The story that started it all:
Dear Mr. Lucifer

July 3, 1990

   Dear Mr. Satan,
   How are you? I am fine. I am nine years old and go to Cresttop Elementary School.
   A lot of people today say they don't believe in you, but I do. Even the ones who do say that you're bad and mean and the cause of all that's evil in the world, but I know that no one could be responsible for everything that goes wrong because I know that me and plenty of other people do our own part and we still get blamed for stuff we didn't even do. The same is probably true with you too.
   Why am I writing to you? The kids in my class were asked to write a letter to someone important and try to get them to write back. I figure that since so many people think you're on their shoulder all the time telling them to do things that you've got a real interest in people, so you'd probably write back since I'd be sure to read it. A lot of other kids are writing to congressmen and judges and stuff and they'll probably just get a form letter if they get anything at all. I don't know if you have a secretary, but even if you do, she'll probably write it in blood anyway and that'd be a lot cooler than anything any other kid would get.
   My teacher thinks I'm being very weird and will probably send me to the school psychiatrist. Please write back so I don't look dumb.    Your friend,
   Billy Simms

   Dear Billy,
Thanks so much for writing. It's not often that children take the time to drop the Lord of Hell a line. I must be getting to be like Santa Claus to you people now. Not that I don't appreciate the attention, but I haven't worn a red suit in a long time. People tend to respect evil more when it's dressed in a grey three-piece.
   Please, please, call me Lucifer. Everybody forgets that I used to be most beloved among angels till that little bootlicker Michael brown-nosed me out of Heaven. I'm sure you know the type. Tattle-tale. First to snitch on his fellows as soon as the teacher's back in the room.
   ``Oh, look, teacher! Jimmy's drawn on the chalkboard! Oh, look! Johnny's filled the bell with glue! Oh, look! Lucifer's leading the angel rebellion!''
   So call me Lucifer. Or even Lou. My friends do. Not that I have many anymore. You really find out who your friends are when you're cast out of Heaven and made to simmer with the sinners till the end of time.
   Eternally yours,
   P.S. Like the blood? Bring this to show-n-tell.

   Dear Mr. Lucifer,
   Thanks for the letter. My teacher liked it so much she showed it to the principal. She made the usual weird face when I read it out loud though. Some of the kids said it wasn't for real, but most of them liked it.
   I know what you mean about snitches. There's this kid in my class, Steve, and he's a real creep. Always sucking up to the teacher and everything. Always smiles with his mouth open, even when there's nothing to smile about. The teacher really likes him and's always saying nice sick stuff about him so much it makes you sick. He's always telling on everybody, but he doesn't do it in front of everyone. But you know it's him. Somebody does something really fun and later on gets in trouble for it. And later on, the teacher's saying nice stuff about Steve again. But what's weird, not everybody hates his guts. A lot of them even like him. He's one of those popular slime. I hate his rotten stinking slimy guts. If you've got any room left in hell, save a space for him. If bad stuff's gotta happen to people, how come it never happens to him?
   Are there guys like him where you live?
   Billy Simms

   Dear Billy,
   There are too many snitches like Steve here but, sadly, not enough. As rotten-to-the-core as they are, a lot of them never spend a day here because, at the last minute, they apologize and blame everyone, including themselves, for their miserable toady lives. Then -- whoosh! -- straight to Heaven they go, and good old Michael smiles upon them, for they have learned the rat routine well.
   But occasionally, Old Man Death sneaks up on them, and they don't get the chance to repent. Then I get them. Not that I enjoy giving them their just desserts, though. As gratifying as it is belting them out to these repulsive little tattlers, I've seen too many of them for it to be fun anymore. You've seen one snitch, you've seen them all.
   Little Steve reminds me of dear, sweet Michael, curse his cherubic cheeks. Oh, he cheered us on, all right, when we were plotting revolution as his Allmightiness tinkered with the litchi nut tree. But once He slapped together the platypus and peered out of the workshop, Michael spilled the beans.
   Oh, the rat snitched on the lot, but he really fingered me, all right. Jealous, just because the Lord couldn't fault my cleverness and initiative. The little snot swore up and down that he was loyal as a dog and was only spying on us fallen angels.
   And the Almighty, despite his general omniscience and better judgment, believed him.
   I'm sure you've experienced the same sort of thing. Rest assured, I'll be looking for young Steve when Death takes a liking to him.

    Dear Mr. Lucifer,
   Thanks for understanding my situation. I'm grateful that you'll be looking for that rat Steve when his time comes. Of course, I'd feel bad if he went to hell on account of me. I mean, all I want is a fair break. If he'd just stop ratting on me and my friends all the time maybe I wouldn't hate him so much, even though he is kind of a prettyboy. All the same though, if he deserves to go, you can take him. I'm kind of tired of him up here.
   I could understand that my teacher Mrs. Dalbers would believe that stinker, but how could God believe that guy Michael? Any guy who calls himself Michael instead of Mike has got to be kind of funny. Not ha-ha funny, funny weird. Mrs. Dalbers is kind of moldy in the head, though she has got her nice spots. She believes a whole lot that you tell her, even the part about you, kind of. She's sort of cranky, but there are a lot of teachers worse, especially when they catch you at stuff. She's so slow, she's gotta depend on Steve to tell on everybody. But God's supposed to know everything. How could he believe what Michael tells him? Not that I don't believe you or anything, but that's kind of weird. You really got gypped there. He gets to stay in heaven and you gotta go to the other place.
   What's it like down there? Heaven sounds kind of dull if you ask me, all puffy clouds and harp music and having to wear dresses and things on your head. Hell's got fire and smoke and rumbling music and guys with horns and wings and pitchforks, don't it? At least, that's what's in the movies and cartoons. What's it really like down there?
   Your friend,

   Dear Billy,
   Heaven didn't used to be dull. Back when I was bright and shining up there, it was charming as hell. We used to soar around the great old heavens, back when it was electric and fiery; we were great and mighty and took whatever form we wanted -- nobody told us what we had to look like, not even His Old Gloriousness Himself. He was too busy creating things and letting there be light. And I was the lightest of all, Lucifer the light-bearer -- light-hearted, light-headed and full of the spirit of blazing creation. Explosions! Atoms! Spreading fusing hydrogen hither and yon in the great old orgy and creativity.
   The light show was incredible. And we all loved it. Even prissy Michael was too awed to say much of anything. He was in the choir and the opportunity for betrayal hadn't presented itself yet.
   I was all fire and light in those days, and the universe was as violent as a burning beehive. I cheered his Righteousness along with everyone else -- this was great and mighty and frightening, and we were all caught up in it.
   Even when things cooled down and creatures began to crawl on some of the less spectacular planets, we still had a good time. From the slime came great toothy fish and later great toothy lizards and they bit and clawed at each other with all the relish of the old explosions. It was great fun to watch.
   Then came man.
   Nothing against most of you. People are some of the most interesting things I have to work with these days. But his Old Grandness turned stuffy and dull and started demanding that we put on a good example for his ignorant naked monkeys. Feathery wings, gowns, and halos, none of the crash and thunder and smiting of suns of the early days. People were pig ignorant, and He wanted them that way, unless we were enlightening them to be prissy little prima donnas like Michael.
   I'd had enough.
   All I wanted was a little fairness and fire and exploding glory, a chance to create and destroy and not have to worry about the naked monkeys getting in the way. Free will and all. Free will! The moment we showed any initiative, we get the boot.
   Oh, it wasn't immediate. The creative angels and I got together and planned some sort of strategy to enlighten the Lord. A lot of the dissatisfied choirboys joined in, too, not a real creative lot, but they're the ones you have to work with, sometimes. T hat little sissy Michael sat in, too.
   I should've known then not to trust him. He hadn't tried to show me up then, but he wasn't quite right as real angels go. Too pretty. None of the glorious rage of swelling creation in him. No fire inside. All powderpuff. Like a Ken doll with Liberace wings. He just sat there, occasionally nodding and smiling, never really adding to the plan. But he brought along some of the scardycats in the lower choir who were otherwise too limp to join in our little rebellion. They paid for it though. He turned them in, too.
   He turned the lot of us in. We never stood a chance against the Almighty, we knew it, we only wanted to talk some sense back to him. Get rid of the halos and the harps. But the sissy made us out like crazed anarchists trying to turn Heaven upside down and take the Lord's place. Like we wanted His Mightiness to worship us. That was part of the problem, all that worship! Cringing and scraping, we were sick of it.
   But Michael, he loved the situation. He became chief bootlicker. Even had some drippy kind words for us -- "fallen angels'' -- as if we were schoolgirls duped into a life of ill-repute. The only one being duped was His Largeness, and he was duping himself. Oh, he's wise and great and is right most of the time, but nobody's omniscient. Remember the Noah story? The Lord regrets making man and decides to drown everybody, then He makes a rainbow to show that he'll never flood the earth again. Are those the actions of a perfect being? If you know what's going to happen before you do it, how can you ever regret doing anything? How could He have made us, knowing full well that we lovely, wonderful spirits were going to turn against Him? So, to save face, He buys Michael's story, tosses us all out of Heaven, and for all eternity I'm the scapegoat every time His divine plan seems suspect. Between me and free will, the Lord's got all the excuses He needs.
   So that's why I'm here. Hell is, all in all, very depressing. It's dull, smelly, and very crowded. Oh, there's fire and smoke and grand old glorious destruction, but not a lot of variety. The Lord never let me create in the old days, and now I haven't much to work with.
   And, in case you're wondering, I don't have horns, cloven hooves, or a barbed tail. I'm rather drab, really. But at least I don't have to wear a dress.

   Dear Mr. Lucifer,
   Boy, that Michael sure sound like a rat. Too bad you got thrown out of heaven before you could show God what a stinker he was.    I remember once when Mrs. Dalbers sent me to the
principal for putting a garter snake in Tracy Hanson's lunch bag. She should've known I didn't do it, since I was at the other end of the table talking to Jim, but she thought I did it just because it was my snake and he had some of my peanut butter on him. She wouldn't listen, and I had to go see Mr. Manwaring. He's one mean guy. He wouldn't let me have my snake back and he told my mom and everything. She didn't even believe me, and it was a long time before she let me have a snake again. Poor snake. He didn't do anything, either, and he got it a lot worse than I did.
   I found out later who did it. That lousy Steve.
   I couldn't stand having to wear a dress. Why did God make you dress like a sissy? No wonder he likes that Michael guy. What a gyp.
   Your friend,

   Dear Billy,
   The Lord may work in mysterious ways, but some of them aren't that hard to figure out. The all-powerful want everybody else to be impotent. You can't make a guy look any less powerful than by putting him in a dressing gown. Michael went along with the whole thing (I always thought he was kind of funny), but I never could stand it.
   The big guys don't seem to like snakes, either. Snakes are independent creatures who don't need to use anyone or anything to get by. They mind their own business, yet still they get stepped on. They bite the foot that steps on them, and for that she get stomped. Snakes always get blamed for stuff somebody else did. I've always liked snakes, myself.
   Good luck in school, but keep your snake out of the lunchroom.
   Best wishes,

© 1990 Randel Shard
First published in The Minnesota Daily on July 3, 1990