Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sympathy for the Devil

With apologies to Paul Harvey, I'd like to present to you the rest of the story of 'The Devil Went Down to Georgia.'

Having returned to Hades across the river Styx, The Devil wasn't quite sure what to do. He thought for sure he could beat Johnny in a fiddle-playing contest to meet his quota of souls. But alas, he was bested by the best there ever was, resulting in The Devil having to forfeit his fiddle of gold. Even worse, now his minions were starting to doubt him. 'How could they respect me now?' he thought to himself as he secluded himself in his office on the top floor overlooking Washington DC. 'If I lose my minions, I've got nothing. I can't do all the evil in the world all by myself.'

'What are the odds I'd have picked the world's greatest fiddle player? And in Georgia of all places," he thought to himself. "I thought all great fiddle players lived in Texas, especially after I got them to pass that stupid law requiring all bands to have a fiddle player." 

He thought about offering Johnny a rematch, but that seemed like a bad idea. Even though the Latvian judge had him winning the fiddle-off, he lost by a resounding 8-1 vote. That was even more evidence of his declining power. How was it he could only bribe one judge to vote for him?

Depressed and devastated, Satan went off in search of the minion in charge of research. Someone had to pay for this humiliation, and who better than Oscar. He'd been head researcher in charge of finding easy souls to steal for nearly 400 years. It was Oscar who suggested challenging Johnny to the contest in the beginning. After an hour of yelling, screaming, and threatening to send Oscar to solitary confinement with nothing but Justin Bieber songs playing, Oscar finally figured out what happened. He'd check the box marked 'Fiddle-playing contest' instead of 'fencing contest' on Satan's report. While Johnny is quick with a fiddle bow, he's not quite as good with a fencing foil.

Johnny, meanwhile, had a fiddle of gold that he wasn't sure what to do with. No one would ever believe he beat The Devil in a fiddle playoff. Sure, his friends knew he was good, but not good enough to beat the origin of all evil. Selling it was an option, but how often are you going to have a chance to win a golden fiddle from the Prince of Darkness. Besides, there had to be some way to cash in on this. Exploiting your 15 minutes of fame is what America is all about.

So he made the usual rounds, Today,Good Morning America, Letterman, Leno (where he learned off camera of a deal Leno made with the Devil to get his time slot back).  He showed off his fiddle, played some songs and generally started enjoying life. He traded his girlfriend in for a sexier one, got a new car and lived the high life (as defined by Miller beer.)

At the height of his fame, Johnny even got the Georgia Legislature to pass a law requiring that he be the only one to represent the state in all future fiddle-playing contests (which were apparently more common than I was led to believe.)

But slowly, his fame began to fade. Soon he wasn't headlining shows, but was the opening act for various C-level country singers. Then he began playing county fairs across the Southeast . He knew he hit rock bottom when VH-1 came calling to have him be a panelist on their "I Love Songs About The Devil" series.

Back in Hades, Satan was once again in a bind. He'd fallen behind on his projected soul collection and with the work piling up, he needed a soul or two soon. (His deal with Leno didn't expire for several more years, though he did get Kevin Eubank's soul at a discount.) At about the same time, Johnny was starting to have health problems resulting in his years on the road of hard living.

So once again, Satan approached Johnny, hoping to make him a Godfather offer. There was no reason to try another fiddle contest. Instead, Satan offered Johnny a platinum banjo in exchange for his soul. Only this time, the contest was a game of checkers. An odd choice, to be sure, but one Satan felt confident in. They settled on a best two out of three, with a coin toss to determine who went first in each game.

After weeks of buildup, including a deal to broadcast it on ESPN in return for Chris Berman's soul (he wasn't using it anyway), the big match was set to being. Satan won game one when Johnny got distracted by Heidi Klum in the audience. (Me, use that convenient plot point as an excuse to run one of Klum's pictures? Surely you don't think I'd do such a thing.) Satan swore up and down he didn't pay her to wear her Victoria's Secret outfits to the match. (It was later discovered this was the second part of the deal with Seal to marry Klum. Had she not done it, Seal would be clubbed to death.)

In the second game, it was Satan's turn to be distracted as Pat Robertson sullied Satan's good name by blaming him for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Satan was so infuriated that he set up Johnny for a rare quintuple jump. (Note: I don't know if it's actually rare, but it sounded good at the time.)

The final game drew record ratings. Each jump drew cheers from the crowd (which was evenly split for each combatant.) Every move was scrutinized by checkers experts on television and online. It was almost as though the world stopped to watch the outcome of the game. As each player lost pieces, the tension grew. One move it would look like Johnny had control, then Satan would do something and momentum would swing his direction. After a marathon game, Satan eventually mentally wore down Johnny to the point he made a mistake and Satan seized on it.

Johnny had been defeated. He covered his face in his hands, dejected. How could he have been so stupid? Why did he think he could beat the Devil twice? And why checkers? Johnny reluctantly forfeited his soul to Satan, who gleefully took it with him to Hades. But he knew that Satan would be back one day to try to get his Golden Fiddle back. And when he did, Johnny would be ready.

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