How Far Down is Hell, Do You Wonder?

Sometimes Danny got scared. He never did like to admit it, but sometimes when he sat on his front porch he'd start tappin' his foot and hummin' and fidgetin' and the like. His wife said it was somethin' with his brain. His rockin' chair helped. So did his cigars.

I remember when the men in suits came and had a hole dug in his field, lookin' for oil. "You just might be a rich man," they told him. One of 'em clapped him on the back and he broke down into tears. He sobbed for hours. I couldn't even tell if he was happy or sad. When his wife heard the news, she put her hand to her chest like she was about to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and plum near fainted. I ain't seen her do anything like'at since her first-born son died in the war.

I stood beside the hole one night. Danny stood beside me. We stared into it long and hard like we didn't quite know what to make of it. Then I asked him, I said, "Danny, how deep do you think that there hole is?"

He laughed. "I dunno, son. How deep do you think it is?"

I thought about it a minute. "A hundred feet!" I shouted, smiling proudly, sure of myself.

He laughed again, louder, and then shook his head.

"Danny?" I said.

He looked at me.

"Do you think if they dig deep enough they'll run into the devil?"

He bit his bottom lip, rubbing the palms of his hands over his dirty pants legs. "I don't rightly know, son," he said. "I think the devil's a bit too far down for 'em."

But the devil was not too far down. They found him alright. He came squirtin' up out of the ground all black and smelly, showerin' down on Danny and his wife's grass like a fountain. I was at my house when it happened but I could still see it. I sat and watched as the devil caught fire and let loose the wrath of hell outta that hole.

The diggers were runnin' around callin' for water, hollerin' that someone got burned.

I didn't find out until hours later that it was Danny. He'd been standin' too close to the hole when the devil came, shakin' and smokin' a cigar.