[Adjusts mic, speaks to audience]
I’m the Writer Rusty Pliers.
[Reads from script]
Uh. Gee, I hope I can read this.
I spilled some salsa and guacamole on it while I was rehearsing this afternoon…
[Lift patch and look?]
Spilled a margarita on it, too… somewhere…
Then they asked me to put on my pants
and leave the aquarium!
So I didn’t get a lot of rehearsing done.
I hope you enjoy it.
[Relax… Deep breath… Be Rusty]
Tonight’s story is entitled…
and Rusty Pliers”
“How about proposing a toast, Rusty?” asked our host.
“Sure,” I answered. “I’d be delighted.”
I stood and raised my glass.
“May you be in heaven,” I said, winking at the hostess, “half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead!”
The dinner guests tittered at my remark.
A remark I’d learned in Ireland, by the way, where they’ve had a preoccupation with the devil for centuries.
They asked me to propose another toast and we tittered a little over that one too.
Then another toast.
Anyway, after the party I was heading home on my Ducati 900 motorcycle when instead of going around this corner like I usually do… I went straight ahead… flying through the air like Evel Knievel …
Until I smashed into a bridge abutment and was killed instantly.
I awoke in hell standing before the devil.
He was seated behind an ornate desk made from human bones.
“Hello, Rusty,” he said agreeably. “Welcome to hell.”
[Reflective, to audience]
Funny, but he didn’t look anything like I expected he would. He looked kinda like Leonardo DiCaprio.
Not the hairy revenant Leonardo…
… but the well-dressed Leonardo from the golden globes.
“Smoke?” he asked, gesturing to a cigarette box.
“Am I?” I answered looking around to pat myself out where I might still be burning from my crash and fall into hell.
Otherwise, for a dead guy, I didn’t feel too bad.
“I mean tobacco,” said the devil with a smile.
“Sure,” I said, taking one. “Can’t hurt me now, can it?”
“Hell… no!” he agreed with a laugh. He had nice teeth, proving what I’ve long suspected… that hell is full of dentists.
“How about a drink to go with your smoke?” he asked and like magic a gin and tonic appeared in my hand.
“Yes please!” I answered and thought to myself that maybe hell wasn’t going to be too bad, after all.
“Excuse me for asking,” I said, sipping my drink. “I’ve made that corner a thousand times. Why not tonight?”
“It’s just like they told you in Sunday school, Rusty,” he answered. “Everyone’s days are numbered…
…And everyone will be judged.”
“I don’t remember Sunday school too well,” I said, meaning I didn’t remember ever going to Sunday school… but I didn’t mention that.
The devil just looked at me and smiled.
“Enjoying your smoke?” he asked.
“Yes,” I answered. “It’s been awhile. I quit in 2010.”
“I know,” he said. “And what for? You died in a motorcycle crash! Hahaha!”
“Yeah,” I answered a little peevishly. “Funny.”
“C’mon, Rusty!” laughed the devil. “You’ve been on the highway to hell since you were twelve-years-old! I always figured you for a guy who could take a joke.”
He laughed again and in spite of myself I began to laugh a little, too.
After all, what does it matter how we die?
It’s how we live that counts!
“Well,” I asked. “Now what?”
“You choose your hell,” he answered.
“Choose my own hell?”
“Yes,” said the devil proudly. “Your own personal hell. One of hell’s finest achievements. Cuts down on complaints and saves a buttload of red tape.”
“Careful what you wish for, eh?” I said.
“Exactly!” answered the devil. “Or as we like to say around here… Hakuna Matata!”
You have to say this for the devil, I thought, he really seemed to enjoy his work.
“Here,” he said, indicating a blank sheet of paper before him on the desk. “Sit down and write me a 500 word essay on what your hell should be.”
“Awww!” I whined. “An essay?”
“Better get started,” he advised. “You’ve only got an hour. There’s some liquor in the cabinet. Help yourself.”
“Thanks,” I said. “Will my spelling …?”
“Don’t worry about the damned spelling, Rusty!”
“Write something from your heart…"
… or better yet… from your soul.”
“My soul?” I asked.
“From the soul of Rusty Pliers!” he laughed.
“No cheating!” he added and whoosh!
He was gone.
To be continued...