He wasn’t what I expected at all.
When I decided to meet The Devil to sell my eternal soul, I envisioned a smooth talker in a sharkskin suit with gator shoes. He would have a pencil-thin mustache and be carrying a Fender Telecaster. The temperature would rise as he approached.
Our meetings would be at The Crossroads, not in downtown Boulder in front of a purveyor of fine kombucha at 1:30 in the afternoon.
The Devil, who would tell me his name was actually Brad, wore a grey, puffed-out Patagonia jacket. It was 65 degrees outside. He was also clad in road-worn Teva sandals and he had shaved his head, which appeared to be slightly balding. I couldn’t help but feel disappointed.
“Thanks for meeting me here,” The Devil, or Brad, said casually. “I needed to pick up some herbal tea. So, Mr. Bear, you wish to sell your eternal soul to the Prince of Darkness? … Mr. Bear?”
“You summoned me here today, Mr. Bear?”
“Oh, yeah. Sorry. I was distracted.”
“You wish to sell me your soul.”
“Uh, well, yeah. I recently quit my job as a newspaper reporter, which I had done for about 13 years, and I’m feeling kind of lost. I’m thinking that I just turned 40 and now seems like a good time to go into being an outlaw country singer.”
“An outlaw country singer,” Brad repeated.
He furrowed his brow ever so slightly. It threw me, and I could feel myself start to stammer just a little bit.
“Uh, yeah. Like, I always thought I would make a good outlaw country singer. You know, like Waylon Jennings.”
“I’ve always been more partial to John Mayer.”
“Oh yeah, Dave Matthews, Counting Crows … I love that adult contemporary stuff.”
My heart began to sink. How could The Devil be into Dave Matthews Band? All that great music and … focus, John.
“So I can kind of play the guitar but I can’t sing. I was hoping to sell my soul for a good, smooth baritone and better guitar chops.”
“Hmm, I’m just not terribly familiar with the genre. People usually ask to be blues singers when they are having this early-40s, mid-life crisis and want to suddenly become musicians.”
“Yeah, but I’m a white guy. I don’t want to be co-opting blues music more than it has been already. I figure some good outlaw country would be honorable for a white guy. It’s still kind of bluesy.”
“Is it now?”
“I see,” he said, then paused for about three seconds and shook his head. “I guess this is all moot anyway, Mr. Bear.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, we’ve been examining your soul, and we can’t really do much with it.”
“You don’t want my soul?”
“Not really. First of all, you have $41,000 in student debt that will become our debt when you die. We just can’t take on any more right now. Also, it appears your soul was put away wet once. Really, it’s pretty useless after that. I’m sorry.”
“I think I’m going to be sick.”
“Would you like a kombucha?”