Author Topic: PC336 / 715: Why I Bought Satan Two Cokes on the Day I Graduated High School  (Read 6597 times)

Talia

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PodCastle 336: Why I Bought Satan Two Cokes on the Day I Graduated High School

by Nathaniel Lee

Read by Dave Thompson

Originally published in Unidentified Funny Objects 3, edited by Alex Shvartsman.

When I came out of the coffee shop with my latte and my fresh walnut
brownie, the Archangel Michael was beating the ever-loving shit out of
Satan down on the corner.  I could see the impact crater, right in the
middle of the intersection, and one of the poles holding up the
traffic lights was cut right in two so the wires had all fallen in the
street and also it was on fire on account of the flaming sword, so it
was a real mess.  All higgledy-piggledy.  Michael was holding Satan up
by the neck with one hand and just slapping him across the face with
the other.  Which also by the way was still holding the sword, so it
wasn’t so much like slapping as it was punching with brass knuckles.
Also it was still on fire.

People were honking, but only the ones far enough back that they
couldn’t see what was going on.  Everyone else was kind of looking the
other way.  Fiddling with their cell phones.  Avoiding eye contact.
You know, like you do around angels.

I figured it was time.

“Hey,” I said.  Michael turned.  I lifted the hand with the coffee in
it and pointed at Satan, who was pretty beat up by then.  Missing some
teeth and all bruises and stuff.  “Not cool,” I told Michael.

The angel looked down at me with his bronze wings all clanging in the
wind.  Then he snorted and tossed Satan to the ground and just took
off.  I stumbled a little and nearly spilled my coffee.  Angels got
wicked backwash.

By then Satan was staggering upright.  “You okay, dude?” I asked him.

“Could’ve taken him,” Satan said.  He spat out a tooth and flared his
nostrils.  “Didn’t need your help.”


Rated R. Contains F-bombs. And Satan.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: January 01, 2022, 06:06:12 PM by Ocicat »



InfiniteMonkey

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I did not have the "benefit" of growing up in a religious household, so it's likely that I missed some of the more emotional reactions to this story than those that did.

For a while there I figured that our narrator was going to pledge to the Angel of Death, but now I'm wondering if he died jumping off the roof.

I also think that the wings of Satan represent not Evil but the youthful spirit of rebellion that is bequeathed to our narrator (lord know Host of Heaven High there was plenty uptight and stuffy…)


As for my favorite portrayal of Satan, I'd have to go with John Glover in Brimstone.



Unblinking

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Given the title, I expected to like this story more than I did.  I'm generally very into stories that common religious tropes and make them into something different.  I liked the explanation after the story that poor Satan, now that his predestined spot in the war is over, is just kind of hanging around with no love and no purpose, and that the great war of Heaven and Hell has already taken place but not really that much has changed.

Part of it, I think, is that Satan didn't really feel remotely like Satan to me.  He was changed to such a degree that he was basically indistinguishable from the narrator--angsty teen who rebels against the establishment by milling about and not doing much of anything.  If he hadn't been explicitly named "Satan" I don't think that I would have had any suspicion of his identity.

Part of it, too, was that I didn't feel like it really mattered what choice he made in the swearing.  I mean, it does matter to some degree because different angels will affect your life in different ways.  But none of those ways are going to be what this guy wants.  And given Satan's attempt to make an unsworn person go suicide, I think that not swearing to anyone just makes you vulnerable because anyone with a sadistic streak is going to pick you out of a crowd to hurt because you don't have the defense that everyone else has.

The story was interesting, though I didn't really find it funny.  If it hadn't been in UFO and if Dave hadn't specifically said it was hilarious, I don't think I even would've thought it was supposed to be funny.  But that's not necessarily a knock against the story--I quite liked Nathan's The Alchemist's Daughter that was in a prior UFO, but didn't find anything funny about that one either--but since the presentation around the story tells me that it's supposed to be funny I felt that was worth mentioning--kind of sets up an expectation that for me wasn't met.  *shrug*

I liked the angel of death.  Nicely creepy.  Kind of lurking throughout the story even though we never see him cause anyone harm, we only have rumor to tell us that he does send people to hell.  If you swear to that guy does that mean you get to break curfew?  I wonder what kind of career you get if you swear to him?  I might swear to him, given the choices in the story.

I was waiting through the story to find out the question implied by the title--finding out why he bought Satan two cokes.  It turned out that it was because he happened to say "God" in a casual way twice, which didn't really have anything to do with anything else.



Unblinking

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Regarding my favorite representations of the devil...
I'm sure there are others I'm not thinking of, but the one that jumps immediately to mind is the movie Bedazzled, with Satan played by Elizabeth Hurley.



Varda

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I enjoyed this episode immensely. First of all, Dave, I totally remember those Carmen videos! HA!! I had to go back and watch them again on Youtube after the reminder, and they're just as gloriously awesome/awful as I remember. :P Man, good times.

As for the story, I think Satan is best understood as the Satanic Temple variety--which, if you like to follow news related to the separation of church and state in the USA, are those folks who want to do rad stuff like erect a statue of Baphomet side-by-side with religious sculptures on state property, etc. I'd describe them as secular humanist activists who strongly believe in individual liberty, justice, compassion and freedom from coercion. So for the D&D-inclined, you'd call 'em chaotic good.

Satan in this story is like an incarnation of what these folks worship, even if he is on the down-and-outs when the story starts. I especially love how the story moves between stoner comedy, coming-of-age story, and civil disobedience parable. It's all of these at the same time, in equal measures, and for me it makes this story particularly successful and entertaining.

Unblinking, I totally hear you on the humor being a miss--humor is so subjective. For me, the humor worked great--I loooooove stoner comedies, and the image of Satan's nougat-smeared teeth is one I just can't get out of my head. :D But what tickles your funnybone can vary so much from person to person that it's just not gonna work for everyone. :)

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Unblinking

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For me, the humor worked great--I loooooove stoner comedies

That might be part of it for me.  I have no love for stoner comedies.  Looking up a list of what someone claims are the top 25 stoner comedies and 23 of them were movies that I've never heard of, movies I thought were utterly unfunny, and movies that I had heard of but they looked exactly like some of the ones I thought were utterly unfunny.  The exceptions were "Wet Hot American Summer" which I thought was hilarious (and would not have called a stoner comedy in any case) and Mallrats which I haven't seen for probably 15 years but which I thought was funny at the time anyway.




xray_spex

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This story really tickled me.  I like that it engenders sympathy for the devil without actually making the devil a very sympathetic character--more pathetic than sympathetic. 

The angel of death was intriguing... what did he want from the protagonist the whole time?  He had opportunities to punish the kid for insolence, but at the end his response to the kid's explicit critique of him is a mute shrug, not icy wrath.  The narrator interprets that as in line with his own epiphany that freedom comes from disregarding others' expectations, but to me... I dunno.  Throwing off the expectations of those who are more powerful than you seems pretty heroic.  Ignoring the expectations of those whom you may regard as beneath you is in a different field entirely.

And my favorite Satan was Lucifer from the Vertigo comics series.




SpareInch

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Made me laugh.

As for The Angel of Death, I think he was secretly on Satan's side

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Unblinking

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The angel of death was intriguing... what did he want from the protagonist the whole time?  He had opportunities to punish the kid for insolence, but at the end his response to the kid's explicit critique of him is a mute shrug, not icy wrath.  The narrator interprets that as in line with his own epiphany that freedom comes from disregarding others' expectations, but to me... I dunno.  Throwing off the expectations of those who are more powerful than you seems pretty heroic.  Ignoring the expectations of those whom you may regard as beneath you is in a different field entirely.


Personally, I think the Angel of Death just likes messing with people.  If he actually tossed every kid past curfew to hell, that would curtail his fun pretty quickly.  Instead, he lurks, and watches you twitch.



NumberFive

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First of all, I really enjoyed this episode! I'm not sure what I liked better, the story or Dave's intro. I have a similar background and totally remember Carmen. His videos were unusual and awesome in their own quirky way. And he had a great look and charisma.

I agree with Unblinking that this Satan really did not feel like Satan.  But there was a unique twist on the Angelic characters as well. This contributed to my enjoyment of the story. Taking something known and familiar, at least to those from a western religious background, and changing it up and putting it in an unexpected setting.

One thing I noticed in the story that is consistent with traditional understandings of Satan is his hubris in the face of his inability to ultimately win. He told the teenage narrator that he could have taken Michael and didn't need help. But clearly he was getting throttled. I also find it interesting that he had a change of heart, apparently, about the old lady. Is he redeemable? Back to Dave's intro, does "loving our enemies" include room for any empathy in his direction?



slic

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I didn't expect to like the story as much as I did.  My wife watches "Supernatural" (so by default I watch Supernatural ;)), and they had a season where all the Angels fell from Heaven, and all the ruckus that caused.  I suspected the story would follow that basic direction. 

Instead I got what I consider an eighties teen movie - which is great imho.  I saw this world as a metaphor for high school.  The Angels were jocks/cool kids, beating up on the Devil when they were bored.  Pledging to an Angel was picking a major in college.  And the Devil was the strange guy/outsider that our Karate Kid/Marty McFly character befriends.
I also really liked the Angel of Death - I think he could have been left out of the story without changing the general thrust, but he was an excellent side character.

I always vacillate on how much I like the idea of the Devil being redeemable.  He is after all a prideful fallen angel (but then alot of times Angels are portrayed as stick-up-their-butt jerks, so maybe that's not a good example), but if he is redeemable then where is the balance?  Can God become evil?  If the Devil becomes "good" does the universe go back to being paradise?

One aspect of Supernatural that I really liked is that their are other gods out there, and at this moment in time Christianity happens to be making the most waves, but that "God" isn't necessarily the infinite all powerful.



Fenrix

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I found the style reminiscent of Christopher Moore, which is wry and enjoyable but doesn't make me laugh out loud. The story could benefit from the addition of more farting pandas.

My favorite Satan is the one played by Ray Wise on Reaper.

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albionmoonlight

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This makes me sound more pretentious than I think I am, but my favorite Satan is Milton's Satan from Paradise Lost.

I really liked this story.  I thought that Nathan did a great job with show-don't-tell about angels coming to Earth.  There would be a temptation in a story like this to have some expository piece that explains what happened.  Like the narrator having a school assignment where he read a book about the history of the angel uprising or something.  But this story did not need that.  Instead, we got what we needed from the perspective of our narrator.  And it worked a lot better that way.  The interaction of the characters was more interesting than a summary of Chapter 5 of The History of Angels.

In that way, this story reminded me of The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere.  No matter how crazy something is (mystery water.  Angels coming to Earth in real life), people will get used to it and keep living their lives.  Stoner outsider kids will keep being stoner outsider kids.

I think, though I do not know, that our narrator ended up as some kind of anti-angel.  Some kind of humanist angel, maybe.  I think that is why the Angel of Death left him alone.  Because our narrator was not just a normal human.  He was on his way to becoming something outside of the human/angel framework.  The Angel of Death lacked the . . . authority(?) to actually punish him as if he were a normal human.



Zieborn

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Made me laugh.

As for The Angel of Death, I think he was secretly on Satan's side

Funny, I thought the Angel of Death was secretly on the narrator's side.  Death didn't kill him or send him to a lake of fire, wouldn't let him just sit there during the horrible choosing ceremony (which reminds me of The Giver more than Harry Potter as far as choosings go), and didn't seem to want to hurt him.  The kid realized in the end that despair was a sin, so perhaps the Angel of Death was trying to keep him from sinning by just choosing a horrible life.  Maybe the narrator was the only one there besides Death (and maybe Satan) who really got it.  Maybe that's why the world there seems a little dystopian.  Everyone, even most of the angels, is getting it wrong. 

Of course, maybe he could see the future and knew the kid was going to try malfunctioning wings and would die on the soccer field.  I don't think so though.  That's a lot of trouble to go through when he could have just killed him on his porch. 



Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #14 on: November 19, 2014, 01:44:54 PM
Quite enjoyable! When I do write, this is how I think I write, so factor that bias into the equation when I praise the humor and style. (You crack me up, Nathan!) I had a rough traffic day the day I was listening to this, so I arrived at work around the midpoint, and I think I was missing some detail about the Angel of Death; but I found the overall experience to be enjoyable. I was particularly impressed by the way this seemed to tie the Fall and Prometheus (myth, not movie) together so that when the narrator jumps art the end, I had the sense that he was really embodying the role of Satan - without overtly accepting it. I'm not a believer in a literally existent Satan, but like Dave said in the intro, I've always been fascinated by the role he is always assigned. Knowing that you HAVE to be "the bad guy" in someone else's universe has got to suck.

And I'm proud to report that while this story made me crave a nice coke or two, I resisted temptation. ;)

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ElectricPaladin

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I always intersect strangely with stories like this. As a Jew, a lot of these characters just aren't the same people as they are for Christian people. I have a hard time with "sympathy for the devil," because for me, the devil has never been such a complicated figure with so much emotional baggage. My idea of the devil isn't drawn from Sunday School, it's...

Well...

Sauron. And by extension, Melkor. But really, because I read the Lord of the Rings when I was younger and more impressionable, Sauron.

So, Sauron is just a dick. You feel kind of sorry for him, because he's put himself through hell to end up where he is, and he's all screwed up and kind of pitiful... but ultimately he's a dick, and he screwed his life up for himself, and he could make everything better by apologizing and just stopping, but he won't. Because he's a dick.

So... this story landed kind of weird with me. I found myself really just seeing the devil as this petty little prick who was luring an otherwise decent kid into becoming an equally prickish waste of space, out of sheer malevolence. Nothing about the devil appealed.

But I really liked everything else about it. It's classic Lee - quirky, clever, and charming. It was a fun listen.

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Devoted135

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This one fell flat for me, unfortunately. I've enjoyed Nathan's other stories that I've heard though, so you know, outliers and tastes and all that.



Varda

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Thought I'd just point out that this story got 3 stars on Tangent Online's Recommended Reading List for 2014, which is all kinds of awesome. :D Great job, Nathan!

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UnfulredJohnson

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I liked it. It was pretty anti religious without being overly offensive which I appreciated. The question this seemed to be scratching at was why does god let bad things happen if he loves us so much. And satan was trying his hardest to prove some point about it all. I guess he voicing a frustration many people would have with god. I mean most atheists don't just not believe in go, they resent him (figure that one out). So I think satan was voicing a sentiment a lot of people could relate to.  And it manages to navigate this tricky religious type scenarios by gloss over the whole thing with a sort of slap stick comedyish satan.

I loved the end. Loved the wings. Loved the image of sad satan stroking his broken wings.

Cool story bro.



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It's kind of hard to resent something you think isn't real.  ;-)  Now *religion* as an institution is definitely something many atheists resent...

Woot for being on large lists!  I'm also glad Alex took this story, even though it exceeded the length limits for the anthology by a little bit.  Hobo Satan seems to inspire a mingled pity and affection in some readers that makes it hard for them to say "no" to him.



Ocicat

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This story has been rebroadcast as PodCastle 715: TALES FROM THE VAULTS – Why I Bought Satan Two Cokes on the Day I Graduated High School