Word Count 498
Sympathy for the Devil
By Terry Rainey
All mornings started with prayer, but on Mondays Sister Mary Xavier asked if anyone
had a worthy subject for our special intentions. She reminded us that we were one day closer to
our death and another week of potential sin loomed, so a special prayer could bolster us despite
the prospect of our eventual demise.
I shot my hand up, and said, “Friday, Vince Lombardi was hired as coach of the
Redskins. He is going to transform the team and revolutionize quarterback Sonny Jurgensen. Let
us pray for bright prospects for the coming season.”
Sister caught me up with a hard stare: “Mister, we don’t pray for success on the football
field. There are two teams and God loves each equally. It is sinful to ask for such fleeting
Maybe SisterX was miffed because the Pittsburgh Steelers also hired a new coach, Chuck
Noll. But she crushed me like a bug, and moved on with the day, setting up the slide projector.
Her large, dark shadow loomed on the white screen, ominous and sharp. I hated her. I
waited mute while my vitality drained, my light burned low, my dismal fate cast to darkness.
Just Monday and I was totally deflated, without energy, so much so that as the slideshow began,
I fell asleep.
I dreamt that SisterX and Sergeant Carter from Gomer Pyle, USMC were playing Ping-
Pong against Satan and — I think — Edgar Allan Poe. The grim reaper refereed.
SisterX/Sergeant Carter then kicked Poe through some distant uprights, but midair Poe morphed
into Mick Jagger.
I woke to SisterX telling us that we needed to be warriors taking up our cudgel against
the devil, but my soul was waste. SisterX then asked us to write our own prayer. All I could
come up with was “Hail Father, I was 'round when Jesus Christ had his moment of doubt and
pain, made damn sure that Pilate washed his hands and sealed his fate. Amen.”
I felt the devil dancing on my grave. I looked to Twain’s portrait, but only remembered
his quote “But who prays for Satan? Who in eighteen centuries has had the common humanity
to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?”
Was my sympathy blasphemy? Maybe, I prayed, I was just the Devil’s Advocate, not a
real prince of darkness. My resentment beat deep within my chest. I’m sure SisterX heard my
telltale heart. Certainly God, with His hearing, did.
While I waited for SisterX to sense my heated presence, I looked to my classmates, but
all seemed unfazed, unscorched. Was their faith saving them? Sister went on, talking generally,
but I thought only to me: “What are your prospects for entering the kingdom of Heaven?”
My hope had faded. I’d lost control. What was puzzling me? Was it just the nature of
the game? Was every cop a criminal and all the sinners saints? Were heads tails? Just call me
Lucifer because I was in need of some restraint.