The Devil’s Latte

Posted: December 16, 2012 in Choirs

“Can we make our schools any safer?” asked the Chicago Tribune. “Nation reels after gunman massacres 20 children at school in Connecticut,” lamented the New York Times. “Grim details emerge in school massacre,” revealed the Wall Street Journal.

The day’s news headlines even made Satan depressed. Not that he abhorred violence. He didn’t. On the contrary: Satan loved violence. He just thought random violence was sloppy and amateurish. Violence was like art: everyone was a critic, everyone thought they could do it, but so few had any real talent.

“One venti gingerbread latte,” announced the barrista from behind the counter. Satan turned his attention from the newspaper rack and thanked the barrista as he grabbed his drink. She was cute. Pure. He thought about corrupting her. He saw her insecurities and anxieties; her friendly innocence didn’t hide anything from him, nor did the tiny gold cross that hung teasingly from her neck.  Satan hated crosses. Not because they represented Jesus–he had nothing against Jesus. He hated crosses because of the way people treated them like little more than charms. He hated their lack of understanding. After all he had done for humans–telling them about the fruit of the tree of knowledge, telling them that they wouldn’t die from knowing–they had learned nothing.

No, Satan thought to himself. I don’t hate Jesus. I hate people.

He found a chair in the corner, leaving the barrista and her soul intact, for the time being anyway. He gazed around the shop, looking at the souls who found refuge in a coffee shop as he sipped his latte. A group of kids on their laptop doing their homework–he liked their ambition. Two mom’s escaped their families to share quality time with each other–he admired their jealousy. An old couple sat in each other’s quiet company–he approved of their deceit. Satan could have made a good harvest that day, but that wasn’t what he wanted. He was waiting for Prong.

“Sorry I’m late,” Prong said as he rushed in, “I’m just going to grab something to drink, OK?” Satan nodded. Prong was always late and always in a rush. But, he was brilliant. He was a true artist.

Prong returned, craddling an espresso. “So, about Connecticut,” the demon said as he quickly downed the espresso. “I’ve got a great idea.”

Satan nodded and took another sip.

“Check it out: Silence. People mourn in silence. They think in silence. Even when they speak or cry or laugh, they don’t say anything. So, what we do here, with this tragedy, is encourage silence.”

Prong could tell Satan wasn’t sold on the idea. He knew his boss liked impulse, he liked to take advantage of tragedies as quickly as possible, to strike when people were most unbalanced by grief.

Prong continued. “Imagine, they hear nothing from their leaders. The politicians talk about not politicizing this. Their preachers talk about mystery and sorrow. Their lame prophets go on and on about speaking truth to power, but they say nothing. Just the same old platitudes, the same old talking points. But nothing real. Just noise. And deep down, in their hearts, the words of the politicians and preachers and prophets choke everything out but the silence.”

Satan took another sip. Prong took that as a good sign. The less Satan said, the less he moved, the more interested he was in what he was hearing.

“And after a bit,” Prong leaned forward and lowered his voice,  “a few days, a few weeks, whatever, of nobody saying nothing about nothing, we will have their undivided attention.”

“And then what?” Satan asked. Prong wasn’t sure if Satan was annoyed or intrigued.

“We so nothing.” Prong clapped and leaned back. He was quite proud.

“Nothing? We don’t do anything?”

“Absolutely nothing.” Prong smiled. “By say nothing, we do nothing. We add simply add to the silence, and the silence becomes deafening. It drives out everything. There’s no answers to their questions; there’s no understanding to share. There’s just empty silence.”

What an idea, Satan thought. He sipped his latte and looked around at the people in the shop. The shared each other’s presence, they chatted, they talked. The barrista heard the customer’s drink order, but she didn’t hear the exhausted loneliness in his voice. The students talked about AP Euro and homecoming and the latest thing so-and-so said about such-and-such, but they didn’t hear one another’s insecurities. The mom’s chatted and gossiped about the scandals in their neighborhood, hiding the fear about the discovery of their own scandals. And the old couple sat in each other’s quiet company, while the guilt of their mutual infidelity remained buried deep in their hearts.

Prong started rubbing his hands. He leaned forward. “What do you think?”

“I don’t know. I always feel the urge to at least say something.”

“That’s the beauty of it. In the silence, they do the talking for you. It’s their own voices they listen to, not yours. The guilt is on them, not you.”

Satan smiled. He got it. “Sounds good. Go for it.” He held out his hand

Prong clasped it. “I won’t let you down, sir. I’ll make you proud.”

“I have all the faith that you will.”

Prong left the coffee shop and Satan sat alone as he finished his gingerbread latte. The shop had emptied out, save for the barrista, who wiped down the empty tables. She smiled at him flirtatiously. He smiled back as he left the shop, leaving her all alone.



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