The Devil: Jersey Style

I have always been different. " Not bad different!" my therapist vehemently insists each week, even after covering the patient couch in a gritty blue tarp, "just different." I've felt this way my whole life. I never looked like the other kids dressed in black knee breeches; billowing, creamcolored pirate shirts drenched in ruffles; accentuated by snug wool vests dyed elaborate chocolate browns, navy blues, occasionally rich forest greens. Boys' colors. That's what they were called. I never grasped a wooden dowel in my tiny fist to propel a hand carved hoop during an afternoon game of Hooprolling along the shoreline of the Blue Hole, a small body of water in the Winslow, New Jersey forest that boasted frigid temperatures year-round. I couldn't get into games. The other boys called me a wimp or a freak or a hoop phobic. I don't blame them, but they're wrong. I just never saw the point of games. You run and you pant and you propel and you roll, but what's it all for? A hoop across the finish line? All of this for a hoop across the finish line? I can't care and I never could. I'm not lazy. I'm actually quite ambitious, fervent even, if the incentive proves worthy. A penalty shot never really did it for me, but show me a squirrel darting up a pine tree and I'll be the first to scale the trunk, capture the vermin with a fluid swoop and pierce it's jugular vein in a single shot with my pointed left fang. Or point me in the direction of a squirming, spoiled little girl shrieking for another yellow-haired doll or just one more piece of salt-water taffy. I'll pounce from above enveloping her delicate, milky smooth body in my wings until her spastic limbs go limp from fright. I'm not evil and please do not call me sadistic; I prefer genteelly impaired. Primarily, I prey on small game: squirrels, rodents, crows, skunks, a coyote every so often. But what's the harm in savagely attacking and killing a few furries now and again? Their lives are futile from the start, and if not for me they'd just end up mangled via land development or an SUV. At least chasing them through the wild poses one final, naturebased challenge. I've always appreciated outdoor life. Since beginning therapy I've given up human slaughter altogether. My "don't-call-me-Dr. Friedhelm" doctor, Friedhelm (meaning "peace helmet"), preaches universal love and acceptance on a realistic scale. Harmony is her top priority, but she sympathizes with imperfections, constantly reminding me "the lack of flaw in beauty is itself a flaw." "You're the fucking Jersey Devil!" she shrieks widening her color contact enhanced emerald green eyes as she raises her arms dramatically, causing her twelve Jersey shore shell bangles to clank chaotically. "Give yourself a break, wouldja?" Yes, she's right. I am the fucking Jersey Devil, and let me tell you this life is not as

glamorous as you might imagine. I hate to keep blabbing on and on about myself but to understand me and the devil I am today, we must look back…

*** As the story goes, in the early 1700's my mother, Deborah Smith, left her native England for the land of freedom and opportunity: southern New Jersey. She was to marry the "quite eligible" Mr. Leeds who wished to start a new life in the Camden County Pine Barrens. In reality he was an arrogant, egotistical son-of-a-bitch who sought to further his family name and put some poor broad through a dozen labors just so he could have a few extra sets of hands on the property and a hot meal twice a day. The stiff bastard never deserved her! Excuse me, Friedhelm and I are still working on emotional expression. Legend says that my dear mother had a hand in witchcraft and upon birthing her thirteenth child she swore it would be a devil. The baby was born human, but transformed in a few short months into a beast of sorts with a horse head, dragon body, bat wings, and a host of other dramatically heinous attributes. Once grown the beast murdered his parents and twelve siblings, marking the start of his eternal terrorization of the South Jersey Pine Barrens. Friedhelm has helped me come to terms with many such hurtful rumors, but if you want to know the truth I think everyone in New Jersey should mind their own damn business! Quit gossiping and masticating the forests to build more stucco-home developments! There's a whole, uncluttered, underdeveloped country at your fingertips. Pennsylvania's only got a handful of Amish farmers, for Christ's sake. Relocation, people! My point is much of my story has been manipulated for the benefit of myth. In reality, my mother became pregnant with me in 1735 after enduring twelve births. Keep in mind, that's not like birth today with cleansing yoga breaths and an epidural pumping happy juice into your spine. I'm talking twelve terrifying, fully conscious, drugless births in a barn or a neighbor's kitchen or a canvas covered wagon with a herd of contradicting women offering groundless methods that they pretend ease the agonizing process. Let's level here, any woman with half a brain and a working uterus would be pissed, and rightfully so. She was depressed and hormonal during the pregnancy, sickened by the thought of suffering another labor, another child, another fat ass to firm… No more, she silently pled! In the midst of her pregnancy, while keeping with all of her routine duties of running a family of fourteen, my father brought home three of his hunting buddies. "Mother," he addressed her, like always, as a fertile womb, "fix a fire and roast these fine quail I've hunted. No man could find a more superior quail than these that I have fetched you. And why don't you brew some of that delectable ale of yours," he left to return to his friends in the adjoining leisure room as my mother drug her swollen feet across the kitchen, hulling slabs of wood to start the fire.

"Don't you get lazy on me, Mother. I want these fellas to see just how dark a brew be!" he bellowed from his leather chair as his friends gruffly chuckled. She snapped. "Quail? Quail? Is that meant to be a joke? You parade in here with your hunting companions barking demands at me while I haul my pregnant derriere around this hovel with a dozen kids all day, and you have the nerve to bring back a few scrawny, bloodied quail for me to fix up? Who do you think I am, the holy Mother Mary?" she hissed as she hurled the quail to the floor. "I am sick of your shenanigans. I am sick of your kids' shenanigans. And most of all I am sick of you getting me pregnant, which in case you haven't noticed I have been for the past two decades!" Coming from an obedient Quaker wife, the term shenanigans came as quite the shock to my balls-for-brains British father. "I'd rather give birth to the devil's child then one more of your ungrateful Leeds. Heck, I'd rather give birth to the devil himself!" One trimester later, her wish was granted. I arrived on a blistery December night after my darling mother spent sixty-six hours in childbirth. She lost a solid three liters of blood. A neighborhood woman held me up by my extended wings as my mother stared into my beady red eyes, and then looked to her husband. "I finally got my way, Leeds," she smirked, drawing her final breath. "And by the way, you're awful in bed…the worst lay of my life." She died with a grin spread across her lips and an extended middle finger. I was an outcast from the beginning. Try fitting in with public school kids sporting batlike wings, a swinging tail, hooves, a horse's head and the neck of a dragon. After years of enduring both physical and fashionable discomfort, I finally gained the courage to dress for my body upon entering the Pine Barrens one room school house. I began making my own clothes to fit my individual physique and personality. Luckily my cold blood prevents me from experiencing body temperature, so I was able to be quite liberal in my self-expression. Leaf loincloths bound by acorn-laced twine; burlap coolats with a demure tail hole; and my personal favorite, a cape of cowhide and purple dyed silk that accentuated my wings in all the right spots. For most of my childhood, however, I mimicked the attire of my peers. But wings never fit comfortably in a brocade jacket, and a coiled tail in breaches bears a striking resemblance to a coil of shit. To make matters worse, my family detested my devilish distinctions and blamed me for my mother's death. I tolerated their torment for years, but after discovering letters in my mother's hand I knew what I had to do. Her written word proved that she too lived a life of solitude, and had she survived, would have been my unfaltering companion.

I killed my family in the spring of 1753 – strangled one with my tail, suffocated a second in my wings, burnt the skin of another with my fiery breath… For the first time in my life I felt free, confident and alive! Still, though, I was alone. I went through a terribly selfdestructive phase. I did drugs. I slept around. I killed a lot of mammals. By the time I turned 250, my life was spiraling out of control. For the next two decades I snorted nearly everything I came into contact with. That is until awaking one foggy morning in my 1968 VW van in the Maple Shade's Hooters' parking lot with three Miss New Jersey runners-ups by my side. It was August, the most swelteringly humid month in South Jersey. Inside my van the stale air hung, dense and pervasive amidst brightly colored floral cushions and a persistently pumping strobe light. My anus was sore from hooping too much meth the night before; the inside of my nose vacuously stripped via vodka snorting; and worst of all, I had a 19 hour enduring erection courtesy 250mg of Cialis. I yawned and sat up to stretch my wings, but felt an unfamiliar tautness as though my scales were painted with Elmer's glue. "What the fuck," I mumbled as I bent my head to sniff the opaque, crumbling film covering me wing to hoof. The enduring aroma of incense slightly masked the subtle, but sweet scent that seeped from my skin. I rubbed my leg letting pieces of the thin shell fall into my webbed fingers and then stuck my snake-like tongue out to taste the indecipherable crust. It dissolved within seconds of touching my tongue, leaving a syrupy but grainy residue to linger in my mouth. "Is that…is this…holy shit there's glaze everywhere!" "Huh?" the tap dancing runner-up grumbled, wearing only her prized tap shoes and a sequined headband with a single erect feather, as she rubbed her make-up stained eyes. "There's fucking donut glaze all over the place!" I shouted, not at the tap dancer, but at the great sugary force that encrusted the windows, walls and impeccably recreated Studio 54 décor of my VW. "Yaaa," she giggled, "I can't believe we actually had a glazed orgy. I've been dying to do that since I turned 16!" I gazed from the tap dancer to her fellow failed beauty queens, one donning nothing but gardening gloves and a Miss Cumberland County ribbon across her chest, the other a black magician's hat and a wand halfway up her ass - all caked in glaze. "I'm gonna need to get that illegal, Rosalita, to clean this crap up," I thought to myself as Cumberland County knelt between my thighs to peel glaze from my encrusted genitals with her travel-sized rake, which is no easy task when your genitals are comprised of eight tentacle-esque penises and sixteen testicles. Cumberland's raking inspired the tap dancer to move down and fondle her favored three members where toes would be. I was nowhere near aroused, falling somewhere between disgust and diabetes. I peeled one of my famed homemade lambskin condoms from my chest, sticky with either sugary syrup, man syrup or both. When the magician started prodding the glazed testicles between my wings with her wand, I lost it.

"I'm too old for this shit," I murmured. "I'm 270 years old." Maybe it had to do with my low sugar tolerance or perhaps it was my inability to decipher my own semen, but I finally felt fed up with the vapid lifestyle I had been leading for so many lonely centuries. "You can't even get one up??" Cumberland questioned in exasperation. "I could have fucked four perfectly impotent guys on the farm!" She pulled her parka over her head, gathered her various garden tools and stormed out to the humidity of the Hooters lot. I began driving as Tapsy and Magic followed with a barrage of similarly witless lashes. I threw them out between exits on the Parkway. I would have killed myself right then and there in my VW van with those three glazed Jersey ho's if it weren't for my anatomical indestructibility. The next option? I had to get clean. I had to change my life. I started taking yoga classes and therapeutic walks through my native Pine Barrens. I became involved in community service. I even went vegan! I met Friedhelm at a local Whole Foods while contemplating soft and silken tofu, and my world has never been the same. My days went from morning hangovers and burning urination to morning meditations and burning spirituality. I practiced my Ashtanga yoga with fellow survivors working towards internal harmony: a 43-year-old schoolteacher learning to accept her spinster status, a 37-year-old gold digger learning to create a peaceful relationship with her husband's mistresses, a 60-year-old empty nester learning to let go of her growing children. We practiced daily and took spiritual retreats every other month to the lush Massachusetts Berkshires or the dry Arizona deserts or the white Hawaiian beaches in order to cleanse our beings of the New Jersey lives that had weighed so heavily on our souls for so many years. Amongst my fellow yogis, I could finally relate to women as more than just warm pleasure holes. We shared our physical, mental and spiritual breakthroughs each week after practice over shots of wheatgrass at a local macrobiotic café. Their candid emotional depth revived the soul I thought had perished a lifetime before, and the wheatgrass drastically improved the quality of my bowel movements. Even after making all of these changes in my life I still felt that familiar hollowness, like a craving gone unfulfilled. But what was I craving? Friedhelm helped me work through these feelings for months, but still I could not understand the root of my unease. Sure, being a devil and having various animals' body parts and killing my entire family are all tolling matters, but for the most part I had gotten over those obstacles. "Explain to Friedhelm this emptiness you feel," she instructed on a crisp November afternoon when the leaves had almost fully changed colors and the Pine Barrens looked like a magical forest sprinkled with millions of Skittles.

"It's an indescribable emptiness," I spoke slowly, not knowing what words were coming until after they left my lips. "I no longer feel like an outcast or yearn to be someone more normal. I don't miss the whores or the parties or the meth. I truly enjoy what I am engaging myself in now, but it's like there's this….this…" I brought my wing to my chest with each word. "Hole," Friedhelm somberly offered as she brought a white wine spritzer to her lips and slurped shamelessly. "Yeah," I nodded in agreement as I felt my heart beat against my wing, "there's just this deep, empty hole." "That's your Blue Hole and it's been there for centuries," Friedhelm softened her emerald eyes and crinkled her forehead the way she always does before saying something that will be difficult for me to hear. "It's going to take time to discover what you need to fill that hole and even more time to actually fill it. I really think you should visit Kwan Yin's Magnified Healing Center. They work wonders with energy flow." For seventy-five bucks a sitting Elian, or as I like to call him my "heart healer," erases karma and releases disqualified energies and lack of love from my being with only the energy of her hands. He is fabulous. After three months of biweekly healing sessions I began to notice a change in myself. I felt empowered, sensual …ALIVE! We had been working on opening my chakras for a few weeks in order to purify the flow of energy through the body. One warm June morning I found myself particularly in tune during my Kwan Yin healing appointment. The aroma of rich vanilla musk drifted from the pores on Elian's hands, his skin glistening from the warm oil used to lubricate my essence. I lay on my stomach and Elian began as usual by redistributing the calcium along my spine. I felt the warmth from his hands as they moved up and down the length of my spine just millimeters above my wings. Up and down. Up and down. By the time I rotated onto my back, two of my penises stood erect. "Don't be ashamed," my heart healer urged as soon as he saw the panic in my eyes. "That too is part of the beautiful balance and release of the Kwan Yin life." I exhaled deeply and relaxed onto my back, allowing a quarter of my devilhood to stand unabashed. Elian proceeded, shifting his oily palms above my rough reptilian chest to release pent-up karma. His hands slowly floated down to my taut belly and I was suddenly pleased with myself for having taken a pilates class the previous night. After realigning my nervous system, Elian's magic makers drifted below my belly button to awaken my sacral chakra, which controls emotions, sexuality and intimacy. Friedhelm had suggested I use some of these healing sessions to heal my "broken heart and selfish penii." I felt every molecule in and around me as Elian energized my pelvic region, humming a low vibrato all the while. Intoxication swept through my body. Two of the penises on my foot swelled. By the time he was finished all eight members stood tall,

and let me tell you I have not gone above five since the 19th century. Elian dabbed rose water on all seven of my chakras at the close of our session. "Namaste," he murmured and bowed with his hands in prayer position. "Namaste," I managed to breath through my fit of passion. I sat along the shore of the Blue Hole afterwards on that sunny afternoon. Elian had decided to accompany me on that beautiful day when he caught a glimpse of my Space Jam beach towel. The morning was intense, demanding, invigorating, but extraordinarily gratifying. I let my mind relax as I watched the bathers glide through the dark, icy water and allowed my body to reap the benefits of free energy flow. Elian, once a scrawny Cuban raft-a-way, oozed confidence at just 22 years of age. He stood uninhibited on the water's edge and gazed deep into the cool blue hole. He was about 6'1" with a lean, but muscular, build. Dark freckles sprinkled his broad, tanned shoulders and sun-streaked brown hair fell into his almost black eyes. A white puka shell necklace shone across his collarbones. He looked like sex with a Jersey flare. "I'm gay," I absentmindedly murmured, thinking aloud. "I am so gay." For the first time in my life I stopped thinking. My mind went fuzzy as though I'd just been injected with anesthesia but still had a few moments to enjoy the calm before sleep. My body moved in auto drive. The next thing I remember was standing behind Elian, tracing the muscles of his back with my webbed "fingers." Before he could respond I firmly gripped his thickly roped biceps and spun his body to press against my own. I bent and kissed his chapped, masculine lips. They weren't soft and petal-like as a woman's lips. Elian's lips were hard, brusque and flavored with Tabasco sauce. I could have cum from his stubble alone. "Amigo," Elian spoke in a kind but stern tone, "I'm not gay. I'm sorry if you got the wrong impression from our sessions, but where I come from if a guy puts anything up his ass he'll get his balls chopped off." I stared, expressionless, into his smoldering onyx eyes with a steady stream of homosexual porn swirling through my head. "There's nothing wrong with it, but I grew up in Castro Cuba and if Castro wants your balls, Castro gets your balls," he explained with as much compassion a hetero man can have for a homo who tried to diddle him. "It was just never an option in my mind. I'm sorry, amigo." I was silent. I gazed into his black eyes one last time, pivoted on my right hoof and galloped away as fast as my hindquarters would take me. Tears streamed down my long snout as I fled Elian, Friedhelm, yoga, soy, the Pine Barrens, New Jersey…my existence. I wove through cars on the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and did not slow my pace until reaching 9th Street in South Philadelphia. I cried up until I saw the glimmer of

fluorescent green lights on the corner of Passyunk Avenue. GENO'S STEAKS. Before passing through the illuminated entry I blinked my tears away. "I'll have a whole cheese steak," I boldly ordered, "on a hard role with American cheese, a side of Freedom Fries and a large Birch Beer." I ate my sub while strolling through the narrow streets of Philly towards the Schuylkill River. I turned onto the bustling Market Street and people watched while savoring the last of my Freedom Fries. The crowd was diverse. Old Pennsylvania money strode past alternative college students, panhandlers and resident doctors. Through the masses I spotted two men wearing designer jeans with fitted Lacoste polos. They held hands as they walked their King Charles Cavalier Spaniel and gazed into boutique windows. When I finally reached the river I gulped the last of my Birch Beer and belched loudly. The men's image remained etched in my mind. "No fucking way," I cried shaking my head. "No fucking way." I never went back to Friedhelm or Kwan Yin's Magnified Healing Center after that day. I could live with having murdered my family, eaten human flesh and led a vacant solitary life, but there was no way I, the Jersey fucking Devil, could live a practicing homosexual life. That I could not do. So I did the only thing I could do: as many females as possible. I slept with young women, old women, fat women, bald women, cows, hens, doelings… pretty much anything with a set of nipples and trace of estrogen. I had wanted to accept and improve upon myself once, but the circumstances were different now. I was different. Yoga and spiritual healing and chakras and tofu can fix many things, but a gay Jersey Devil? Nothing can fix that, not even Bono.

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