|The Devil walked into Linebaugh's on a rainy Nashville
While the lost souls sat and sipped their soup in the sickly
yellow neon light.
And the Devil, he looked around the room, then got
down on his knees.
He says, "Is there one among you scum who'll roll
the dice with me?"
Red, he just strums his guitar, pretending not to
And Eddie, he just looks away and takes another sip of
Vince, he says, "Not me, I'll pass, I've had my share of
And kept scribbling on a napkin, some song he was sure would
Ronnie just kept whisperin' low to the snuff queen who clutched
at his sleeve,
And somebody coughed -- and the Devil scoffed -- and
turned on his heel to leave.
"Hold on," says a voice from the back of
the room. "'fore you walk out that door.
If you're lookin' for some
action, friend, well, I've rolled some dice
And there stood Billy Markham, he'd been on the scene for
Singin' all them raunchy songs that the town didn't want to
He'd been cut and bled a thousand times, and his eyes were wise
And all his songs were the songs of the street, and all his
luck was bad.
"I know you," says Billy Markham, "from many a dark and
But you always spoke in a different voice and wore a
While me, I've gambled here on Music Row with hustlers
and with whores,
And, Hell, I ain't afraid to roll them devilish dice
"Well, then, get down," says the Devil, "just as if you
was gonna pray,
And take these dice in your luckless hand and I'll
tell you how this game is played.
You get one roll -- and you bet
your soul -- and if you roll thirteen you win,
And all the
joys of flesh and gold are yours to touch and spend.
But if that
thirteen don't come up, then kiss your ass goodbye
your useless bones to God, 'cause your goddamn soul is
"Thirteen?" says Billy Markham. "Hell, I've played in
I've loved ambitious women and I've rode on wheelless
So gimme room, you stinkin' fiend, and let it all
Nobody's ever rolled a thirteen yet, but this just might be the
Then Billy Markham, he takes the dice, and the dice feel
as heavy as stones.
"They should, they should," the Devil says,
"'cause they're carved from Jesus' bones."
And Billy Markham turns
the dice and the dice, they have no spots.
"I'm sorry," says the
Devil, "but they're the only dice I got."
"Well, shit," says Billy Markham. "Now, I really don't
mean to bitch,
But I never thought I'd stake my roll in a sucker's game
"Well, then, walk off," says the Devil. "Nobody's tied
"Walk off where?" says Billy Markham. "It's the only game
But I just wanna say 'fore I make my play, that if I should
chance to lose,
I will this guitar to some would-be star who'll play
some honest blues,
Who ain't afraid to sing the words like damn or shit
And who ain't afraid to put his ass on the stage where he makes
But if he plays this guitar safe, and sings some sugary
I'll haunt him till we meet in Hell -- now, gimme them fuckin'
And Billy Markham shakes the dice and yells, "Come on,
And the dice, they roll -- and they come up blank. "You
lose!" the Devil screams.
"But I really must say 'fore we go our way that I really
do like your style.
Of all the fools I've played and beat, you're the
first one who lost with a smile."
"Well, I'll tell you somethin'," Billy Markham
says. "Those odds weren't too damn bad.
In fourteen years on Music
Row, that's the best damn chance I've had."
Then, arm in arm, Billy Markham and the Devil walk out
through Linebaugh's door,
Leavin' Billy's old beat-up guitar there on
And if you go into Linebaugh's now, you can see it there
Hangin' from a nail on the wall of peelin' gray
Markham's old guitar . . .
That nobody dares to
Billy Markham and the Fly
Billy Markham slowly turns on a white-hot steel
And his skin, it crackles like roasting pig, and his flesh is
seared and split,
And sulphur fills his nostrils and he's fed on slime
By a hairy imp with a pointed stick who bastes him in spider's
And his eyeballs boil up inside his skull and his throat's too
charred to scream,
So he sleeps the sleep of the burning dead and he
dreams unspeakable dreams.
Then in walks the Devil in a big yellow hat as Bill
hears the Hell gates clangin'
And the Devil wipes off his bloody
hands and says, "Hey, Bill, how're they hanging?
I'm sorry we
couldn't give you a pit with a view, but right now this' the best we
But as soon as we're done with Attila the Hun, we'll move you
right into his spot.
Have you met your neighbors, have you heard 'em
scream? Do they keep you awake in the fire?
Hey, a little more
brimstone for number nine -- and stoke up the heat a bit higher.
you just can't get good help these days, and there ain't much profit in
No -- turn that adulteress upside down -- do I have to do
I tell you, Bill, it's a full-time job,
tending these white-hot coals,
So damn busy with paperwork, I hardly
got time for collecting new souls.
Which brings me to the subject of my little visit. Now,
you're one of them natural-born gamblin' men,
And I'll bet you'd give
most anything just to get them dice in your hands again.
So instead of
swimming in this muck and slime and burnin' crisp as toast . . .
trade you one roll of the dice for the soul of the one who loves you
"Trade the soul of the one who loves me most? Not a
chance in Hell I will!"
"Spoken like a hero," the Devil says. "Hey, a little
more fire for Bill."
"You can burn me, roast me or bake me," says Billy. "Go
have your fiendish fun.
A coward dies a thousand times -- a brave man
checks out once."
"Hey, Billy, that's poetic," the Devil says, "but life
ain't like no rhyme,
And I know ways to make a brave man die a million
"Then do it, motherfucker!" Billy Markham screams. "But
I won't trade love away."
"That's what they all say," the Devil laughs, "but when I
turn up the fire, they play."
And the flame burns white and Bill's flesh burns black
and he smells his roasting stink,
And the Hell rats nibbble upon his
nose . . . and Billy begins to think.
He thinks of his childhood
sweetheart who loved him through his crazy days . . .
He thinks of
his gray-haired mamma, Hell, she's gettin' old anyway.
He thinks of
his baby daughter -- he wrote her a card last fall . . .
Devil does somethin' even I won't describe . . . and Billy
screams, "Take 'em all!"
And -- Zap! -- again he's back at Linebaugh's, kneeling on
that same old floor,
And across from him the Devil kneels, ready to
play once more.
And Bill gently feels the Linebaugh's tile littered with
git and grime
And he sees his friends in the booths all around as
they chew their nails and rhyme their rhymes.
And he hears the
jukebox blaring loud, and smells the perfume and the piss,
breathes in deep of the smoke-filled air, and he thinks, "How sweet it
"Well, are you ready to shoot some craps?" he hears the
"Or you gonna sit all night and stroke that floor like you
stroke a young girl's thigh?"
And as Billy takes the dice, he knows that if he
Then Hades will have been a dream, and his soul will be
"I guess my point is still thirteen?" Billy Markham
"The point's the same," the Devil sneers, "and the stakes
are still your ass."
"Well, one never knows," Billy Markham says, "when
luck's gonna smile on a man,
And if a charcoal corpse from Hell can't
roll thirteen, then who the Hell can?"
And Billy Markham shakes the dice and whispers, "Please,
And the dice roll out a six . . . and a six . . . and then,
as if in a dream . . .
A buzzing fly from a plate nearby, like a
messenger sent from heaven,
Shits -- right in the middle of one of them
sixes -- and turns it into a seven.
"Thirteen!" yells Billy Markham. "I have beat the
"The Hell you have," the Devil says, and . . .
whoosh. . . he blows that speck away.
"Which goes to prove," the
Devil says, "that Hell's too big to buck,
And when you're gambling for
your ass, don't count on flyshit luck."
"Well, that's life," sighs Billy Markham, "and it never
lasts for long,
Buy y'know that fly shittin' on that die would have
made one Hell of a song."
"You're a songwriting fool," the Devil laughs. "There
ain't no doubt about it.
As soon as you go lose one damn game, you
wanna write a song about it.
But there's a whole lot more to life and
death than the words and tunes you give 'em.
And any fool can
sing the blues -- let's see if you can live 'em."
Then -- Zap! -- Billy wakes up back in Hell, turning on
that same steel spit,
And again his skin crackles like roasting pork,
and his flesh is seared and split,
And his mouth is filled with
molten lead and his ass with red-hot coals,
And next to him the Devil
squats -- and laughs -- and wipes his ass with Billy Markham's
And he hears the screams of his momma as she turns in the
And he hears the cries of his baby girl as she pays the
price of his game.
He hears the voice of his own true love laugh like a
child at play,
As she sucks the Devil's brains out in her own sweet
And buzzin' 'cross Bill's burnin' bones and landing on his
And nibblin' on his roastin' flesh
Is that grinnin'
Billy Markham's Last Roll
"Good morning, Billy Markham, it's time to rise and
The Devil's words come grindin' into Billy's burnin'
And he opens up one bloodshot eye to that world of living
And he feels the Devil's bony claw and he smells the Devil's
"Wake up, Sunshine!" the Devil laughs. "I'm giving you
"I'm turning now," Billy Markham growls. "Go away and
let me burn."
"But you're Gamblin' Billy Markham," says the Devil, "and
you wouldn't let a chance go past."
"Another chance to roll thirteen?" says Billy. "Hey, shove
it up your ass.
I've rolled your dice, I've rolled 'em twice. Now I
hear my love ones cry,
And before I play that game again, I'll stay
here in Hell and fry."
"You sure are a grouch when you wake up," says the
Devil, "but don't take it out on me.
In the misty worlds of Heaven
and Hell, Bill, everything's done in threes."
"Well, you can take three kisses of my burning bum," says
Billy, layin' back and closing his eyes,
"And I'll piss on your shoe,
if ever you come near me again with them flyshit dice."
"Dice? Dice?" says the Devil. "Who said dice? Anybody
hear me say dice?
Hey, imp, pour my buddy here a cool glass of water,
and throw in a nice big chunk of ice."
"And since when," says Billy, raisin' up, "do you go
around handing out gifts,
Except pokes from your burning pitchfork or
mouthfuls of boiling shit?"
"Well, it's Christmas," says the Devil, "and all of us
down here below,
We sort of celebrate in our own sweet way, and this
year you're the star of the show.
Why, just last night I was up on
earth and I seen that lovers' moon,
And I said to myself, 'Hey,
I bet old Billy could use a little bit of poon."
"Poon?" says Billy Markham. "Last thing I need is
Talk about gettin' my ashes hauled, Hell, I'll be all
"Damn, damn!" the Devil screams. "He's been too
long on the fires.
I told you imps to fry him slow, now you gone and
burned out his desire.
You gotta leave 'em some hope, leave 'em some
dreams, so they know what Hell is for,
'Cause when a man forgets how
sweet love is, well, Hell ain't Hell no more.
So just to refresh your memory, Billy, we're gonna send
you back to earth
And I'll throw in a little Christmas blessin' to
remind you what life is worth.
For exactly thirteen hours you can screw
who you wanna screw
And there ain't no creature on God's green earth
who's gonna say no to you.
While me and all these burning souls and all
my imps and fiends,
We're gonna sit down here and watch you on that big
twenty-four-inch color screen.
And we'll see each hump you're humping,
and we'll hear each grunt you groan,
And we'll laugh at the look upon
your face when it's time to come back home."
"Well, you're much too kind," Billy Markham says. "And
you treat me much too well.
You gonna give me somethin' just to take
it back -- you sure know how to run a Hell.
Well, a game is a game,"
Billy Markham says, risin' off his bed of coals.
"But what if one
won't ball me, what if one I want says no?"
"No?" says the Devil. "What if one says no? Ain't nobody
gonna say no.
Nobody quits or calls in sick when the Devil calls the
Not man nor woman nor beast!" screams the
Devil, "and no laters or maybes or buts,
And before one soul says no to
you, I'll see these Hell gates rust.
But if anyone refuses you,
I say, anyone you name,
Then you'll be free to stay on earth.
get out and play the game!"
Then a flash of light and a thunderclap and Billy's back
on earth once more
And the asphalt sings beneath his feet as he
weaves toward Music Row.
First he stops at the Exit Inn to seduce the
blonde on the door,
Then the RCA receptionist he takes on the office
He nails the waitress down at Macks, the one with the
And four of the girls from B.M.I. right on
Frances Preston's desk.
He screws his way from M.C.A. to Vanderbilt's
And he pokes everything that giggles or sings or whimpers
or wiggles or crawls.
First Debbie, then Polly, then Dotty, then
Dolly then Jeannie, and Jessie, and Jan,
Then Marshall and Sal and
that redheaded gal who takes the tickets at Opryland.
Then Hazel and
Carla and an ex-wife of Harlan's then Melva and Marge and Marie,
three fat Gospel singers who all came together in perfect
And Brenda and Sammy and Sharon and Sandy,
Loretta and Buffy and Mae.
And Terri and Lynne at the Holiday Inn and
Captain Midnight's fiancée.
Then Sherry and Rita, Diane and Anita,
Olivia, Emmy and Jean,
And Donna and Kay down at Elliston Place --
right there in the pinto beans.
He crashes a session in Studio B,
where he humps both Janet and June
On John Gimble's fiddle, right in
the middle of a Porter Wagoner tune.
From Connie to Bonnie to
Caroline, to Tracy, to Stacy, to Jo,
He gives 'em a glance and they
drop their pants and nobody dares say no.
He is humpin' the Queen of country music, when he hears
the Devil moan.
"Make it sweet, Billy Markham, but make it short,
you've got just thirty seconds to go.
And all of us here, we're
applauding your show and we'd say you done right well,
And we just
can't wait to hear you moan when you're fuckless forever in
"Hold on!" says Billy with one last thrust. "If I got
thirty seconds mo',
Then I got the right to one last hump before it's
time to go."
"Well, make your choice," the Devil says, "and you'd
better be quick and strong,
And make it a come to remember, Bill --
it's gotta last you eternity long."
"So who will it be, Billy
Markham?" they scream. "Who's gonna be the one?
Starlet or harlot or
housewife or hippie or grandma or shoolgirl or nun?
virgin or dope-smoking groupie or sweet ever-smilin' stew?"
And Billy Markham, he stops. . .and he squints at the
Devil. . .and says. . ."Sucker. . .I'll take
"Foul!" cries the Devil. "Foul, no fair! The rules don't
hold for me."
"You said man or woman or beast," says Bill, "and I
guess you're all of the three."
And a roar goes up from the demons of Hell and it shakes
the earth across,
And the imps all squeal and the demons scream, "He's
gonna fuck the boss!"
"Why, you filthy scum," the Devil snarls, blushing a
"I give you a chance to live again and you bust me in
front of my friends."
"Hey, play or pay," Billy Markham says. "So set me free at
Or raise your tail and hear all Hell wail when I bugger your
"You got me," spits the Devil. "Go on and stay on your
And plod along and plug your songs, but carry this
You shall lust for a million women, and not one's
gonna come your way,
And you shall write ten million songs and not
one's ever gonna get played.
And your momma and daughter and your own
true love, they gonna stay down here with me,
And you'll carry the
guilt like a movable Hell, wherever the Hell you
"Ah, well," says Billy Markham, "they never were mine to
No family, no pussy and no records, Hell, I'm used to them kind
So back on the streets goes Billy again, eatin' them
Pickin' his songs while nobody listens and tellin'
his story that no one believes.
And he gets no women and he gets no
hits, but he says just what he thinks.
Hey, buy him a round. . .it
won't cost much . . .ice water's all he drinks.
But notice the
burns upon his wrist as he raises his tremblin' glass,
tells how the Devil once burned his soul --
While he singed
the Devil's ass.
Billy, Scuzzy, and God
It's the Nashville Country Corner, all the low are getting
And Billy tells his tale again to anyone who'll buy.
waving arms and rolling eyes, he screams to the drunken throng,
whipped the Devil and lived through Hell, now who's gonna sing my
Then from the shadows comes an oily voice, "Hey, kid, I
like your moves."
And out of the back slides a little wizened cat
with brown-and -white perforated wing-tip shoes.
"Sleezo's the name,"
the little man says, "but I'm Scuzzy to my friends.
And I think I got
a little business proposition you just might be interested
"Scuzzy Sleezo hisself," Billy Markham says. "Man, you're
a legend in these woods.
You never cut the Devil down, but you done
damn near as good.
Why, since I been old enough to jack, I been hearin'
your greasy name.
It's an honor to meet an all-star Scuzz. Just where
you settin' up your game?"
"No more games for me," says Scuzzy. "I'm too old and too
slow for the pace,
So I'm the world's greatest hustler's agent
now and, Billy, I been studyin' your case.
I seen your first match with
the Devil," says Scuzz, "it was a Volkswagen/Mack truck collision,
your second shot, well, you showed me a lot, but you got burned by a
And I says to myself, 'He can go all the way, with
the proper guidance, of course.
He's got the heart, and with a few more
smarts, he'd be an irresistible force.'
Yeah, I can teach you the
tricks and show you the shticks, just like a hustler's training
And I'll bring you on slow -- then a prelim or so -- then --
Powee! -- a shot at the Champ."
"The Champ?" says Billy Markham. "Now, who in God's name
"Why, God Himself," says Scuzzy Sleezo. "You know anybody
more champ than that?"
"Hey, a match with God?" Billy Markham gasps. "And what
would be the purse?"
"Why, a place in heaven, of course," says Scuzz, "'stead
of livin' this Nashville curse.
But I'll drive you like a wagon, son,
and I'll sweat you like a Turk,
All for fifty percent of the take --
now, shake, and let's get to work."
Now the scene shifts to the funky pool hall known as the
And the time is three months later, and the smoke is thick
And the emerald cloth is stained with tears and blood and
As a fat old man with a dirty white beard stands
practicin' three-cushion shots.
"Hey, what are we doin' here?" says Billy to Scuzz. "I
been taught and I been trained,
And I don't need no more prelims, I
am primed for the Big, Big Game."
"Well, son," says the old man, sinkin' the four, "why
don't you pick yourself out a cue, and. . . ."
"Hey, Santa Claus," Billy Markham snaps back, "wasn't
nobody talkin' to you."
"Um. . .if you look close," whispers Scuzzy to Bill,
"you'll see his cue is a lightnin' rod,
And he ain't no Santa, and he
ain't Fat Daddy. . .you just showed your ass to God."
"Well, hey, excuse me, Lord," says Bill, "I didn't mean
to be uncool,
But it sure can shake a fellah's faith to find God
"Well, where you expect to find me," says God, "on a
throne with cherubs round?
Well, I do that five days and nights a week,
and on the sixth night. . .I get down."
"And on the seventh night I suppose you rest?" says
Billy Markham with a grin.
"Never you mind about the seventh night," says God.
"Besides, that lady's just a friend.
Anyway, you didn't come here just
to drag my image down."
"You're right 'bout that, Lord," Billy says. "I come to
take your crown."
"Beg pardon, Lord," says Scuzzy Sleezo, "I don't mean no
But when you're dealing with my boy, don't speak to him
I'm his agent and consultant, Scuzzy Sleezo is the
Premier Promotional Artist's Representative of the whole
Cardsharps, loan sharks, pimps, punks and car
parks, I've handled the best of the lot,
And my new boy here, he just
whipped the Devil -- now we're lookin' for a title shot."
"Beat the Devil, you say?" laughs God. "Well, I take my
hat off to him.
Let him hang up his mouth and pick out a cue and
he'll get the shot that's due him.
Any game he names -- any table
he's able -- any price he can afford."
"Straight pool for Heaven,"
says Billy Markham.
"Straight pool it is," says the Lord.
Crack! Billy Markham wins the break and busts 'em cool and
The five ball falls, he sinks the seven, and then drops the
He makes the nine, comes off the cushion and puts the six
Bags the three and the eight on a triple combination and wins the
first game on a smooth massé.
He takes the next game, the next and the
next, and when he does finally miss,
He dusts the blue off his
hands, and his game score stands at 1376.
"Well, my turn at last," says the Lord, chalkin' up.
"Son, you sure shoot a wicked stick.
I'll need some luck to beat a
run like that; that is, without resorting to miracles or
"Hey, trick and be damned," Billy Markham laughs. "Tonight
I'm as hot as flame.
So I laugh at your tricks -- and I sneer at your
stick -- and I take your name in vain."
"Oooh", goes the crowd that's been gathering around.
"Oooh", goes the rack boy in wonder.
"Oooh", says Scuzzy Sleezo, "I think you just made a
slight tactical blunder."
"Oooh", says God, "you shouldn't have said that, son,
you shouldn't have said that at all!"
And his cue cracks out like a
thunderbolt spittin' a flamin' ball.
It sinks everything on the
table, then it zooms up off the green,
Through the dirty window with
a crash of glass and into the wind like a woman's scream,
Out of the
pool hall, up through the skies, the cue ball gleams and
Bustin' in and out of every pool game in the world.
strikes on every table, it crashes every rack,
And every pool ball in
creation comes rebounding back!
Back through the window they
tumble and crash, down through the ceiling they spin.
A million balls
rain down on the table and every one goes in.
"Now, there", says Scuzzy Sleezo, "is a shot you don't see
Lord, you should have an agent to handle your press and
build up the class of your play.
My partnership with this sucker here
has come to a termination.
But God and Scuzzy Sleezo? Hey, that
would be a combination."
Meanwhile, the cue ball flyin' back last, like a
sputterin' fizzlin' rocket,
Goes weaving dizzily down the cushion and
-- plunk! -- falls right in the pocket.
"Scratch!" says Billy
Markham. "And you said you could shoot!"
"Scratch!" murmurs the crowd of hangers and hustlers. "At
last we have seen it all.
"Scratch!" mutters the Lord. "I guess I put a little too
much English on the ball,
Just another imperfection, I never get it
quite on the button.
Tell you what, son, I'll spot you three million
balls and play you one more double or nothin'."
"Double what?" says Billy Markham. "I already whipped you
like a child,
And I won my seat in Heaven, now I'm gonna set in it
"Hit-and-run -- chickenshit," sneers God. "You said you
was the best.
Turns out you're just a get-lucky-play-it-safe pussy
like all the rest."
"Whoa-whoa", says Billy. "There's somethin' in that voice
I know quite well."
And he reaches out and yanks off God's white beard
-- and there stands the Devil himself!
"You said you was God", Billy Markham cries. "You conned
me and hustled me, too!"
"I am God -- sometimes -- and sometimes I'm the Devil,
good and bad, just like you.
I'm everything and everyone in
And everybody but you kows that there ain't no
But go ahead," sighs God, scribbling something down. "Give
this note to the angel on the wall,
And you sit up there 'n' plunk your
Hey, anybody want to shoot some eight ball?"
And cold and white and tremblin', Billy walks out into
Where a golden staircase stretches all the way to
And he grips the glitterin' balustrade and begins his grand
"Just a minute, good buddy", yells Scuzzy Sleezo. "How about
my fifty percent?
I helped you win the champeenship -- and you
wouldn't do ol' Scuzzy wrong,
And since the purse is a seat in
Heaven, you just gotta take me along."
"Just one minute", says Billy Markham. "There's something
weird going on in this game.
All the voices that I'm hearin' start to
soundin' just the same."
And he rips off Scuzzy Sleezo's face and the
Devil's standing there.
"Good God," yells Billy Markham, "are you --
are you everywhere?"
"Yes, I am," the Devil says. "And don't look so damn
I thought you could smuggle me into Heaven wearing my
'Course, I could've walked in as Jehovah, but it
just wouldn't have been the same,
But you and your corny Dick Tracy
bit -- you had to go ruin my fantasy game.
Go on, climb up your
golden stairs, enjoy your paradise,
But don't rip off your own
face, Bill -- or you might get a shockin'
Then up, up the golden stairway Billy Markham dizzily
winds his way,
And high, high above him, he can hear his own songs
And down, down below, hear Scuzzy Sleezo curse his
To the click-click-click of the pool balls
As God hustles
|Billy Markham's Descent
Billy Markham sits on an unwashed cloud, his hair is
matted and mussed,
His dusty wings have been cast aside and his harp
strings have gone to rust.
There's dirt beneath his fingernails and a
glazed look in his eyes
As he sits like a burned-out acid freak and
stares across the skies.
They had bathed his body in milk and myrrh;
they had robed him in silver gowns;
They had straightened his warp in
his guitar neck, and gave him a golden crown;
They had set him a place
at the table of joy and the fountain of knowledge, as well,
searches the heavens with haunted eyes -- for his mind still walks through
His thoughts are down in that nether world, in that burning fiery
His thoughts are with his momma, how he longs to soothe her
His thoughts are with his little girl, how he'd love to ease her
His thoughts are with his own true love, how he'd love to bust
So late that night, while the heavenly harps play In
the Sweet Bye and Bye,
Billy Markham reaches the silken rope that
hangs down from the sky.
He has stripped himself of his crown and
robes; he has clutched the silken cord;
He has swung him down without
a sound, so's not to wake the Lord.
And down he winds through the
perfumed air, down through the marshmallow clouds,
And he hangs for a
while o'er the rooftops of earth, lookin' down at the scurrying
Then down through a manhole still clutching the rope, to a
stench that he knows quite well.
"Neath the sewers of the street,
till he feels his feet touch the shit-mucked shores of Hell.
scaled the crusted, rusted gates, he has thrown a bone to the
He has floated the putrid river Styx, still down and further
Down past the gluttons, the dealers and pimps, down past
the murderer's cage,
Down past the rock stars searching in vain for
their names on the Cashbox page.
Down past the door of the
Merchants of War, past the Puritan's slop-filled bin.
Past the Bigot's
hive, till at last he arrives, at the pit marked BLAMELESS SINS.
found the vat where his momma boils; he has lifted her gently from the
He has found the grate where his little girl burns;
raised her and soothed her and rocked her to sleep.
he has found the
pit where his sweetheart sleeps; he has spit on the fire where she
He has cursed her as a whore of Hell; he has cursed and turned
"From this day", says Billy, "I place my faith only in mother and
And never again will I look for love in a bitch's cum-stained
Then up, back up the rope he climbs, up through the
Past the clutching hands and the pitiful screams
with his two precious loves in his arms.
Just one more pull -- just
one more pull -- then free forever from Hell,
Just one more pull then
-- "Hello, Billy!" -- and there stands the Devil himself!
And now he
wears his crimson robes and his horns are buttered bright,
oozes through his white-linen gloves and his skin glows red in the
And his tail coils tight like an oily snake and the Hell-fires
flash from his eyes,
On those craggy rocks, he stands and blocks the
way to paradise.
"Well, what have we here", the Devil says, "in my domain
In all my years as Prince of the Dark, it's the first case of
somebody breakin' in.
And of all the daredevil darin' dudes, well, who
should the hero be?
But my old friend Billy Markham -- who once made a
punk out of me.
I heard you was in Heaven, Billy, fuckin' angels all
What's a matter -- wouldn't that heavenly choir sing none of
your raunchy songs?
Or maybe it's the thought of the loves you sold and
you couldn't live with the shame.
Or maybe, like every other loser, you
just can't stay 'way from the game.
You write your songs about standin'
strong, you sing about bein' free,
But like a pussy-whipped fool who
keeps on bitchin'
'bout his lover, you keep bitchin' but comin' back to
You made me the laughingstock of Hell and the whole world laughed
Now here you come crashin' my party again; now tell me, just
who's devilin' who?
Now, I didn't invite you down here, Bill, and
nobody twisted your arm,
But you're back down here on my turf now, down
here where it's cozy and warm.
So no more dice and no more games
and no more jive stories to tell,
Just the Devil and a man with some
souls in his hand hangin' 'tween Heaven and Hell.
But what is this?"
the Devil says. "Only two souls you've set free?
You seem to
forgot and left one behind; now, who could that one be?
Could it be
your own true love, the one with the angel's smile?
The one you curse
with each bitter breath 'cause she played with the Devil awhile?
call yourself free?" the Devil laughs. "Why, you prudish, uptight
You'd leave your sweet love burn in Hell for one harmless
What would you rather she had done, leaped in the boiling
manure . . .
So's you could keep your fantasy of someone sweet and
She saved her ass -- and so would you -- but still you
curse her name.
Shit, you'd suck a million dicks to
escape one childbirth pain."
"Hey, it's easy to talk to savin' ass", says Billy,
"forgiveness is easy to say,
But when the shame burns worse than
Hades' fires -- how do you talk that away?"
"Shame?" laughs the Devil. "She's only a woman -- she did
what she had to do,
And right or wrong, she needs no curse from the
hypocrite lame like you. . .
She shall rule with me in this Kingdom of
Flame, she shall sit next to me on my throne,
While you live with the
truth -- that the Devil's heart has more pity than your own."
"Hey, wait a minute", say Billy Markham. "I can't
believe what you just said,
You givin' me this whole philosophy shit
just 'cause you like the way she gave you head.
Why, you poor closet
romantic, that chick was suckin' for her life.
Just wait see what
kinda head you get after you make her your
"In Hell", shouts the Devil, "that's blasphemy! I should
burn you to dust where you stand,
But the venom you're carryin' in your
heart, that's torture enough for any man.
So get your ass up that
silken rope, climb back to your promised land,
And hold your illusions
of momma and daughter tight in your sweatin' hand.
But you'll see that
they're just bitches like she, and you'll scream when you find it's
But stay up there and scream to God -- Hell's gates are
closed to you."
And Billy Markham, clutching his loves, climbs upward
toward the skies,
And is it the sharp night wind that brings the
tears to Billy's eyes?
Or is it the swirling sulphur smoke or the
bright glare of the sun?
Or is it the sound of the wedding feast that
the demons below have begun?
As the Devil, he sits with his betrothed
and they pledge their love in the steam,
While halfway up the silken
Billy Markham's Wedding
The trumpets of Hell have sounded the word like a
screeching clarion call.
The trumpets of Hell have sounded the word and
the word has been heard by all.
The trumpets of Hell have sounded the
word and it reaches the heavenly skies,
Come angels, come demons, come
half-breeds, too, the Devil is taking a bride.
And out of the Pearly
Gates they come in a file two by two,
For when the Devil takes a bride,
there's none that dares refuse.
And Jesus himself, he leads the way
down through the starless night,
With Virgin Mary at his left side and
Joseph on his right.
And then comes Adam and then comes Eve and saints
move close behind
And all the gentle and all the good, in an endless
column they wind.
Down, down to the pits of Hell, down from the heavens
Like fallen stars to a blood-red sea, each bearing the Devil
The strong and the brave, the halt and the lame, the deaf and
the blind and the dumb,
And last of all comes Billy Markham, cursing
the night as he comes.
Hell's halls are decked with ribbons of red, the
feast has been prepared,
And Devil and bride sit side by side in
And the Devil grins as his guests file in,
for he is master now,
And one by one they enter his realm -- and
one by one they bow,
And the Devil whispers, "Thank the Lord," and
swells his chest with pride
As they mouth their blessings and place
their gifts at the feet of the Devil's bride.
Lucrezia Borgia has made the punch of strychnine,
wine and gin,
And Judas has set the supper table on hallowed, bloody
The feast is a human barbecue and the sauce is
Flavored with gore from the burning hordes and cooked by
And everyone drinks of the bubblin' brew and off come
the masks of virtue and sin,
And the Devil beams proud on the
well-mixed crowd and cries, "Let the revels begin!"
And the walls
that separate Heaven and Hell crack and crumble away,
And the Devil
laughs and waves his tail and Hell's band begins to play.
Nero, madly fiddlin' his fiddle and Gabriel on horn,
And the Black
Bitch of Buchenwald beating her drum, and Arthur Rank bangin' his
And Marie Laveau, she plays her bones and Yorick, he plays
And Hank plays guitar with three strings broke, and that's what
Hell really is.
And Janis and Elvis and Jimi and Cass, they're
up there singin' the blues,
And Adolf Hitler and Joan of Arc start
doin' the boogaloo.
Then Carry nation, she starts to strip and
Except Lady Macbeth, who's givin' some head to
Leonardo da Vinci and Santa Claus.
And the Marquis de Sade does a
promenade, laughing and cracking his whips,
And Marilyn Monroe does a
coochie show and Eve starts shaking her hips.
And Sarah Bernhardt and
Jessie James, they're taking dirty photos,
While out in the foyer,
Richard the Third is comparing his hump with Quasimodo's.
bare-ass naked on the balustrade sits Edgar Allan Poe
Posing for a
two-dollar caricature by Michelangelo.
And Gypsy Rose Lee jumps on
Francis Scott Key, and does a quick trick with her fan,
the Terrible's trying to get into Virgin Mary's pants.
Eighth, he screams, "More food, more music, more wine, more
While Lizzie Borden and Jack the Ripper, they're out on the
terrace comparing knives.
Lenny Bruce, he moons the crowd while
swinging from the ceiling,
And Jesus and Judas have one more drink
just to show there's no hard feelings.
Then Catherine the Great,
she's givin' her number to the horse of Paul Revere,
While Don Juan's
whisperin' love and lust into Helen Keller's ear.
And General Grant,
he's playing backgammon in the corner with Robert E. Lee,
and Rasputin are arguing pussy with Attila the Hun and Socrates.
John Wilkes Booth, he's havin' a toot, and J. Edgar Hoover's in
While Amelia Earhart is talkin' to Lindbergh, 'bout splittin' a
And Mary Baker Eddy's drunk and tellin' dirty
And Fatty Arbuckle's shoutin', "Hey, anybody got another
And Alice Toklas and Gertrude Stein are gigglin' behind the
While the Daughters of Lot are yellin', "Hey, Pop, let's do
just once more."
And Florence Nightingale's offerin' a beer to the
Man in the Iron Mask,
While Plato's shovin' cashew nuts up Marco
And Billy Sunday and Mary Magdalene announce they're
And Abel and Cain form a daisy chain with Jeanette
MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.
Then Doctor Faust snorts too much coke and
punches out Errol Flynn
Over some 13-year-old girl that they're both
And Nero's laughin' as he sets fire to Mata Hari's
While Oscar Wilde says to Billy the Kid, "Hey, Kid, let me show
you round upstairs."
And the Devil, he drinks his boiling blood and
glances side to side,
From the eyes of Billy Markham to the eyes of
his own sweet bride.
Then the music comes to a screechin' halt and
the revelers freeze where they stand
As Billy Markham approaches the
throne and says, "May I have this dance?"
"Can this be Billy Markham", sneers the Devil, "who loves
only the chaste and the pure?
No, Billy wouldn't bow and kiss the hand
of a woman he once called whore.
But whoever this poor, lonely wretch
may be, it is my wedding whim,
That no man be refused this day -- step
down, darlin', and dance with him."
The Devil grins and waves his hand,
the music starts gentle and warm,
As the lady nervously steps from her
throne into Billy Markham's arms.
And the guests all snicker and
snigger and wait, and they watch the dancers' eyes,
As round and round
the floor they swirl 'tween Hell and paradise.
"Oh, baby doll", whispers Billy Markham, "I have done
you an awful wrong,
And to show how rotten low I feel, I even wrote
about it in a song.
I never should've called you a scuzzy whore -- I
never should've spit on your bed,
And I never should've left you to
burn here in Hell just 'cause you give the Devil some head.
there's any hellish and heavenly way that I can make it right,
costs my balls, over Hades' walls, I'll get you away tonight."
the lady smiles a wanton smile, as round and round the room they
And she whispers low in Billy's ear. . . "There is one
little thing. . ."
Now the hall is empty, the guests are gone, and there on
the rusted throne,
Hand in hand in golden bands, the Devil and bride
And the Devil stretches and yawns and grins, "It has been
quite a day.
Now I guess it's time to seal our love in the usual mortal
And the Devil strips off his crimson cloak, and he casts his
And he frees his oily two-pronged tail, and waits to
take his bride.
And his true love lifts her wedding dress up over her
And hand in hand they make their way to the Devil's firery
And her upturned breasts glow warm in the fire
And her legs are
shapely and slim
And for the very first time since time began, the
Devil feels passion in him.
"Now for the moment of truth", he whispers.
"My love, my queen, my choice."
"I love you, too, motherfucker", she laughs -- in
Billy Markham's voice.
And the Devil leaps up and howls so loud that the fires of
Hell blow cold.
"Ain't no big deal", says Billy's voice. "While we was
dancing, we swapped souls.
Now she's up in Heaven singin' my songs and
wearin' my body, too,
Safe forever in the arms of the Lord, while I'm
down here in the arms of you."
"Why, you crawlin' crud", the Devil cries, "I'll teach
you to fuck with my brain.
I'll give you a child who weighs
ninety-five pounds, you talk about screamin'
"Hold on", says Billy Markham, "I will be your wife only
in name --
You come near me with that double-pronged dick and I'll rip
it right off your frame."
"Not so loud", the Devil whispers. "If Hell learns
what's been done,
They'll laugh me off this golden throne and damn me
to kingdom come.
And you -- you've given me my true love's body with
a hustler's soul inside.
You know more of torture than I've ever
dreamed -- you're fit to be my bride."
"Well, don't take it so hard", Billy Markham says. "You
know things could be lots worse.
Havin' her soul in my
body -- now, that would be a curse.
But you and me, we got lots
in common, we both like to shoot the shit,
And we both like to
joke and we both like to smoke and we both like to gamble a bit,
that could be the makin's for a happy marriage, and since neither of us
ever gonna die,
Well, we might as well start the honeymoon -- you wanna
cut the cards or should I?"
Now, the wedding night is a hundred years past and their
garments have rotted to rags.
But face to face they sit in the
flames, dealing five-card stud and one-eyed jacks.
And sometimes they
play pinochle, sometimes they play gin,
And sometimes the Devil rakes
in the pots, and sometimes the lady wins,
And sometimes they just sit
and reminisce of the night when they first were wed.
From dawn to
dawn the game goes on. . .They never go to