The Devil and Doctor Jones
By Jack Aiken and Torry “Moose” Martin
As a new pastor in Sourdough, Alaska, Mackenzie Pickens looked forward to making new friends by attending his first Ministers Only Breakfast, aka the MOB. Unfortunately, he was running late because his alarm clock failed. Then, while heading to the shower he stepped on one of his son Jason’s toy cars, which sent him crashing painfully to the bedroom floor. Finally, after limping to the shower and getting the water temperature just right, he stepped in, only to have it instantly turn frigid. His wife, Annie, chose that moment to start the washing machine. Little did Mack know that his morning mishaps were not over.
After his glacier-water shower, he discovered that the clothes he had carefully piled in a chair the night before were missing. Considering that Annie was obsessed with cleanliness and order and hearing the washing machine, there was no mystery what happened to his clothes. Mack rummaged through the closet and managed to dress, despite having to settle for mismatched socks, one black and one blue.
“At least my socks match my bruises,” Mack mumbled in frustration.
He finally made it to the kitchen, and although Annie had saved him some coffee, she had only left him dust in the creamer jar. What else could go wrong? Mack muttered.
Within minutes he would have his answer. Racing out the door, he slipped and fell in the new-fallen snow covering the walkway. While sitting on the frozen concrete, he realized his vehicle was also covered with 8 inches of the white stuff, no doubt underlain by a thick coat of ice. It took 15 minutes of sub-zero chipping and scraping before he cleared the windshield enough to drive in what he considered a safe manner. The other windows would just have to wait. What little area he had cleared quickly fogged over because the heater and defroster chose this day, of all days, to refuse to work.
Despite the snow, ice, and fog, the warm red glow of the lights of a law enforcement vehicle penetrated the car’s interior. Mack groaned as he pulled to the side of the road and opened his window. The trooper’s voice was disgustingly cheerful as he asked, “Sir, may I see your license and registration?”
A few minutes later, as he examined his ticket for “Driving with obstructed vision,” he realized that the last name of the law man who had given him the ticket was “Murphy”. Mack couldn’t help but chuckle at the irony.
After spending the next quarter-hour clearing his windows, Mack rushed to the restaurant, swinging into the parking lot a little too fast. He headed for a parking space in front of the restaurant’s plate glass window, behind which a group was seated. As he applied the brakes, the car seemed to speed up, skidding out of control. Mack saw the looks of horror on the men’s faces through the window, and instinctively cried out, “Lord, help!”
His prayer was answered when the front wheels jumped the concrete block at the end of the parking space, and the ensuing friction on the undercarriage abruptly stopped the lunging vehicle.
At this point, the men who had not already begun to scramble out of the way of the approaching juggernaut joined the others in a mad rush out the door to see who this NASCAR reject was.
One of the men recognized their new colleague and almost doubling over in laughter managed to gasp out, “Pastor Pickens, meet the MOB.” Mack was glad his face was already red from the cold, hiding his acute embarrassment. Still laughing, they helped him get his car off the concrete block and back into the parking space.
When they were all finally settled at the table, Mack shared the full blow by blow details of his morning gone awry. A few chuckles were heard around the table from those who could see themselves in Mack’s “light afflictions”.
Mack sighed before concluding with this comment, “Now I know how Job must have felt when God turned the devil loose on him. All I’m lacking are the sackcloth and ashes.”
The Right Reverend Doctor Jones, from the Church of the New Revelation, spoke up. “That’s an entertaining story, Mack,” he said with a smile, “but I don’t know what I find more amusing — the fact you can’t drive in the snow, or that you take that Job and the devil story seriously.”
Taken aback, Mack’s coffee cup stalled halfway to his mouth. “Don’t you believe in the devil?” Mack asked.
Jones let out a loud, but dismissive guffaw. “Mack, Mack, Mack. You poor boy. The devil isn’t real! That “Bogey-Man” stuff is only good to frighten children. The whole devil brouhaha is a construct of our imaginations to explain the corruption of man’s essentially good nature by the influence of a flawed society. In the light of modern scholarship, that should be obvious.”
“What’s obvious to me is that you have never shared a home with two children who know how to take sibling rivalry to unexplored new heights.” Mack said, with a grin as he lowered his cup. “Trust me, when my two get going, they quickly put to rest any notion of the essential goodness of man.”
Jones, not about to back down, pressed his point, “The devil doesn’t make us do anything. We have to stop blaming our problems on some fictional character or looking for solutions in some supernatural messiah. Our salvation lies in perfecting society.”
In the pause that followed, the group’s theological diversity registered on their faces. A few rolled their eyes, while others nodded in agreement.
Thor Langston, a bearded and booted pastor whose small congregation met just outside of town, looked at Dr. Jones and said, “Poor Jesus. He coulda saved Hisself a lotta trouble, if He’d just known how good man really was.”
Dr. Jones glared at Thor, giving him a pitying smile while shaking his head.
Thor shot back, “Jonesy, I know you prob’ly got more degrees than a thermometer, but ya got a magnet loose somewhere cuz’ your spiritual compass is flat-out broke.”
“And so is your vocabulary, grammar, use of metaphor, and the English language in general,” Dr. Jones rejoined.
Thor paused, then shrugged, “Well, I’m sure that meant somethin’, Jonsey, but I ain’t sure what. But if’n yo’re saying I ain’t got a lotta schooling , I knows that.”
Thor continued, “But I do know the Bible, and I knows what I seen. The devil, or one of his demons, showed up at my place a few years ago, and I’m ’bout to testify.”
“Oh, no! Not another one of your stories!” Jones sneered.
“Hold on, Jones,” said Bill Green from the Church of God, “I want to hear this.”
A clamor of voices from around the table, expressed their agreement.
“One day I was sitting in my office, reading the Word, when my wife, Marge, who helps out at the office part-time, brought a woman back to my cubby. She said her name wus Hazel Long. When I first saw her she was kinda overwhelming. I’m over 6 feet tall, but she towered a good 3 inches over my head … and she was big … not fluffy-big, but muscular big. Kinda like an Amazon.”
“First devils, now Amazons,” Dr. Jones laughed derisively. “Tell me, Thor, when you look up at the stars, do you see constellations and Northern Lights, or do you see UFOs and unicorns?”
Thor ignored him and continued, “Well, she sat down and the first words outta her mouth were, ‘I’m from the Church of Satan and I’m here to waste your time.’ Now I didn’t say nothin’ right off, but I’m sure my eyes musta bugged out like a stepped-on toady-frog. I know I swallered real hard. Anyway, the first thought that came to my mind was, ‘I’m sorry, but I got all the time-wasters I need.’ ”
“Ain’t that the truth,” said John from First Methodist. “I’ve got more back-biters and gossipers than I can use, too.”
Milton, the Covenant pastor, called out, “I’ll see your gossipers and back-biters, and raise you two critical spirits!”
Thor raised his voice over the laughter and continued. “I told her flat out, ‘Lady, I ain’t gonna let you waste my time. If you want to get outta the mess you’re in, I’ll pray for you, but otherwise you can get outta here right now.’ ”
“Wow, that was pretty tough,” someone volunteered.
“Yeah, but when yer dealin’ with the devil, you cain’t be tough enough. Anyhow, she give me a look that pert near set my beard on fire, jumped up, ’n stomped out. She slammed the outside door so hard I thought it prob’ly come plum off’n its hinges.
“In a couple a seconds I heard screamin’ from the parking lot. Me and Marge collided at the office door, but somehow we both squeezed through, stumblin’ outside. And there wus Hazel, laying by her car screamin’, writhin’, and foamin’ at the mouth. I’d only seen demons once, but I knowed what it was.”
“That’s not evidence of the devil or demons,” Dr. Jones scoffed. “It’s obvious the poor woman was having some sort of psychotic break.”
“Hold on, Jonesy, wait ’til ya hear the rest of the story.”
“Stop calling me Jonesy! I’m a doctor of theology. I worked hard for that title. Give me the courtesy of using it.”
“I do apologize. Please ’scuse me Doctor Jonesy. Anyhow, me and Marge finally got Hazel back into the church, with her spittin’, scratchin’, an’ trying to bite us the whole time.”
“Weren’t you scared?” Milton asked, “I think I would have stayed in the church and called 911.”
“Honestly, I wus a little skeered,” Thor admitted, “but I was also hopping mad, and I prayed for her deliverance in the name of Jesus, commandin’the evil spirit to go. After about an hour, she gave one last big ol’ heave and got real still. You wouldn’t believe the change that come over that gal’s face. She began to cry and laugh, all at the same time, jumping around shoutin’, ‘I’m free, I’m free.’ A’ course, me and Marge joined in, and, believe me, we had a high ol’ time!”
Thor paused as the waitress distributed the checks.
As she walked away, Thor continued, “I still hear from her from time to time. Hazel’s a total different person now. She spends a lotta time talking to kids about drugs and occult games, which she figures opened the door to that evil spirit.”
“Dr. Jones, I know I wus face to face with the devil that day. An’ there ain’t no psychology can ’splain what I heard and seen.” And with that, Thor concluded his story.
Nobody said much after that. The MOB seemed to be lost in their thoughts; and in a few minutes, after a closing prayer, they headed out.
Thor slowly rose to his feet. As he did so, he grabbed Mack’s ticket and said, “Mack, I’m gonna buy yo’re breakfast bein’ as how yo’re a newcomer, and all.”
While Thor walked up to the cashier, Mack waited by the door. Mack again expressed his thanks as the two of them walked toward his car.
As they passed the restaurant window, Thor glanced in and suddenly grabbed Mack’s arm. “Watch this,” he said, nodding toward the cashier, where Dr. Jones had just arrived, after a detour to the restroom. “The good Doctor Jones is about to learn that the devil do exist. I give the cashier our tickets, and tol’ her Jonsey wanted to pay for our breakfasts.”
Mack almost choked, “What?”
“Yeah, I’m just doin’ a little test of Jonsey’s belief in the ‘essential goodness of man.’ You run along. I need to stay here in case the devil decides to take aholt of the good Dr. Jones. And watch yer drivin’, afore ya kill yoreself and half the town with you. We’re gonna need you around here.”
As he drove away, despite the lack of a heater, Mack felt the warmth of a new friendship. “I like that Thor guy”, he thought, “I’ve got a feeling I’m going to be seeing a lot more of him, and, hopefully, a lot less of the devil and Dr. Jones.”