Azzie had been called to Hell in a peremptory fashion. His head was still spinning as he stood in Satan's sitting room in the white clapboard house where the CEO of Hell did much of his business.
A demon in blue suit and rep tie came out. "His Excellency will see you now." And just like that, Azzie was in the chambers of Satan. Satan's place looked like a Long Island sitting room in a fancy house in one of the best suburbs. There was nothing particularly Satanic about it—just golf trophies, hunting prints, and a smell of fine old leather.
Satan had all the elaborate Hellish stuff, the torture instruments, recordings of Black Masses, all the stage trappings, but they were in a different part of the house, which he kept for official business.
Satan was smallish, "with neat, prissy features, balding, bespectacled. He could take on any appearance he pleased, but he generally favored an unassuming look; at the moment he wore a yellow dressing robe with a paisley ascot tied around the neck.
"Ah, Azzie, it's been a long time! I haven't seen you since you were in my class on the ethics of Evil, back in the good old university days."
"Those were the good old days, sir," Azzie said. He had always been impressed with Satan. Satan was one of the main architects and theoreticians of Evil, and he had been the demon's role model for many years.
"Now, then," Satan said, "what's this I hear about you putting on a play?"
"Oh, yes," Azzie said. "It's true." He thought Satan would be pleased with his initiative. Satan was always telling the young demons to get out there and do something bad.
Azzie said, "I got this idea for an immorality play from watching one of the other kind. You see, sir, our opponents are always trying to prove that good actions are the only way to get good results. That's propagandistic and quite untrue. My play is going to show how absurd their notion is."
Satan laughed, but there was something pained in his expression as he said, "Well, I wouldn't exactly say that! The opposite of Good is not exactly Bad. You will remember, I pointed this out in my classes on basic infernal logic."
"Yes, sir. I don't mean to put Bad in the position of meaning you don't have to do anything to be rewarded for it."
"I should hope not!" Satan said. "That's not the position that Good takes. That's a fact of life whether you're good or bad."
"Yes, sir," Azzie said. "I guess I didn't quite see it that way. I mean, can't I do a play that brings up some of the good features of Evil?"
"Is it, sir? Yes, of course it is! I don't know, sir, I just got the idea that this would be a good thing to do.
It's amusing, you see, and our opponents are so serious minded."
"Do you mean to imply that we here in Hell are not serious minded? I can assure you that's not the case."
"That's not what I meant, sir!"
"I'd be rather careful about this idea," Satan said. "I don't want to order you outright to drop it. Why don't you put it on hold for a 'while? I'll try to find you some other assignment."
"On hold, sir? I couldn't do that. I've already got people working on it," Azzie said. "I've made promises.
I wouldn't want to stop my actors and go back on my word. Unless of course I am ordered to."
"Oh, no, no," Satan said, "I'm not going to order you to stop. Wouldn't that make me a laughingstock—if I ordered one of my own demons to stop putting on a play extolling Hellish activities! No, my dear fellow, it's entirely your choice. Just remember, if it doesn't work out the way you are rather fatuously hoping it will, well, you were warned. We did ask if you wouldn't like to at least postpone it until you could think it over."
Azzie was so shaken by all this that he left without asking after one of his main concerns: was the candlestick story really true? But he left determined to go on with his play, and to visit the one being he thought could help him with the matter, true or not.