The devil and God were having lunch at the Zeus and Apollo restaurant on The Danforth in Toronto. The devil was partial to Greek food and, while God preferred Middle Eastern fare, He was content to let the devil have his way.
The two didn’t like each other much. But God didn’t see how He could expect humans to reach a rapprochement with each other if He couldn’t sit down and break bread, or in this case pita and hummus, with His enemy.
Besides, bi-monthly, they had to go over the tally of departed souls to see who was being claimed by each side.
About the time the saganaki arrived and the waiter was setting fire to the ouzo, the devil started to discuss the file of one Carl Stark. Carl had been a scientist by education and training in his workaday life, but an inventor by choice and affection in his spare time.
Carl, just now recently deceased, had been approached by the devil decades before. He had been offered fame and fortune in exchange for his soul. After a surprisingly short amount of consideration, Carl had rejected the devil’s offer. This was a shock.
After all, in any practical sense, Carl was a failed inventor. He was always coming up with new ideas, but none of them ever really caught on. Frustration was beginning to eat away at him and he seemed to be a perfect candidate for the devil’s sales pitch.
Carl did comfort himself with the notion that maybe, just maybe, one of his ideas would someday catch on, perhaps even after he was dead. Of course, that wouldn’t do him much good in terms of worldly possessions, but at least it would make his name famous. He was dearly hoping for that outcome.
So that’s what he told the devil. “I want to earn my own way. When it comes right down to it, I don’t even care if success comes after I’m in my grave.”
The devil was insulted and angered by this attitude and decided to exact his revenge. He chose to let Carl see the future unfold. The cruel punishment would be played out over a very long period of time.
When Carl had a life-threatening car accident, the devil made sure that he recovered. Subsequently, the devil found Carl a wife to keep an eye on him and guard his well-being. They had children that were a plague on the house in their teenage years, but those times did pass.
In the bosom of his family, Carl struggled with his inventions in the garage and in the basement every weekend and most weeknights. Everyone knew where to find him. He’d be whistling and singing as he came up with one unsuccessful concept after another.
Each time one of Carl’s inventions failed, it made him work harder on the next project. What he learned from his hobby did spill over into his day job, making him a better research scientist, but that was neither here nor there. None of his beloved creations clicked with the public.
The devil saw to it that Carl lived 30 years longer than he should have. The devil wanted Carl to understand that he was never going to be famous. That nothing he ever did in his personal life was going to find public expression. There was going to be no take-off or “tipping” point, no launch pad and no skyrocketing. Not in this life and not ever.
When Carl’s mortal vessel finally slipped its tether, after a brief illness and quiet easing, there was no media coverage or national attention. Only second, third and fourth generation family and their friends were in attendance at the dignified funeral.
The devil could not have been more pleased with himself. When he had finished telling God all about his evil triumph, what could God say but, “You got me good on that one, BB.” Everyone knows that the devil, or Beelzebub as he’s sometimes called in the Bible, has no shortage of “Old Nick” names.
But secretly God had a warm feeling in His heart. He made sure not to give any outward sign of His pleasure. As He thought back over the totality of Carl’s long and often-times rewarding life, one thought did force its way to the foreground of His bright focus. Apparently the devil had never heard the phrase “unintended consequences.”
A decent man faces and overcomes another form of temptation in Life was Sweet Again on Planet Lollipop.