This selection, chosen by guest editor Katie Manning, is from Bath by Jen Silverman, released by Driftwood Press in 2022.
The Devil Dogs my Steps, but if it Weren’t Him, it Would Just Be Someone Else
1. The Devil visits the weak of heart. The Devil makes threats and proposals. The Devil updates his resume and applies for positions. 2. The Devil calls on a Monday. I am living in Cincinnati - if you can call this living. I read bad paperbacks at the laundromat, and fall down black holes of time. When I emerge, the air is icy and the cherry trees, bloomed early, are regretting it. The Devil lingers outside the CVS. He was waiting for someone, anyone will do. He says: Forgot my CVS card, Can I Borrow Yours? I wait while he buys Advil and socks. The Devil says: I’m always forgetting something. The Devil stops by my laundromat to do a load. He says last time his clothes got nicked. Newspaper under one arm, he bought an iced coffee that tastes like plastic. The Devil tells me he’s kinda down: It just feels a lot harder than it used to. The Devil and I are walking by my apartment. The houses are all abandoned here, and the blossoms are deciding to die. Just because you’re ready doesn’t mean the world is ready for you, says The Devil. 3. The Devil peels potatoes. He’s throwing a dinner party. He invited my landlord and all my exes. The girlfriends and the boyfriends. He’s serving thick beef, white chocolate, avocado. The only drink available is rum. The ex-smokers sit on the fire escape and re-start. The Devil says we can only talk about religion and politics, unless anyone wants to discuss what it was like to date me. My college girlfriend is the first to volunteer. “You never even know if you’re dating her,” she says. “She’s so aloof.” There is also a man from my early twenties. He was balding and had sad eyes. We never dated, but he raises his hand anyway. “Her hair just got shorter and shorter,” he tells the room. When everyone leaves, I do the dishes while The Devil makes suggestions. The Devil says: Are you generous enough? The Devil says: Keep your audience in mind. 4. I go on vacation. The Devil comes along. He isn’t invited per se, but also, he isn’t not. These are the things he brings to my attention: A greyhound in a turtleneck A stack of pomegranates A boy on a yellow bike. Late at night I sit in the hotel window and read magazines about people who felt things, then acted on those feelings. The Devil likes to sit in the hotel sauna. He goes through all the towels. That is the week he has a bum knee. A beefy woman at the bar says: I like to travel because it reminds me how great it is to come home. The Devil says: I like to come home because it reminds me what a disaster we make of what’s ours.
Jen Silverman is a New York-based writer and playwright. Jen is the author of the debut novel We Play Ourselves and the story collection The Island Dwellers (Random House) which was longlisted for a PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize. Additional work has appeared in Vogue, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, The Sun, and elsewhere. Jen’s plays have been produced across the United States and internationally. Jen is a three-time MacDowell Colony fellow, a member of New Dramatists, and the recipient of an NEA Fellowship, a New York Foundation for the Arts grant, the Yale Drama Series Award, and a Playwrights of New York Fellowship. Jen also writes for TV and film.
Katie Manning is the author of Hereverent (Agape Editions), Tasty Other (winner of the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award), and six chapbook collections, including How to Play (Louisiana Literature Press) and 28,065 Nights (River Glass Books). Her poem “What to Expect” was featured on the Poetry Unbound podcast, and her poems have appeared in HAD, Poet Lore, SWWIM, Stirring, Thimble, Verse Daily, and many other venues. Katie is the founder and editor-in-chief of Whale Road Review and a professor of writing at Point Loma Nazarene University.
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