top of page

And the Devils Win Again! 

by Casey Wesemann

     “And the Devils win again!” The crowd roared with excitement at the spokesman’s words. The win was of no surprise to the home team or even their competitors. The Jerseyville Devils basketball team was notorious for winning every single game they played. Every team member scored when the ball was thrown his way, but the crowd still went wild despite the predictable normalcy in their routine winning. 

     The team itself was an odd sight to see. A mix of all heights and shapes. Tall knobby-kneed boys with curly red mops of hair passing the ball to short stubby-legged guys covered in scabs was not an uncommon sight. The magnificent part of it all was the weekly guys-ask-girls dances. No matter how unfortunate any member of the Devils was, he always scored a date with a halfway decent gal. The luck of the team was terrific, to say the least. The local newspaper chalked it up to the school’s basketball coach— Coach Beherit. 

     The headlines tagged Beherit as a basketball god and praised his ability to turn any boy into an all-star, seemingly overnight. Coach didn’t make many appearances apart from the weekly games, but when he did make appearances for interviews, he was always over-the-top and boisterous. Wearing his flashy red polo shirt under his too expensive, but ornately designed, sports coat. Topped off with a solid gold beetle broach pinned to the top of his tie. His chin always jutted out and pointed towards the ceiling as if to indicate his importance. He’d flash the camera a 1,000-watt smile before turning to greet his interviewer. 

     This night’s win was no exception for Coach Beherit’s ostentatious displays. He marched in the gymnasium— black, leather, polished, and pointed shoes clacking on the floor as he waved half-heartedly to onlookers, making a beeline to an excited local news reporter. She anxiously straightened out her cardigan and groomed her hair with her fingers before shakily extending a hand out towards Beherit. He greeted her warmly before the cameras turned on, causing every high schooler to pull goofy faces to be shown on the news later that night. 

     It wasn’t unusual to see the female faculty and news reporters blush shyly when Coach was around. Admittedly, he was a handsome man with strong prominent features. His height, confidant stance, and glimmering eyes were nothing to sneeze at either. If you were to ask any girl what they liked about him they’d just glance sideways before meekly replying, “There’s just something about him!”

     Indeed, no one could quite place their finger on any particular aspect about him that made him different than any other tall good-looking man. Perhaps it was his charming and flirtatious nature. Maybe it was the way he always knew what to say. Either way, there was no denying that coach Beherit was devilishly handsome. 

     The buzzer sounded marking the end of the game. The crowd cheered and hollered so loud it made my ears ring. I looked out into the audience to view a sea of red and black, Jerseyville high school’s colors. We had won, again. Same old routine. Every boy on the team began high-fiving and fist-bumping the air making their jerseys jostle around. I snuck away to the locker room before the congratulatory hazing from the team. 

     I felt disgusted. I had missed a perfectly clear shot, and to make matters worse, Knobby-Knees scored the final points for our team. It made our team look especially awful when any one of us missed a shot. Our clean slate was tarnished. I knew when coach Beherit was finished interviewing that I would be in for the scolding of my life. I knew why I made the mistake and so did Coach. Before I opened the locker room door, I looked down at my sneakers and picked up a yellow, coffee-stained game ticket singed around the edges. The pit in my stomach worsened. 

     I quickly changed into my clothes and threw my discarded uniform into my gym bag. I turned on my heels to leave but a hand caught my shoulder. It was the janitor. His eyes seemed glazed over like he was out of it. He spoke in a deep gravelly voice, “I can only pull so many strings, Felix.”

     I didn’t recognize this voice to be the janitors but rather coach Beherit. “I’m sorry?” I choked out.  

     “I can’t keep pulling your dead weight all the time,” he said with a look of disapproval. “You need to formally agree to play for our team.”

     I looked down at my shoes, studying the gray concrete floors.

     “You will sign it won’t you, Felix?” the janitor implored.

     Without looking up I stammered out, “I-I’ll think about it, promise!”

     The janitor’s eyes flashed black for a brief moment before he shook his head. “You have until the homecoming game Friday night. If you don’t have an answer by then you’re off the team.”

     The janitor quickly left the locker room, leaving me dumbfounded as I leaned against the doorframe. I poked my head out of the locker room expecting to lock eyes with Coach, but to my surprise, the gym was empty except for the janitor sweeping the polished wooden floor. He smiled warmly at me and commented on our team's win. He had no recollection of what had happened, which terrified me all the more. 

     My parents congratulated me on my win during our car ride home. They were filled with joy as they recalled my best plays and how fast I was on the court; all the while smiling at me in the rear-view mirror. Once we arrived home, I threw my bag down in the doorway and made a dash to my bedroom. All the events from tonight played in my mind like a tape recorder. I needed to sign the contract. There was no other choice. My parents and I lived in a small two-bedroom house, and each of them only worked part-time in order to take care of my elderly grandma. The only chance I had of getting to college was a basketball scholarship, and the only chance I had of securing my scholarship was signing Beherit’s contract. The only thing left to do was find a date for tomorrow night’s dance. 

     I managed to get through the first half of my school day without asking any girl to the dance. I concluded that most of them already had dates since the chatter amongst the eligible girls in my class was about what dresses they would wear tonight. This was a small high school and those who waited until the last minute usually got stuck asking girls they really didn’t want to go with. I grew more nervous when I heard many girls in my sixth-period class discussing their excitement about tonight. I got to my seventh-hour class relatively early and spotted Marleena sitting in the front corner of the room. Marleena had long dark hair that was usually pinned straight and somewhat greasy. It hung across her face like curtains concealing her porcelain complexion. She was doodling flowers in the margins of her notebook. I braced myself.

     “Hey, Marleena. Are you going to the dance tonight?”

     In any other town, being so straightforward might get you a slap across the face, but here in Jerseyville it was commonplace. These weekly dances were designed to make guys buck up and be confident when asking out a girl— and potentially get used to rejection. She looked up from her notebook and tucked her hair behind her ears like that would help her hear better.

     “Huh?” she asked.

     “Are you going to the dance tonight? I need a date.”

     Marleena turned away from my gaze for a second before a look of confusion washed over her and she sheepishly replied, “Uhh, sure.”

     Some kids began to file into the room. “Cool, I’ll see you at 6.” 

     I couldn’t believe the mess I’d gotten myself into. I straightened out my white collared shirt and shook my head at my reflection in the mirror and the absurdity of it all. I glanced down at my watch and decided it was time to head out. I waited for her in the lobby of the gymnasium, expecting to see her with her unkempt hair waltz in through the door. I glanced down at my watch— 6:05. Just as I began to ponder on the possibility that I had been ditched, she walked through the door. She smiled softly and walked toward me. My eyes flew open in surprise. Her hair was pulled up and away from her face, and her dress magnified her light eyes. I could hardly believe it was Marleena. I could actually see her. 

     I held my arm out for her to take and lead her into the gym. We joined the other couples on the dance floor and swayed back and forth to the slow music. My gaze traveled around the gym looking for Coach Beherit. I nervously gulped and squeezed my eyes shut.

     “You seem nervous,” Marleena said beside my ear.

     “Yea, it’s just basketball team stuff,” I replied, attempting to dismiss my own nerves.

     “It’s about Coach’s contract, isn’t it? The one he makes all the boys sign?”

     I pulled back astonished and stopped our swaying. “How do you know about that?”

     The contract was a secret well kept by Jerseyville basketball players. You only found out about the contract if you were really down on your luck. I stared her down as other couples danced around us.

     “My dad used to play for the Devils.” She began playing with the hem of her dress. “Are you gonna’ sign the contract?” she asked.

     I looked around and grabbed her hand and led us outside. We sat down on the cool concrete steps of the gym. The night was beautiful. The crescent moon was cradled by peachy pink clouds with a curtain of navy cascading into the tree line. I exhaled and shook my head in defeat.

     “I don’t know what to do. I need the scholarship. That’s my ticket to college. I have no other way.” I was staring into the sky, but I could feel Marleena’s gaze on me.

     “You could just study and make good grades; that’s what I’m trying to do.”

     I scoffed at that. “Yea, you study all the time and have your nose buried in textbooks while everyone else is playing sports and actually having fun. You look insane compared to everyone else.” I realized how cruel it sounded the moment it left my mouth. I looked over expecting to see tears welling in her eyes, but I didn’t. She was beaming from ear to ear with a twinkle in her eyes.

     “When you follow the crowd, the outsiders look crazy. But when you’re an outsider, you realize the crazy ones are the crowd.” I must have had a bewildered look on my face because Marleena began to giggle at me. “You should talk to my dad. He’s very wise and might be able to help you.”

     I nodded my head still processing her words. “Did your dad get out of the contract?” I asked with a hopeful tone. “Mhmm” she smirked, “But you’d have to ask him yourself to get all the details. He’s coming to pick me up tonight.” 

     I told Marleena I’d wait for her until her dad arrived. It was getting late, and the gym was beyond crowded at this point, so we began dancing on the steps right where we were, under the stars. A while later, headlights approached, and Marleena pulled away. With a sheepish grin, she grabbed my hand and led me to her dad’s car. Marleena told me to wait as she jogged to the driver’s side of the car. I could see she was talking to her dad, but I couldn’t make out what she was saying. A minute later she waved me over.

     “This is my dad, Solomon.” He extended his hand out for me to shake.

     “Hi, Sir.” I shuffled nervously on my feet. The dance would be officially over in an hour.

     “Marleena told me about your problem,” Solomon said, “I, myself, was in your predicament once. Come with me so we can talk somewhere private. Beherit’s eyes are everywhere here.”

     I climbed into the back seat next to Marleena, and Solomon began driving into a subdivision which I assumed to be their house. We stepped out of the car and the sound of crickets and frogs filled my ears. The air around me felt mildly chilly, as fall was setting in. Solomon ushered us into the house.

     “Marleena, could give us a moment?” Solomon asked.

     She nodded and walked down the hallway before I heard her bedroom door gently click shut.  Solomon pulled out a chair for me at the kitchen table and sat across from me. In the dim light of the kitchen, I could finally get a better look at Solomon. He had warm blue eyes and skin tanner than Marleena. He had laugh lines around his eyes and freckles peppered around his face that reached to the top of his gray hair. He studied me for a minute before warmly smiling.

     “I know what it’s like to want. To want a better life, more money, a nicer house or car. Just more. I never had those things. I thought that if I did then maybe life would be easier. When I thought about signing Beherit’s contract, I was down on my luck. My parents were gamblers and used every cent at the casinos in the city. I knew I would never make it out of that house if I didn’t get a sports scholarship. I wasn’t academically inclined, and I was too ashamed to ask for help, so I knew I would have to sign the contract, but something inside me detested the idea, and then I realized who Beherit really was.”

     A thick silence filled the air between us. Dust danced around the bright ceiling lamp in the otherwise dark kitchen. I broke the silence, “What do you mean who Beherit really was? Who is he really?”

     Solomon looked at me warmly. His freckled face scrunched into a soft smile. He stood up to walk me to the door and I followed suit.

     “I can’t tell you who Beherit is, but I can tell you how to find out for yourself. I can give you a hint. Revealed in the splintered-looking glass a beast seeks to purvey. A frightful fate awaits the beast if the golden scarab runs away. To win, Poses the auricle insect, but a willing hand is requisite.” I felt my brows furrow in confusion and frustration. Solomon put his hand on my shoulder and smiled once more. “Don’t agree to play for his team, Felix. You have more to offer the world than you could ever imagine. Think carefully and be brave.” 

     I didn’t get an ounce of sleep that night. I tossed and turned in my bed watching the blades of the ceiling fan spin as I replayed Solomon’s riddle through my mind. None of it made sense. I glanced at my alarm clock on my bedside table— 2 a.m. I groaned internally and sauntered into the living room and plopped on the couch. I switched on the T.V. which was playing the local news station. I watched with tired eyes as the optimistic reporter held out the microphone to Coach Beherit. I groaned again, this time out loud. The riddle played in my mind over and over like a record spinning. Looking glass, beast, golden scarab, it all seemed nonsensical. And why was Solomon so determined to deter me from signing the contract? Sure, Coach Beherit was mysterious, and strange things have happened since I joined the team, but he couldn’t be evil! I ran through the riddle once more in my mind as I watched Beherit smile at the reporter and grab the microphone. Then I noticed something I had only briefly noted before. The shiny gold scarab beetle secured tightly onto Beherit’s coat. 

     I kept my head down as I walked in the hallway to the gym intently listening to the sound of basketballs plunking on the floor fade as I walked into the locker room. The team had arrived early to train before our homecoming game. I held my jersey in my hands for a moment trying to decode the rest of Solomon’s riddle. I studied the red and black fabric earnestly searching for an answer.

     Bang! The sound of a rouge basketball hitting and breaking the mirror interrupted my thoughts. I watched as the ball hit the brim of the sink before rolling off and coming to a halt. The sudden outburst reminded me that I had a game to play tonight. I changed into my jersey and bent down to pick up the stray ball. As I lifted my head up, I peered into the shattered mirror and my heart jumped into my throat. I saw a figure with an orange seared face with horns jutting out from the side of its head and the top of his shoulders. Ash-colored talons curved towards the palms of its hands. I looked over my shoulder and saw Coach Beherit. I snapped my head back towards the mirror, but I no longer saw the horrific entity. When I looked behind me, Beherit was off to the side grinning from ear to ear.

     “Have you thought more about the contract, Felix? The game is in 15 minutes.”

     I grabbed the lip of the sink with white knuckles and studied Beherit. He was wearing his typical flashy uniform topped off with his ostentatious beetle broach. Realization flashed over my features. Revealed in the splintered-looking glass a beast seeks to purvey. A frightful fate awaits the beast if the golden scarab runs away.

     “What’s wrong Felix? You look like you’re at death’s door!”

     I backed myself further up to the sink. I was face to face with the devil himself, and I had to get that broach- fast. 

     I sighed deeply, feigning defeat. “I’ll sign the contract.”

     Beherit put his hand on my shoulder the same way that Solomon had. Only his hand wasn’t warm and reassuring. Rather it was cold and unwelcoming as his talons dug into the flesh of my shoulder.

     “I was hoping you would see it my way, Felix,” he spoke sinisterly as he looked at me through the mirror with his yellow eyes.

     I bowed my head and my gaze hit the floor. He guided me over to the bench before reaching into his tailored sports coat to pull out his contract. He uncurled the singed parchment and handed it to me. I watched carefully as he pulled a fountain pen from his pocket and gently unpinned his broach. He pulled a clamp and I watched in amazement as the beetle’s wings flew open to reveal a well of red ink. Beherit was smirking with delight as he handed me the broach. A willing hand is requisite. I carefully grasped it in my palm as I looked up at him. Without hesitation, I threw the broach onto the floor and stepped on it. Beherit’s eyes flew open in disbelief, and I watched in awe as he transformed into the horned entity before turning into black ash on the concrete floor. With labored breath, I looked at the mess of red ink and black ash covering the floor. From the corner of my eye, I saw a golden beetle with wings dusted in ash crawling away towards the door. I crushed the beetle, grinning at the satisfying crunch it made under my shoe. I tucked the basketball under my arm before marching out to the gym. 

     Panicked voices filled the gym as teachers and reporters scrambled to find Beherit. After the referee announced it was game time, people surrendered to the fact that Beherit was officially a no-show. It wasn’t just the worst game our team had ever played; it was the worst game the Jerseyville Devils had ever played. We were smoked. The gym was quiet after the loss. Save for the whispers of, “What happened to coach? Why did they lose? What happened?”

     I smiled triumphantly as I walked out of the school and down the concrete steps toward Solomon and Marleena. Both of them mirrored my smile as Solomon congratulated me. I felt the autumn wind blow through my hair as I glanced at Marleena. Maybe going to college on an academic scholarship would be easier than I thought.  

     This story is dedicated to my family who always encouraged me in my creative pursuits. A special thanks to my dad who read to me every night when I was young and inspired my love of reading and writing all throughout my life.

bottom of page