A card came, summoning me to a funeral. The identity of the deceased was not supplied, so I was puzzled: I couldn’t recall any friends or family members having passed away lately and my boss had been in bellowing good health when I’d left work on Friday. Still, I felt compelled to go; and so, I discovered upon reaching the church, had everybody else. We all wore the same bewildered expression as we whispered to each other, “You got it too? Who died? No idea! You don’t know either? Who could it be?”
The priest was grave as he greeted us at the door, pressing our hands and saying, “Terrible loss, such a terrible loss.” I was too embarrassed to ask him whose funeral I was attending. He obviously expected me to know. I resolved to listen for the name during the service, but as soon as I sat down on the cold, uncomfortable pew I began daydreaming about rescuing Belinda, the student nurse who lived downstairs, from a raging fire.
After a while the priest ceased intoning and invited us to come up and pay our respects. I can’t deny I was surprised, when I reached the casket, to find the Devil stretched out inside, just like a regular dead person. He looked much as he was supposed to – pointed horns, goatish hooves, ruddy skin. They’d even stuck his pitchfork in there with him, like a knight laid to rest with his trusty sword. The only way he differed from all the stories and paintings was that spread across his hideous visage was the most beatific smile I’d ever seen, as though he’d found some peace at last.
The reception was a comparatively jolly affair. They served us bottle after bottle of a shoddy red which got everyone inebriated enough to not mind the stale sandwiches and cheesy music. About halfway through the party the priest handed out plastic devil horns – the sort people buy for Halloween and hen nights – and encouraged us to put them on as playful tribute to the dearly departed. We spent the rest of the evening taking drunken delight in parading about in them pretending to be diabolical.
Next morning, I awoke with a fiendish headache and, cursing myself for having knocked back so much of that rotten wine, staggered to the bathroom to assess the damage. To my surprise, I was still wearing the horns. I tried taking them off, but found that they now appeared to be fused to my cranium, and were no longer made of cheap and flimsy plastic, but some rough-ridged, organic substance. It was as if they were perfectly natural. As if they belonged there. As if, in fact, they’d been growing there my whole life.
Benjamin Palmer is a poet and songwriter based in Mexico. He wrote this poem during Jonathan Edward’s online course on comic poetry.