The following snippet is from a chapter titled Angels and Devils in my upcoming book Minor King. In it, the protagonist Jim Christianson is having a conversation with his 10-year-old daughter, Abigail. You can order Minor King by clicking here.
“Daddy?” she said.
“Is the devil scary-looking?” she asked.
“No,” I said without hesitation.
I’d given this a lot of thought over the years. Early on in sobriety, the only way I could understand what was going on inside of me was to break everything in my life down to their simplest forms. Drinking was bad. Not drinking was good. The devil wanted me to drink. God did not. As a result of this simplistic view of things, I walked around trying to put everything into buckets of good and bad.
After explaining this theory once in an AA meeting, the guy who spoke after me stood up and told everyone that I was wrong. That the devil isn’t “out there” tempting me at every turn. That “life isn’t a Goya painting.” He said that I was doing more damage than good for newly sober people by talking such nonsense. Except, to me the devil really was out there waiting for me to slip up. He still is.
That was the last AA meeting I ever attended.
“The devil is not scary-looking, honey. Just the opposite, really,” I said.
The look on her face told me that I had her full attention. “The devil is handsome and beautiful and charming. God’s right—the devil does want to crawl inside of people’s hearts. And he knows that he can’t do that if they’re afraid of him. So he disguises himself as things you might be tempted to like. Or even possibly love.”
She looked a little confused.
I continued, “But trust me when I tell you that you’ve got nothing to worry about right now. You’re still a kid—you’re surrounded by angels. The devil can’t touch you.”
She smiled. “Well that’s good.”
It was a lie, but I didn’t want her to think any more about it. Still, I knew from experience that the devil sings a sweeter song to children.
“Hey you guys wait up!” Tabitha called from behind us.
As we waited for them to reach us, I kneeled down next to Abigail and looked her square in the eyes. There was no “crazy” behind them; only the soul of a lamb.
“Do you know how much I love you?” I asked.
She hugged me tight. “Yes, Daddy. And I love you too,” she said. “But, Daddy?”
“Are you the devil?”