So what does a nice Jewish girl do when the Christian Devil offers her a deal?
A Deal with the Devil
It was hot as Hell. In the little test lab, filled as it was with large steel vessels, clanking pipes and hissing steam vents, that wasn't too surprising. In fact it was just plain normal. In the depths of winter it was an almost cozy place to be, the Northern winds and drifts of snow became faint memories in the heat of the lab. However, it was a Friday night in high summer and the woman sitting in the lab was far from cozy.
She sat there dripping sweat, hypnotized by the faint bzzzt-bzzzt-bzzzt of the chart recorder head as it traced across the paper. The pressure vessels in the room were not the only things steaming. If the boiler had failed right at the moment, Bonnie's temper probably would have sufficed to keep the steam flowing for a couple of hours more, at a minimum.
Bonnie was a newly minted engineer and this was her first job. She had put up with innumerable assholes for the last four years in college, determined to make engineering her life's work, and had graduated with honors. Graduated right into the worst recession in memory, where a 5'2" Rubinesque female engineer was not exactly in demand. She had interviewed with all the Big Boys (that term certainly steamed her!) and had gotten nowhere. Reluctantly she accepted a position at a small outfit that had decent prospects but lousy pay.
At this moment she stared into the computer screen while humming "Sixteen Tons", hearing the voice of Tennessee Ernie Ford from her father's record collection. The song was appropriate for several reasons. First, as low engineer on the totem pole, she was stuck on a Friday night when everyone else went home. The work never seemed to end and how much worse could coal mining be, anyway? Probably would be cooler than this place.
The other reason was partly anatomical, partly social. To be blunt about it, her boobs had exceeded a DD cup somewhere around her 13th birthday. With her otherwise small body they were, well, she'd heard every possible variant of every possible joke long before she started High School. If she hadn't already "sold her soul to the Company Store" - actually the Student Loan people but the business philosophy was the same - her first paycheck would have gone for breast reduction surgery.
Frankly, she often referred to her breasts as her "Asshole Magnets", because in her 22 years they seemed to have attracted every single asshole on the planet. Which brings us to Bryce, the other engineer in the lab. She was getting damn sick of his juvenile humor at her expense and his parting comments were responsible for her elevated temper. When she got to the line in the song about "if the right one don't get you then the left one will" the ironic reference did not escape her.
A long and boring time later the vessel began to hiss and she realized the test was almost over. Freedom at last! She hit the button and the chamber opened with a cloud of residual steam, which fogged her glasses and made her frantically wave her paperwork in an effort to clear them.
She blinked, and standing in front of her was an athletic young man dressed in white shirt and shorts. He was well muscled, even if his legs were as hairy as a goat, and he appeared to be completely cool and comfortable despite the heat of the room. Bonnie noticed a small pair of horns on his forehead. This body mutilation stuff was really getting out of hand!
"What the Hell are you doing in here?" Not the friendliest greeting, it must be said, but after all this was supposed to be private property. The dude didn't belong here, dammit!
"Ah, a woman who gets right to the point. I like that, my lovely," replied the stranger in a seductive voice.
"Fuck you, buddy."
"My dear, under other circumstances I might take you up on your kind offer, but I'm afraid I have a busy schedule tonight."
His remark left Bonnie speechless for a moment. She was working up a solid head of steam and was just about to vent when the young man continued. "Please, lovely Bonnie, you have been calling me all night and I simply could not ignore your summons, no matter the press of other matters."
"You… You… OK buster, just who the Hell do you think you are? There ain't no one but me authorized to be in this lab and I'm going to call the cops in about thirty seconds if your ass ain't out the door in twenty nine."
"May I introduce myself? Such a shame your generation has abandoned the business card, this used to be such a civilized scene. However, this must suffice." He rolled up the sleeve of his white shirt to reveal a striking tattoo. Amidst very realistic flames was etched the single word "Lucifer".
"Lucifer?" she exclaimed. "Cripes Bubba, you better haul out your cell phone and check the number, 'cause baby, you is dialing the wrong area code! Unless my mamma was lying to me when we left the synagogue you got no business showing off your ink to a nice Jewish girl."
"Damn those 'Jews For Jesus' buggers, they assured me…" The young man recovered his composure. "No matter my dear, I offer an equal opportunity exchange and do not discriminate. If you want to toast a bagel on my fires it doesn't bother me at all."
"Smartass. Well, at least you've been here all of two minutes and haven't made a joke about my tits, that may be a world's record."
"Bonnie, you wound me. I would never stoop so low. I heard your pleading and came to offer you an honest exchange. I can arrange it so no one will consider making comments about you as a woman or denigrating any part of your body. It is within my power to see you become a top flight engineer, triumphing over mere males in their own business. You will find your name attached to patents by the score, your byline will grace the major journals. In short, you will be an inspiring success to all the women who follow you if we can come to an agreement."
"You sure talk pretty, but it don't cut no challah, sucker. I don't need your help to be successful, I have that covered all by my lonesome. Even if you had the power you brag about, you forget one thing — we Jews don't believe in Hell. Just 'cause some fruitcake in the middle ages put his nightmares on paper and the priests snapped it up, it ain't in the Torah."
"That makes it all so much simpler then, doesn't it? If you are sure I can't collect your soul then why not take the chance? Let your imagination run wild, I have the power to make almost any dream come true — for a simple price."
There was a pause in the conversation. Bonnie was still pretty pissed at Bryce. Wouldn't it be a kick if this Lucifer could help her stick it to schlumps like him. "Could you quantify the word 'anything' for me?"
After all, she was an engineer.
"Well, I can't move mountains and rearrange the landscape, I can't change the past, and I can't reliably affect my adversary's direct purview. However, you would be surprised at how much effect a small change in the right place can have. Whisper a suggestion in the right ear about how cute that altar boy is and in a decade or two religious foundations are shaking all over the world. That sort of thing. "
"Subtle, aren't you? Well, I'm not going to ask for something I can do myself. How are you at rearranging bodies?"
"When was the last time you went to the movies?"
"That good, huh?"
"Well, I haven't been able to win an Oscar yet, but if they had the category…."
"OK, I have a proposal then. What I want is every guy on the planet, each time they make smartass remark about some woman's tits his own start to grow a cup size over the next week or so. If he keeps it up they'll keep growing until he has boobs as big as mine."
"My dear, I am going to have to put you on staff. I don't think I could have come up with something that diabolical given all of eternity!"
"Well, in school they taught me to think outside the box."
"Even I have the sense not to touch that one, Bonnie. Quite Devilish, if I say so myself! Any other little fillips you wish to add? Matching small waistline, perhaps a proportional decrease in the male attribute? Eating disorders? Blonde hair when your size limit is reached?
"KISS, baby. Keep It Simple, Stupid. I hate people who overdesign a project!"
"Very well, do we have a deal? Your soul in my domain, however unlikely you consider its existence, when you abandon the body in exchange for a lesson for the boors of the world. I'm almost tempted to turn this one down, it comes dangerously close to going a good deed, I fear."
"No way, Jose. You made a deal and I'm holding you to it. I suppose I have to sign in blood or something?"
"Nah, just swipe your credit card in my PDA and that should do it."
Saturday morning Bonnie woke up, wondering just what she had eaten last night that gave her such a strange dream. What would the Rabbi think of her dreaming of the Devil, assuming she had a Rabbi or had set foot in a Synagogue some time other than the High Holy Days when it was simply easier to go than argue with Mom.
There was absolutely nothing different about that Saturday than any Saturday before it. She went to the mall, her Asshole Magnets attracting their usual quota, but she simply ignored it as always. Dinner with Ginger and Sam on Sunday (Sam appreciated her assets but had always been a perfect gentleman about it — even when Ginger was not present!) Monday rolled around and she stumbled into work.
Bryce beat her into the lab and had pulled off the chart of last week's test. "Nice curves!" he commented as he walked by. Damn fool probably thought he was being cute, too bad her dream wasn't the real thing — she would love to watch him cope with a pair of Asshole Magnets. Serve the beggar right.
On Wednesday she thought it odd that Bryce was wearing a sweater, especially since the mercury was hitting the 80s outside the air conditioned office. By Friday conversation at the lunch table commented on certain co-workers, whose names need not be explicitly stated, were acting rather more apelike than usual, scratching themselves furiously when they thought no one was looking. Several of the other women started to notice this peculiar behavior and commented on it at the lunch table. The consensus was that someone should call the temp agency and see if they had any Zookeepers available.
Friday Bryce called in sick, much to Bonnie's relief. That evening she was listening to NPR and had to laugh at a report on Marketplace about businesses all over the world suddenly rescinding Casual Dress policies and returning to Suit-and-Tie business attire. The female reporter played it for laughs, interviewing several corporate flaks.
"Tell me Paul, why has XYZ industries suddenly gone formal? Big date with the shareholders for the weekend?"
(Laughs) "No, Michelle. It's simply that we have felt for some time that American Business has gotten away from the core values it was founded on. We feel our workforce will be far more productive with the formal discipline that proper attire brings."
"This doesn't have any connection with the rumors your company is negotiating to buy Playtex Products, Inc?
"Well, we are always trying to move our products into new markets, but I hardly think there's a connection here, Michelle"
"Well, sometimes you can't tell how intimate a business connection can become. They're obviously not trying to increase business at the new subsidiary with the dress codes. Back to you, Richard…"
Bonnie laughed at the report, but when a little later in the program a report featured an Italian designer who was having his male models wear fake breasts she had to wonder about her dream.
Traffic to work seemed unusually light on Monday morning, in fact several of the men had called in sick and things were a nightmare. Millie, the girl in shipping, who everybody knew was hiding a portable TV under the junk at her bench, was the first to spread the news. Congress had declared an emergency recess and was going on vacation for the next two weeks.
Was the whole world going nuts? Sometime in the afternoon Millie, who had ceased pretending to work at all, reported that the Stock Exchange had closed early because of a mysterious illness had decimated the trading floor. Similar reports were coming in from around the globe. Strangely enough, the Middle Eastern markets were operating as usual. Unrelated and unconfirmed reports said that Western style clothing had been almost completely abandoned and there had been a sudden resurgence of traditional desert robes throughout the power structure of the Oil Kingdoms.
Things grew increasingly more chaotic over the next few days. Construction ground to a halt, highway repair ceased entirely (although the small number of cars on the road were hardly inconvenienced by the roadwork). While radio continued unchanged, on television the talking heads suddenly became just that, maybe one in 100 anchormen was pictured from the neck down and the number of graphics used while male correspondents reported skyrocketed. Security scans of newly bulky traveler's clothing caused long delays at airports. Could you blame some of the guards for insisting on strip searches for customers obviously trying to hide something?
On her Saturday trip to the mall Bonnie was surprised at the multitude of women in the place, but there were only a sprinkling of men. To her great surprise the intimates section of every store was stripped bare of any size above 34, leaving great gaps in the shelves, The lingerie section in Lane Bryant and 16+ were completely cleared of all stock. As she stared silently at the empty windows she felt someone staring at her.
"Good afternoon, Bonnie." A young man in a white suit and impeccably tied flame-red tie smiled at her, a Fedora jauntily covering his forehead. "I haven't been so interested in people watching in centuries! Why, in a week you've managed to shut down the most of the governments and businesses in the Western world. Thousands, no millions of men are praying to my Adversary, little dreaming they are focusing their attention to the wrong Sphere. How delightful!"
"You're not a dream, then!"
"Bonnie, I'm disappointed. So many of my clients say that when we meet again. I had hoped someone with your creativity would have been different! Still, I have to thank you, I've had to hatch extra staff in anticipation of the workload in the next few weeks. Perhaps you'd like to accompany me to the Pennys, there is a Presidential newscast scheduled shortly that you will find most interesting."
The young man held out his elbow in an unmistakable gesture. "Let's just watch, shall we?"
The two stood in a crowd before a wall of televisions all tuned to the same channel. The announcer was whispering "… is Senator Michaels and on his left is Senator Jef-.. The president has entered the room. Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States."
"My Fellow Americans, I am accompanied today by the Surgeon General and our beloved head of Homeland Security. In the last week Terrorists and Evil Doers have unleashed a mysterious virus has swept through our nation, and indeed the entire globe, bringing untold suffering to many fine men. The Doctors and scientists at the CDC have been searching relentlessly for the cause of the gynoc — gynocomas- sudden plague of male chest growth that has caused such pain and misery.
"Apprehension of the culprits is seriously hampered because the FBI was one of the initial targets of the Evil Doers and virtually every man in the organization has refused to leave his home as a result. Our armed forces stand ready to defend the country, but suffer from a serious problems in that there are not enough larger uniform blouses available to cope with the increased demand. I am also told that every drill sergeant in the country has gone AWOL."
"These dastardly deeds will not go unpunished. I will submit to Congress, as soon as we can hunt them down and get them back to Washington, a request for a couple of billion dollars, which will be sent to my buddies at the pharma- pharmasu- ah drug companies to find a cure, which will be available as soon as they have it patented."
"I have ordered the country to go to blue or orange or whatever damn fool color alert means the Evil Doers are gonna be going after my campaign contributors before the next election. I ask all patriotic men in This Great Nation Of Ours to show the spirit that Made Us A Great Nation and return to work immediately. Your country needs you, profits are down sharply and that can not be allowed to continuous! I assure that we will put in place the most effective anti-discrimination laws ever passed, and they will be enforced viagrausly! Meanwhile, go about your business normally, your government will protect you and keep you safe."
At the conclusion of the broadcast they strolled out into the mall and found a seat. "Well Bonnie," the young man spoke, "How does it feel to be the most effective terrorist in the history of the planet?"
"I don't believe this."
"Ah, that is what makes my work so simple at times: no one believes it. We all cling so tenaciously to our comforting beliefs and ignore reality. Who would have believed that every stripper in the country would be unemployed on less than a week? That business would have been thrown into chaos, government and law enforcement hobbled and even the armed forces decimated without a shot being fired? I haven't had so much fun in ages!"
"Well, I'm glad someone is happy. Somehow I'm not enjoying this as much as I thought I would."
"I'm afraid that's one of the hallmarks of dealing with Me. Perhaps I should have warned you, you not being Christian and all, but I am the Father of Lies, you know. "
They sat silently for some time, watching the people pass by. Finally Bonnie spoke. "Is it just me or are there an awful lot of funny looking women here today?"
"No, my dear. You are observing one of life's great ironies. Of all the men in the world, the one group that would love to grow breasts are denied that boon. I have little experience with crossdressers because they usually end up with my Opponent, but for the most part they seem far too respectful of women to qualify for your little curse. Perhaps some of them will be driven insane with jealousy and commit some act that would bring them within my domain, but I rather doubt it."
"No matter, there is a nice influx of bitter old men who have died cursing the Lord instead of their own behavior, that will do nicely for now. As the economy worsens I expect my business will be booming. Such a shame the new high rises have sealed windows, I rather liked watching all those jumpers in the 30s."
"Well Lucifer, it's been nice talking but I'm heading home now. It's all too depressing."
"All in a day's work, my dear. All in a day's work!"
Actually, the Father of Lies had underestimated the human Male. Things grew steadily worse for several weeks, but then something strange happened. Guys got downright bored of hiding in their houses. About a month after the Great Cleavage, as it had come to be called, the first men's wet T-shirt contests started appearing at bars. The proprietors were desperate to lure their former customers back any way they could. Much like wrestling or boxing, weight classes were declared and everyone from burly truck drivers to Wall Street brokers competed in shaking their assets while dripping on the barroom floor.
The jewelry business thrived as soon as men decided showing their cleavage was a Guy Thing. What better to draw attention to your manly mounds than a great hunk of silver or gold dangling above them. The textile industry, still scrambling to double their output of bras, rebounded next. The world's fashion designers, now with a suddenly increased clientele, set the pace with men's fashions that changed as fast as women's once did. To the joy of every intelligent being on the planet the necktie became a museum piece and collector's item within months.
Since so many Captains of Industry now proudly sported generously proportioned bosoms they inevitably became a status symbol. Plastic surgeons were flooded with business from ordinary men who, remaining respectful of women and thus flat chested, felt inadequate in new ways. By the following summer the beaches were crowded with topless bathers, both male and female, and life had become depressingly normal.
Thus it was one year later, on another hot summer's evening, that Bonnie found herself among the hissing, steaming cauldrons of the lab once again. As the hatch opened the expected burst of steam appeared and once again Lucifer made himself known.
He didn't look quite so dapper this time, in fact he looked downright pissed off. He stared coldly at Bonnie (quite a trick with steam leaking from your ears) and finally spoke.
"You! What have you done to me?"
The innocent Bonnie looked at the apparition for a few moments, jotted a note on her charts, then turned back to the Devil.
"Back again? Interested in any more deals? That last one worked out pretty well. If you give me your address I'll send you an invitation to our wedding. Once Bryce figured out what it was like cope with tits like mine he learned real fast and turned out to be a pretty nice guy after all. We're getting married in a couple of months."
"That's just the problem! My business has dropped so dramatically that I've had to lay off half my demons. Men have gotten so damned understanding and tolerant that there hasn't been a good War in months. Domestic violence has dropped to somewhere about 20th in the crime stats and if those cursed legislators repeal the drug laws there won't be enough people going to Hell to keep me working more than two days a week! How could you do this to me!"
"Such a pity. You've done so much for me I feel sorry you're having so much trouble, but how can I do anything?"
"How much do you want to buy out of our deal?"
"Why should I care? Remember, the Rabbi still tells me Hell isn't real for us Jews."
"Are you so sure? Do you really want to take the chance?"
"Well, there is one thing that might tempt me."
"Well, temptation is one of my specialties. What?"
"You use your powers to make Bryce and me a C cup and assure us a lifetime supply of sexy bras and I'll let you out of the deal."
The world rippled slightly, or was it just the air shimmering in the heat of the lab? Bonnie found herself once again alone, but feeling strangely lighter as her bosom melted away.
"Silly bugger, all he would have had to do was wait for the next generation to grow up and they would have ignored all the lessons their parents learned. Hell would have filled up again without any help, but some people just can't wait for the inevitable, can they?"
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