Somewhere in Floyd County, Georgia
I watched from the bar as the short, slender man strolled through the door. He had yellow eyes, an oddity for sure, that gazed toward the stage. Thursday nights were Billy’s nights, and the young man, not even old enough to drink, stood and sawed away at his fiddle. Truth is, I never should have let Johnny in the door, and there sure shouldn’t be a cigarette hanging from his lips. My sister would kill me if she knew, but my nephew was just too darn good.
Billy’s playing was why half the men were buying whiskeys or placing more beers on their tab. The greasy blond-haired boy was good for business.
I’d never seen anyone’s fingers move so fast. Sweat flew in every direction, and Billy grinned as the crowd clapped and hollered. Then, without warning, he struck his final note and stomped the stage.
My patrons erupted, except for the yellow-eyed man.
Billy wiped his brow, took a bow, and dropped the cigarette into the ashtray. “Takin’ a little intermission. Y’all sit tight.” My nephew smiled and carried his fiddle to the bar. He never let the instrument out of sight.
“Coke?” I asked as he eased onto a stool.
“Y’ain’t gonna let me have something stronger?” Billy asked with a grin. He knew the answer. “Just a water.”
I poured the glass and eyed the short man as he approached, carrying a case in his left hand. He sat beside Billy.
“What’s your poison?” I asked.
“Fireball,” the man replied. “Leave the bottle.”
Billy giggled. “A little on the nose, don’t ya’think?”
“Come now?” the man asked.
“With eyes like that, you obviously gotta be a demon or something.”
“William,” I said, as stern as I ever spoke to the boy.
“Oh, I’m not offended,” the man said. “But I’m no demon. The name’s Lucifer. I’m their prince.”
I set the shot on the bar and rolled my eyes. What a crazy thing to say, I thought, until he opened his case.
Billy’s eyes grew big. “Is that a golden fiddle?” Light shimmered off the instrument in all directions.
“The finest fiddle there is,” Lucifer said as he pulled it from the case and ran spindly fingers along its neck and strings. “Do you want to hold it?”
“Billy, don’t,” I said.
That boy never listens. He took the fiddle from who I now assumed was actually Satan.
“You’ll never find another like it. I’ll make you a deal…”
“Like in that song?”
The devil wryly smiled. “We don’t talk about that song.”
“How’d you get it back?”
“Johnny was… Just… Never mind. Do you want the opportunity for a golden fiddle or not? Try it.”
Billy plucked a few chords. I had never heard an instrument as well-tuned.
“You’re good,” Lucifer said. “But are you as good as me?”
“Lemme guess. We duel, and if I win, I get to keep your fiddle, and if you win, you get my soul.”
“Just like the song.” Billy grinned.
The devil furrowed his brow. “Just like the song,” he said through gritted teeth.
“You’re on.” Billy handed back the violin. “Hit the stage, let’s see whatcha got.” Before I could stop him, my nephew grabbed the shot of whiskey and tossed it against the back of his throat. “Woo!” He slammed the glass on the counter as his cheeks burned. “Pour the devil another!”
Lucifer grinned and sauntered to the stage.
I leaned toward my nephew. “This is not a good idea.”
“Trust me, Uncle James, I got this.”
“Pride goes before a fall.”
“Yeah, yeah. Mama tells me that all the time.”
I sighed. I wasn’t much of the praying sort, but I made an appeal to the Good Lord for Billy’s eternal soul. I stared at the stage with my arms folded across my chest. Billy drummed the bar with his fingers as he wore a big, goofy grin.
Lucifer plucked a few strings, smiled, and set his bow. His hands flew into a frenzy, faster than Billy’s ever had. My jaw dropped at the sound.
It wasn’t what I expected.
Billy clenched his jaw and scrunched his brow. I bit my lip and shook my head. This was bad. The men and women spread throughout the tables covered their ears.
“You suck!” someone shouted. Others booed.
The screeching ruckus threatened to drive away my patrons.
“This is awful,” Billy shouted at me over the racket.
I watched as those closest to the door stood.
“Hey!” I yelled as I jumped over the bar. The devil kept playing. “Hey!” I ran onto the stage and grabbed Lucifer’s hand.
His shoulders slumped with a sigh. “I might be a little out of practice.”
“Why don’t you come to the bar,” I whispered as the boos died down. “I’ll pour you another shot, on the house. Just stop playing, please.” I was an optimist at heart. I hated to see anyone dejected, even the dark lord of hell.
Lucifer again took a seat beside my nephew.
“That was awful,” Billy said.
“I know,” Lucifer replied. “I just need a little more practice to get back in the habit. Then I’ll take you on, Billy Hogan.”
My nephew smirked. “Oh, no, no. A deal’s a deal.”
The devil rolled his eyes and handed the fiddle to Billy. As the boy ran to the stage, Lucifer sipped his shot and shook his head. “I hate humans. You’re foul, vile creatures, especially your young ones.”
Billy jumped onto the stage and grabbed the mic. “This one’s for ol’ Lucy over there.” With a toothy grin, Billy set his bow to the strings and started in on The Devil Went Down to Georgia.
The devil growled and then yelled, “I hate this song!”