STOP! Dahmertime.

Jeffrey Dahmer

Last night I did my third reading with the good folks at Pungent Parlour, and to celebrate my newfound breaks from the stifling worlds of business and academia, I read my freshly penned letter to late Wisconsin folk hero Jeffrey Dahmer. And now I’m sharing it here because it’s a little too blue for Shouts and Murmurs.

Dear Mr. Dahmer:

Before I tell you about the deal I made with the Devil, I first want to address the most obvious issue here: you’ve been dead for almost 21 years, and now I’m writing you a letter. The Infinity of the Afterlife has no street numbers, but I’ve heard it has a good postal service. So I’m leaving this communiqué in their hands, because, like it or not, you might be my only hope.

Here’s what happened: I met the Devil last week. I was at Sbarro on lunch break, as usual, listening to a podcast on cheeses made from bodily discharge. Sweat, calluses, toe lint. Not great lunch listening, but I lost all my music last week except for “Jumper” by Third Eye Blind, so cheese it was. But I digress. Based on what I know of your tastes, it seems you’d dig this cheese thing. If you can download podcasts where you are, definitely check it out.

Anyway, there I was, eating and getting grossed out, and in walks this really tall guy in a nice gray suit. White shirt, blue patterned tie, everything tailored. Middle-aged, but fit. Skin of shaded, pan-ethnic tones. Not ugly or handsome, but well-put-together. I would’ve thought him another Viagra Triangle asshole if it weren’t for the American flag pin on his lapel. So instead I just thought him a run-of-the-mill asshole in a suit. But then I noticed the horns. Big red things coming out of the top of his forehead, like you’d see in a comic book. I don’t know how I didn’t see them when he walked in, but there they were. And there he was. An asshole with horns.

In retrospect, it was strange that nobody else noticed the horns. It was lunch hour and Sbarro was packed, as it should be. But nobody seemed to notice the horns on this man. He stood in line like everyone else, ordered some garlic knots and a salad, and when he paid cash the cashier didn’t even bat a lash. He dropped his coins in the change dish, poured himself a cup of soda, and then sat at the table next to me. Like a super-sleuth I paused my podcast, kept my earbuds in, and watched him out of my periphery. Horned asshole drank Mr. Pibb.

Otherwise nothing unusual except that he chewed loud. As I was about to go back to my cheese-cast, I felt him looking at me. Not all lusty or full of rage or anything. Just looking at me like you’d look at a painting. The kind of stare you can’t ignore. I asked him, “Can I help you?” He shook his head with a smirk. “No,” he said. “But I can help you.” Then he pointed at his horns. “Yes, they’re real.”

I looked around to see if maybe people started noticing him yet, especially now that he was drawing attention to his literal bullishness. Nope. Just me. And as if on cue, he said, “I only want you to see them today.” He moved himself to my table. “I’m the Devil,” he said, extending his hand. I didn’t know how I could respond to that, so I shook his hand. And, say what you will about the guy, but he gives a great handshake.

“There’s probably nothing you can say back to that,” he said. “I get it. I’ve been there. No pressure, cool? I just want a chat.”

This was my first encounter with an extra-dimensional being. By reflex I felt I should maybe bow or cower in fear or profess devotion or confess my darkest sins, but there wasn’t any pressure. The whole scenario was super chill. Just one person talking to another, and one happened to have giant horns and a home in eternity’s boiler room.

“Go ahead,” he said. “Ask me anything.”

I started with the obvious: “What are you doing here?”

“I love Sbarro,” he said.

“No,” I said. “I mean here, in the third dimension.”

“Well, still Sbarro,” he said. “But also, it’s Philanthropy Week. So I’m here offering some favors.”

I never heard of Philanthropy Week, but I don’t blame the Devil for that. I’m separated from the philanthropic world by at least seven tax brackets. I asked him, “Shouldn’t you be off telling someone to commit suicide or do drugs or something?”

He laughed. “No, no. That stuff’s for kids. I’m here to offer favors.”

“What’s a favor from the Devil look like?”

He thought for a moment, scratching at the root of his horns. “For you,” he said, “I will answer any question you want to know. Only one question. And then I’m gone.”

I asked him, “Why me?”

“Don’t read into it,” he said. “This week is about philanthropy. Random acts of kindness and that sort of thing. So go ahead, ask. What do you want to know?”

There are a million things I could have asked him, and maybe should have asked him. Questions that, if answered, would have set me up for a life of wealth and happiness. Instead, I asked him the first thing that came to my mind: “On what day—am I going to die?”

After a brief pause, he said, “It’ll be a Tuesday.”

Which is not the answer I wanted. At the very least, I should have asked on what date I’m going to die. Or something way cooler like, what are next week’s winning Powerball numbers? No, instead I asked the fucking Devil on what day I’m going to die and he tells me that it’s going to be a Tuesday. That’s it. A Tuesday. Next Tuesday? Tuesday five years from now? And such a definitive 24-hour window. Will I be sick for years and then finally succumb on a day that happens to be a Tuesday? Will I get hit by a stray bullet on a random Tuesday and never see it coming?

I made motion to clarify, but he wagged his finger. Ah-ah-ah. Classic Devil move. I guess all stereotypes are based on some sort of truth. He said, “You asked. I answered. Philanthropy.”

“You can’t give me more than that?”

He said, “Isn’t it enough that I’m celebrating Philanthropy Week and now you want me to write an essay?”

I wanted to push back, but I remembered that I was talking to the Devil. King of the Underworld. Eater of flesh. So I said, “No, I’m good.”

He stood up and looked at me. He seemed to be waiting for something. I shrugged. “Uh…you’re welcome,” he said, and then he walked out. With his food tray still on the table, like an asshole.

Meanwhile, I checked my calendar. The next Tuesday was in six days. Back at work I told them I’d need to take a last-minute personal day for a doctor’s visit, but really what I did was sit on the couch all day that first Tuesday, starting promptly at 12:01 a.m. I unplugged all the electronics in my apartment to prevent any possible short circuits. I opened all the windows incase of carbon monoxide or a gas leak. I kept the front door locked, too. A little ridiculous, with all the open windows, but masked gunmen like to kick in doors and I wanted to prevent that, too. I had a gallon of water already set aside, which was all I ingested that day, because I didn’t want to choke on any food. And also I was naked, incase I ran into some Final Destination scenario where the belt from my pants got pulled out and wrapped around my neck. I was still alive by the end of the day, but miserable. Would I need to do this every Tuesday? I prevented all of the obvious stuff; choking, gassing, slipping and falling, etcetera. But what could I do to prevent a building collapse? Or a car bomb? Or a stray bullet? Or a crashing airplane? Or lightning leukemia, which I just made up; but it could happen.

I’m now counting the passage of time in Tuesdays. It has been five Tuesdays since I met the Devil and I’m running out of excuses to take off from work. So I’m asking for your help now because I think you’re the only one who would believe me that I’ve received the Devil’s charity. All the shit you pulled here in the third dimension must have warranted some kind of afterlife favors for you. So maybe you have his ear and can put in a good word for me. I just need to know what date, with a T-E, that I’m going to die. This Tuesday thing is no good. I need more specificity. And I realize that because we’re separated by eons of darkness and void, I can’t offer you anything substantial in return, but hopefully you’ll see this attached lifetime subscription to Boy’s Life as a would-be token of my appreciation.

Thanks again for your time, and God bless.

By Ben van Loon

Writer, Researcher, Chicagoan

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