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Christian Funny


The Seduction of Herb


“So, what’s the catch?” 

Even the Party of the First Part was surprised at the quick response, the ease with which the words were spoken, void of any serious consideration of the required consequence. The implication of the message from the Party of the Second Part was that all prior elements were agreed to.     

“There’s no catch, Herb. That’s the deal, straight up. You get everything I’ve promised in return for your immortal soul.”

“That’s it? There is no catch?”

“That’s it, Herb.”

Slick black hair, steely blue eyes, a calming voice. Herb was mesmerized by the mysterious stranger he had met just the day before, and he was excited about his wildest dreams becoming his reality. The only hangup at this point was that Herb had not yet finalized his list of desires.

“Herb, I’ve been in this business a long time, and I think you’ve pretty well covered all the bases- wealth, power, position. I’m not sure what else is left.”

“Uh…Mister…you know, you never told me what I should call you. The devil? Satan? Lucifer? The Dark One?”

“I like to go by Milton’s Beelzebub. I think it adds a touch of class to my persona.” 

“Ok, Mr. Beelzebub, you’re missing…”

“Herb, it’s just Beelzebub, like Elvis, or Madonna. One word for the truly famous. No Mister.”

“Got it. But I’m still working on my list of extravagant worldly possessions. And we’re still missing a pretty important part, Beelzebub- the hot babe.

“That’s not a ‘we’ thing, Herb. You need to figure that one out.”

“Well, she’s got to be beautiful and sexy, with big b…”

“Herb! We don’t need to go there. We need to be a little delicate here. I may be the Prince of Darkness, but I’m not a pig.”

A moment of introspection for Herb; could he possibly be lower than the devil? Oh, well.

“Look, Herb, let’s meet again tomorrow, same time, same place. We need to get this done.”

“Fine, but do we have to meet in the church? Couldn’t we meet someplace else?”

Beelzebub smiled broadly. Harvesting souls was always rewarding, but sometimes he liked to gloat with a little bit of “in your face” theatrics. He had sized up Herb for some time, and he knew he was in command of the process.

“No, Herb, I like the setting.”

----------

Herb sat at his desk that night considering all the possibilities. This would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and he didn’t want to miss a thing. His list was already quite impressive:

-Beach house in Malibu.

-Condo in Park City, Utah.

-State-of-the-art bass boat.

-Successful real estate career with a seven-figure annual income to support an opulent lifestyle.

-Hot babe yet to be imagined.

Alright, let’s not be judgmental. Before you condemn Herb for swapping his soul for a bunch of worldly stuff, you need to walk a mile in his shoes. Herb’s past was regrettable, his present nondescript, and his future bleak. It is understandable that a life of luxury would be tempting, whatever the cost.

 His first ambition in life was in the world of politics. Herb’s goal was to one day occupy a seat in the U.S. Senate. Unfortunately, a below-average wit coupled with the personality of a tree proved to be too difficult to overcome. Herb ran for Student Council Representative of his High School homeroom, and two students who didn’t even run for the position garnered more votes than Herb. His backup plan of landing a roster spot on an NBA team was quickly dashed when he was cut from his High School freshman team during warmups on the first day of practice. At Prom, he sat in a darkened corner of the gym with the rest of the guy nerds. You get the idea.

The adult world likewise showed no mercy. Herb was not college material, and he had great difficulty finding a job he liked. When he did find a job he liked, his employer would determine in short order Herb was “not well suited” for the position. He finally found an acceptable niche stocking shelves at Walmart. Today found Herb in the breakroom putting the finishing touches on his wish list, as well as making some revisions to his descriptions and a crude depiction of the perfect woman.

“Hey, Herb what do you have there?”

“Oh, nothing, Maggie, it’s just some doodling.”

“Did you see the new drones? They’re pretty cool.”

“Uh, no. I’ll take a look later.”

“The gang is going out for the fish fry at the bowling alley Friday night. Why don’t you join us?”

“No, I’ve got stuff to do.”

A lot can be gleaned from simple exchanges. Herb wanted the world. Maggie, for reasons no one could have understood, wanted Herb. A quick comparison between Herb’s rough draft and the real girl sitting across from him revealed no similarities. Maggie was quiet, plain, pale, skinny, average in appearance, and dressed like your grandma. She was everything the girl on the drawing board was not.

---------

Herb felt uneasy as the heavy wooden door of the church creaked open. He had been baptized and received his First Communion at St. Patrick’s, and he was suddenly stunned by the recollection of his Confirmation.

“Do you reject Satan and all his works and all his empty promises?”

“I do.”

He did. Herb had rejected Satan. Not so much this day.

“Herb, buddy! Right on time. Are you ready to sign?”

“By the way, Beelzebub, how exactly do we sign? Will we need a Notary?”

“Heavens no! We just shake on it. What do we have if we can’t trust each other? Ready?”

“Not quite.”

“Oh, God, now what?”

“I’m getting close. Here, I just wanted to show you my rough draft of the perfect girl.”

“Herb! Are you freaking kidding me?!”

“What?”

“I mean, don’t you think that’s a little much? She’d have to wear a counterweight on her back just to remain vertical. What the hell’s wrong with you? And you brought that into a church?! Shame on you.”

“I guess I could trim her down a little. Do you have any pictures of the oceanside house I’ll get? A brochure would be nice.”

“It doesn’t work that way. Herb. We’ll have to see what’s on the market. But I can get you some nice glossies of the yacht and your bass boat.”

----------

“Are you still going to apply for that manager position, Herb?”

“No, Maggie, I’m done with that. I’ve got much bigger things going on. I’m not going to spend the rest of my life in some stupid job stocking shelves and mopping floors."

“That’s what I do, Herb.”

“Sorry.”

It would seem that Herb forgot the words so often repeated in his sixth-grade class by Sister Martin: If one thinks too much only of himself, one can become thoughtless.

“Herb, you’re always wanting more than what you have. I don’t know if you could ever be happy.”

Herb could hardly contain himself as he flashed a devilish smile.

“Happiness is right around the corner, Maggie, right around the corner.”

Maggie could only wonder.

---------

“Hey, Herb, I’ve got those pictures. You could freaking sail to Europe with this baby. All you’re going to need is a captain’s hat.”

“Awesome.”

“Ready?”

“You’re going to be mad at me.”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, Herb. What is it now?”

“Well, all this soul business. Are you sure I’m not going to need it sometime?”

“Totally useless for you. It would be like you having Bitcoin but no connection to the Internet. It’s just a competition I have going with the Big Guy.”

“The Big Guy?”

“God, you know, the Almighty One. Souls are like poker chips. We just want to win more poker chips. He pulls you people in one direction while I’m pushing them the other way. You might say it’s about bragging rights, like who’s the better salesman. Trust me, your soul is of no value to you.”

“I was just thinking, you know, I hear so much about a person’s soul. Father Mel is always talking about it. Is he wrong?”

“Absolutely. Who do you think would know more about such things, Father Senile or a guy who’s in the soul business? He’s got to keep you thinking that way to keep the church coffers full.”

“Could I give you half my soul, and you give me half the stuff?”

“Doesn’t work that way. Listen, you only live once, Herb, and I’ve had my eye on you. I’ve got to tell you, man, your life really sucks. I think Job would trade places with you. And now you have the chance to live like a king. Don’t be a fool. Let’s shake on it.”

Beelzebub was right. His life did suck. He had been unhappy ever since the 6th Grade when Danny Johnston gave him a nasty wedgy right in front of Susie Miller, followed by the dreaded swirly. He had spent countless hapless, sleepless nights contemplating just how miserable he was, and now a new, wonderful life was standing before him, there for the taking.

Herb stared at his hand as it moved slowly toward Beelzebub who extended his hand in eager anticipation. Fingers within inches, the deal nearly sealed. Suddenly Herb withdrew his hand, much like a child pulling away from a hot stove. It was done reflexively, without thought, perhaps the instinct of self-preservation at work.

“Herb, Herb, Herb. I can see you still have some doubts. Listen, I don’t want to pressure you. Take some time to think about it. Talk it over with some friends. Oh, sorry, I forgot. You don’t have any friends. I bet you’d have lots of friends if you had that mansion on the ocean. You just think it over. I’ve got to run. I’ve got lots of people lining up to make their reservations.”

“When do we meet again?”

“I’m always with you, Herb, but as far as our little discussions go, I’ll be here the minute you show up here. Don’t take too long, Herb. I’d hate to see someone else sipping cocktails out on your veranda overlooking the ocean or entertaining snow bunnies in your Park City condo. It’s all about supply and demand.”

Beelzebub left. Herb lingered. He sat down in a pew in the front of the church. There is nothing as quiet, so conducive to meaningful reflection, as an empty church at night. The figures in the stained-glass window came alive with the headlights of passing cars as he studied the face on the statue of St. Patrick and prayed for guidance.

“Herb! I haven’t seen you here for ages. I might use this in my homily on the raising of Lazarus this Sunday.”

Oh, no. What would Father Mel think about Herb sitting alone in the darkened church after an absence of many years? Surely this must be the result of the commission of some mega-mortal sin.

“Good evening, Father. I’m not here because I did something horrible or something like that.”

Good thinking, Herb.

“I didn’t think you did. Can I help you, Herb?”

“Father, is the devil real?”

“Of course, he’s real. There are many references in the Bible to Satan.”

“I know about all that, Father. I mean can he show up as a real person, say, with jet black hair, blue eyes, about six feet tall, and wearing a black polo shirt?”

“Uh, why do you ask that, Herb?”

“No particular reason. I saw something on the Religious Channel about the devil and was just wondering, you know, if a guy could have one of those Close Encounters of the Third Kind with the devil?”

“I see. Well, the devil appeared to Jesus. We’re not sure if it was in human form or not, but I would think it’s possible. He’s a tricky one, very deceitful. By the way, I loved that movie.”

“How about souls, Father? Do I really need one?”

“What?!”

“Souls, you know, the thing we can’t see that you always talk about.”

“Herb, asking a priest if we have souls would be like asking a podiatrist if we have feet. That’s my business, Herb. That’s what priests do. Of course, we have a soul.”

“Do you really believe that, Father?”

“Of course.”

“And how about heaven?”

“What about heaven?”

“Is there one?”

“Of course, Herb.”

“Father, I’m a little unsure about some things. How would I get to believe, I mean really believe?”

“I’m afraid I can’t get you there, Herb. You either believe or you don’t. I can tell you all about God, heaven, and souls, but you’re either touched by the Spirit or you’re not. Some kids like spinach, some don’t. I can only pray that you receive guidance.”

“Guidance! That’s it, Father. I need some guidance. Thank you, Father.”

---------

“Maggie, do you believe in heaven?”

Maggie almost dropped her donut on the breakroom floor.

“Of course, I do. Why are you asking me that?”

“Not sure. How about souls? What’s your position on souls?”

“What do you mean what’s my position on souls?”

“Like, do we have one or not?”

“What is wrong with you, Herb? Of course, we have a soul. That’s our true being, our essence. It makes us what we are, created in the image of God. Dust to dust for our bodies, but our soul is eternal.”

Dust, eternal, souls, heaven, a mansion in Malibu. Think, Herb, think. Where is that guidance when you need it?

----------

“Good evening, Herb.”

“Hey, Beelzebub.”

“Step outside, Herb. I want to show you something.”

Beelzebub ushered a curious Herb out to the Church parking lot.

“It’s a Porsche, Herb. I thought I’d sweeten the pot. I’m throwing this in just for the hell of it.”

“Wow, this is so cool, and my favorite color- black!”

“Mine too! Go ahead, hop in.”

Herb slowly inched himself into the car he had always dreamed of. He took hold of the wheel with the command of the pole sitter at Daytona.

“It suits you, Herb. You can leave your Ford Tempo here and drive this baby home right now. What do you say, Herb? Deal?”

“It is awfully tempting…and very generous of you, Beelzebub. I just…I just don’t know. It’s such a big step. I need more time.”

“I’ll tell you what, Herb, I’ll give you a week. I get your stupid soul, which is worthless to you by the way, and you get the whole bundle of awesome stuff that you could never get on your own. Or…continue driving around in your rusted-out Tempo, keep stocking shelves at Walmart, and hanging out with that homely Maggie friend of yours.”

Herb’s mind jumped the track. Visions of riches faded for the moment as he winced at those last words.

“Beelzebub, don’t be saying that about Maggie. She’s a nice person. You didn’t have to say that.”

“Girls like her have to be nice, Herb. The guy you’re going to be can’t have someone like that hanging onto your arm when you walk into one of the lavish parties you’ll be attending. No, that’s for the girl on your drawing board. You’re going to have the most beautiful girl in the world hanging all over you, Herb. I might even through in a couple of love-lusting floosies for you if you tire of your main squeeze. Seriously, what is your problem? Shiny new Porsche or old Ford Tempo. Beautiful home on the ocean or the upper flat at old lady Simpson’s place. Selling mansions and raking in tons of cash or stocking shelves at Walmart. Hot babe or a young Ma Kettle. This should be a slam dunk for you, Herb. Think it over. I pull the offer Friday night at seven o’clock and leave you with your own hell on earth.”

----------

Father Mel almost had the big one when he saw Herb sitting in the front pew at Sunday Mass. Herb hadn’t found guidance at home in bed as he fought sleepless nights, nor when he was driving to and from work, nor while stocking shelves at Walmart. He couldn’t even find it in the somber setting of the Church at night. Maybe he needed the full force, the communion of the faithful, the celebration of Mass, to garner the power of prayer.

Herb closed his eyes, prayed, took communion, exchanged the sign of peace with the gnarly old lady next to him- nothing. No guidance, no visit from the Holy Spirit, nothing.

----------

Herb sat in the breakroom staring at the wall. He was exhausted, mentally drained, and unable to decide. He was ready to flip a coin just to get the ordeal over with.

“Hey, Sad Sack, can I join you?”

“Of course, Maggie.”

Herb studied the figure before him. Suddenly he was Superman with X-Ray vision, able to see through surfaces with the power to discover the within. Maggie, he had seen her a thousand times without ever really seeing her. He could see and feel it all now, not giving a second thought to exchanging his soul for material things, Beelzebub, Father Mel, the Porsche, the base depictions of the perfect girl, heaven, his soul, Maggie. A quiet peace wrapped its arms around Herb. Who would have thought the Spirit would visit Herb in a Walmart breakroom as he sipped his Slurpy, sitting next to his mop and bucket with a hot dog wrapper stuck to his shoe? God is everywhere.

“Herb? Herb! Are you ok?”

A smile known only to those at peace slowly appeared on Herb’s face.

“Yes…yes, I’m ok. For the first time in a long time, I’m ok.”

Herb studied Maggie’s face. She was nothing like the girl in Herb’s sketches; she was like…Herb.

“Maggie, will you be going to that fish fry at the bowling alley this Friday?”















March 08, 2023 19:16

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11 comments

Russell Mickler
23:18 Mar 13, 2023

Hi Murray! A fun Faustian bargain ... I thought this line was great: “Herb! We don’t need to go there. We need to be a little delicate here. I may be the Prince of Darkness, but I’m not a pig.” R

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Murray Burns
13:15 Mar 14, 2023

Ok, I went there...I was trying to come up with everything a guy would want in life, and that sort of popped into my mind. I appreciate your reading it and your comments. Thanks.

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Ash Egan
22:40 Mar 13, 2023

Really enjoyed your story. The ending and Herb's realisation was really affecting. Thank you!

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Murray Burns
13:11 Mar 14, 2023

Thanks. In this day and age it's hard to not get caught up in the material world. It seems we've become what we have. I try to focus on what really matters in life, but that isn't always easy to do. I appreciate you reading the story and your comments.

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Mary Lewis
23:25 Mar 12, 2023

I really liked the flow of your story! The back and forth of the dialogue was excellent. These were my favorite lines.. Who would have thought the Spirit would visit Herb in a Walmart breakroom as he sipped his Slurpy, sitting next to his mop and bucket with a hot dog wrapper stuck to his shoe? God is everywhere. Well done!

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Murray Burns
13:07 Mar 14, 2023

I always wondered how some people truly believe, and many just can't get there. "Touched by the spirit"...how the heck does that happen?! I appreciate your reading the story and your comments. Thanks.

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Janet Boyer
13:27 Mar 12, 2023

Awww what a sweet story! Well done.

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Murray Burns
13:03 Mar 14, 2023

I appreciate it. Thanks.

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Janet Boyer
14:11 Mar 14, 2023

Sure thing!

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Delbert Griffith
09:04 Mar 09, 2023

Well fuck me if we didn't write the same story, Murray! And we hit quite a few of the same topics. Eerie! I swear, reading your tale is like reading my tale (Delivered, for the First Time) for this prompt. I really liked the direction you took this. Offer, introspection, inner struggle, rejection of Satan. The dialogue between Satan and Herb was excellent. You did a nice job of making it flow and inform. I applaud you. Nicely done, Murray. I think I like your tale better than mine. Cheers, my friend.

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Lily Finch
21:25 Mar 08, 2023

Murray, I just enjoyed this story so much. The lure of riches and fame over the ones you truly love because they appear not flashy enough or too plain. The jokes within were very well done. Absolutely. Who do you think would know more about such things, Father Senile or a guy who’s in the soul business? - Just like the serpent in the garden tempting Eve in similar discourse. Thank goodness Herb remembered Sister Martin's words: "If one thinks too much only of himself, one can become thoughtless," before it was too late. Knowing Maggy was...

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