An angel and a demon walk into a bar. Sounds like the start to a joke doesn't it? The bar in question is in New York city. It's pretty nice as dives go. There's a flickering neon sign.
Smoke hangs in the air. The other patrons are either passed out, passing out, or don't know what in is let alone out. A lone bar tender stands at the bar.
You could be forgiven for not recognising the angel and the demon for what they are.
Admittedly, New York is one of the few places they could go where halos, wings, tails, and hoofs would not raise too many eyebrows.
But no, rules are rules, and so they look just as bland as the walls in the bar.
The two greet each other as they approach the bar. "How long has it been?" asks the demon. "One hundred and sixty-seven years," the angel replied.
"Hell of a long time," the demon says with a toothy grin.
"Lord save me."
"I thought he already had?"
"Even His benevolence could be tested after a few moments with you," the angel laughed. "Is that blasphemy?" the demon mused.
"He's developing a sense of humour," the angel said as they came to the bar.
"Ah good for him," the demon surveyed the bar.
"So, after a hundred and sixty-seven years you decide we should renew acquaintances and this," he gestured around them, "is where you want to do it?"
"What you don't like it?"
"No, it's lovely. Very homely really. I'm sure I recognise a few of these from the third circle.
Those two are definitely from the second circle," the demon pointed out a couple in a booth who appeared to be trying to get into each other's bodies.
"That one looks like he'd fit right in at the seventh circle, nasty looking fucker. Still, all the world at our disposal and you pick this?"
"Well it's a change of scene for me at least," the angel said. "Don't tell me you're getting picky in your old age?"
Through all of this the bar tender stood silent with an air of disinterest. A more inexperienced barman may have been piqued by some of the strange things these two customers were saying.
He was just hoping they would make their order and leave him alone. Right now, they were just a nuisance to him. He'd seen all kinds come through his doors over the years.
This one time a guy had come in who had thought he was Joe Frazier, Madonna, Genghis Khan, and Elmo. Now that had been an interesting conversation, and an even more interesting bar fight.
As he reminisced the two standing at the bar disappeared.
Again, a novice in his profession would have probably been at least a little surprised, and most would have sought professional help or God.
This battle-hardened warrior of the bar was just pleased two more customers were off his hands.
We re-join the angel and the demon walking into another bar. This rather more pleasant establishment is on a beach in Cuba.
Blue sky, white sand, the lazy rhythm of a band filters through the air. The barman here awaits the two eagerly in a clean white linen shirt and a beaming smile.
"Much better," the demon says as he walks up to the bar and promptly orders two pina coladas served in coconut shells.
"So," the demon began after a long satisfying sip of his drink. "How's mum doing?"
"You'd know if you called her more often," the angel said holding the demon's gaze.
"Oh, don't be like that. I called her just twenty years ago."
"It was closer to fifty."
"But was it fifty?"
"That's not the point."
"No, you're right," the demon conceded. "So, how is she?"
"Do you honestly care?"
"Oh, that's not fair. I know I was always the black sheep of the family. But I do care about my mother," the demon actually looked hurt by the accusation.
"Ok ok," the angel conceded. "She's alright, but not bad for someone coming up on six thousand."
"Ah well that's good to know. I know I should call her more. It's your fault though really," the angel choked on this retort from the demon.
"How is it my fault?"
"Well not you specifically. Your lot in general. I mean we're all just so busy down there. More souls come in every day. A lot more than we used to get. You lot upstairs must not be saving many.
It's a damn good time to be in the damnation business though," the demon said with another toothy grin.
The angel took a long considerate sip on its drink. "We're still saving a lot, there's just a lot more of them than there was more before.
I admit though eternal salvation does seem to be a tougher sell than it used to be," the angel mused. "I blame rhythm and blues music."
"I blame America," the demon interjected. "Or rather I thank America. Those people are crazy. I love it."
"Yeah I think you're right," the angel swirled its straw around. "We tried to counteract that with the second coming."
The angel nodded. "Oh yeah. We thought what better place for the son of God than in that den of sinners? Then he got into politics," the angel put its head into its hands.
"No way," the demon guffawed. "Christ decided to go into politics?" The angel nodded.
"Well you know what these adolescents are like. They want to do it all their own way. They don't listen to anyone older than them, they just want to rebel. Some of the people they look up to.
Well, you know Marx."
"Oh yeah he's great," the demon said.
"You would think so. Anyway, you end up with Christ running for president," the angel said despairingly. "I take it he didn't win then?" the demon asked?"
"Oh no the Republicans have made sure Americans very much disagree with the second coming."
"Oh they have been good to us," the demon nodded. "So, who was he then?"
"Yeah that makes sense. It wasn't going to be Hillary," the demon chuckled. With a sigh it looked around the bar and the people.
"It's a very different world from a hundred and sixty-seven years ago isn't it?" The angel nodded.
"Very different yes. I suppose your boss is to thank for a lot of that?"
"My boss? He's been taking it easy. We thought it was your boss putting them through the ringer.
You know going back to the classics, punishing sins, pushing them back to righteousness and all that," the demon said quizzically.
"No, he's got something planned but he's just been letting them get on with it."
"Huh so all this stuff, everything that's been going on up here, that's all been down to them. Damn," the demon said leaning back in its chair.
"Damn indeed," the angel agreed. They both took a moment to consider that.
The sun was getting low on the horizon. More people were coming into the bar for the night. Some were dancing to the music.
The waves were gently lapping on the beach, glinting in the dying sunlight. The angel stood. "Well I suppose I should be going back," the angel said. The demon stood as well.
"Yeah me too. It was good seeing you."
"Yeah you too. Hopefully it won't be more than a century until the next time," the angel laughed.
"It won't be. Take care of yourself."
"You too, and call mum."
An angel and a demon walked out of the bar.