#FridayFlash: The Statefair Letters

My dear nephew Wormwood,

It is with some distress that I received your most recent report. The Ohio State Fair was a perfect opportunity to ensure the absolute corruption of Tony Noland's soul, yet he remains only partially corrupted. If you continue to let such simple tasks remain undone, your career as a Tempter will forever be a less-than-remarkable footnote in the annals of our family. Clearly, you misunderstood the instructions I gave you in my last letter for how you should tempt the Patient at the Ohio State Fair.

The Seven Sins were not a mere suggestion as to your method of approach; they were what the humans call a "check list". If you like, you should think of them as a chain with seven links. If any one of the links goes unforged, the Patient may very well escape us and go floating up to The Wretched Place. He'll be weighted down by those links that are around him, but he will ONLY be weighted down. For his soul to be bound to us for all eternity, you must forge all seven links, and forge them well.

Gluttony is far too simple. The Patient already had a strong propensity toward this Sin; his indulgence represents no accomplishment at all on your part. If in addition to the elephant ears, french fries, pepperoni pizza, mashed potatoes and gravy, coleslaw, pierogies with sour cream, sauerkraut, corn dogs, cotton candy and slider burgers, you had also enticed him to consume salt water taffy, deep fried pickles, baby back ribs, gyros or caramel corn, perhaps his gluttony might have been notable.

Context, my dear Wormwood, context is everything. For a normal day, his eating would have been wonderfully disgusting. For the Ohio State Fair, however, it was rather restrained, and I blame you for that. Why, didn't you even notice that he had unsweetened iced tea? Or that his order at the Dairy Association counter included ice cream and milkshakes for everyone else, but a pint of low fat strawberry milk for himself? Why were you not paying attention? That would have been a perfect opportunity to tempt him into a strawberry milkshake instead.

As for his conduct with respect to the other Sins, you have much to answer for:
  • Wrath: not only did he not lose his temper with anyone, but on two separate occasions, he went out of his way to note placatingly that everyone was hot and tired. This not only turned away his own wrath, but that of the people he was with. 
  • Avarice: not only was he not miserly, he was generous with money for rides, treats, and souvenirs. He used his money to make other people feel BETTER, not WORSE. (Where in Hell were you, Wormwood?) 
  • Sloth: he was the first to push on to the next exhibit, the first to volunteer to go forward, the first to map out the schedule of events. Did he suggest simply waiting around until the lumberjack show started? No. He encouraged everyone in his party to use the time to explore the prairie grass exhibit AND the wetlands exhibit in the Natural Resources Pavilion. 
  • Pride: he paid no attention to the mismatched dorkiness of tan cargo shorts, a green-and-blue plaid shirt and a bright red baseball cap. When his pen leaked in his pocket, his only concern was that his little Moleskine notebook was clean. He didn't care AT ALL that the blotch on his shorts might affect his appearance. 
  • Lust: the worst thing he did was give an extra-long glance at an exceptionally attractive young woman, what you described as "a hottie in a pink crop top, denim mini and kicky leather ankle boots". (Just ONE glance at just ONE "hottie"? Wormwood, you are impossibly sloppy in your work.) 
  • Envy: surrounded by goods and materials, equipment and adornments and young, strong, healthy men and women, he could have been envious of them in a dozen different ways. Instead, you report that he felt only "joy" (a hateful word) at seeing the young people "doing well for themselves" and "having a good time". Appalling!

Your work ethic is entirely suspect, Wormwood. The Ohio State Fair is a place for people to go and have fun, see interesting things and learn about new products and services. It is the lion's den. You were sent there to Corrupt and Tempt, not ride rollercoasters on the Midway. I expect better work from you in the future, or I will roast you on a spit and eat you while you are still screaming.

Your affectionate Uncle,


===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. LOL, Wormwood just doesn't have it, does he? May all our tempters be so inept.

    1. I certainly dodged a bullet when I drew Wormwood.

  2. CS Lewis was just asking for fan-fiction with all that business, wasn't he? Good to see the demons got new work, from the Bureau of Atheism over to the Bureau of Cholesterol.

  3. You know I love these kinds of stories. Creative use of the letter form. Addressing the seven deadly sins. Killer, Tony.

  4. I was just searching for my copy of The Screwtape Letters! I must have lent it out because it's nowhere to be found. Now I must go buy another copy. A nice turn of events to your fair-going day. :)

    1. I'm happy to be on the same wavelength as you, Danni.

  5. "You were sent there to Corrupt and Tempt, not ride rollercoasters on the Midway." Awesome image.

    Uncle Screwtape is being far too harsh. Doesn't he know it's not the fat in the milk, but the sugar in the strawberry flavouring that's dangerous?

    1. 8-)

      I checked: a pint of low fat strawberry milk had only 160 calories. I probably got that in the spoonful of someone else's vanilla milkshake I caged.

  6. I love, love the Screwtape Letters -- (you should find the audiobook version John Cleese did, if you haven't already.) Charming pastiche, Tony! Your usual good work!

    And how did you wind up at the Ohio State Fair and I _didn't_know_?! Would have rousted the husband out and come down to say howdy. Take care.

  7. I have to hope that Wormwood remains incompetent, because I don't have half the willpower you do. Nice one.

  8. For some reason I'm very hungry now....I'd say poor Wormwood would have a much better chance at wrapping me up in gluttony than he did you Tony. :)
    Super fun story!


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