I found him down at The Rusty Liver. All the way at the far end of the bar. By himself, the devil. He was drinking gin. No mixer, just gin. His eyes alternated between the twenty-four hour news cycle on TV and his glass. I sat down next to him.
I said, “I used to be a ballpark organist.” I looked over to see if he was listening. Hard to tell. “I was the best. Well, maybe not the best, best. But I was good. One of the best. I mean, it’s not like anybody knew my name or anything, but the crowds, the people I played for, they loved me. I was beloved.”
I paused for a bit to see if he would say anything. He didn’t.
“Didn’t quite make it to The Show,” I continued, “but I come mighty close. Spent a hell-of-a-lotta time tearin’ it up at double and triple-A. Not just playing Charge or some clap-along arpeggio shit. The oldsters loved me in Kalamazoo cause I’d throw in Fly Me to the Moon between the third and the forth. The kids loved me in Stockton cause I’d do Take on Me. And, you know how the Chicken Dance was all the rage a few years ago? I started that in Middleton five years before.”
The devil didn’t look in my direction at all. Just motioned toward the bartender, Chloe. I know her, she’s cool. Chloe came down and refilled his glass with Tanqueray. Left the bottle on the bar. I asked her for some Maker’s Mark, little bit of ice. She brought my drink.
“I guess you know,” I started back up, although, in retrospect that was kinda stupid. He’s the devil. He knows everything, “things started going downhill for ballpark organists in general. We went the way of all skilled work in this country. Got automated out of existence. Why pay a real musician when you can pay some kid to press buttons that play whatever the fuck you want them to? And the video boards killed us too. Dot races and stuff like that. Who needs a corny old organ when you can cheer for an imaginary dot, right?”
The devil shrugged.
“We, ballpark organists I mean, all started getting canned. I got canned. We became extinct dinosaurs overnight. The last twelve years I’ve played weddings, done a church gig or two, which is hard cause I don’t believe in that God nonsense.” I thought this might get me in good with him. Nothing. “But here’s the thing. You know all this hipster, before-it-was-cool shit? Turns out, now Major League teams want a real goddamn organist again. Whether it’s for a new retro ballpark or an actual old park like Wrigley or Fenway. They want a genuine, fucking organist. Now that I’m old and washed up, without contacts, they want organists. The guy at Fenway played the theme from Game of Thrones the other day. That’s exactly my shtick for fuck’s sake!”
The volume and pitch of my voice had increased steadily throughout that last bit till it had reached a head-turning level. I sat back on my bar-stool, which I noticed I had stood up from. I put both palms on the bar-top and breathed deeply. The devil still didn’t look at me, but he slightly, barely perceptibly tilted his gin glass towards me.
In a more controlled, but still trembling voice, I came to the point. “Look, I’m a ballpark organist. That’s what I am. There are, what, fifteen, maybe twenty jobs for what I do? I want one of those spots. I’ll do whatever it takes. I’m willing to . . . I’m willing to sell my soul. And before you ask, yes I’ve thought long and hard about it. My immortal soul in exchange for living my dream for however many years I’ve got left? Yes, I’ll make that deal. Do you hear me”
He moved his head. A sort of nod, hardly detectable by the human eye.
“I want to make a deal with you. I want to sell you my soul.” I finished clearly, directly, in a resolute voice. I downed the rest of my bourbon. Exhaled. It was done. Cards on the table. No regrets.
The devil sipped his gin. Didn’t even turn his head. Said, “Get in line, Chester. Get in line.”