Justice Bob Baddecision of the Ontario Inferior Court, was having a good day. Upon his arrival at the courthouse that morning, the first case he had heard had been one of disputed possession. Old Bill Fussbudget had filed a complaint that his neighbour, Jimmy Jackanapes had been stealing fruit from his apple tree. Last year it had been Jimmy who had laid the exact same complaint, regarding the exact same tree, against Bill. This had been going on, back and forth, for years. The tree lay right on the line between their adjacent properties and while inspectors had been sent out to assess the matter more times than either man could count, none had been able to come to a definitive decision as to which party held the legitimate title to the tree, which bore fruit that could rival the juiciest and tastiest of any grown commercially in the Niagra region.
Enter Justice Baddecision. In a decision, that he felt certain would go down in the annals of jurisprudence as the greatest display of wisdom since the days of King Solomon, he issued an order that the tree be cut down and chopped into firewood, half of which was to be given to one man and the other half to the other. When this ruling was announced, at first the courtroom fell silent, undoubtedly out of awe and admiration at the judicious manner in which a bitter dispute that had vexed the community for years had been resolved. When, after a few moments of this silence, the plaintiff recovered his voice sufficiently to ask what was to become of the current crop of apples, the last that the tree would ever bear, he was told that the apples were being taken into custody by the court.
On an entirely unrelated note, allow me to mention that Justice Baddecision and his wife were famous for their homemade apple cider, which had won numerous awards at municipal and provincial fairs. Later that year – and again, I must stress that this is told merely as a point of interest – they would finally win the coveted national award upon which they had set their sights for so very long.
Having started the day so well, the worthy judge awarded himself an early lunch from which he returned to the courthouse at a leisurely pace, to hear the case of John J. Moneygrubber versus Mrs. Poorwidow. The plaintiff, as it turns out, had become the owner of a house in which Mrs. Poorwidow and her family had formerly been tenants, when he bought the mortgage from a bank that was selling off its bad loans. Mrs. Poorwidow had been unable to make her mortgage payments ever since her husband died in Afghanistan. The small amount of money she was able to make in her part-time job went to feeding and clothing her eighteen children. Mr. Moneygrubber had foreclosed on the mortgage almost immediately upon buying it, but the defendant had resisted leaving, as she and her children had no other place to go. Now Mr. Moneygrubber was asking for an injunction ordering the lady and her brood to vacate the premises immediately.
Justice Baddecision, fair-minded and conscientious fellow that he was, carefully listened to the cases presented by both sides. He heard Mr. Moneygrubber argue that Mrs. Poorwidow was maliciously preventing him from tearing down her house and paving over the lot to provide extra parking for his building next door. He heard Mrs. Poorwidow explain how she had fallen through the cracks of Canada’s generous social safety net, having been told by social assistance workers time and again that she did not qualify since she had a job and was not a member of a visible minority, and that if evicted she and her children would be literally living on the streets. Then he made his decision.
He issued the injunction evicting Mrs. Poorwidow from her home, and awarded Mr. Moneygrubber $50, 000 in damages to boot, even though that had not been asked for, because he felt the remark about visible minorities to be a racist one which offended his progressive, liberal, sensibilities. Besides, he knew that section of town and its dreadful lack of adequate parking well, and who was this Mrs. Poorwidow to stand in the way of progress, anyway. Especially when it caused so much grief for his friend Mr. Moneygrubber, a member of his club, whom he golfed with frequently, and with whom he had enjoyed lunch just the other day.
Yes, the justice was having a very good day indeed. Full of self-satisfaction over the masterful way he had handled these two cases, he leaned back in his chair. He imagined he heard angels, chanting in Latin, singing the praises of his wisdom and justice.
Wait a minute.
The justice leaned forward. He had not imagined it. That was Latin he was hearing. Well, Latin of a sort. What he was hearing was being sung backwards. Not backwards in the sense of the fake, pig-Latin of schoolchildren, but real Latin sung backwards.
Was that the Mass being sung in reverse?
What the devil was going on here?
The justice looked around for a possible source of this peculiar chant but at the moment, with the sole exception of himself, the courtroom appeared to be empty. Could it be coming from outside the building?
Then, it seemed like the courthouse was hit by an earthquake. The room began to shake, the lights went on and off several times, and then a huge crack opened up in the floor. Out of the crevice flames burst forth, giving off a pungent odour, like unto that of rotten eggs.
Someone must have caused an explosion in the basement, Baddecision thought, forgetting for the moment the weird backwards Latin. Then he saw something that nearly stopped his heart.
From the weird, sulfuric flames, which oddly seemed to be casting off darkness instead of light, arose a being. A monstrous being, it was at least five times the size of a human being, with the torso and arms of a man, but the head and legs of a goat, with huge reptilian wings, and a pointed tail. Around its huge, curved horns, a nimbus of darkness hung. Around its neck was a necklace of human skulls. It opened its hideous mouth and out came the most horrible sound you could ever imagine, as if a choir of hissing serpents and howling jackals had teamed up with an orchestra of fingernails against chalkboards, screeching brakes and tires, and rusty hammers falling angrily against anvils to perform Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire while every human soul the beast had ever swallowed screamed out in agony. The creature radiated pure, malevolent evil that struck the judge with a sense of oppression, horror, disgust, and terror all at once.
Then the creature underwent a metamorphosis. Before the judge's eyes it shrunk in stature to the size of an ordinary man. Its non-human features began to disappear, leaving only cloven hooves and horn stumps to indicate the true identify of a distinguished looking man, with long dark hair tied in a ponytail, a goatee, wearing a very expensive, designer suit. The dark halo vanished and an aura of light, albeit a light that looked wrong somehow, as if it had been broken eons ago, began to surround the man.
The judge, horrified at the evidence of his own eyes that the ministers in the United Church he had attended since a boy, who had all assured him that the fiend that stood before him now could not possibly exist and was a superstitious invention of primitive peoples that we all know better than to take seriously these days, were rather ill informed, and, to be quite blunt about the matter, wrong, shook in fear.
“Relax, Your Honour”, the Prince of Darkness began, “I am…”
“I know who you are,” the quivering justice sputtered, “you are the…”
“The devil, Satan, Beelzebub, Mephistopheles, etc. ad naseum”, the fiend finished. “Yes, I have been called by many names. Since we are in a court of law I will go by my original name, Lucifer. You can call me Lucy for short as that is what I prefer”.
“ Lucy? That’s a girl’s name!” the judge, who was beginning to regain his composure, said with a sneer.
All of a sudden a trident appeared in the devil’s hand, and, as he pointed it at the justice, menacing looking lightning jumped from tine to tine.
Judge Baddecision straighted up completely and said “Who do you think you’re trying to scare with that pitchfork of yours.”
Putting the trident down, Lucy responded “That’s odd. It works most of the time.”
“You obviously haven’t met my mother-in-law”, Baddecision retorted. “After being subjected to her tongue for twenty minutes you will fear no other sharp object ever again.”
“Don’t get me started on mothers-in-law.”
“What do you know about it?”
“I had a mother-in-law once. Thousands of years ago, back before the Flood. I met this chick, a real sweet little thing, and drop-dead gorgeous. I married her and her mother never gave me a minute’s peace. I was just not good enough for her little girl.”
“I can’t imagine why she would have thought that.”
“Oh shut up. It was the same thing day after day. Why did you marry him? He’ll never amount to anything. He got himself kicked out of heaven didn’t he? What kind of a future is he going to provide for you in hell? And how on earth are you going to be able to afford to raise my grandchildren? Nephilim eat ten times more than regular size children?”
“What happened to her?”
“She drowned in the Flood. I guess I ought to thank God for that one.”
“Well, she sounds bad, but I still don’t think she could hold a candle to mine.”
“I will have to make her acquaintance. She sounds like she could be of much use to me in the torture chambers of hell”.
“You can have her. Now what in blazes are you doing in my court”.
“Don’t you know? I’m the plaintiff in your next case.”
The judge turned to his desk to pick up his file on the next case when he noticed, for the first time, something unusual about it. It was a scroll, made out of a kind of suspicious parchment. Baddecision instinctively knew that he did not want to know what kind of skin had gone into making that scroll. The ink was clearly human blood but it was written entirely in a sort of hieroglyphic writing that used nothing but images of torture, suffering, and death.
“How am I supposed to read this?”
“My bad”, the devil said. “You should have been given the English translation.”
He snapped his fingers, manicured but with each nail filed to a sharp point, and the scroll vanished to be replaced with a more ordinary looking legal document in English.
“Lucifer versus Everett Body,” the judge read. Looking up he asked “Who is this Everett Body? Shouldn’t he be here if you are suing him?”
“What are you talking about?” Lucy said, grabbing the brief. “Curse those idiots in the secretary pool down in legal. They never seem to be able to get anything right. That is a typo. It is supposed to be Everybody.”
“Everybody. As in every single person on Earth.”
“What kind of complaint could you possibly have against everybody?”
“It is a defamation suit. I am sick and tired, after thousands of years, of everybody on this little mudball you call a planet, defaming my character”.
“There are two kinds of defamation, libel which covers written material and slander which covers speech. This is…”
“Both. I have been libeled in writing and slandered by word of mouth throughout the ages.”
“But you’re the devil! How can anything anybody ever said possibly defame you?”
“Everything everybody has ever said about me has defamed me. It is all negative. I have the worst reputation of anyone in history.”
“Aren’t the things said about you true?”
“No. Well, not all of them. People blame me for their own bad decisions all the time. How many times have you heard someone say ‘the devil made me do it’? I didn’t make a single one of those people do the things they blamed me for.”
“Weren’t you the one who tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, leading to the fall of mankind?”
“Yes, but I didn’t make Adam and Eve eat that fruit. I tempted them to do so, but they chose the fruit of their own free will. It was easy. My job was half-done for me. You should have seen how luscious that fruit was. You would understand, having a soft spot for apples yourself.”
The devil gave Judge Baddecision a knowing wink.
“How do you know about that?”
“Oh please, consider who you are talking to. At any rate, my point is that the things that everybody says about me have sullied my character, tarnished my reputation, and caused me a great deal of emotional pain.”
These words were spoken with a great amount of emotion and at the end, Lucy began to sob violently. Tears fell upon the judge’s desk which burned through it as if they were made of acid. Quickly grabbing a box of tissue, the judge handed it to the devil who wiped his eyes and loudly blew his nose.
“Shouldn’t I be hearing a violin right about now?” the judge sarcastically asked.
“No, I had to give my fiddle away to a little twerp named Johnny down in Georgia a few years back and I haven’t got around to replacing it yet. That’s part of the reason for this lawsuit. I need money. Fiddles of gold aren’t cheap and boy with the way the price of brimstone has been going these days it is likely to be a cold day in hell very soon unless I can get my claws on some moolah.”
“Why don’t you go talk to Mick and Keith? They are rolling in the cash and aren’t they supposed to have sympathy for you or something like that?”
“Yeah, well talk is cheap. They can sing about their sympathy all they want, I have yet to see a dime from either of them, no matter how many times I’ve hit them up for money over the years. Besides, ever since Mick was knighted he has no time for me anymore, like he’s too cool for me now. I invented cool!”
The devil began to blub and sob even louder than before. As more of his desk was disintegrated, the judge was at a loss for what to do.
“Mick doesn’t love me anymore!”
Judge Baddecision, awkwardly threw his arms around Lucy and began to pat him on the back.
“There, there. I’m sure that’s not true. Mick still loves you.”
“Then why doesn’t he return any of my phone calls? Or respond to my friend requests on Facebook?”
“He’s a busy and important man.”
“Its all because of what people say about me. It’s turned Mick against me. Its destroying my self-esteem!”
“Yes, well, I’m very sorry for you and all that, but I still don’t see how you think you have a case here.”
“I understand that according to your defamation laws, once a complaint has been made there is a presumption of guilt against the defendant until he proves himself innocent.”
At this point the judge began to feel rather uncomfortable but he answered “Yes, that is correct”.
“Well, I have made my complaint. I charge everyone in the world with defaming me, in print or by word of mouth. Everything that has ever been said about me has damaged my reputation, hurt my self-esteem, and caused me emotional trauma from which my doctor says I will never recover.”
Here, Lucy handed the judge an affidavit from his therapist stating, that indeed it was his professional opinion that the devil was irreparably psychologically damaged and would never recover.
“The burden of proof is now upon the defence.”
“Where is the advocate for the defendants?”
“I don’t know. That’s not my problem. This is a civil case. Defendants are responsible for providing their own defence.”
“Well what do you say to the truth defence? Perhaps you didn’t make everybody do what they have said you made them do, but surely much of the bad press you have received is accurate?”
“Accurate yes, but it has still impacted me emotionally and harmed my reputation. My understanding is that under your law truth can be offered as a justification of defamatory speech but it is not an absolute defence.”
“Well”, Baddecision hemmed and hawed, “That is true. But come on now, you are the source of all evil in the universe. Surely you cannot expect people to be going around singing your praises and tossing you bouquets all day long? You must admit that you have deserved your negative image?”
Here Lucy gasped in shock.
“Well, I never. I am the victim here, and you, a forward thinking, progressive judge, are blaming the victim!”
“I didn’t mean it like…”
“I imagine that next you are going to say that I deserve it because I am a demon. When will the prejudice and stereotyping of my race ever end?”
“Hey! I didn’t say anything like that. Some of my best friends are demons!”
“Yeah, like I haven’t heard that one a billion times. I think maybe I had better report your remarks to the Ontario and Canadian Human Rights Commissions”.
The judge’s face began to change colour, alternating between various shades of green and grey. His knees began to knock and his legs began to wobble. He shook all over. He suddenly found breathing to be difficult and could see stars swimming around his head, as he contemplated with horror, the thought of being hauled up on a human rights charge.
“No, no, no. I rule in your favour. Everybody is guilty of defaming you. I’ll give you everything you want, damages, costs, you name it. I hearby issue a cease-and-desist order forbidding anybody on this planet from every saying anything negative against you again. Just don’t involve the Human Rights Commissions.”
“Thank you, Your Honour, you have been most reasonable. We must do lunch one of these days”.
As Lucy began to sink back down into the Stygian depths, the judge returned to his seat, and wiped his brow.
“Damn you to hell” he whispered.
“You’re too late to pass that sentence. That happened a long time ago”, a sinister voice muttered, coming up from out of the crack that still was smoking in the floor of the courtroom.