by Brad Holland
The Devil walked into Linebaugh's on a rainy Nashville night
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 hear.
And Eddie, he just looks away and takes another sip of beer.
Vince, he says, "Not
me, I'll pass, I've had my share of Hell,"
And kept scribbling on a napkin, some song he was sure would sell.
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
If you're lookin' for some action, friend, well, I've rolled some dice before."
And there stood Billy Markham, he'd been on the scene for years,
Singin' all them raunchy songs that the town didn't want to hear.
He'd been cut and bled a thousand times, and his eyes were wise and sad,
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 funky place,
But you always spoke in a different voice and wore a different face.
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 of yours."
"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
And will your useless bones to God, 'cause your goddamn soul is mine!"
"Thirteen?" says Billy Markham. "Hell, I've played in tougher games.
I've loved ambitious women and I've rode on wheelless trains.
So gimme room, you stinkin' fiend, and let it all unwind.
Nobody's ever rolled a thirteen yet, but this just might be the time."
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
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 like this."
"Well, then, walk off," says the Devil. "Nobody's tied you down."
"Walk off where?" says Billy Markham. "It's the only game in town.
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 or fuck
And who ain't afraid to put his ass on the stage where he makes his bucks.
But if he plays this guitar safe, and sings some sugary lies,
I'll haunt him till we meet in Hell -- now, gimme them fuckin' dice."
And Billy Markham shakes the dice and yells, "Come on, thirteen!"
And the dice, they roll -- and they come up blank. "You lose!" the Devil
"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 the floor.
And if you go into Linebaugh's now, you can see it there today
Hangin' from a nail on the wall of peelin' gray
Billy Markham's old guitar . . .
That nobody dares to play.
Billy Markham and the Fly
Billy Markham slowly turns on a white-hot steel spit,
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 and mud,
By a hairy imp with a pointed stick who bastes him in spider's blood.
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 got,
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
Hey, a little more brimstone for number nine -- and stoke up the heat a bit higher.
Ah, you just can't get good help these days, and there ain't much profit in Hell.
No -- turn that adulteress upside down -- do I have to do everything myself?
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
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 . . .
I'll trade you one roll of the dice for the soul of the one who loves you most."
"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
"You can burn me, roast me or bake me," says Billy. "Go have your
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
And I know ways to make a brave man die a million times."
"Then do it, motherfucker!" Billy Markham screams. "But I won't trade
"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
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 . . .
Then the 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
And he hears the jukebox blaring loud, and smells the perfume and the piss,
And he 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 Devil cry,
"Or you gonna sit all night and stroke that floor like you stroke a young girl's
And as Billy takes the dice, he knows that if he wins,
Then Hades will have been a dream, and his soul will be his again.
"I guess my point is still thirteen?" Billy Markham asks.
"The point's the same," the Devil sneers, "and the stakes are still your
"Well, one never knows," Billy Markham says, "when luck's gonna smile on
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, thirteen."
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 Devil's
"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
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 purple flame.
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 lovin' way.
And buzzin' 'cross Bill's burnin' bones and landing on his starin' eye
And nibblin' on his roastin' flesh
Is that grinnin' Linebaugh's fly.
Billy Markham's Last Roll
"Good morning, Billy Markham, it's time to rise and shine."
The Devil's words come grindin' into Billy's burnin' mind.
And he opens up one bloodshot eye to that world of living death,
And he feels the Devil's bony claw and he smells the Devil's rotten breath.
"Wake up, Sunshine!" the Devil laughs. "I'm giving you another turn."
"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
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?" 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
"And since when," says Billy, raisin' up, "do you go around handing out
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'
And I said to myself, 'Hey, I bet old Billy could use a little bit of
"Poon?" says Billy Markham. "Last thing I need is poon.
Talk about gettin' my ashes hauled, Hell, I'll be all ashes soon."
"Damn, damn!" the Devil screams. "He's been too long on the
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
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 show.
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.
Now 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 floor.
He nails the waitress down at Macks, the one with the pear-shaped breasts,
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 ivy walls.
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,
And three fat Gospel singers who all came together in perfect three-part harmony.
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
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 Hell."
"Hold on!" says Billy with one last thrust. "If I got thirty seconds
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
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?
Or fresh-scented 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 you."
"Foul!" cries the Devil. "Foul, no fair! The rules don't hold for
"You said man or woman or beast," says Bill, "and I guess you're all of
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 fiery red,
"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 last,
Or raise your tail and hear all Hell wail when I bugger your devilish ass."
"You got me," spits the Devil. "Go on and stay on your precious earth,
And plod along and plug your songs, but carry this life-long curse.
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 be."
"Ah, well," says Billy Markham, "they never were mine to lose,
No family, no pussy and no records, Hell, I'm used to them kind of dues."
So back on the streets goes Billy again, eatin' them Linebaugh's beans,
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,
While he 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 high.
And Billy tells his tale again to anyone who'll buy.
With waving arms and rolling eyes, he screams to the drunken throng,
"I've whipped the Devil and lived through Hell, now who's gonna sing my song?"
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
"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 in."
"Scuzzy Sleezo hisself," Billy Markham says. "Man, you're a legend in
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
So I'm the world's greatest hustler's agent now and, Billy, I been studyin' your
I seen your first match with the Devil," says Scuzz, "it was a Volkswagen/Mack
And your second shot, well, you showed me a lot, but you got burned by a hometown
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
"The Champ?" says Billy Markham. "Now, who in God's name is that?"
"Why, God Himself," says Scuzzy Sleezo. "You know anybody more champ
"Hey, a match with God?" Billy Markham gasps. "And what would be the
"Why, a place in heaven, of course," says Scuzz, "'stead of livin' this
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 Crystal Cue
And the time is three months later, and the smoke is thick and blue,
And the emerald cloth is stained with tears and blood and ketchup spots,
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
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
"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 hustling pool."
"Well, where you expect to find me," says God, "on a throne with cherubs
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
"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
"Beg pardon, Lord," says Scuzzy Sleezo, "I don't mean no disrespect,
But when you're dealing with my boy, don't speak to him direct.
I'm his agent and
consultant, Scuzzy Sleezo is the name,
Premier Promotional Artist's Representative of the whole street-hustlin' game.
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
"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 clean.
The five ball falls, he sinks the seven, and then drops the 13.
He makes the nine, comes off the cushion and puts the six away,
Bags the three and the eight on a triple combination and wins the first game on a smooth
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
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
"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 swirls,
Bustin' in and out of every pool game in the world.
It 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 every day.
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
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
"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 awhile."
"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
And he reaches out and yanks off God's white beard -- and there stands the Devil
"You said you was God", Billy Markham cries. "You conned me and hustled
"I am God -- sometimes -- and sometimes I'm the Devil, good and bad, just
I'm everything and everyone in perfect combination,
And everybody but you kows that there ain't no separation.
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 harp.
Hey, anybody want to shoot some eight ball?"
And cold and white and tremblin', Billy walks out into the night,
Where a golden staircase stretches all the way to paradise.
And he grips the glitterin' balustrade and begins his grand ascent.
"Just a minute, good buddy", yells Scuzzy Sleezo. "How about my fifty
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 surprised.
I thought you could smuggle me into Heaven wearing my Sleezy disguise.
'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 bein' played,
And down, down below, hear Scuzzy Sleezo curse his name,
To the click-click-click of the pool balls
As God hustles another game.
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,
But he searches the heavens with haunted eyes -- for his mind still walks through Hell.
His thoughts are down in that nether world, in that burning fiery rain.
His thoughts are with his momma, how he longs to soothe her pain.
His thoughts are with his little girl, how he'd love to ease her cryin'.
His thoughts are with his own true love, how he'd love to bust her spine.
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 crowds.
Then down through a manhole still clutching the rope, to a stench that he knows quite
"Neath the sewers of the street, till he feels his feet touch the shit-mucked shores
He has scaled the crusted, rusted gates, he has thrown a bone to the Hounds.
He has floated the putrid river Styx, still down and further down.
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.
He has found the vat where his momma boils; he has lifted her gently from the deep.
He has found the grate where his little girl burns;
he has 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 lay.
He has cursed her as a whore of Hell; he has cursed and turned away.
"From this day", says Billy, "I place my faith only in mother and child,
And never again will I look for love in a bitch's cum-stained smile."
Then up, back up the rope he climbs, up through the sufferin' swarms,
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
And now he wears his crimson robes and his horns are buttered bright,
And blood oozes through his white-linen gloves and his skin glows red in the night.
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 of sin?
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 day long,
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 me.
You made me the laughingstock of Hell and the whole world laughed with you,
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?
You call yourself free?" the Devil laughs. "Why, you prudish, uptight schmuck,
You'd leave your sweet love burn in Hell for one harmless little suck.
What would you rather she had done, leaped in the boiling manure . . .
So's you could keep your fantasy of someone sweet and pure?
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
But when the shame burns worse than Hades' fires -- how do you talk that
"Shame?" laughs the Devil. "She's only a woman -- she did what she had
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
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 wife."
"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 cord,
Billy Markham screams!
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 they sift
Like fallen stars to a blood-red sea, each bearing the Devil a gift.
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 skull-and-crossbone chairs,
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 linen.
The feast is a human barbecue and the sauce is beriberi
Flavored with gore from the burning hordes and cooked by Typhoid Mary.
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
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.
There is Nero, madly fiddlin' his fiddle and Gabriel on horn,
And the Black Bitch of Buchenwald beating her drum, and Arthur Rank bangin' his gong,
And Marie Laveau, she plays her bones and Yorick, he plays his,
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 everyone applauds,
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
And 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,
While Ivan the Terrible's trying to get into Virgin Mary's pants.
Henry the Eighth, he screams, "More food, more music, more wine, more wives,"
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,
While Freud and Rasputin are arguing pussy with Attila the Hun and Socrates.
And John Wilkes Booth, he's havin' a toot, and J. Edgar Hoover's in drag,
While Amelia Earhart is talkin' to Lindbergh, 'bout splittin' a five-cent bag,
And Mary Baker Eddy's drunk and tellin' dirty jokes,
And Fatty Arbuckle's shoutin', "Hey, anybody got another coke?"
And Alice Toklas and Gertrude Stein are gigglin' behind the door,
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 Polo's ass,
And Billy Sunday and Mary Magdalene announce they're goin' steady,
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 interested in.
And Nero's laughin' as he sets fire to Mata Hari's hair,
While Oscar Wilde says to Billy the Kid, "Hey, Kid, let me show you round
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
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
But if there's any hellish and heavenly way that I can make it right,
If it costs my balls, over Hades' walls, I'll get you away tonight."
And the lady smiles a wanton smile, as round and round the room they swing.
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 sit alone.
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 way."
And the Devil strips off his crimson cloak, and he casts his pitchfork aside,
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 angel's head
And hand in hand they make their way to the Devil's firery bed.
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
"I love you, too, motherfucker", she laughs -- in Billy Markham's
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
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
I'll give you a child who weighs ninety-five pounds, you talk about screamin' pain!"
"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,
And that could be the makin's for a happy marriage, and since neither of us ever gonna
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 bed.