It was morning in Toronto; and Satan was about to drop in for breakfast with God.
It was early fall, warmer than usual. The old man wore only a light jacket as he made his way past the Gooderham Flatiron Building and up Front Street to Jandayi’s Homestyle Café.
He opened the door and stepped into the warm air inside. But it wasn’t the air that struck him, it was the wonderful aroma. The café was modest, a mix of tables and booths that would seat twenty or so. The décor had a few African touches, but they were neither overwhelming, nor all that authentic. Behind the service counter stood Jandayi herself, serving the two people in line. She was entering middle age now and her simple uniform bore no slogans or branding. Her hair was tied back in a bun, but her eyes and smile were as youthful as ever.
Jandayi smiled as she saw him. “Nice to see you again,” she said, her voice betraying her youth in Zimbabwe. He smiled back, his perfect white teeth offset by his weathered black skin. He moved to the counter and selected a muffin and yogurt from the self-serve area. The previous customer paid for his order and sped off without even a thank you.
“Coffee?” asked Jandayi.
“Hazelnut please.” He paused to look at the sign on the counter which proudly proclaimed “We serve only fair trade coffee”
“I like how you do that,” he said, pointing to the sign.
“Thanks. It’s important to me. That will be $3.57”
This being Canada, the old man easily paid in change. Moving with little signs of his advanced years he took a seat in a small booth and unwrapped his muffin.
Through the door breezed a new face, younger but not quite young. Fit, but neither muscular nor scrawny. He wore a fine suit, under a leather duster that looked like it belonged on John Constantine. Add to this perfectly coiffed hair, offset by two days of stubble and, to cap it all off, a toothpick sticking out the side of his lips. His cool blue eyes surveyed the café then zeroed in on the old man, sitting by himself. Without pausing to ask he sat down across from him.
“Hello old friend,” in a British accent so think it seemed affected.
Without looking up, the old man spoke, “Must you say that every time we meet?” His voice betrayed no annoyance, just small talk.
“We’re both creatures of habit.”
The old man set the muffin down, untouched. “Why are you here?”
“Well, for one, I hate to see you enjoying yourself. But mostly, I’m bored.”
“With everything. With this whole modern world. With the grind of it all.”
“I would think the modern world would fascinate you.”
“You’d think that, wouldn’t you? It’s certainly filled with depravity, hatred, oppression, pain and, my personal favorite, outright stupidity. But there comes a point where it’s like having 1000 channels and just being sick of TV.”
His companion took a sip of his coffee before answering in a calm tone “So what then? Armageddon? You wish to begin our final struggle for the fate of the universe?”
The other man considered for just a moment before replying. “You don’t think that might be an overreaction?”
“A game.” He said with a gleam in his eye.
“What sort of game?”
“We pick ten souls. From here in this city. I pick five, you pick five.”
“Then I try to tempt them to betray their values.”
“Their personal values?”
“Yes. If I get six… no that’s not fair. That would be too easy. Let’s say I get… eight. Yes, eight will do nicely. If I get eight souls-“
He was cut off as Jandayi approached them.
“If you’re not going to buy something I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
He smiled up at her. “Of course, sorry. I’ll have the egg and bacon plate with an espresso.”
“It’s counter service, not table service.”
He reached into his inner coat pocket. “Here’s a twenty if you’ll make an exception.”
She considered, but only for a moment. “Fine.” Taking the twenty, she turned and walked back to the counter. She relayed the order to the cook, before beginning the espresso.
“Like I said, far too easy. Anyway if I can get eight of the ten to betray their values I win all ten souls, no matter where they would have ended up in the final analysis.”
“You’re asking me to risk sending innocent souls to Hell. Why should I?”
“Otherwise I will start the apocalypse. Are you ready to roll the dice that you’ll win? There’s a lot more souls out there right now who could go either way.”
“We’ve played these games before.”
“And this time I’m serious. Either give me something to occupy my mind or I pull the trigger on the big one.”
“Why here? Why now?”
“Because I hate this damn country. Trying to be so nice. So tolerant. It’s all a front and I want to tear that down. Plus, I end up with ten new Canadians I can personally torment until the end of the world.”
“You don’t really leave me a choice, do you?”
“I never said I played fair.”
“No, you didn’t.”
“So that’s a yes then?”
“It’s a yes. But it’s not over until all ten are decided.”
“Fine, but then I’m choosing first.”
“As you wish. But not today. We’ll meet back here in a week. Then every week after that for one more choice.”
“Trying to drag this out?”
“You’re the one who wanted a diversion.”
Jandayi returned with the food, setting it down without a word.
“Thank you my dear, you helped me prove a point earlier.”
Still not speaking, she turned and walked back to the counter.
He called after her “Be glad you already got your tip.” Liberally dosing his food with salt and pepper he turned back to the old man. “You remember that time we had mussels with those Scotsman?”
“Mussels you knew were contaminated.”
“Then you had to go and have the cook accidentally put a counter toxin in the sauce. So see, you have a chance here. All you need is 3 of 10.”
Instead of answering the man slowly unwrapped his muffin then opens his yogurt.
“Why do you have to eat so damn healthy? You can’t get sick or die.”
“When I created Eden no animals ate other animals.”
The other man grinned “I sure cocked that up for you. But still, yogurt? That’s worse than murder, that’s eating whole cultures.”
“Always the jokester.”
"Alright, we’ll see you next week."
“It isn’t over til it’s over.”
“What do you mean by that?”
They turned their attention to the meals neither needed to survive.
“I so love bacon. And it’s not even kosher, which makes it even better.”
“Do you have anything else you want to say?”
“What the Hell does it take to get a rise out of you these days? In the old testament days you were all vengeful and full of dictates and wrath. Now they nail up your kid and you barely bat an eye.”
“I have my reasons.”
“Oh great, the old ‘Being of Infinite Mystery’ routine again?”
“You were never much for subtlety.”
“I’ll remember you said that.”
“Until next week then?”
“I’m going to enjoy this.”
“That may be. We shall see.” Standing, he waved to Jandayi. “Nice to see you.”
“Come back soon.” She replied with a smile. God walked out of the café.
Satan sat by himself gazing at his empty plate. He raised his eyes, looking resolute. “Smug bastard. I’ll show him.”