The Great Defeat in Georgia
The Devil rosined up his bow. He was a forceful player, and had well worn horsehair on his bow, so he rosined more than most. Then he struck a stance and the demons took to their instruments. They were a crack team, pounding out hard rock chords, and then immediately breaking it down into a hard funk that shook clouds of dirt from the ground. It was impressive, but The Devil was even more impressive. Over that grinding funk, he laid down some scorching avant-garde improvisation that hissed and wailed. He made sounds come from his fiddle that no man had heard. His music was strange and singular, yet it stirred men’s hearts. It was a breathtaking performance.
Johnny smiled and acknowledged The Devil’s performance with a left handed compliment and a boastful promise. “Let me show you how it’s done,” he sneered. Old man Jenkins started blowing on a jug, while One-eyed Jake scratched out a rhythm on the washboard.
Now Johnny had quite a reputation in the county, and among traveling musicians throughout much of Georgia. He also had a reputation, unknown to mortals, in the fiery caverns of Hell, where fiddle playing was highly regarded, at least amongst the country demons. Yes, these fire-bound beasts knew this player well, and they anticipated a great battle.
Which is why it was so disappointing that Johnny answered The Devil’s stirring play with a rather uninspired version of “Turkey in the Straw,” a numbingly familiar tune. He whipped through it in lackluster fashion, though when he finished the rote little performance he smiled as though he had played better than Paganini at his best.
Still more surprising was the reaction of The Devil. He blanched, and a sorrowful look soured his handsome features. He bowed his head, and gently placed the golden fiddle on the ground at Johnny’s feet, and said nothing.
Johnny and his friends shouting mocking obscenities as they drove away.
The Devil pouted. “Maybe I should just give up playing the fiddle.”
Azriel shouted, “No, Lucifer! You’re great! I thought you played far better than that yokel!”
“No,” The Devil said ruefully, “He was the better player.”
They drove on for minutes in silence. Finally The Devil said one more thing. “Ah, ‘Turkey in the Straw.’ God I love that tune.”