Beelzebob – or Bob as he likes to be called – is the little devil who sits on your left shoulder and whispers advice in your ear. He’s the one who told you that it would be a good idea to pee in the plant pot and blame it on the cat. He may also have convinced you that consuming copious amounts of alcohol at your partners grandparents 50th wedding anniversary party and Cossack dancing on the kitchen table wearing only a strategically placed sock would liven things up a bit…
It would be fair to say that Bob has gotten you into trouble on a number of occasions…
His counterpart and sworn enemy is the little Angel who sits on your right shoulder, Godfrey. Godfrey is a pious creature by nature who tries to live up to the high moral standards of the divine being he professes to emulate. Do not be fooled – he is not a divine being, merely a one-sided extension of the human conscience. Some (Bob) would call him pretentious and self-righteous but the truth is, Godfrey only wants you to do the right thing – counteracting Beelzebobs nefarious advice is the sole purpose of his existence . Godfrey is the one who suggests that you offer your seat on the bus to the elderly lady. He will also encourage you to return the fat wallet to the gentleman who is completely oblivious to the fact that he has dropped it in the first place…
It would also be fair to say that Godfrey has gotten you into trouble on the odd occasion too….
The following is a shining example of one such occasion:
It was the day before Christmas Eve and Bob and Godfrey were perched on the shoulders of Working Man on his way back from his annual trip to the city dump. Working Man was in a good mood. He was right on schedule with regard to the pre-Christmas organisations – Presents wrapped; decorations hung; groceries purchased and now, old and unused toys recycled. He had also received a generous bonus from his employers and was on his way home to enjoy this twelve day work-free stretch for the holiday season. Life was good.
Working Man was shaken from his good-natured reverie when, without warning, a white van suddenly swerved into his lane. He slammed on the brakes just in time to narrowly avoid a collision and was about to follow Bob’s advice by sounding the horn and yelling a string of obscenities when he was distracted by the object that the white van had swerved to avoid.
It was a wheelchair trundling along at 5 miles an hour in the outside lane of a busy two lane stretch. Working Man sped past the wheelchair and then watched in his rear view mirror as vehicle after vehicle swerved to avoid hitting it.
Godfrey saw an opportunity and was quick to exploit it – ‘That physically challenged person is going to be killed if someone doesn’t do something…if you don’t do something…’
Bob saw this coming though and promptly interjected with: ‘Aww, the cripple will be okay… it ain’t your problem… let somebody else deal with it’… not the most original of arguments, true, but it was one that had served him well numerous times in the past.
And so the ancient battle between good and bad resumed once more…
Godfrey was on form today – he retaliated with: ‘But it’s Christmas!… a time of charity and goodwill to all men… there is no better time to help someone than at Christmas time…’ Godfrey liked Christmas – it filled people with a temporary (if somewhat misguided) sense of goodwill toward their fellow beings and made things much easier for him.
Bob loves Christmas for all the wrong reasons….
Bob also liked Christmas but mostly because alcohol was often heavily featured throughout the holiday season, and this made things easier for him – especially at office parties….boy, he’d had some fun at those! But Bob knew that, for the moment, he’d lost this bout and decided to keep his mouth shut. Let’s just see how it plays out, he thought as Working Man doubled back on himself at the next roundabout. Bob had won many a battle simply by sitting back and picking his moment carefully…
When Working Man eventually ended up back at the place of the near accident he looked ahead and saw that the wheelchair had pulled into a gravel lay-by at the side of the road so he turned in there. He got out of the car and walked around to where the wheelchair was situated. Bob began to rub his hands together with undisguised glee when the wheelchair occupant immediately began to hurl verbal abuse at Working Man who all but rocked back on his heels under the onslaught. Maybe Bob would have something to work with after all…
Godfrey showed no sign of concern however, and merely uttered one word in Working Man’s right ear: ‘Compassion’.
Working Man gauged The Wheelchair Man to be somewhere in the region of mid to late thirties. He was hunched over in a bulky electric wheelchair, clutching a plastic carrier bag to his chest with gnarled, misshapen hands. He glared out from a twisted, angry face with eyes that rolled around in their sockets reminding Working Man of a panicked horse. ‘He is obviously very frightened, poor, poor man,‘ said Godfrey, ‘You did the right thing, stopping to help him’. Bob thought he detected a note of smugness in Godfrey’s tone but of course, angels don’t express smugness – they express righteousness…which, in Bob’s view, is pretty much one and the same thing.
Working Man held out his hands, palms out, in the universal gesture of peace, and in even tones said, “Friend, I only want to help you. You seem as though you need it. You almost got killed back there”.
“I don’t need your f**king help!” screeched Wheelchair Man, spittle flying from his lips, “F**k off!”
‘You heard the cripple’, said Bob, ‘He doesn’t need your help… let’s just be on our merry way.’ He then filled Working Man’s head with an image of his warm, cosy family home and the cold beer that was just waiting for Working Man to christen the beginning of his holiday.
‘This man is in a bad way,’ said Godfrey, ‘imagine how frustrated he must feel being trapped in a broken body and unable to get about as easily as everybody else… it’s no wonder he is so upset…’ Each time Godfrey spoke, he would fill Working Mans head with images of Christmas goodwill and of Jesus Christ feeding the hungry, healing the sick and other such goodwill gestures. He threw an image of Ebeneezer Scrooge into the mix too, just for good measure…
Working Man kept his voice measured and calm. “Friend, whether you think you want my help or not, I cannot in good conscience leave you here. You could be killed on this road, or, if that doesn’t bother you, someone else could be hurt too.”
Wheelchair Man just glared at him and clutched his carrier bag tighter to his chest.
‘Screw him,’ said Bob, ‘He doesn’t want to be helped’… ‘
Help him’, said Godfrey, ‘He doesn’t want to be screwed’…
“I’ll tell you what I’m going to do”, said Working Man, “I’ll call the police so that they can come and help you”.
An expression of panic swept across Wheelchair Man’s face for a moment but was gone before Working Man was even sure that it had been there at all. Bob produced an alarm bell and began clanging it in Working Man’s left ear. ‘That’s a great idea! Call the cops! They’ll look after the cripple…it is their job after all…’ Wheelchair Man’s expression became almost sly for a moment and then he said, “Can you fit my wheelchair in the back of your car and take me to the services on the motorway? My own car is parked there, you see.”
Bob laughed uproariously at this. ‘A car?…a likely story!… This guy can barely drive a wheelchair, let alone drive a car!’…
A note of irritation crept into Godfrey’s voice. ‘I think you’ll find, Beelzebob, that people with physical limitations can do all sorts of things, driving cars is but one of them…’
‘Well, if that’s the case,’ said Bob, ‘how come he left his car at the services instead of driving it straight to where he wanted to go? How come he’s stranded here in a lay-by with his car miles away?…Doesn’t that strike you as ever so slightly… odd?’
‘I am sure that there is a perfectly plausible explanation.’ replied Godfrey, although he sounded somewhat less convinced than before. Godfrey pondered for a moment and then made the decision that would result in his downfall. ‘You have offered this man assistance – it would be wrong to take that offer back now that he has finally agreed to let you help him…’
The problem with two opposing sides is that, by their very nature, they are incapable of agreeing even if their enemy’s logic does make sense. Not even angels are perfect when it comes to admitting their own faults because they simply do not have any – Devils, on the other hand, will happily admit to their own faults – are proud of them in fact – and will often include extensive lists of them on their C.V.s to impress prospective clients.
Working Man reluctantly agreed to give Wheelchair Man a lift, although by now he was beginning to regret having stopped in the first place and, to be honest, just wanted to get this whole sorry business out of the way – Wheelchair Man had turned out to be rather unfriendly, not to mention ungrateful. Godfrey gently chided him for this last thought – ‘An act of kindness is not a truly selfless act if one expects gratitude for it…’
‘Shut up, you pompous idiot,’ said Bob. His instincts were telling him that Godfrey was painting himself into a corner with his ridiculous restrictive rules of behaviour… now it was only a matter of time.
Wheelchair Man manoeuvred his chair as close to the passenger seat of Working Man’s car as he could and proceeded to unfasten his seatbelt. Working Man leaned in and slipped his arms around under Wheelchair Mans armpits and around his back and lifted. Wheelchair Man was heavy. Working man grunted under the exertion. Halfway through the process, he felt a flash of pain as something in his back gave out.
Breath that could strip paint from 20 yards…
Somehow or other though, he finally succeeded in lifting Wheelchair Man onto the passenger seat. During the manoeuvre he caught a whiff of Wheelchair Man’s foetid breath and almost retched. ‘Phewee!’ said Bob holding his nose in disgust, ‘Would it kill you to brush your damned teeth once in a while?… I’ve known festering cancer demons with better personal hygiene!’…
Godfrey said nothing – he was too busy losing his corn flakes – Angels have no stomach for foul stenches that could very well have been belched from the depths of Hell itself.
Then, straightening up and rubbing the aching part of his back, Working Man turned his attention back to the electric wheelchair to figure out how he was going to fit it into the back of his car and almost blew his groceries. In the seat of the wheelchair was a puddle of nasty, sickly yellow-brown excrement. Working Man looked from the puddle in the wheelchair to the Wheelchair Man himself who was sat glaring at him from the passenger seat of Working Mans car.
Both Bob and Godfrey stared at the puddle in stunned silence for a moment. Then Bob screamed with laughter, holding onto his sides with tears streaming from his eyes. Godfrey threw up again. Working Man just stood there looking from the puddle, to the Wheelchair Man, to the puddle, to the Wheelchair Man.
The Wheelchair Man glared up at Working Man and said, “So, are you just going to stand there all day or what?” Working Man felt his blood begin to boil – Wheelchair Man must have known that he had soiled himself and yet he had said nothing! And there he was, sat in his car!
Bob somehow managed to regain some control of himself but could not refrain from jumping up and down on the spot with glee – this one was in the bag!… ‘Okay, here’s what I suggest… drag him out by his hair and rub his face in his own excrement, then drive over him on the way out… actually, you’d better reverse over him too just to be sure…’
Godfrey weakly protested between bouts of dry retching, ‘Compassion… blurgh…’
‘Nuts to compassion!’ shouted Bob, ‘There’s cripple crap on your frickin’ passenger seat!’
‘Well, don’t do anything hasty at least,’ replied Godfrey straightening his halo and wiping his mouth on the sleeve of his tunic, ‘You don’t want to spend Christmas in prison… think of your loved ones…’
Working Man levelled a cold gaze at Wheelchair Man. “You know what? Thinking about it, I’m not entirely sure that I can fit your wheelchair in my car after all.”
Wheelchair Man rolled his eyes, “Oh for f**k sake! Well, you’d better put me back in my f**king chair then.”
Working Man reached down, and with much less care than previously, picked up Wheelchair Man by the front of his jacket and dragged him back to his chair, dumping him unceremoniously back into his own puddle with a sickening squelch. He looked at his passenger seat and at the disgusting brown smear that was rapidly soaking into the upholstery and, without wasting another word on Wheelchair Man, made his way around to the driver’s seat. Just before he climbed in he heard Wheelchair Man shout, “Don’t call the police! Ya’hear me? Don’t.. Call.. The.. POLICE!”
Working Man slammed his door shut, wound the electric windows down as far as they would go, gunned the engine and screeched out of the gravel lay-by. He glanced in his rear view mirror and felt a grim satisfaction to see Wheelchair Man waving and spluttering furiously at the cloud of dust and dirt that his spinning wheels had kicked up. The stench in the car was gut wrenching and the biting chill of the December air blasting through the open windows froze his hands stiff as they gripped the steering wheel in anger.
‘I still think you should’ve reversed over him.’ said Bob.
Godfrey was strangely silent. He knew when he’d been beaten…
As soon as Working Man got home, he called the police who told him that there were officers already on the scene and that Wheelchair Man was already well-known to them having escaped from his carers on a number of occasions. ‘That’s why he didn’t want you to call the police!’ said Bob who was thoroughly enjoying the full employment of his gloating skills – he has an A-level certificate in Gloating.
The rest of Working Man’s day was spent calling around, desperately trying to find a car valet who had not yet closed for the holidays. All the while, Godfrey kept his own counsel while Bob climbed onto his soapbox and did his level best to convince Working Man that No Good Deed Goes Unpunished and that helping others isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. After about the eighth phone call, Working Man got lucky.
Okay…where da poop?….
As the valet, dressed in what appeared to be a full radiation suit, worked on the seat with a powered suction cleaner, Working Man recounted his tale of misfortune. Bob made sure that Working Man punctuated the tale with the odd swear word. Godfrey remained silent in the wake of his own defeat.
An hour later, once the valet had finished removing the offending brown stain, Working Man dug out the agreed fee and handed it over. The valet looked at Working Man and said. “You know what? Just give me half. You were only trying to help somebody in need and it bit you in the ass. Besides,” he added with a smile, “it’s Christmas.”
Godfrey perked his ears up and Bob stopped doing his little jig for a moment…
Working Man returned the smile, shook his head and pressed the full amount, plus a little extra, into the valeter’s hand. “I appreciate that friend,” he said, “but I only did what seemed right to me at the time… despite all this, I’d do it again….Happy Christmas to you and yours”.
Godfrey placed his palms together, raised his eyes heavenward and smiled serenely….
Bob clenched his fists and stamped his foot. ‘Oh, Cripple Crap!’ he said…
Next: Still Life: Fruit Bowl Blood Bath…
Jamie R Hawkins is an Award Winning Singer/Songwriter whose songs have won him critical acclaim around the world – visit JamieRHawkins.com to find out more…