Advection

It is true that Emily was a liar. Her childhood was a catalogue of misadventures propagated by her inability to tell a straight story. Within herself, deep down, was a very ordinary child. On her way out into the world, however, she caught her elbows and toes on phobias and obsessions and emerged crippled by self-doubt and social vertigo. She was frequently ostracized, and never believed.

But it is also true that Emily saw God and the devil in her kitchen.

It is possible that both beings had been meeting in that kitchen for years before Emily came upon them. Before Emily’s parents had ever purchased the deed to the house, before Illinois was even a proper state, perhaps. It is possible that God and the devil just so happened to be sitting with their coffees when Emily, sleepless, wandered down the stairs for a glass of warm milk. Emily was frequently sleepless, prone to anxieties and worried what lies she’d soon be telling when the sun rose and she must board the bus and endure the horrors of elementary school again.

It is possible that Emily was alone so often that both God and the devil forgot she was a part of the Creation. (That is not Emily’s favorite possibility.)

When Emily’s toes were chilling on the kitchen tiles and the creatures under the hanging lamp were not her mother and father, she frowned and then tried not to cry. She was very aware that she was not supposed to be up so late at night. God, naturally, rose from the kitchen counter and invited her to sit at the kitchen table. While she took her seat, rubbing her nose (a drip of mucous had hastened to her lip ahead of her tears), God put a glass of milk in the microwave and proceeded to butter some bread and cut up some cheese.

The devil, pouring more sugar into his coffee, smiled at the girl and twitched his forked tail. “Good evening, little girl,” he said.

“Good evening,” said Emily. “What are you doing in my house?”

“I might ask you the same question,” said the devil.

“Hush,” said God, buttering bread.

“Do you know my mom and dad?” said Emily.

“Yes,” said the devil. “Bradley rather better than Annette. Though there was that summer of ’69.” The devil swirled the sugar in his coffee with a long, black claw until it turned a sandy brown. He sipped from it. “Why are you up so late, little girl?”

“Why are you up so late?” said Emily.

“I very seldom sleep,” said the devil. “Dreams are the reservoirs of hopes and fears, and I don’t have much of either. And I drink too much coffee.”

Emily resolved not to drink so much coffee. She watched God slice the last of the crust off her bread and put a cozy on the warm glass. He set the plate and the glass before her and then leaned against the kitchen counter.

Emily mumbled her thanks into her milk. The bread was soft and the butter cold, and she dipped the crusts into her milk and ate them slowly, savoring the ritual. The devil watched her and God watched a cat stalking over the garden.

“Do you know, little girl, that I can end cats with a whisper and sing them back to life?” The devil said that.

Emily gulped down her bread crust with a sip of milk before she answered. “I don’t know why you’d want to do a thing like that,” she said. “That sounds like a lie.”

“If you don’t believe me I can show you,” said the devil.

“No thank you,” said Emily. “I like cats.”

“She likes cats,” said God. Then he turned to face the devil and the two continued their conversation from before. They spoke low but they did not mind that Emily heard. Emily was young at the time and did not understand most of what they said. It was just like when her parents talked in front of her when they came home from work, or on the way to the grocery store.

Emily watched them as she finished her bread and her milk. When they finished their conversation, she had a milk moustache. They left, each in their own way; God slipped from the counter like a warm breeze and the devil watched its sinuous advection. Then the devil smiled at Emily, tipped his hat over his curly horns, and walked away into her shadow.

Of course no one ever believed her.

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