantwise. The storm is storming fierce. My synthetic Mephistophalean beard droops water-weighted from my chin. That and the rain burns my skin. As expected, as expected … I sit down lower, that is I make myself smaller, and right now if a bus were to rumble by and a pair of inquisitive eyes were to take me in, those eyes might connect to a voice saying to itself—What a sad sight that poor devil, or, poor devil looks miserable out there in the storm—the eyes plus voice would register pity, compassion, from a near fast-moving distance, eyes, voice, pity, distance, goodbye—such is life. I adore the humans. My greatest sin might be adoring them too much. But that’s another story.

   In this story, I have been part of so many I have lost count which number this is, in this story the poor rain-logged figure in the devil’s get-up is about to encounter the man who will come ambling along, long day’s journey’s night tagging his bones and countenance, and for the sake of narrative convenience and orthodox convention, we’ll say I am the antagonist and the man who is nearly here—I see his birds and stars wavering through slats of rain—we’ll call this man the protagonist (of course, protagonist, antagonist, first person, second person, third person, none of these exist save in relation to narrative convenience), and the protagonist’s dilemma, which I sense in advance—his birds and stars have made the blues an orphanage in his heart, this his cross to hear, his foregone season—the man trudges forward, tromping through pond-sized puddles, I’m a lyrical motherfucker when I wanna be, dripping sax strategically crutched in his armpit, a bit of a limp (all us tramping strays have that limp), the man sees me, stops, wipes at his face, asks—Can you help me—I non-committedly mirror his words back to him—Can you help me—and if a pair of curious eyes on a passing by bus were to birth this scene, they’d conceive a poor rain-soaked devil and a poor rain-soaked saxman communing on the side of the highway, they wouldn’t see antagonist-protagonist, then again because of my costume they may see antagonist-protagonist based on pre-existing assumptions and biases, such is life, now that the saxman has finally arrived and asked—Can you help me—I am feeling slightly punchy and antagonistic, which makes me wonder—Is this my innate nature or just the role-play allotted me by my costume?

   The devil and the saxman becomes another story in which I find myself and make myself useful. I bless the saxman. Press my hang-nailed thumb into the center of his forehead and corkscrew firmly. Then I shake his hand with both my hands affectionately gloving his like a businessman selling real estate to a vagrant. I tell the saxman to go forth and blow the motherfucking roof off heaven with his staggering orphanage of blues. Sometimes I gotta sling gangta in my lingo to make sure they respect me. Street cred is the motherfucking badge of the devil.

   The saxman leaves in the rain to do history its small favors. It’s all bullshit. The saxman knows this. As do I. It doesn’t matter. Stories and songs mythicize our movements against disposable backdrops. God, I adore the humans, I really fucking do.

About John Biscello

Originally from Brooklyn, NY, writer, poet, performer, and playwright, John Biscello, has lived in the high-desert grunge-wonderland of Taos, New Mexico since 2001. He is the author of four novels, Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale, Raking the Dust, Nocturne Variations, and No Man’s Brooklyn; a collection of stories, Freeze Tag, two poetry collections, Arclight and Moonglow on Mercy Street; and a fable, The Jackdaw and the Doll, illustrated by Izumi Yokoyama. He also adapted classic fables, which were paired with the vintage illustrations of artist, Paul Bransom, for the collection: Once Upon a Time, Classic Fables Reimagined. His produced, full-length plays include: LOBSTERS ON ICE, ADAGIO FOR STRAYS, THE BEST MEDICINE, ZEITGEIST, U.S.A., and WEREWOLVES DON’T WALTZ.
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