“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?”
“Only good animals go to Heaven, don’t they?”
“You’ll be getting the bad ones.”
“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?”
“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?”
“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.