The Devil’s Treasure
from a novel-in-progress by Mary Gaitskill
WHEN GINGER WAS SEVEN she went to Hell. She’d first heard of it because her father said “What the hell!” when something was funny. Then one day he came out of his bedroom shouting “This is hell!” while her mother cried behind the door and it was not funny. His eyes were staring and he was showing his teeth like a scared dog. When she asked, her grandmother told her Hell was a made-up place underground where people went to be tortured forever. Then she saw a cartoon in which the Devil sat on a pile of treasure and laughed while demons poked dancing people in the behind with pitchforks. It did not look like torture. It looked scary but interesting too.
The night she went to Hell, Ginger went to sleep in the bedroom she shared with her sister. They laid their heads on their pillows and their mother sang them “Tender Shepherd.”
One say your prayers and
Two close your eyes and
Three safe and happily
And then Ginger went looking for Hell. She didn’t have to look far. Her spirit rose off her and walked through the house. The furniture watched her kindly. The only thing that called her was the sugar bowl, from which she liked to sneak spoonfuls during the day. But her spirit didn’t stop even for that. She went straight to the backyard and found the trapdoor that lead to Hell. It wasn’t hard to open. The stairway down was clean and well-lit. She thought, “I will steal the Devil’s treasure and put it under my bed so I’ll have it in the morning!”
As she ran down the stairs in her nightie, she noticed pictures on the walls. They showed faces and scenes, and they moved as she went past. In one picture, naked people were being driven up a great stone stair by powerful men with no faces. It reminded her of the cartoon so she stopped to look at it. And then she was in it.
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