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George Bush sits quietly at his desk in the Oval Office. Suddenly, with a puff of acrid, yellow smoke, a dark figure appears at his shoulder, arrogantly leaning an elbow against the back corner of the big leather chair. He wears a soot-stained stovepipe hat, a rumpled, dusty suit, and his whiskered, rather cherubic face has an almost benign smile as he gazes down.
“Ahem, ah, Mr. President, I do believe we have some business?”
Although he immediately recognizes the figure, the President is astonished at this sudden appearance. With his face drained of color, he reaches instinctively for the hidden buzzer to the Secret Service at the edge of his desk.
“Mr. President, all those gadgets have been disabled. Surely, by now, you have more respect for my powers than that?
“Oh,” with a rude little chuckle, “and until we’ve transacted our business, no one will be able to come through the door.”
“Mr. Scratch, I meant no disrespec’…”
“I’m sure, Mr. President.”
“It’s what they all taught me to do if anyone’s here, ya know, without an appointment an’ all…”
“Yes, quite, Mr. President. Now, about our business…”
“But ain’t there more’an two years left on ma contract?”
“Ah, indeed, two years, one month, eleven days, and fifty-four minutes, to be exact.” The dark figure reaches out, and, again with a sulphurous little puff of smoke, a sheet of paper appears in his hand. He reaches down and waves it in front of the President’s face.
“Perhaps, you would care to review the terms, Mr. President?”
“I’m sure you’re right, Mr. Scratch, you’re mighty careful ’bout these things.”
“Careful, indeed, Mr. President, which brings me to the point of my little visit. As you know, the original contract was for seven years.”
The President, his face withered and frightened, mechanically shakes his head in agreement.
“And then there was the matter of an extension we negotiated?”
The President again shakes his head.
“And I trust there’s no disagreement about the party of the second part,” with another gruff chuckle, “that’s me, having met fully all terms agreed?”
Still another doleful shake of the head.
“It says here, ‘One George W. Bush, having succeeded at virtually nothing in his adult lifetime, except getting into a whole lot of embarrassing trouble, fighting with his family, and consuming inordinate amounts of alcohol, in return for certain services, specified below, promises his immortal soul to the said Mr. Scratch,’ that is,” chuckle, chuckle, “yours truly.”
Here the figure makes a slight flourish, briefly doffing his hat and creating a small cloud of soot.
“Services rendered in return,” clearing his throat, “Ah, just summarizing here, Mr. President, include making a killing on a baseball team, becoming governor of Texas, and in general having gained recognition for turning around a worthless life.”
The figure looks down at the President with a somewhat twisted smile.
“Yielding you, I might add, boundless goodwill from legions of pious-fraud fundamentalists. Is that not right, Mr. President?”
Again, almost like a sleepwalker responding to unseen voices, the President shakes his head.
“The extension to the contract assured your becoming – you’ll note, Mr. President, the very careful language about ‘becoming,’ with nothing said about ‘being elected’ – President of the United States.”
Another dull shake of the head.
“Well, it doesn’t allow for a second term, now does it, Mr. President?”
“Mr. Scratch, I jus’ reckoned when ya consider the kinda president I been…”
“You mean loosing the forces of war, ignorance, and misery upon the world?”
“Why, sure, ain’t I done a good job on that?”
“Agreed, Mr. President, but I wouldn’t expect anything else of a man who’s made the kind of bargain you have.
“You’ll recall, when we negotiated the extension, that you wanted credit for all the prisoners executed in Texas. And all the slimy business deals you winked at, defrauding all kinds of decent folks. I admit such activity keeps good trade coming my way, but, strictly speaking, Mr. President, they just aren’t part of our terms.”
“But look’it the stuff we’re doin’. We’re redesignin’ the country. Givin’ it back to the folks what owns it, an’ armin’ ’em to the teeth so’s they kin keep it. Ya can’t go makin’ omelets like that without breakin’ a mighty heap of eggs. Why, I kin guarantee it’ll mean years of misery for all them losers out there.”
“Again, Mr. President, I hate to be like one of your heartless corporate contributors, but that’s just not part of our deal. No, no, what you do with the office I gave you is up to you.”
“But surely, Mr. Scratch, recognizin’ what a great job I’m doin’ here for you, we could come to some understandin’ ’bout another li’le extension?”
“Well, I see what it is you want from me, Mr. President, but it just fails me what you’re offering that I don’t already have. The contract states clearly that the immortal soul of one George W. Bush is to be delivered up promptly at expiration….”
“Ain’t there nothin’ I kin do for an extension, Mr. Scratch?”
“Ah, that desperate, pleading tone does appeal to my better side. Come to think of it, there just may be, Mr. President.”
The President regains some color, and, for the first time, there’s some animation in his manner, “Yes, yes, what is it?”
“Well, I’m not so sure you’ll share my enthusiasm for the idea.”
Looking like a puppy about to be handed a treat, “Mr. Scratch, I’ll do jus’ ’bout anythin’, honest to God!”
A severe, disapproving look flashes across the dusty figure’s face.
“Oh, I’m mighty sorry ’bout that, but like I said, I’ll do jus’ ’bout anythin’.”
“I do like your attitude, and I’ll note it in my little book.
“Mr. President, it does bother me considerably that a mob of evangelical frauds in silk suits – you know the ones I mean, there isn’t one of them not headed my way when their days of fleecing lonely folks watching television are ended – get all the credit for your conversion. You and I both know the truth of the matter. I would be strongly tempted,” ha, ha, “to further extend your contract in return for a promise to tell people the truth.”
The President again turns ashen, “I jus’ don’t see how that’s possible, Mr. Scratch?”
“Oh, I don’t insist you just go and blurt it out. You may do it slowly over a period of time. You may use all the arts of twisting the truth, so long as in the end this one truth comes out. That doesn’t seem like too great a task for the caliber of people you’ve surrounded yourself with.”
“But, Mr. Scratch, how kin I tell folks I made a deal with the devil?”
“Well, given your resources and past record of achievement, I do not see an insurmountable barrier. A lot of folks will have already guessed the truth. It’s the ones that roll around in church aisles babbling incoherently or go to meetings to get slapped in the head to heal cancer that are going to be a might difficult to reach. But these are your people, and you are, after all, asking a great service of me. I rarely extend contracts. Two extensions is almost unheard of.”
“But suit yourself, Mr. President. Right now it’s the only offer that would entice me,” chuckle, chuckle, “into so extraordinary an act.”
“I, I jus’ don’t see…”
“As you please, Mr. President. I will claim what’s mine on the stroke of midnight two years, one month, eleven days, and forty nine minutes, hence, unless, of course, you see your way to improving my image with the public. After all, it’s no small miracle I’ve worked in your case. People just might look at me in a whole new light if they only knew the truth.”
“I’ll leave it at that, Mr. President. You can let me know anytime right up until expiration. Just snap your fingers twice and consider it done for a second term.”
The dark figure instantly disappears in another puff of acrid smoke.