There’s an old tale among bartenders.
According to those of the profession, the Devil picks a watering hole at random when the Lord of Lies desires a drink. He’s not picky.
He always appears at closing and is an especially insufferable patron. The upside of the encounter is the bartender who survives gets quite the tip: they’ll never have to work again.
If you, dear reader, should find yourself serving the Devil a highball, keep one crucial fact in mind: he’s got a fondness for artisanal pretzels.
Seriously, don’t skimp on the Devil’s pretzels. It’s not a good look.
Anyway, with this in mind, Mephistopheles, the Lord of Lies, chose one rainy night the Grassy Knoll Pub as his watering hole of choice.
Little did he know it was the last place on Earth the Devil could drink in peace.
He stormed through the door just after Jesse Custer, the Knoll’s owner and chief bartender, yelled for last call. Ordering a glass of Merlot, Beelzebub sulked in a corner while the Knoll’s regular patrons paid their tabs and left.
When the Knoll was empty, Cassidy asked Custer “Ye want the straggler out, Jesse?”
“Stay where you are, Cass. He’s here by right.”
The Devil finished his glass of Merlot.
“Do you have pretzels?”
Custer produced a bag of Snyder’s pretzels and a bowl. He filled the bowl and placed it on the bar. The Devil took this as an invitation to move to the bar.
“Irish Car Bomb, please.”
“Coming up,” Custer said.
“Aren’t you going to ask me about my day?” the Devil asked after a few sips of his cocktail and munching on a few pretzels.
“Isn’t that standard bartender service?”
“Not around here, mister. We mind our business unless someone asks otherwise.”
“Well it was shit,” the Devil began. “First, I had to deal with a minor demon pulling a Charlie Daniels.”
“You mean that golden fiddle stuff is real?”
“Only if I sign off on it,” the Devil replied. “Otherwise it’s a contract made by a being without authority to strike such a bargain. I’m the only person who can do that.”
“So you have rules for swindling souls?”
“Of course,” the Devil said. “We invented contracts for a reason.”
“It’s just so hard tempting people into giving their souls away, you know?” the Devil continued. “You can’t do it on a college campus, that’s for sure. Not that there’s a lack of temptation. It’s most of the students don’t even believe in things like souls or Hell to begin with!”
“So where does one tempt souls these days?”
“Twitter,” replied the Devil with a gleam in his eye. “That and Internet self-improvement courses. Everyone and their mother will sell their souls to trend on Twitter for even a day. If we get that person, and they enjoy minor celebrity, we set them up with an Internet self-improvement course to steer even more souls our way.”
“How do you avoid the outrage mobs and getting canceled?”
The Devil motioned for another drink, finishing his cocktail.
“R&D is still working out those kinks. Do you have anything stronger?”
Custer reached under the bar for a jar of George Cocke’s freshest batch. “Moonshine sounds like an ideal drink for someone once called the ‘Morningstar.'” Fetching two glasses, Custer poured one for himself and one for his infernal guest.
A look of pleasure briefly darted across Lucifer’s face two sips later. “Keep pouring this ‘Moonshine,’ mortal, and I shall spare you from having your skin flayed from your hide in my realm for eternity.”
“The outrage is unbelievable! I’ve never seen anything like it in all eternity. If we could figure out a way to bottle it we could power the Hell Forges beyond the end of days. And it’s constantly shifting. We can’t keep track of what the humans deem ‘cancel’ worthy. It changes almost with the hour!”
“Almost like all this technology keeps people distracted from the real life stuff you want them to see, huh?”
“Boy I’ll tell you what. We never saw that boondoggle hitting us from left field. Every vice at a whim and a click of a button. The pornography humans started coming up with when they wanted to post it on the internet…”
The Devil briefly shuddered. Even he had standards.
“And who could have seen the damage selling someone’s personal information could do? It’s almost as good as getting the actual soul. That Zuckerberg fella’s going places when I get my hands on him.”
With that, the Devil finished his drink. “I suppose I’ll be leaving now. For a backwater bar in rural Alabama, you’re quite hospitable.”
Custer smiled. “We do our best. Be safe getting home now.”
The Devil stood, locking eyes with Jesse Custer. What could be described as either awkward or tense silence passed the next couple of minutes.
“Well?” the Devil asked, breaking the silence.
“Sir?” returned Jesse jovially.
“Aren’t you going to ask about the tip?”
“THE tip,” the Devil gravely intoned.
“No sir, we don’t inquire about tips. That’s rude business.”
A look of brief fear crossed Mephisto’s face. “That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works. I drink free, you listen to me whine for a bit, I offer you the chance to never work again…”
“And I’m sure that trick works on poor slobs who aren’t lapsed ministers with occult connections, eh laddie?” Cassidy asked the Devil, sidling up to the bar with a wicked grin.
The Devil stammered. “I’m not sure what you…I’m the Lord of Hell. I don’t have time to meddle with wannabe Merlin rejects.”
Jesse Custer muttered something underneath his breath. A peculiar tome appeared on the bar. Bound in human skin, the weathered pages written in human blood, the Devil recognized the book too well.
“A Necronomicon! How did you…?”
“Easy, asshole,” Custer cut him off. Opening the book to a certain page, he jabbed a finger at the long forgotten language on the page. “My friend tells me this details out your little scheme. He also says this text means you can’t lie about it. Is this true, demon?”
“Yes,” the Devil muttered in resignation.
“And he also tells me this says if I refuse your tip you have to grant me one wish. Is that true as well?”
“Yes, and you can’t wish for more wishes. By the screams of the Pit, you humans are a predictable lot.”
“That’s not what I want,” Custer returned.
“Oh really, Mister Preacher Man Jesse Custer?” Lucifer said in a languid, mocking tone. “Surprise me.”
“I wish the Knoll’s alcohol stock would never run out.”
The Devil cocked an eyebrow in disbelief. “That’s all?”
“Yup. You got any idea how much good liquor costs these days? If I don’t pay to resupply then I make more money and can pass the savings onto my customers.”
“What if I curse the booze and give everyone who drinks it a massive hangover the next day?”
“Then you’d be depriving yourself of the one bar that will clean house and let the Lord of Lies drink in peace at his leisure.”
“You are an interesting man, Jesse Custer. We shall see each other again. Sooner, rather than later, I think.” With that, the Devil uttered a phrase in a forgotten tongue, opened a door that previously wasn’t in the Knoll, and returned to his domain.
“How do we test if he held his end of the bargain?” Cassidy asked Jesse.
Custer grabbed a bottle of Grey Goose Vodka, poured a shot for himself and Cassidy, and said “Trial and error.” After downing his shot, Custer picked up the bottle and threw it against the far wall of the pub.
The bottle shattered, spilling its contents. The liquid formed into a series of words which suddenly caught fire. It spelled “A Deal Is A Deal–M.” When Custer turned his gaze to where the Grey Goose bottle once sat, a new one took its place.
And that’s the story of how through a little bit of Southern Hospitality and a lot of balls, Jesse Custer slashed the Knoll’s expenses in half one night.