The Devil's Rematch
by Spencer Ellsworth
The Devil walked right into church one Sunday and told us he was taking the town
back. Pastor Tucker was halfway through his sermon, done with damnation,
working up to redemption, when the wind kicked in the back door, screeching and
howling, blowing Mrs. Goodson's new hat all the way up to the choir loft. We
looked back and saw him silhouetted in the doorway.
"What're you doing here?" Pastor Tucker asked.
There were some in the congregation, old Kevin Dodgson or maybe Mrs. Cook,
must have recognized old Scratch from before. I'd never seen him. He was a tall
fellow, handsome in a kind of untouchable way. Too good to be true, my girls
would say. "I told you I would come back, Richard Tucker."
"In the middle of my sermon you show up, in my church, in my town?"
"Go on with your sermon. I can wait."
"No, we'll settle this now." The pastor raised his big index finger, like a sausage.
"I threw you and your people out of this town fifty years ago, boy. I can do it
again, right now."
"You beat me fair, Pastor. But don't get all unsporting just because I want a
rematch. Best two of three, I say."
A rustle went through the congregation. We'd all heard the stories and I reckon
we'd all started to believe them after a while, but here was the proof, before even
the most skeptical of eyes. My momma said there were little pockets of Hell all
over, and Wadesville'd been a mighty dangerous and dark place till Pastor Tucker
rolled into town fifty years ago and threw old Scratch out.
Pastor stepped away from the pulpit and faced the Devil down the aisle. "All right,
then, boy, let's have it."
Devil laughed. It was a weird sound, just a hint of a howling gale. "I'm a fair man,
Richard. I didn't come back to throw down an old fellow. I'll give you one week to
find a younger champion. Till then, I'll be around, just talking." He looked right
around the congregation. "Your people can keep an eye on me."
Pastor Tucker was shaking with anger. "Not in my town."
"One week, Pastor." That politician grin again. "Think of it as a test of your
congregation. I'm doing you a favor." He waved his hand one more time and the
wind howled around the church, picking up Mrs. Goodson's hat and bringing it
down to his hand. He handed it to her, smiled, and left.
"A fair man," Pastor Tucker tossed his Bible down. "A fair man?!"