There were a million questions running through my mind, but a subtle kind of peace had settled over me and Jolly, and the thoughts of that pack of Red's Best kept my smart ass mouth closed until we reached the corner.
An old woman was standing there, grey as me, and twice as ugly. If life had been cruel to her, death sure as hell wasn't treating her much better.
"There she blows. So, how do I clean her up?" She sure needed somebody to clean her up.
Now, I knew that last part hadn't been spoken out loud, but the old woman turned to face me.
"Ah, sweet Jesus."
"Where?" Jolly squelched, a look of sheer terror on his face.
"It's a figure of speech dumbass. Look at her. Dammit, Jolly, she's drooling." What a mess. How the hell was I supposed to clean her up?
Jolly recovered quickly, but he seemed to lose some of his bluster. Almost sounded sad, like he was hurting or something.
"That's not your soul. That's Molly."
"So, what's a Molly?" I asked, feeling uncomfortable as those empty sockets continued to stare me down.
"That's what happens to a soul if you fail."
I took a good long look at the old woman. "Shit."
"Exactly, Jake Savior. Fail to deliver your soul on time and he will wind up lost here forever, slowly going insane until he becomes nothing more than a demented drooling mess." Jolly paused for emphasis. "And you will wind up like me."
Now that was a sobering thought and should have been enough to shut me up. Momma always said I was the prettiest one in the family, just not the smartest.
"Well, Jolly," I slapped him on the back in good humor, "looks like my soul is a no-show. What say I clean up old Molly and we all go home?"
Damn, there's those red eyes again. Thankfully Jolly wasn't in the mood to burn me to cinders this time.
"It doesn't work that way. There's rules."
"Rules, huh?" Well that was something to think about. Wherever there were rules there was a way to break the rules. "So, we just gonna leave her here to rot? That don't seem quite fair, does it? I mean it ain't her fault whoever was supposed to clean her up failed."
Jolly didn't answer, but I could tell the thought appealed to him. I was getting to him.
"Your soul is about to arrive."
If you've ever visited Lexington you know that traffic never stops on New Circle. Anytime of night or day you can find a steady stream heading somewhere.
I glanced at the highway expecting to see cars collide any second. Instead what I saw was a kid on a skateboard headed straight for the middle of the street.
"Oh, hell no, Jolly. I don't do kids." Screaming I headed for the street. "Get off the road kid. What the hell's wrong with you?"
Jolly was yelling something behind me, but I couldn't hear him over the old woman's squawks. Wouldn't have made any difference anyway. I kept right on going screaming at the kid and waving my arms at the car. It passed right through me and I heard the sickening sound of metal against flesh, the screeching of wheels on wet pavement and finally total silence except for my own labored breathing. Jolly joined me in the street.
"Rule Number 1, you can't stop it."
"Anybody ever tell you your rules suck, Jolly?
"Rule Number 2, stay on the path. And Rule Number 3, don't lose the manual."
With that Jolly handed me a small leather book with the words Good Intentions burned into the leather binding.
"So what do I. . ." Shit. Jolly pulled a disappearing act right in front of my eyes.
Okie dokie, Jake old man, looks like you're on your own. At least I had the manual to tell me what to do. Opening it I found the first page was a map, golden streets leading straight to the Pearly Gates. Sweet.
The kid looked about six years old so I wasn't totally surprised. I mean, all kids went to Heaven didn't they? This gig was gonna be a piece of cake. Get the kid there quick, find Jolly and get my reward.
Turning the page I couldn't help grinning. Jolly had a sense of humor after all. Rule Number 4, don't break The Rules." Ah, Jolly, and I was just starting to like you.The third page wiped the grin off my face and was the final straw that broke the camel's back in convincing me God really did have a sense of humor. The words seemed to glow on the page, burning with an eerie blue flame. One more mocking reminder that if life ain't fair, death's even worse.
THE ROAD TO HELL IS PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS.