Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke 

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The Devil’s Hoof Prints a Family Legend

Sit down kids, I’ve got a charming little story that has been passed down through my family for about 200 years. Ready?

The Devil fell in love with a beautiful southern belle as he was passing though the small town of Bath, North Carolina. She was charming and graceful and smart and when she laughed it sounded like tinkling bells… and the Devil was not the only one to fall in love with her. Half the town loved this girl but none so much as a handsome young horseman… and she loved him right back.

So, the Devil went a’courtin’ and he brought her flowers, and he brought her all the prettiest things a girl could want. But it didn’t matter because the truest kind of love isn’t about material things. Nothing the Devil did would turn the fair maiden from her beloved. And in case you are wondering, the Devil doesn’t like being thwarted and the Devil’s pretty clever, so he decided to try something else.

The Devil’s next trick was to coax the young horseman into a bet. Here were the terms of that bet: If the horseman won, the Devil would leave the young girl alone but if the horseman lost, the Devil would win the girl.

The clever maiden begged her horseman not to go riding against the Devil. She pleaded, but to no avail. He was confident, he had a swift steed and defeat had always been a stranger.

So off they went, the Devil and the horseman riding into the sunset at break-neck speed.

Want to know who won? You do, don’t you?

Well, technically, the horseman won the race and the fair maiden. He should have enjoyed a happily ever after… but that’s not what happened, because after the race the Devil swept in and grabbed the horseman up and carried him off to hell at such a fiery speed that the Devil’s prints were burned into the soil. And those prints are still stuck in the mud in a little town called Bath, North Carolina and nothing ever conceals those evil marks upon the earth.

I think the moral of the story is don’t try to beat the Devil at his own game, just run like crazy and don’t look back.

That’s pretty much how my grandmother told the story. Growing up I thought everyone knew that story, the way people know Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty… but I’ve never seen it written anywhere.   I didn’t realize I was secretly looking for it until I came across Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea… which is a story about a lovely young woman who is clever and kind and lives in a small town by the sea and encounters a strange young man who just might be the devil.

To be honest, nothing compares to a narrative that has been passed down through your family for a couple hundred years, but I still liked Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea a lot. It was dark and it was atmospheric and gothic and those are all perfectly acceptable things for a love story about the devil.

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