On The Roof

“Ooooof! I don’t think much of the landing.” Greador picked himself up off the ground.

“Yeah, it was a bit solid,” agreed Hobal, shaking his head and dusting himself down.

“Where are we?” asked Greador looking around. “Looks a bit high up.”

“We’re on the roof of a book repository,” said Hobal.

“Ah, smart. I see what you did there,” said Greador.

“You said you had a book to hide. I thought this would be the ideal place. Satan would never think to look in a pile of books for his present. Which book did you get him?”

“Organic Gardening for Beginners,” said Greador.

“Nice,” said Hobal, nodding appreciatively.

“I thought so, he’s always saying that he wants to do
something restful,” said Greador.

“And, it’ll be a way of getting rid of all that manure in the backyard.”

Greador cocked his head to one side. “Can I hear something?”

“Yeah. There’s a parade on today,” said Hobal.

“Parade? Really? Where is this place?” asked Greador.

“I told you,” said Hobal. “It’s a book repository.”

Greador crossed his arms, looking serious. “Where exactly?”

“Dallas, Texas,” said Hobal, looking puzzled.

Greador frowned. “When?”

Hobal thought for a moment, “I think I set the machine for November 1963. That nice Mr Einstein said that it should be correct to within a half a percent.”

“Wait a minute,” said Greador, one finger in the air.

“You don’t want to be saying that near Mr Einstein,” said Hobal. “He could probably do that with his new machine.”

“Do you realise what’s going on down there?” Greador pointed over the precipice.

“It’s a parade, the President is supposed to drive past,” said Hobal.

“Yes he is,” agreed Greador. “And in about three minutes it’s going to be a disaster and in about ten minutes, this place is going to be crawling with Secret Service agents because this is where the bad guy is shooting from.”

“It is?” asked Hobal. “I guess you’ll have to find somewhere else to stash the book then.”

“You idiot,” said Greador. “Have you ever stopped to wonder why JFK doesn’t like playing in the Texas Hold’Em Poker Tournaments?”

Hobal shrugged, “I just thought he wasn’t into playing cards.”

Greador shook his head, “It’s a lot more serious than that.”

“Really?” asked Hobal. “How serious?”

“Deadly. Serious.” said Greador.

Hobal looked around. “Maybe we could warn him. His car’s just coming down the street now.”

Greador shook his head. “You’re too late, and I think Mr Einstein would be very upset if you started messing about with causality theory, you know he doesn’t understand it.”

“Shame that,” said Hobal. “He always struck me as quite smart. Hey, look someone’s opened a window down here.”Hobal pointed down and to his right. Greador just shook his head.

“You’re too late,” he said as Mrs Kennedy screamed.

“Who would have imagined…!? Can you believe that? No one is going to believe it when we tell them what we saw.” Hobal was breathless.

“We can’t tell them,” said Greador, a serious look on his face.

“Why not?” Hobal looked at him, incredulous.

“Well, as you said, no one will believe us, it’s too ridiculous.”

“We could go on talk shows and things. Write a book. Get that nice Cecil B DeMille to make a film. Tell everyone the truth,” said Hobal.

Greador shook his head. “Hobal, don’t be ridiculous.”

“What?” said Hobal. “I’m not being ridiculous. I happen to like Mr DeMille’s films.”

“I’m not talking about the film,” said Greador. “I’m talking about the truth. We wouldn’t stand a chance.”

“Why not?” Hobal stamped his hoof.

“Because there’s too much money in conspiracy theories, films, books, academic research and documentaries. No one’s interested in the truth,” said Greador.

“I suppose we’d better get back and hide your present somewhere else then, how about that nice library I saw a picture of the other day?” Asked Hobal.

Greador nodded. “Sounds good. Where was that?”

“I think it was called Atlantis.”

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On The Roof

Frost

Satan slammed the telephone down.

“This has gone far enough!”

A row of icicles fell from the table edge simultaneously, nailing the engineers’ foot to the floor.

“Aaargghhh!”

“See my liege, I told you there was a good side to this,” said Greador.

“My foot. My foo…” the engineer fainted.

“Wake him up”, said Satan.

Hobal and Greador slapped the engineer around the face, fanning him with his company baseball cap until he was finally awake. Satan regained his composure. He pointed to the telephone on the corner of the desk.

“Do you know who that was?”

“N-No,” said the engineer, looking around wildly for the way out.

“That, ”said Satan, “was the manager of The Eagles.”

“Oh,” said the engineer.

“I love them, ”said Hobal, he began to sing, “Wel-come-to-the-ho-tel-cal-i-forn-ya.”
Satan flicked an icicle across the room and continued speaking through Hobal’s coughing and mad clawing at his own throat,

“Yes. He wanted to know if they could extend their ‘Hell Freezes Over’ tour to the real thing.”

“Great idea,” said Greador, “we could give the music critics a break from their twelve year quest to hear the perfect version of Sabre Dance.”

“How’s that going?” croaked Hobal.

“I heard they almost had it last week but the critics weren’t pleased that the orchestra was puffing and panting by the end, apparently, they lack stamina.”

Satan looked from Greador to Hobal with a stony stare.

“Gentlemen…”

Both demons went silent.

“I hate The Eagles,” said Satan, “and Hell is not a concert venue. You!” He pointed at the engineer. “Explain!”

“Well, it’s yer inflow valve and yer timer guv. This apparatus is so old it could have been on the ark.”

“His carbon dating skills appear to be up to scratch if nothing else,” said Hobal.

“What’s the problem?” asked Satan.

“Well, it doesn’t work in the modern environment, does it?” said the engineer, rolling his eyes to the ceiling. “It’s all out of spec mate. None of it is ISO9000 compliant. Yer wirings all two core and none of it can cope with the power load yer puttin’ through it.”

Satan folded his arms, leaning forward across the desk.

“What can you do about it?”

“Well, you’ll need a new boiler, top of the range for a place this large. It’ll all have to been compliant with the new regs and we’ll have to get an electrician. I can call my mate Carl for that.” The engineer whipped out a phone.

“Wait! Satan halted him with a pointed finger. “When will you be able to fix this?”

“Not for another six weeks at least…” The engineer stopped talking.

“SIX WEEKS!” Satan began to expand.

“No!” Cried Greador. “No, my liege. Sire. Not here. Not in the office Sire. Remember last time? It took us three days to get you out and untangle you from that stapler.” Hobal was frantically tried to pin down an arm as it flew past him. Satan stopped.

“Good point,” he said. “The thought of that stapler still makes me wince.” He pointed at the engineer. “Get him out of here.”

Hobal produced a blow torch and began melting the icicles pinning the engineer to the floor. He whistled as the engineer began to scream. Satan turned to Greador.

“Was that really the best you could do?”

“He’s the top one Sire. He had the best qualifications of the lot.”

“What qualifications were they?”

“Apparently he’s Corgi registered, Sire.”

“Strikes me he’d probably get on better with dogs.”

“The problem is that this is Hell, my liege. All we’ve got are cowboys. That’s why all our maintenance and decorating is terrible.”

“Sort this out,” said Satan. “And fast before St Peter starts sending vikings over. We’ll never get any peace and quiet with all their moaning and whining. I’m going to find a working kettle.”

Satan slid toward the door on a patina of frost.

“Great, first The Eagles now I’m imitating Nancy Kerrigan. Can this day possibly get any worse?”

………….

Several hours later, things had not improved.

“You know that icicle on the end of your nose really suits you,” said Hobal as he skated past. Greador looked up.

“Whatcha reading?” asked Hobal.

“Ventilation and Heating Systems for Dummies,” replied Greador.

“Any use?” asked Hobal.

“Not unless you need kindling for a fire. We really could do with pulling in some hot air through the ventilation system, that would thaw everything out.”

“Why didn’t you say?” asked Hobal, “I know just the thing.”

………………

Satan wiggled his hooves under the hot air blower.

“This is marvellous,” he said. “Pour me another Pimms and tell me how you did it.”

Greador speared a slice of cucumber with a cocktail stick and handed over the drink.

“It was Hobal’s idea,” he said. “He’s the one who suggested we move the air intake valve over to Paris. All that the hot air from the COP21 summit will keep us going for months.”

Hobal sighed. “Oh, how I love man-made global warming. It’s wonderful.”

Frost

The Oddly-Shaped Box

“As per regulation 14.4 of the Celestial Treaty, all misdirected souls are to be given top priority and directed to their correct resting place with due dignity, and in an appropriate and timely manner. The soul in question was delivered to us in a cardboard box that noted its previous contents as ‘One DeWalt Pitchfork. Size: Large’.”

Satan stopped talking and looked up from the Heaven-sent memo.

“You fool demons used the box they delivered my new pitchfork in? Seriously?!”

Hobal looked at the floor, shuffling his hooves. Greador coughed as he wrung his hands together.

“It’s all we had in stock, Sire. We had a rush job on, you know, because some idiot decided to escalate the war in the Middle East – again! And then the South American volcano erupted, plus there’s a bad flu outbreak in Europe at the moment. We’re all backed up.” Greador gesticulated wildly.

Satan’s tail twitched and he frowned.

“I don’t want excuses Greador. There are rules. I know we’re backed up. This is Hell. We’re always backed up because humans just don’t know how to behave. That’s no excuse for doing a bad job. You know how easily irritated St Peter is. He’s a stickler for the rules.”

“Yeah.” Hobal smiled, “I bet we really wound him up. Remember when we had to send that dog back and he refused to accept the lead as it wasn’t in the soul’s inventory at death.”

Greador laughed. “It took him three weeks to realise that the dog wasn’t going to move without it.”

Satan frowned, “Gentlemen, if we could concentrate on the soul in question.”

“Sorry Sire”, said Hobal.

“Sorry,” said Greador. “Tell you what. We’ve got the proper velvet lined regulation boxes now. I’ll repack it and send along a little something…”

Satan raised an eyebrow.

“…in another box, obviously. A little present from us, just to say sorry. I mean, it’s almost Christmas. It’s the least we can do, right?”

Satan nodded.

“Alright. Just make sure that it’s in the proper box, correctly labelled, and it complies with all the regulations. And no more odd-shaped boxes.”

Satan threw the memo into the nearest fire pit and walked away. Hobal looked at Greador.

“Do you want me to order some chocolates?”

Greador gave him a wicked smile and pulled some wrapping paper, and a label from a drawer.

Bending to write ‘Do not open until Dec 25th’ on the label, Greador said, “Forget chocolates. Let’s see how well St Peter’s curiosity gets on with a pea in a matchbox.”

The Oddly-Shaped Box

Leftovers

“I’m sure you’ll be happier here, dad, than listening to the kids bickering about their video games all day.” Sheila wheeled Finn through the door of the day room. It looked as if someone had vomited Christmas all across the room. The blue fairy lights flashed so fast that Finn wondered if he’d been arrested. A nurse approached as Sheila adjusted his bootlace tie and kissed his rough cheek, shaving wasn’t as easy as it used to be.

“Ah, Mr Finn. Merry Christmas and welcome to our party.” The nurse took the wheelchair as Sheila fled for the door. “You’ll have a very happy time Mr Finn. We’ve even got a swing band. Just like you used to dance to during the war.”

“Too young,” said Finn.

“Don’t worry. We’ll make sure you join in. I’ll leave you here for now.” The nurse parked the wheelchair between the Christmas tree and a table, and fetched him a sweet sherry.

Two hours later, both Finn and the sweet sherry were still there.

Leftovers