Beasts

“That’s brilliant,” said Lucifer, laughing over his morning newspaper.
“What is?” said Lili, his wife.
“The Pope’s announced that animals go to Heaven. Hilarious.”
Lili sighed quietly. He’d promised and promised he wouldn’t bring his work home and here they were again. Her friends told her Lucifer was a dull, officious, self-obsessed, workaholic prick but did she listen?
She thought for a moment.
“That’s a problem, isn’t it?” she said.
“What do you mean?” he said, looking at her over his reading glasses.
“Animals going to Heaven. There’s a corollary.”
“Come again?” Like many successful men from privileged backgrounds, not being too bright hadn’t proved a barrier to Lucifer’s meteoric fall.
“There are ethical and moral implications, aren’t there?”
“Do what?”
“Only good animals go to Heaven, don’t they?”
“Meaning?”
“You’ll be getting the bad ones.”
“Shit.”
“And what about the philosophical considerations?”

Lucifer pretended he knew what she was talking about by looking thoughtful.
“I mean, how do you decide what constitutes a good or a bad animal?” said Lili.
“Right, right,” said Lucifer.
“’I was only following orders’ isn’t a defence against damnation for a human, but what about a dog that’s been trained to bite people by its owner?”
“Biting people is bad.”
“Does the dog know that though? What about a foul-mouthed parrot?”
“Bad.”
“Are they?”
“Swearing’s bad.”
“You want to be surrounded by parrots effing and jeffing all day?”
“Of course not.”
“What about behavioural determinism?”
“I don’t think we need worry about that,” said Lucifer. He’d only mentioned animals going to Heaven for a laugh.
“I think we do. What about the thieving magpie?”
“Bad.”
“Is it? Even though stealing shiny things is in its nature? How it was created?”
“Look,” said Lucifer, throwing the newspaper down on the table. “Biting dogs? Bad. Swearing parrots? Bad. Thieving magpies? Bad.” He got up, grabbed his hat and briefcase, and headed for the door. “I’m taking them all,” he said over his shoulder.
“Good,” said Lili, grinning a terrible grin.

Lucifer’s desk was covered in birdshit. A dozen parrots were screaming obscenities at him from on top of the stationery cupboard. They made him blush. His arm was in a sling after a Bichon Frisé from Northampton had taken a chunk out of it. The little bastard had chewed Lucifer’s brogues as well. And where in Hell were his favourite cufflinks?

Lili went to Mauritius for the duration. She didn’t send as much as a postcard.

Black Pitch

It had been a long meeting for the chief of the intelligence service. The Prime minister had brought a list again. There was little sign that he might be nearing the end of it.
“OK if we can’t do that what about if we coated let’s say packets of playing cards or dirty magazines or cigarettes with I don’t know anthrax no Ebola and then airdropped them on these terrorist johnnies what’s to stop us doing that?” said the Prime Minister.
“Morality, sir?” said chief of the intelligence service, the word strange in his mouth. He was not used to being on the side of the angels. His every synapse was white hot with the effort of keeping weary disdain from his voice. “Children may find the items instead.”
“Morality. I’m always forgetting that, aren’t I?” the Prime minister said with unmalicious honesty. He grinned stupidly and reddened. In the long years of his premiership he had not once thought of an idea that would not have seen them all either imprisoned for life or possibly publicly and horribly murdered. This failure had not depressed, deflected or discouraged him. Rather, he saw it as some kind of continuing intellectual challenge. He found it fun and stimulating. Whatever else, he certainly thought his ideas worth sharing. He picked up another scrap of paper.
“Apronknickers. Now your lady can be a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom without any of the fuss!”
“I beg your pardon, Prime Minister?”
“Sorry, sorry, that’s something else. I’m thinking of going back to advertising when this is all over. That’s a slogan I came up with all by myself.”
The chief of the intelligence service was torn. He had not been able to decide which was more dangerous, the Prime Minister getting re-elected or being released back into the wild. It was quite possible that, unsupervised, the man could be a pain in his service’s arse for decades to come.
“I’ve received a very interesting letter from a man who says he can make terrorists infertile,” said the Prime Minister.