Twila and the Old Devil

Twila and the Old Devil

Twila splitting wood
Arms strong
Breath heavy
Sweat on the back of a shirt
Makes the skin show through
And the ground cracks
Then falls
And out the hole jumps the Devil
Dressed all in red
With a black face
big black clubs for feet
No toes
Not like hers
Greedy for the ground
Sinking into dust
To swing that axe
Chop a devil-leg
Make him fall
And he falls
Twila dragging the devil
To the shed
Him hollering to no one
“Bring the leg!”
More worried than the blood
Red blood of a man
“I can put it back!”

Twila poking the Devil
With a pitch fork
Irony not lost
On such a young girl
Devil rallies
Twila throws his leg
Hits him in the chest
He tries to grab it
Finds his good arm chained
“Put it back, then,” says Twila.
She goes to check the chickens

Night now
Twila has her pitchfork
The Devil’s leg is back on
Him squinting at his hand
“Rusty iron,” says she.
“No devil-lock for you to lie at.”
“Why do you mark me Devil so unkindly?” asks he.
He puts his hand to his face
Tears it off
No blood
But a second face
Mocking her
Made up to look like Jesus
“Where are the owners of this house?”
He tries to sound kind
“You know,” says she.
“You done a deal with them.”
The devil thinks for a minute
Laughs a bit
“You’re Twila?”
Twila’s eyes go wide
Leaves the shed
Door open
Her name follows her
Up the stairs
Into her room
Into sleep

Morning
Twila sees the shed open
Creeps in
The devil is gone
The pitchfork is there
Tine caught in the lock
Twila runs
Behind the house
To the graves
“I buried them deep,” she yells.
The devil has already dug up her daddy
And is halfway to her mama
She sees her daddy’s face
Staring from the inside of the devil’s sack
“You shouldn’t have done it,” the devil groans
Still digging
“They’re mine when they’re dead.”
He turned to look.
“And you’re mine when living.”
He reached her mama then
Threw her in a second sack
“I’m no one’s slave,” Twila said.
She walks to the axe
But the devil jumps up
And gets there before her
“Not a slave,” he corrects.
Devil’s daughter
He explains
Holding a contract she cannot read
Sensing her dumb gaze
He sighs
“Try to get out of a bargin,” he mutters
“Of course they would shirk the rules.”
He turned his wide dull eyes to her.
“Are you lettered in the least?”
“I can read the old words,” Twila says.
“The Bible is the only book I need.”
Again the devil removes his face
As if to answer her statement
With the visage of the Lord
“You ain’t Jesus,” she spits.
He makes a look at her.
A confused Christ.
“Wear my face,” he commands.
He pulls it on her roughly
A smell of sour sweat and bad teeth
And the contract before her
Swims
Forming old words
Like “Guardian”
“Steward”
And many others she cannot place
She looks at the Devil
And sees where to hit him
To incapacitate
To kill
He steps back
As if sensing her intent
She looks at the sky
Each metal angel
Wears its name like a sash
The clouds tell her
If they plan to rain
She looks at the land
All the Devil owns
Is painted green
She shudders
To see her own flesh so stained
“Is this how the Devil sees the world?”
She whispers
“Yes,” he nods.
She sees a line
White against the green
An arrow
Pointing to the hole from which the Devis sprung
“So I’m to serve you below?”
The devil took back his face
Twila blinked the world back into place
“Yes,” says he.
“Why were you so long in coming?”
Asks Twila
“It’s almost five days I put them in the ground.”
“The Devil’s business is his own,” laughs he.
“I imagined this farm mine,” says she.
“Their sick-bed stories a lie.”
“These dreams are vapor,” says he.
“You were mine the moment they died.”
“I ain’t stupid,” says she.
“It’s why I gave you back your leg.”
The Devil takes her by the hand
To the underworld

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About paulgude

Paul Gude writes small books, makes stupid music, draws silly pictures, and does weird things on stage.
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