“Skin the devil,” she said. But after all where and how will I catch him and hold him? And supposing I have caught him, why skin him?
Well I asked her all this and she said, “Just go down to the well & wait until he comes up. Then toss the bag over him and bundle him up quick.”
Sounded a bit scary but I set out to do it. Sat at the well all night. Looked up at the moon glowing all full, like God’s eyeball, with all the angels staring down through the stars. Next I know, small sounds from the well come cling to my ears. It was the Devil himself. I looked in there but it was really too dark, all I saw was a wet-looking man with a long slimy tail forked at the end like a snake’s tongue.
Dunno, at that moment felt really sad. That thing coming up the well just brought me down. It looked so pathetic, so useless. Living in a well.
Anyway, I had a job to do. I got real quiet and waited for it to come out. Soon enough it was there, sitting on the ledge the mouth of the well. Up close he was a good deal smaller than I thought, couldn’t be more than four feet head to toe. Quick as a whisker I jumped up and threw the bag over his head, picked him up and ran to see Clarissa. Dang Devil never even kicked or squirmed. Kinda worried me, almost like he wanted to be caught.
When I got to her shed I must’ve had that Devil-catcher’s twinkle in my eye cuz she caught it right away and gave a giggle.
“Didn’t think you’d actually do it!”
But I did, so there. So I smacked the bag on the ground a couple times to knock him good and dead, and then we opened it up.
And there he was, a little dark-grey man, kind of burly, eyes closed like a monk, curled up in himself like a baby, with his tail wrapped around.
Still, just looking at him sleeping there made me so sad. I looked over at Clarissa and there were tears in her eyes.
I put my hand to my back pocket to get the knife, but Clarissa touched my arm. “Don’t lets,” she whispered, her voice catching in her throat. “I couldn’t bear it.”
Just then from the corner of my eye I swear I saw that Devil smile. But truth be told I didn’t have it in me to do it either. And he was dead, after all.
So Clarissa and I went into the shed to bed. Next morning woke up to a smell like lilacs and lavender. I looked in the bag and the Devil looked a grey purple in the morning sunlight. I dumped him on the ground there. And then, don’t ask me why, but I just sat down next to his purple body, all splayed out, and started crying my eyes out. Clarissa must’ve heard me, she came out and hugged me up to comfort me but she was crying too.
Eventually we got a hold of ourselves.
“We gotta get rid of that thing,” I said, and this time she didn’t stop the knife. I skinned him good. Tossed the body into the woods when I was done. I won’t be the one to eat the Devil’s meat.
Sold his skin (and his tail) for a few bucks down the road. Hear a dwarf uses it now as a costume to scare kids in the circus.