Every Time a Bell Rings By Vic Winter Piggy sat on the café patio, sipping at his hot chocolate as he watched the couple three tables over. They were having an argument. The pretty blonde had come in about ten minutes earlier, loaded for bear. She'd marched right up to the guy's table and started haranguing him. Piggy couldn't stop his smile as he listened to them arguing, the woman accusing the man of having an affair. He'd denied it, of course. Men always did, even they were caught with their pants down around their ankles. The argument went on long enough that Piggy was nearly finished with his hot chocolate until, finally, the woman pulled off the rock she'd been wearing on her ring finger and flung it at the man. "The wedding's off, and you can go to Hell!" With that parting shot, she turned on her heel and marched right back out, just like she'd come in. She was clearly upset, in fact Piggy thought he saw tears as she ran for a bus that was pulling away from the stop on the corner. Rubbing his hands together, Piggy glanced over at the man. Oh, yes, he wasn't happy either. He looked angry more than upset, but either emotion would do. The couple was well and truly broken up, two souls miserable, all thanks to him. Just then, a bell rang, the sound high-pitched and bright, cheery. Piggy had only a moment to feel dread before there was a poof of smoke and a sudden weight on his shoulders and he found himself in front of the door to the boss' office, fire and brimstone on every side, the smell of sulfur strong. "Oh, fuck." He'd done it again. *** Piggy tried not to fidget as the Boss reamed him a new one. It was bad enough that he'd been dragged on the carpet in front of the Big Guy, with angels wings no less -- again. It would be even worse, though, if Beelzebub thought he wasn't paying attention. In all honesty, though, he wasn't. Not really. He'd heard it all before. Several times. He just kept screwing up. This time wasn't his fault, though. Not really. Or at least not totally. How was he to have known that the woman whose heart he'd just broken had, in fact, narrowly escaped an abusive marriage that probably would have been the death of her? He'd done his worst -- he'd made the blonde believe her husband-to-be was being unfaithful, when in fact he wasn't. The whole break-up had been all his doing, from start to finish. And instead of earning much-needed brownie points with the Boss, he'd managed to earn himself Every Time a Bell Rings - 2 .
another set of angel wings. Stupid things. They were heavy and white -- white wings with the smoke and brimstone décor were not a good match -- and they hurt like a son-of-a-bitch when they were cut off. Stupid humans with their stupid keeping things beneath the surface, hiding who they really were. He blamed them for this screw up. He realized suddenly that Beelzebub had stopped talking and was looking at him expectantly. Crap. Piggy licked his lips. Should he admit he hadn't been paying attention? Probably not. He couldn't just stand here, though, he could hear the Boss grinding his teeth, not to mention the air was suddenly thick with smoke. Swallowing, and not breathing in too deeply, Piggy looked up. "I beg your pardon?" he tried in his very best I'm just a young demon who doesn't know any better voice. There was fire in the Boss' eye and smoke pouring out of his nose and his face was flushed a rather angry looking red, angrier than usual, even. "Is that all you have to say for yourself?" Oh, they were at the groveling portion of this particular ass-fucking. Begging for pardon had actually been an appropriate response, although clearly, the Boss was expecting more from him than just that. "It won't happen again?" He hadn't meant to make it sound like a question. Beelzebub snorted, sending an impressive cloud of smoke up over their heads. "That's what you said last time. And the time before that, and the--" "This one wasn't my fault." "Hrmm. passing the buck. Okay, I like that. I like it enough you can go back up there and try again." Piggy blinked, unable to quite believe his good fortune. "I can?" "You can. But, Piggy." "Yes, Boss?" "Don't come back with another set of wings this time. On top of everything else, it's embarrassing." "No, sir. I won't. You'll see, I'll get it right this time!" Of course, by the time he was finished saying the words, he was talking to himself, just outside the very same coffee shop that had been the scene of his last crime. It was too bad the coffee sucked here, he could have used a pot or two right about now. *** Every Time a Bell Rings - 3 .
The hardest part of doing bad deeds was finding the right people to mess with. Oh, sure, Piggy could have robbed a bank or knocked little old ladies down in the middle of the street, but that was low rent. Doing evil himself was easy -- he was a demon, after all. The real trick was getting humans to do evil, making them cause the chaos. The Boss was always going on about how easy that was to do, that humans were naturally evil, but Piggy didn't believe Beelzebub was quite right. Piggy thought humans were, if not naturally good, wanting to be good and they did the right thing more often than was good for Piggy's reputation in Hell. The best kind of interference was getting someone very good to want to do something wrong. That was the ultimate goal, though really, Piggy would settle for far less; he just wanted to show the Boss he could do it. He liked earth and didn't want to get barred from coming back. Piggy was thinking about it very hard and not paying attention at all to where he was going, so it shouldn't have been any surprise at all that when he went crashing into someone. Arms and legs, books and bags, and more paper than was probably legal in these green-it-up times went flying every which way. He managed to land on his ass, the wind knocked right out of him. Which might have had something to do with the human who'd bumped into him and fallen on top of him. He looked up to find very green eyes looking back at him. It should have been an awkward moment. Piggy didn't usually find himself on his back with a man on top of him. A stranger on top of him. Awkward was not what he felt, though. Instead he was mesmerized. He'd never seen eyes that particular shade of green before and everything else faded away for a moment. "Oh, my God, are you okay?" The intrusion of worried words broke the spell and Piggy suddenly realized that he was lying on the pavement, his head having taken quite the crack. And no, he wasn't sure that he was okay, but whether he was or not, he was pretty sure it had very little to do with God. The Boss maybe, God no. The green-eyed stranger jumped up and off him -- maybe he'd hit his head harder than he'd thought because disappointment went through Piggy when the man's weight disappeared -- and extended a hand. "I'm so sorry. I didn't see you there! Are you all right?" Carefully reaching out, Piggy grabbed the offered hand and let himself be hauled up onto his feet. He felt a little unsteady and had to lean against his fellow 'crasher.' Or was that crashee? He didn't suppose it mattered. His head felt like he'd been hit by a concrete block. Which, considering how he'd fallen, maybe he had been, or at least the equivalent of it in sidewalk pavement. "I'm not sure that I am." He hardly recognized his own voice it was so croaky, like a dozen frogs lived in his throat. Every Time a Bell Rings - 4 .
He became aware of people picking up the books and papers, helping get it into the old fashioned school satchel the man who'd knocked him down had been carrying. Now that he was standing, though, most of the people who'd stopped began to wander off. "Is anything broken?" Piggy met the green eyes and managed to shake his head. He was sorry immediately after, the pain shooting out from his head making him wince and he was pretty sure he would have stumbled if he hadn't been leaning against a warm, solid body. "That doesn't look very okay." He couldn't really argue with that statement. Piggy knew he had a hard head, but he'd hit that concrete pretty hard, too, and, frankly, the pavement had the edge. The man took his satchel from the girl who'd led the charge to pick up all the stuff that had been dropped and then, much to her chagrin, wrapped an arm around Piggy's waist. "Do you need to go to the hospital?" "No!" Piggy shook his head again, groaning at the flash of pain; he was going to have to remember that or he'd give himself a migraine the way this was going. "Okay, no hospital. Would you at least come back to my place? I have tea and you could sit for a bit." Piggy had no business going back to a random stranger's place, not unless he was planning to do something evil to them. The answer here was easy, "no." Maybe even a "No, and watch where you're going, asshole." He was a demon, that kind of behavior and language would be applauded back home. Instead what came out of his mouth was, "Cookies?" in a rather pathetic tone. The pretty -- wait, when had Piggy decided the guy was pretty? -- green-eyed man laughed. "I think we can come up with some cookies. I'm Jack, by the way. Jack Johnson." Piggy might have shaken Jack's hand, but he was rather preoccupied with not throwing up all over someone's very expensive footwear. He really wasn't feeling all that well at all. Which explained both the sudden desire for cookies and for the pretty man named Jack. "Piggy," he offered, ignoring what he'd just thought with all his might. "Piggy?" Jack said the name like he was sure he hadn't quite heard right. Catching himself just before he nodded, Piggy responded with a simple, "Yes," instead. "Okay." Jack led him along the western edge of campus, walking slowly in deference to his head. Piggy had to admit, as they turned up the front walk of one of the converted houses that housed mostly Every Time a Bell Rings - 5 .
students, that he was feeling a lot better, probably thanks to the short walk and the fresh air. He didn't tell Jack that, though. The man had obviously been in a hurry and he felt bad for having bumped into Piggy. They were small things, but Piggy figured it was better than nothing on the badness scale. So, he played up his head, which really did hurt, and walked slowly as if each step took a bit of extra effort. By the time he was sitting on a big, old sofa in Jack's living room, Piggy'd almost convinced himself that he was feeling rough and he moaned happily as his fingers wrapped around the hot mug of tea Jack had made for him. He buried his nose in the fragrant warmth and then took a sip, promptly burning his tongue. "Ow!" "Oh! Careful, it's hot. I'm sorry, I should have said something." Jack shook his head. "I'm just trying to help and instead I keep making things worse for you." "It's okay." Piggy sipped at his tea again, the heat not bothering him this time. Jack didn't look convinced, in fact he looked a lot like he was feeling quite guilty about the whole thing. Piggy could take advantage of some good old-fashioned guilt. "You said something about there being cookies." "Of course!" Jack jumped up and disappeared down the hall, coming back again a moment later. "I'm afraid all I have are these store-bought ones. I'm out of the homemade." That was fine with Piggy. He didn't much care where the cookies came from; they were one of his weaknesses. He was just glad the Boss hadn't figured out how much he liked them -- it wouldn't add much oomph to his resume which was already lacking due to the repeated angel wings offence. They sat in a somewhat awkward silence for a few minutes, the only sounds those of Piggy munching on his cookie. He made sure to make crumbs, which was really an almost criminal waste of perfectly good cookies, but sometimes you had to make sacrifices in order to do the wrong thing. "So, uh, what do you do?" Jack finally asked, breaking the silence. Talk about awkward, that question was probably right up there near the top of the list of ones that he really couldn't answer, along with "what are you?" and "How come you have this little curly pig-like tail at the base of your spine?" Okay, so it wasn't a curly tail so much as a curved and slightly twisted tailbone, but he still didn't like remembering the day he'd spent as a pig when he'd pissed off one of the sub-bosses on level four. His tail bone had never been the same after that. Every Time a Bell Rings - 6 .
How was he going to answer the question? He stalled for time. "What do I do?" Piggy could hear the Boss' voice in the back of his head, "What do you mean you haven't got a cover story already worked out? No wonder you keep coming back with wings -- bad planning." The truth was it was closer to no planning than bad planning. Piggy was as lazy as the next demon, and perpetrating evil was hard work. Waving his hand in the general direction of the university, Piggy finally offered a vague answer, "School." "Of course." Jack grabbed one of the cookies, split it open and licked out the insides, tongue pink against the white cream of the cookie. "Of course?" Jack's hair had a slight curl to it and looked just a bit unruly. It was a good look.
"I think I should probably go." Piggy didn't want to go, though. He wanted to stay and see if Jack would try and kiss him again. He might even let Jack do it this time. In fact he knew he would. A tendril of warmth curled and twisted in his stomach as he waited for Jack to make another move. It seemed that Jack was taking him at his word, though, standing and holding out a hand to help him up. Piggy ignored the tingle in his palm where their hands touched, and tried not to feel too disappointed that Jack had been so quick to accept his leaving. The man was practically throwing him out the door with nothing more than a hasty, "It was nice to meet you and again, I'm so sorry." A pox on him, thought Piggy as he marched down the street, glowering at anyone who happened by. He didn't even know where he was going; he was just out of sorts and grumpy. A woman was coming right toward him, and when they met, they both stepped to the side to let the other by, but they stepped to the same side, and then did it again, and then a third time. The woman began to smile, but Piggy was fed up and frustrated and when they both stepped to the same side yet again, he growled and shoved her out of his way, hard enough she stumbled, falling onto the pavement. Just then an air conditioner plummeted down, landing with a spectacular crash right in front of Piggy, right where the woman had been standing. She'd come this close to being scraped up off the sidewalk. A cheerful bell sounded in the distance and Piggy closed his eyes. "Fuck!" *** The Boss was pacing. Back and forth he went in front of Piggy. Every now and then he'd stop and open his mouth. Then he'd shut it and start pacing again. This had been going on for at least ten minutes, which was an eternity in Hell. Piggy just wished Beelzebub would start yelling, because frankly, the yelling was better than this weird lack of words. The Boss was never at a loss for words, especially when it came to how badly Piggy had fucked up. Coming back for a fifth time with yet another set of angel wings was fucking up on a pretty grand scale. Beelzebub stopped in front of him again. "You. You. You!" Piggy hung his head and bit back his sigh. He'd managed to screw up again -- and without even trying this time! The Boss finally got the words out. "You saved that woman from being crushed to death!" "I didn't mean to," he pointed out softly. Every Time a Bell Rings - 8 .
"It doesn't matter what you intended, the point is that you did save her." "Yes, Boss." "And you came back with wings." "I did. Although, really, don't you think they've really lowered the standards for handing them out? I mean, sure I saved her life, but it was an accidental saving and she was just some woman." He wasn't taking this one lying down. He was still smarting from Jack rushing him out of the guy's apartment. "Besides, I was being an asshole when I pushed her, not a hero. Surely, that merits some consideration." "She wasn't just some woman, she was some pregnant woman." "Oh." His bravado began to deflate. "Whose kids are going to develop some sort of life-saving device." "Oh." Piggy's shoulders slumped, the weight of the wings heavy on his back. "Is that all you have to say for yourself?" "I didn't know, Boss. I swear. I was just in a bad mood and I shoved her. It wasn't meant as anything even remotely nice!" Beelzebub snorted. "You are either the most unlucky demon in Hell, or you're a mastermind working to defang me, one good deed at a time." "It's that first one, sir. I'm no mastermind." "I notice you didn't say you weren't working to defang me." "Oh, I'm not. I swear." The Boss shook his head. "If you had been, at least I could have given you points for having balls of steel and doing evil. You really aren't very good at this, are you?" "I've just been unlucky! Maybe I'm cursed." Beelzebub looked around at the fire and brimstone décor. "You think? It kind of goes with the territory." "Give me another chance. I'm sure I'll get it right this time." Every Time a Bell Rings - 9 .
The Boss waited so long to answer, that Piggy was sure he was about to be sent to the depths of Hell to perform some menial and awful task 'til the end of time. And just when there was something interesting on earth to go back to. Not that he wanted to go back because of Jack. The man had given him the bum rush out the door, he reminded himself. That hardly merited any sort of interest. Even if Piggy had the time or inclination for that kind of thing. Which he didn't. "All right. Get rid of those wings first." Beelzebub waved to someone and Piggy felt clawed hands on him, working at ripping off the offending appendages. Tears slipped down his face, but it was quickly over. "Now go out there and do some bad." "Yes, Boss." When he didn't suddenly materialize back on earth, he realized the Boss was expecting him to get there under his own power this time. He made a sketchy half-bow and left the Boss' lair to begin the long, long, boring trek back to earth. *** Piggy had been back on earth for nearly a month and still hadn't managed to lead anyone into ruin, or even into a spot of bad luck. He'd had a couple of close calls the other way, but so far had managed to mitigate any good deeds he'd done and had thus remained angel wing free. For which he was very thankful. He didn't know why his plans kept going wrong, but it was enough to give a demon a rash. Not to mention his shoulder blades were beginning to ache constantly from all the on and off again wing-ing. He'd also caught a glimpse or two of Jack while he'd been earth-side. Not that he'd been looking out for the guy. Not at all. Piggy wouldn't do that, there wasn't any reason to. Piggy didn't want to do evil to Jack after he was so nice about the whole taking care of him after the bumping into each other thing, and there didn't seem to be much interest from Jack, even if the man had called him cute. Not that Piggy was looking for interest. No, sir, not him. He didn't have time for love and sex and relationships. He was a demon on a mission. A demon who really needed a couple of marks in the win column, at that. He thought maybe he was on the right track at the moment, though. Piggy'd been watching a few out of work blue collar guys who were pretty disgruntled. They got together in the coffee room at the unemployment office a couple times a week and sat around and bitched about the government and how their tax dollars were being spent. Piggy's started joining them, adding his two cents every now and then. The last time he'd attended a meeting, he'd suggested that maybe they should do something more constructive than just sitting around talking about how everything sucked. They needed to be noticed. He'd laughingly thrown out suggestions of taking the president of the company who'd taken over the factor where they'd worked hostage and demanding their jobs Every Time a Bell Rings - 10 .