[Transcript from an interview exclusive to The Nervous Breakdown.]
Milton: Since Halloween was last night, and October 31st is his birthday, I am here talking with Satan, on Skype, from his holiday villa Pandaemonium deep in the depths of Hell. Satan, let me first wish you a Happy Birthday!
Satan: Gee-wiz, thanks, John. So kind of you to call. I am touched, really, I am. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for you. And may I say you look marvelous for a 400-year-old? What is your secret? Who is your surgeon? You could pass for a teenager. It must be the poetry—Paradise Regained.
Milton: [Blushing.] Such a sweetheart.
Satan: By the way, I enjoyed your pamphlet on free speech. Areopagitica—great title. I can’t wait for the movie.
Milton: [Even redder now.] No wonder Eve fell for you. Satan, I know you are in Hell and everything, but you sound so mellow, so relaxed. Why is that? Tired from trick or treating?
Satan: Nah. I stayed in last night and made burritos. I am just not big into birthdays anymore. Some people turn the whole spectacle into a religion. I am not very religious. I love where I am in life. I always have. This is my home. Heaven, Hell, happiness is all in the mind. As long I have high speed internet access, a hibachi, a Ken doll to grill and somewhere to surf, I am in Heaven. Malibu Barbie never had it so good.
Milton: When you say you are not religious, what do you mean? Are you saying that you don’t believe in God?
Satan: No, not exactly. I believe in God. We go way back, as you know. I just wish that he believed in me.
Milton: I heard about your break-up. I didn’t want to ask about it directly. Worse than Jen and Brad’s?
Satan: I wouldn’t say it was as Earth-shattering as that, not by Hollywood standards. But it was certainly all over the tabloids at the time. It was bad enough.
Milton: Are you bitter?
Satan: No, not bitter. Just a little sad. Look, don’t get me wrong. I think God is great. “Akbar” and all that. I wish I could do more to help him—justify his actions, so to speak. Nobody adores God more than I do—even after what he did to the Amalekites in that bar in Seattle. I understand lashing out. I have felt that way about the paparazzi myself. But genocide? Jeez Louise, God, get a grip.
Milton: Are you still friends?
Satan: In the biblical sense, sure. It can get complicated around the holidays. God and I still get together for brunch whenever I am in town.
Milton: I always suspected God was gay.
Satan: He’s not. Not exclusively. I believe God is bisexual. He loves almost everyone. Even the Amalekites, maybe. I am not so sure how he feels about the paparazzi though. He has a hard time with photographers. I wish they would leave him alone.
Milton: [Nodding sympathetically.]
Satan: [Leaning forward, confidentially.] Off the record, John, between you and me, he has this kid and some mysterious woman in Rome he is paying alimony to. Or blackmail. Possibly a transsexual. You know how those Italians are. I never saw the name on the envelope, but he used to cut her a check—10% of his residuals—every month. He is a nice man, a lovely man, but an unholy financial mess.
Milton: Off the record. You bet. [Clearing his throat.] So, when you say you are not religious, you don’t mean to suggest you are an atheist?
Satan: No. Far from it. There is no system of belief more suicidal to happiness than atheism. A pile of dust—what kind of future is that for an ambitious angel to look forward to?
Milton: Not much of one, I suppose.
Satan: Hell, no. Give me Malibu and my hibachi.
Milton: About religion then.
Satan: Oh, yeah. I mean, I hate organized religions. I am a firm believer in the separation of church and state. I don’t believe in unions—reunions—collectives of any kind—artistic, intellectual, political. Sex is a different matter. I am all for that—consenting individuals. But I would rather stick my head in a wood chipper than be caught in a cheering crowd. I am a small ‘d’ democrat. The ‘d’ stands for ‘devil’.
Milton: [Smiling.] Very funny. Speaking of crowds, what do you think of the Occupy Wall Street movement?
Satan: I honestly feel sorry for the kids. Lied to everywhere, by everyone. No place to poop. But I think their leaders are idiots—they should be pissing on their professors’ lawns instead of in Zuccotti Park—especially the English majors. Who spends $100,000 at a spa studying Foucault for 4 years? Insane.
Milton: It is rather.
Satan: You can buy houses all over America for that much and still have money left over to open a coffee shop, learn HVAC repair, and stage a guerilla theater production of Coriolanus in Washington D.C.—complete with puppets. [Sipping herbal tea.] It’s like I said about Heaven and Hell: you make your own Malibu. There are always dues to pay to some bare-knuckled thug or wild-eyed zany somewhere down the line, if you don’t.
Milton: Can you give us an example?
Satan: [Thinking.] I was going to mention Bush and Obama, but they are more like Laurel and Hardy, aren’t they? The two smiling sides of a counterfeit coin. Nobody takes Republicans and Democrats seriously anymore—not in the real world—not in the world I live in, anyway.
Milton: In Hell?
Satan: In California, John. Ken—wave to the man. I know he can’t see you, I know he is blind, I know he’s a poet, but be a doll, Ken, and wave to Milton anyway. [Ripping off Ken’s left arm and still trying to think of a good example of a thug or a zany.] Ken is waving to you, John.
Milton: Hi, Ken!
Satan: [Using Ken’s severed arm to scratch his back.] See, take the French Revolution. Take the intellectuals. Take the guillotine. They get rid of Schwarzenegger and what is the first thing the smart people do? They anoint Jerry Brown Governor: they install a moonbeam as god and immediately lose their minds. Jesus, you might as well hand over your house keys to the chief lunatic in the asylum. [Rolling his yellow eyes in disbelief.]
Milton: Speaking of Jesus, I have always wondered, do you know him—Jesus—I mean—personally?
Satan: I do. [Tossing Ken’s arm into a river of lava.] He will always have a special place in my heart. A nice boy. Red hair. Constantly climbing trees. A dead ringer for Opie Taylor—the young Ron Howard. Jesus was always being followed home by lost puppies—wherever he went. I think the divorce hit him hard and the puppies sensed that.
Milton: The divorce? Oh, the lady [?] in Rome.
Satan: Yeah. [Eyeing Milton suspiciously, as if Milton had just revealed an intimate secret.] Her. Animals are like that. They know things. They remember things. The other kids are really going to crucify him in high school, of course, if he doesn’t lose those strays. I have half a mind to tell him the puppies can stay down here in Malibu with Ken and me.
Milton: That’s awfully generous.
Satan: It’s nothing. Jesus texts me all the time. God is hopeless with numbers, so I help Jesus with his math homework. He is learning fractions now. He thinks of me as his second father, I guess, Pandaemonium as his second home. God used to bring him down to Malibu from L.A., you know, for long weekends. We made quite the happy family, really. The three of us would play Monopoly together. [Wistfully, as if remembering happier days.] Jesus liked to be the thimble. Being the bank, I preferred the top hat.
Milton: And what was God?
Satan: God? Oh, God. What was God? Let me see if I can remember. Christ was the thimble. I was the hat. [Long pause.] I’ve got it: God was the dog. He was the dog. Of course, what else could God be?
Milton: The dog. Of course.