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LOOK THE DEVIL!

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This may jog the memories of those old enough to remember Carnival 1980. But even if you are too young to remember, I hope you will enjoy this story.

1979 had been a good year for bad. Upheavals, both social and political, were the order of the day. Crime was on the upswing in many countries and morality was taking a beating on all fronts. Yes, it had been a very good year for bad!

But Satan was still feeling uneasy. You really can't trust the Lord, he thought. He was always coming up with something good. And this time He was probably cooking up something big. If He had sent a prophet, a miracle, even the smallest sign, Satan would have relaxed. But the Almighty had refrained from doing anything, and that had worried the devil no end. If there had been a referee, Satan would certainly have lodged a protest on the grounds of unsportsmanlike conduct against the Almighty.

"That's it!"

The shout resounded in the sulphurous air of the underworld.

"The Second Coming!"

The devil felt like a fool for not having spotted it before. It had to be that. The Old One was holding back a little before he played the ace of trumps. But not any more. Because Satan decided in a flash to upstage that move. He was going to appear first, and grab the audience for himself.

The devil could be excused for the mistake in timing. In the good old days, B.C., timekeeping was a simple matter. But things had got tangled up between the Julian and Gregorian calendars, and had gone from bad to worse since ... leap years on years divisible by 4, except on century years, and something else if the year could be divided by 400. And now the scientists were talking about leap-seconds!

Satan wanted to materialize in the Middle East, because that region was always good for religious fanaticism. But the timing was off, and the world had turned, and the Lord of the Flies found himself instead in the city of Port of Spain, Independence Square, early J'Ouvert morning.

The arrival was greeted with a chant of recognition - look the devil dey, look the devil dey! Satan turned to face his audience, puffing out his chest like a general taking a salute. But to his dismay the singers moved past, ignoring him completely. And he had to leap nimbly aside to avoid the on-rushing steelband. His mad rush for safety took him into a small group around a tray of oranges.

"Watch yourself. Watch yourself nah man!"

A stout man caught hold of him just as he was about to knock over the tray. The owner of the oranges, a fat woman, spoke shrill words in defence of her property.

"If you throw them down, you paying for all, you hear?"

"Don't dig nothing, man. Take a drink."

This came from a drunk man reclining on the pavement. The bottle he offered, like its owner, was incredibly grimy. The devil regained his composure. The drunk, his generosity unaccepted, consoled himself with a swig from his bottle.

"I am the devil," Satan announced.

"You think we blind?" asked a thin man. "We could see that."

"You don't think J'Ouvert is a little early for a nice costume like that?" asked a shapely girl. "You shoulda hold it back for later in the day."

Satan was puzzled.

"Costume? What do you mean? I am the devil! This is how I look!"

The irritation sounded in his voice. He sighed from the depths of his lungs, and blew out a little residual sulphur.

"OK! Alright! Nobody ent telling you not to play your mas," the stout man replied.

"So is Best Authentic Costume you after," observed the thin man. "But pardner, I can't give you much hope, you know. You go have to do better to win that prize. The only good trick you have is how you does blow stinkness out of your mouth. Man, that smell like hell!"

"I don't believe in devil-mas," contributed the drunk from his place in the gutter. "Old people used to say that if you meddle with the devil, you does find yourself in shit. Not so, Granny?"

This last was addressed to an old lady standing nearby. She was deeply offended.

"If I was your granny I woulda keep you straight with licks. And who you calling old people? Mind your mouth."

The devil, too, objected to the drunk's comment. This was the sort of loose talk and propaganda that had plagued his operations for centuries.

"Let me set the record straight. If you meddle with me, you end up in hell. And that means hot coals, not shit. I run a reputable establishment. The Board of Health would close me down in a flash if I tried to carpet the place with excrement. Beside, the way some of you people live up here, it would only make you feel at home to find hell strewn with dung."

The thin man laughed drily.

"You playing this mas heart and soul, boy. You really believe in your portrayal. And your costume ent all that bad, really."

"Is true," the shapely girl chimed in. "And is such a nice body-fit. It fit like your skin. Is a new material, nah?"

If Satan had known modesty, he would have blushed.

"But who make your pants, in truth?" the shapely girl persisted. "I would pay anything to get a pants to fit me so tight."

The devil looked offended. He wasn't wearing any pants. His grimace frightened the girl.

"Keep your secret, mister," she stammered.

"It have some people so," said the stout man. "They have a good tailor and they don't want him to work for nobody else."

A passing steelband drowned out the conversation. When the music died away, the drunk's voice drifted up from the ground.

"That is music father! I could jump up forever. Sweet pan in my blood."

"Why you don't shut your month?" snapped the old lady. "You is the onlyest man who could jump-up laying down."

It was slowly sinking into Satan's brain that he was being ignored, and he would not tolerate that.

"Listen, you six, and listen well," he shouted. "I am Lucifer, star of the morning. I was the most beautiful, most favoured of the angels. But I was jealous of the Good Lord's power. I preferred to rule than to serve. So I lead my angels against the Almighty and we were cast out of the heavens. Now we live in the bowels of the Earth, from whence we rise to do our evil ... "

"No-No-NO!" interrupted the old lady. "All-you young people can't get anything right. Is not robber-mas you playing, is devil. If you want to make robber-speech, you have to play midnight robber with a fancy sombrero. You can't mix-up your mas so."

Satan was torn between tears and temper. In his time he had outsmarted scholars; had tempted the pious; had weakened the strong. But this was impossible. These fools would not take him seriously. In a deep, awe-inspiring voice, he said:

"I AM SATAN, THE DEVIL!"

"And I am Farah Fawcett-Majors!"

This came from the fat orange vendor. The others laughed. Then she turned around, bent over and gyrated her hefty hindquarters in the devil's face.

"Does you like my sexy figure?" she asked.

And the others broke into fresh, riotous laughter.

That was the limit. Pride wounded, self-confidence shattered, Satan disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

"But how he do that?" the stout man wondered.

"At least he coulda take a drink before he go," the drunk complained.

High above the highest cloud, a dearly departed Trinidadian hustled over to the Throne of Grace. He had just heard the result of the CDC Carnival Competitions, and he could not wait to spread the news.

"Congratulations, Mister God," he began. "You really show them this year. The 1980 Carnival results just announce, and if you hear them! Wasn't 'Look the Devil Dey' that win road march. Was 'Soca Baptist'. And wasn't 'Danse Macabre' that win band-of-the-year. Was 'Genesis'. Good triumph over evil. The devil lost twice."

St. Peter, standing nearby, corrected.

"Not twice, but thrice," he stated. "Still, we should do something about that orange vendor's figure."

And divine laughter rang through the heavens.

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