Checkerboard Conscience

“Aren’t we quaint — sitting around this stage prop of a country store with a leaky pickle barrel as our centerpiece? Reminds me of our love life — preserved in the crusty dill brine of seasons past.”

“Are you describing our love life or your genitalia? It’s your move, Lucifer — and there’s nothing wrong with quaint.”

“Well, gaaa-leeee, Mrs. Divine God Almighty, pass around the jug and let’s have a good ole fashion hoedown — Are the Coke stoppers mine, or the Budweiser?”

“You need a haircut. Isn’t that the same shirt you wore yesterday?”

“Where is the strategy to this damned game? We only use half the squares and then take the longest route to a dead end. Oooo, if I reach the end, I get to be a Budweiser King. Is that what they mean by the King of Beers?”

“You ought to love the game — isn’t that how you win so many converts — bending the truth towards dead ends with the promise of royalty? Crown me.”

“How prophetic, or should I say pathetic? Tone down your splendor a might — it’s blinding me.”

“Lucifer, where is everyone?”

“You know perfectly well where those self-centered heathens are.”

“Oh, that’s right, today is the Rattlesnake Roundup. They’re probably deep-frying some of your relatives right now. How does it feel to host a festival in your honor?”

“You should be a stand up comic with your sardonic imagery. I’m so tired of this hick town and its holier-than-thou Beatitudes. My brain has become constipated swallowing their all beef vocabulary.”

“I’m surprised. I’ve never known you not to grab the podium and preach on your favorite subject — yourself.”

“I haven’t slept in weeks. The Immaculate Dozen stand beneath my window each night, arguing over whom among them is the most awesome Apostle. As they did on earth, they worry more about the seating arrangement around the supper table than how we raised them. I’d rather hear a horny alley cat caterwauling, than suffer through that pathetic bunch, lamenting the woes of man.”

“Is that sibling rivalry still going on? Peter always did lust for titles — leave it to him to become pope. Hey, put my king back on the board.”

“My God, we’re pathetic — playing this damnable game, poking ale stoppers from square to square with our bony fingers. The good times have passed us by.”

“Ahh, poor baby…the world is so cruel to little Lucifer. Lighten up, we’re in our prime — at least I still am. Our ongoing struggle of Good vs. Evil is a classic.”

“Yeah, it’s a classic all right — classic boredom…Uh oh, if looks could bring damnation — oh, that’s right, they do around here.”

“It may be predictable, but people love our little Peyton Place soap opera. It has everything that humanity craves, all in a nice tight bundle that’s easy to take along for a late night sleep over. Their minds are still upon my potter’s wheel, not yet formed into the beautiful vessels that will hold our vintage wine of knowledge.”

“Girl, don’t you have great expectations? That’s about the only thing their heads are good for — holding wine.”

“Come on Lucifer, you’re so pessimistic. You’ll always be there when the curtain falls. People need to let off steam after a long week of dehumanizing work. You know their story…they struggle, grow unhappy, drown in debt, then grab desperately at the flotsam and jetsam that floats by in the deluge of their tears.”

“Sounds like a scene from Alice in Wonderland — pass around the hookah and let’s find out what the caterpillar was really smoking.”

“You never are satisfied, are you? I put you in charge of the one thing that doesn’t go out of style — human nature, and you bitch and complain about boredom. Why, just this morning I caught Mrs. Dubious and the preacher sharing that come hither look. You know the one…communicated in silence with a dilated pupil of lust and a simple nod of affirmation. Under the pretense of Wal-Mart shopping, they’ll consummate their over stressed lifestyle down at the Swinging Gate Motel. You see…there will always be a market for your orchestrations of temptation.”

“That’s right…I’d forgotten. They still get drunk and inflate their self-worth as exaggerated fantasies of their sexual prowess. With their shriveled genitalia grasped firmly in their weak, wrinkled paws of virility, they strut about like a horny peacock on Viagra. Give me a break…”

“You always were devilish with your words.”

“I’ve lost my inspiration and my career has fallen into dilapidated neglect. My Taj Mahal has turned into a three-room shotgun shack that leans upon rotten floor joists, its tin roof rusted and bent back from the last hurricane. Is this what’s become of our passion — a meandering tempest that blows everything in sight like some lascivious whore? Tell me, is that our passion?”

“Nothing like a manic depressive who thinks he’s cured himself.”

“…Of course, it’s not our Passion anymore is it? That Nail Gibson has plagiarized our life. Leave it to our mortal offspring to lecture us on passion, then profit from our Sacrifice — how pretentious.”

“You seem to have plenty of passion left — albeit negative.”

“Why is it that our children only believe what they see? Am I wrong — don’t we actually see what we believe?”

“What in heaven’s name are you rambling on about?”

“That right wing hypocrisy, the Immoral Majority has done more harm to Christianity, than I ever could. America is blinded to their capitalistic Values and narcissistic Morals. Then I get blamed for it all.”

“Oh, you’re still venting. It’s a good thing one of us knows how to forgive.”

“Positives and negatives, forgive and forget — I just don’t get it. Tell me the one thing that bothers you the most. Come on, reveal your hidden secrets.”

“Married all these years and still you don’t know what makes me tick. When’s our anniversary? What’s my favorite color?”

“You’re avoiding my question.”

“And you’re avoiding the answer. But if you have to know, I guess it would be…placing white people in the cold climates and the black ones in the tropics. I was over stressed that day negotiating with the contractors in their bids to construct Paradise. I got the animals where they belonged but mislabeled the people. It doesn’t matter anyway. They were too busy fighting over the hierarchy of race and gender to notice.”

“You amaze me, you know that? After all you’ve done for that race of megalomaniacs they still remain ungrateful. Let’s stick a pin in their inflated heads and watch them fly about the room. They wonder more about Da Vinci and a Holy Grail than the meaning of life. They can’t balance their checkbooks, yet pretend to understand some secret code that doesn’t exist. Such small minds, all children of the same blood line, none any more pure than the rest and all pitching in to foot the bill for their small fillet of Messiah.”

“You’re right, Lucifer. Maybe a little harsh…but still, you know them well. I told Leonardo they’d never understand that portrait of our family breaking biscuits and gravy. They wonder why there is a woman present or why John is portrayed in such an effeminate manner. Amazing isn’t it? They still don’t understand our family get together.”

“Well, give the devil his due — what do you expect? They will never be inspired, at least towards any concept other than fame and fortune. I guess they take after me in that respect. They coin phrases of thinking outside the box when they should open the damn box and see what’s inside. My eighth grade algebra teacher described them well when he compared humans to alligators.”

“What did old man Calhoun mean by that?”

“When an alligator opens his mouth he closes his eyes, but when people open their mouths they close their minds.”

“Listen to us, Lucifer — we have to get you back on an upswing again. You still taking your Prozac? Do I need to light a fire beneath your feet? Perhaps we need to make you an appointment with Michael.”

“Forgive me if I don’t laugh at your sarcastic wit but rest assured I’m cackling upon the inside right now. Just keep that pumped up archangel bouncer away from me.”

“I know what you need. Chuck me down the latest copy of People and let’s see which neurosis is this month’s sexiest person in the universe. You always did enjoy their vane attempts at crowning glory. What’s that term you use to describe them…Social Chameleons? Like a psychedelic chameleon, they attempt to match a gay clansman’s kilt pattern. They’ll do anything to fit in. Just listen to me. I’m singing sarcasm right along with you.”

“Can’t you see? That’s the problem.”

“What, vanity? Mendacity? America’s Sweetheart? Sarcasm?”

“No, there’s nothing new. Don’t you see? We’ve done it all, seen it all and imagined everything there is to lie about. What I’d give for a new sin, something to inspire me and make me feel alive again. I can’t remember the last time I felt the euphoria rush of slithering out upon that limb and lapping in the sweet sensual juices of a ripened forbidden fruit. I’ve tasted them all so many times, it’s grown old hat.”

“A new sin? You old coot, what’s wrong with the ones I gave you? They still work perfectly fine. You remind me of an American, trading in your car every two years before it’s ever paid for. Sure they’ve got fancy new gadgets, like cruise control and heated seats that lean way back, but what good is that? You’re arms ain’t but so long and you only drive to the doctor to get your prostate checked? You sure as hell don’t need heated seats with your hot ass. The old sins work fine. There’s nothing wrong with this old Chevrolet.”

“Chevrolet? I remember the good old days. Remember what it was like to cruise down Paradise Boulevard in that looong, shiny, black Catalina? Our days were spent anticipating the hot humid nights of weekend encounters. Don’t you remember putting your top down and seeding those wild oats?”

“Oh, I remember a lot of things, especially your wild oats.”

“Ah, come on. You never forgive my mistakes.”

“I forgive everything, just don’t forget. You’re the one who asked about my memories…”

“I mean pleasant memories, like when we’d drive out to Lover’s Leap and forget the world existed? Heaven lay upon the over padded bench seat of a 67 Catalina. We painted our Monet upon the canvass of our pale skin, skin that glowed with a blue iridescence upon the twilight of the dashboard lights. Our Renoir took form and depth with each stroke of our brush, deep sensual shades that mirrored our souls. We had passion and desire and no restraints.”

“Some of us need restraints — like a ball and chain.”

“The windows glowed white with our expressed humidity and your toes would splay in the tumultuous thunderstorm, leaving a ten-toed trail as they slid down the cool glass of your drive-in ecstasy. Don’t you remember?”


“I was your favorite and your desire filled me with purpose.”

“Ambition is more like it.”

“Your cool linen recoiled from your bodice, pulling away from itself while exposing the warm creamy texture of your skin in a widening V that delved ever deeper. A migration encouraged by the pirouette of your polished nails. They engaged each clasp in a slow purposeful seduction of button and fallen angel, enticing each to relinquish our posts of restraint.”

“You have to be kidding — you possessing restraint? Crown me.”

“Your eyes never wandered as they savored the hunger in my own. You smiled as my trembling hands pulled you free from the cumbersome embrace of your ornate draperies. The delicate lace of your bra strained to contain the raging headwaters of your spring thaw, pressing and bulging until you overflowed your voluptuous banks. In a strip tease that defies time, your brilliant aura illuminated the night.”

“Uh huh…it’s still your move.”

“You possess such damnable beauty — to scratch that forbidden itch — to orchestrate our erotic desires and draw my bow across the taut strings of your femininity…is to die for. We were Peter Rabbit diving beneath the garden fence dining indiscriminately upon another’s fresh virgin fare. We were Alice sliding headlong down the forbidden hole of deviant temptation and lewd satisfaction. And we were Dorothy, escaping the pious Puritan restraints of an overbearing Auntie Emm to engage our street walker fantasies upon the Yellow Brick Road.”

“Well things change as we grow older — we become more responsible and settled.”

“Don’t remind me. Having children turned us into old fogies.”

“What would life be like without our children? We see ourselves in each one as they experience everything for the first time. Don’t pretend — I see the proud glimmer in your eyes as they reach each milestone.”

“Yeah, but still…I miss the euphoria of our intimacy. Back then I didn’t have to compete for your attention.”

“You never did learn to share.”

“It’s just my nature — my emotions are like a run away locomotive, just dying to jump the tracks and plunge over the china rim of infidelity. I long for my fingers to read the sensual Braille of your goose bumps as your flat stomach quivers and contracts with the brush stroke of my hand. I crave the fresh elasticity of your purple polka dot panties as they press my hand firmly against your torrid wants and feel the full brunt of your raging tempest of need. I savor the texture of your rayon coolness where it meets the warmth of your absorbent cotton crotch, the succulent texture as your soft powdery fur gives way to your damp silken intimacy, to breathe deeply of your desire and lather in your sensual release.”

“Lucifer, that was our youth pretending to be grown. Now we are the pillars of society and have to act as such.”

“Embarrassment…is so becoming on you. Remember how that old harvest moon would pry between the thick leathery velvet of the Magnolia tree? Peeping soft rays of translucent yellow would tease me as they performed a roving strip tease upon the triple X cinema screen of my interests. When I close my eyes I can still inhale the sweet intoxication of Magnolia blooms intertwining with the erotic fragrance of your Anais Anais perfume, climbing upon the night air, permeating my brain and massaging my youthful desire into an aura of lust.”

“Satin Satan — words trickle off your tongue like honey poured over hot biscuits. You never could follow the rules, never could reign in your desire. You had passion but it consumed you. Perhaps it was my fault — you were too immature for such powerful emotions. It’s your turn —and stop sneaking your Budweiser stoppers back onto the board.”

“So you compare the tip of my tongue to a cloven loaf of fresh baked bread, hot and glistening with the seductive sheen of rich molten butter — my girth swollen and bulging about the seams, aching to express my virility and impregnate you with a Baker’s wanton lust.

“Don’t flatter yourself at my expense.”

“Divine, I miss the raging flames that once burned in you —the way your pupils would dilate into those Betty Boop saucers leaving only a faint corona of iridescent blue about the edge. Just before total eclipse, I would catch my reflection staring back at me. In a slow seductive wink, I would disappear from the world. I lost myself and found paradise in the expressed passion of our kiss. They should have written a book about us.”

“They did — an anthology of short stories called…The Bible — duh. Crown me.”

“Don’t you see where you’ve placed us? If I’m upon one extreme, then you’re certainly upon the other. What does that tell you? You’re as much to blame as I am. Come on, meet me half way. Let’s turn back the clock and sit bare bottomed upon the fresh cool grass. Let’s skinny dip in the winter thaw as it rushes in mercurial torrents that press us into an impenetrable embrace. Let’s dine upon humanity as if it were a box of rich chocolate nougats and allow its sweet nectar to place us into a diabetic coma…”

“Like you did with Mr. Adams’ blushing young bride?”

“Why bring up the past? I’m sincere in my attempt to heal our relationship — to make us what we once were. Am I really to blame for my insatiable appetite? After all, who was my inspiration — my model? Who made me what I am? Who taught me to want? Who led my wants to desire and then on to lust? Why is my thirst never quenched? Have you ever wondered that?”

“That’s not a king — you can’t jump it backwards.”

“What’s the point in beauty and desire if I can’t act upon it? You know Eve had a thing for me. What was I supposed to do…sit around and twiddle my thumbs while you sat rigid as an ice sculpture, unable to articulate even the slightest affection? It was a long cold winter.”

“Did I miss something? When did hell freeze over?”

“Am I to blame for being a Good Samaritan? Old Man Adams was too old and decrepit to enjoy the seductive sheen of a woman like Eve. The man was impotent. You knew it when you married them. You had to cut his rib out to massage his heart for Christ’s sake. What were you thinking? I did it for him more that anything.”

“You are so predictable — always someone to blame for your mistakes, isn’t there? Somehow you manage to skirt the issues and bend the straight and narrow back in upon itself until it forms a full closed circle. The delineation becomes unclear and the extremes no longer so distant.”

“Well, Mrs. Perfect, I admit responsibility for most things, including loving you. Maybe, you are the source of my irrationality. You occupy every moment of my waking hours and star in every role of my sleeping fantasies.”

“Placated words connected with the appropriate amenities. You had Paradise and gambled it all away on a cheap, one night stand. To possess such brilliance, you sure display a lot of stupidity. You could be the poster child for erotic compulsive disorders.”

“If you hate me so much, why haven’t we divorced? I mean sleeping in separate beds on separate floors is one thing, but why did you stop there?”

“I guess my vows of better or worse, sickness or health, richer or poorer meant more to me than you. Maybe I felt that a person’s words should be more than a token gesture or maybe I just had to present you in my lighted display case, a shining example in my collection of forgiveness. Perhaps I needed to show my sincerity by practicing what I preach.”

“Ah, come down off that cross, we can use the wood to stoke the campfire. Are you trying to say I’m an exhibit to encourage the masses? I’m proof that no matter how far a person falls, they’re still within reach? Is that my purpose?”

“Always over the top with your drama, aren’t you?”

“Upon heaven and earth you’ve set a precedence of preference. I never will understand your fondness and devotion to this concept of humanity. Don’t you see it’s all a farce? Why waste your time, our time, on these poor lost souls? What have they got that I don’t?”

“It’s still your move and I saw you take one of my kings off the board.”

“Shouldn’t charity begin at home? Or is that just so much shuck and jive bull shouted from the pulpit of The Apostolic All Saints Church of the First Born Divine ‘Profit’ Inc.? An insincere sermon of one liners barked as a carny’s ploy to keep the congregation distracted and speaking in inarticulate tongues while the preacher fumbles through their purses.”

“Cute Satan, real cute.”

“I have to be more than a poster child for some right wing hypocrisy that professes your values and morals in name only.”

“So now you’re looking out for my interests?”

“Beneath a veil of human rights, they rape and pillage a nation, boiling down its human flesh to distill off the oil rights for a petroleum based religious doctrine. Just look how they cheapen Christianity with their market driven values. Once again they crusade the Holy Land in search of a Holy Grail that sells for fifty dollars a barrel.”

“Come on, don’t be so pessimistic. They’re not all bad. They just misread my Leftist doctrine and translate it with a Capitalist twist. There are a lot of good kindhearted souls out there who interpret the Bible not for financial gains but the benefit of the poor and needy of the world. These are the ones I relish in. They never seek political power or as much as a handshake. They pray in privacy and don’t flail themselves in public. It’s enough for them to just glimpse the grand scheme of things and prepare their path towards eternity. These are the ones who will pass through the eye of the needle. You know it’s just a test of an individual’s heart.”

“What about, my heart? Why do they get all your compassion?”

“Why are we even discussing this? We each know our purpose. I’ll keep creating and you keep up your impeccable quality control standards. I’m too kind hearted to check their shortcomings. I tend to look over their faults and their lack of humility. You are so good at finding those well-hidden cracks, imperceptible cold welds and artistically painted over character flaws. But alas, I have to inform you that I’ve collected the last of your Budweiser caps. I guess you lose again.”

“What a shock — another typical night of Good vs. Evil. Hey, let’s go sit in the old Pontiac and make purring engine noises in the light of that big harvest moon?”

“Not tonight — I won’t give in, to a silver tongued devil. Besides, I’ve still got that headache and three loads of laundry to do. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Well, I guess I’ll drag my downtrodden ass back down to the fiery pits and stoke the glowing embers of my depression. The more things change, the more they stay the same around here. I still have my quota for the month but does it really matter? Maybe I can talk Eve into a compromising position.

Another Saturday night and I ain’t got nobody. My God, I need to remodel this dump and get a life. Divine has that vast expanse of high rise luxury in the clouds but what do I get — the efficiency apartment from hell, down here in the damp dark basement. I tell you I get no respect, no respect at all.

Social Chameleons — I forgot all about them. Boy, she doesn’t forget a thing in her sexy omnipotence. He-he, yes siree, remembers all the details…especially those summer nights in that long black Pontiac. She ain’t fooling me — I bet if I popped in a little Bat out Of Hell she’d blush with her memories. Headache, my hairy ass…she’s just worried about what my swollen loaf of leaven bread will do to her chaste low carb diet — still has that hour-glass figure after all these years. You know, a handsome fallen angel could sure do a lot worse than God. Maybe, I really should go to counseling…Nah, what fun would that be?


Projected Letters is a literary magazine dedicated to publishing the best new and established writing from around the world.