American Inferno (Chapter IX)

11 Jul

We walked through the garden of anvils and blacksmiths and flying and falling trapped angels to in one moment end up dressed in white and black shirts behind a bar. Walt Whitman was already shaking something inside a shaker and then pouring it into a glass.

     “You’re not supposed to shake it,” I said. “The ice melts faster that way. You’re supposed to stir it.”

     “Don’t you think I know that?” Walt Whitman said as he slid the martini to a portly man in glasses, “It’s all about the show. I need my tips.”

     I stood there as he started to take someone else’s order. He nodded his head and grabbed a bottle of white wine from a cooler of ice under the bar and poured it into a glass right in front of him. After handing it to a young woman. He shook his head vigorously, as if he were trying to exorcise a tiny demon, and looked at me.

     “Sorry, this place has that effect, but we don’t need to worry about them.” There was an infinite line of guests stretching to the end of the dance hall which never seemed to end. “As the bartenders, we are protected by the bar here, unlike the poor souls out there.”

     Thousands of caterers walked around in the same uniforms we did, except they had trays full of different types of hors d’oeuvres, drinks in rock glasses, wine glasses, martini glasses, champagne glasses, champagne flutes, beer glasses, plates of half eaten food and used silverware small fragments of food still on the waiters’ fingers, crumpled napkins, wine bottles, liquor bottles, half drunk wine and water and any sort of drink, toothpicks empty and with fragments of hors d’oeuvres, candles on fire, candles blown up accompanied by a verbal disciplinary by a Demon Captain telling them not to blow out the candles because the smoke may ruin the delicate experience of the client’s delicate nasal passages; then plates full of food being set down at the table in circles and then taken away immediately, each table tackled like an athlete with the ball, and then abandoned to give the injured athlete some air, all the waiters running and screaming and walking and nodding their heads and listening to the faceless clients and then coming back to give the client what he wanted and then going to the kitchen to be yelled at by the Kitchen Demons and forced to hear and then repeat such words as “BEHIND,” “HOT FOOD,” “WATCH YOUR BACK,” each one piercing the eardrums of the poor souls and not accomplishing anything but startling the waiter to move in whichever direction possible, shrinking against the wall and trying to become a fly, and only ramping up the anxiety higher and higher, the glasses breaking, the silverware falling, the hands and bodies getting dirtier and dirtier, all for the sake of the faceless strangers that sat at the tables and talked too loud and blocked the way when the waiters tried to deliver food and did any horrible thing they could do to prove that they were the worst lot of people the waiters had ever seen in their lives who did not deserve the treatment and food and what shreds of patience the waiters had left.

     “What the hell did they do to deserve this?” I asked.

     “Well, once upon a time this sector of hell was reserved for heretics and atheists, but since this is the 21st century and we realize that that’s a whole lot of bullshit, this is where people who stopped believing in themselves and their dreams go. They are here serving and serving and serving but they do not remember why they started serving in the first place. Catering for them was only supposed to be a survival job so they could continue to paint, write, and act, but then the money was addictive and art became less important as they discovered this new disease taking them over.”

     “So these are all a bunch of actors who never stopped catering?”

     “Many? Yes. But they are also people who decided to become lawyers instead of teaching, or became doctors instead of trying to get their small business idea off the ground. These are the people who stopped believing in themselves, which is worse than not believing God.”

     “Walt, get me out of here, unless you’re trying to punish me.”

     “Hey,” said a voice from in front of us, which belonged to another bespectacled, balding, middle aged man in a suit, “Can I get an Old Fashioned here?”

     “If you want a drink, you’re going to have to wait your turn,” Walt Whitman said. “Unless you don’t want a drink.”

     “No, I want a drink all right, and I can wait, sir, that’s no problem at all,” said the middle aged man, “but maybe you could speed it up for me, sir,” he out took a 50 dollar bill and placed it on the bar.

     “I’ll see what I can do,” Walt Whitman said then made the man an Old Fashioned.


American Inferno (Chapter VIII)

4 Jul

We were still in the land of the angry bastards and cowardly no-doers. Walt Whitman assured me I knew more of the temper throwers and would never have heard of any of the eternally socially anxious.     

We continued to sink down as we walked until we were stopped by a black cat.     

“We’re close,” he said, “to the king of the American underworld.”     

“The devil?”     

“No, the devil comes later.”   

 I tried to remember what I had learned in Humanities class back to high school and then in college.    

 “Hades, I asked, Dis. He’s the head of the underworld.”     

“No, not this one. We’re in America.”     

Then the cat approached me, rubbed against me. I shooed it away because I’m allergic, which only made it want to be closer to me. I thought of kicking it, until I saw that it’s eye had already been plucked out. Then I saw, in the foggy distance, a similar profile that I’d seen on bags and phone cases, the unforgettable profile of the head of the American underworld, prince of spirits, ghosts, and all things creepy, the one, the only, Edgar Allan Poe.    

“Shouldn’t he be with the others?” I said, “The alcoholic writers and the like, because he was.”     

“If he hadn’t been so pivotal in the literary and occult movement as he had been, yes, he would be there, or somewhere worse because of the whole sex with his cousin thing, but because Edgar Allan Poe is Edgar Allan Poe he finds himself with the quite honorable role that he finds here. Finally clean and sober and with purpose. I’ve never seen him happier.”   

 “Me neither,” I said, and when we got closer I noticed that despite his face with the same trademark mustache, his body had changed. He was a hulking specimen. He was wearing black robes so I couldn’t see everything, but he had vigor and his eyes lit up with actual fire as he seemed to conduct the whole underworld like Mickey Mouse in Fantasia.     

Let’s keep going, Walt Whitman said, and instead of snapping his fingers or waving his arms or having us materialize somewhere else he took out a phone and said, “3 minutes away.”     

We waited around for five minutes, not saying anything. He looked around every few seconds until a black SUV pulled up next to us. He opened the door and let me in and just like that we were in the next sector of the American Inferno, which was not very nice because I was standing up again after I’d hoped to sit down and enjoy the semi-cushioned seats of the mid-priced SUV while trying to ignore the over done deodorant of our driver.    

As far as I could tell we were in the wide open-space of a factory because it was loud and hot and I could hear the sound of metal clanking. Then I saw a stereotypical bald man hitting a hot piece of metal with a hammer.     

“He’s making a sword?”     

“Yes,” Walt Whitman said.    

I couldn’t figure it out. Was he forced to make swords for the rest of his life? Was he a demon who was going to put the sword through someone else after he was finished making it?    

 “Do you see?”     

“No,” I said, but then I did see something else behind the man and then it was above the man, flying up, its brilliant wings lifting it about twenty feet until it came to a swift jerking halt in the air, and the sound of clanking on the anvil. I noticed there was a chain on one side of the anvil pulled taut, which then slacked as the creature came back down to the ground. The creature wore no shirt and had a human face. Then I saw that there were many other of these creatures, these fallen angels trying to fly up and then being pulled back down by the weight of the anvil.    

 “Fallen angels,” I said.   


  “I don’t recognize any of them.”  

   “I don’t expect you to, but you know them by name I’m sure. Most of these creatures had good intentions. They wanted to get closer to God and they followed his works as best as they could. They thought, because they were told, that The Bible could give them all the answers they needed and sometimes they skewed these answers into their own interpretation because they were only human, and they believed, truly believed, which is why some may condone their sins, and why you don’t find some, like this specimen, buried even lower.”    

 “Who is it?” I asked.     

“The one you see is David Koresh, head of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas.”     

“Jesus,” I said, “I just watched a TV show about him, back, well, in the real world.”     

“It’s no coincidence that I’ve shown him to you. What happened to David Koresh and everyone else should be evidence enough how rampant belief can do incredible harm, but he’s here to be reminded, that no matter how enlightened he felt, or how divine and even embraced by God, that it was never enough to justify such sacrifices of innocent women and children. They are here with him.”     

“Once again, that’s not fair–”    

 “This is America, Andrew. It’s not about what’s fair. They believed and became angels, in their minds at very least, and then they died only to fall. That’s how the system works.”          

“Shouldn’t he be punished worse?”    

“Oh, he is, just like then, he knew he was responsible for keeping them there and now he knows he’s responsible for bringing them here. He’s not even trying to go to heaven, not really. He’s just trying to escape those he forsook.”     

And sure enough I saw that it was true. The other Branch Davidians hurled insults at him, on the ground and off. Those tied to anvils closest to him tried to fly in his direction, barking at him on their chains like rabid dobermans.     

“Okay,” I said. “They fell with him, so without them and seeing how he failed them, it’s not much of a punishment.”    

“Yes,” Walt Whitman said, “if you want to be completely fucking didactic about it.”    

 I looked at Walt Whitman in his ghostly face. He did not smile.

 “Hey, man. Just because I don’t read your stupid poetry doesn’t mean you have to be an asshole.”    

 “I’m sorry,” he said. “Let’s just get this over with.”

American Inferno (Chapter VII)

27 Jun

The whole hotel room lifted up and we found ourselves in the middle of a vast field where two massive groups of souls ran from our left and our right, threatening to crush us like trash in a trash compactor. 

     “Walt!” I yelled.

     “Oh, sorry,” he said, and like that we were above them, floating, they attacked each other with whatever punches and kicks they could land, but mostly just yelled and bickered.

     “You worthless bastards! You wasted everything!”

     “You dumb shits! Why couldn’t you just use things and spend your damn money!”

     “Don’t you know you could have saved that delivery food container to store your own food in?”

     “You’re dead now! Just like all of us, couldn’t you have lived a little?”

     “Oh, you shouldn’t have just thrown that old coat away. You could have turned it into a rug.”

     “You lived in a garbage dump and you didn’t share anything with anyone. You kept it all to yourself so who are you to lecture me on saving anything?”

     Walt Whitman looked at me and began, “This is the high point of their day, when the hoarders can defend saving every little penny and the wasters can defend carpe diem. When they’re not here, they are, as you could guess, tortured.”

     Walt Whitman snapped his fingers and we watched a man order food at a lavish restaurant. The waiter’s face was obscured, but I’m sure it was a demon. 

    “I’ll have everything,” the man said, and sure enough, they brought him everything. The nicest bottles of wine, champagne and top shelf Scotches, filet mignon, mashed potatoes, caviar, foie gras, creme brûlée, bananas foster, and enough food to last Marlon Brando a full minute. I expected the man to turn into a sort of Charybdis himself, but instead he just looked at the food and silently cried.

     “Thanks,” he said to the waiter. “You can take it away now.”

     But the waiter did not take it away. Instead he put it in a hundred boxes and gave it to the man. Then the man was on the street. 

     “I want a place to live,” he said, and then there was a beautiful home in front of him. He tried to open the door, but it was locked. It started to snow.

     “Give me shelter,” he said, and suddenly there was cash at his feet, like sand on the beach. He took all the money he could, burrowed underneath it.

     “If you won’t give me shelter, give me clothes.”

     Rolexes, rings, and expensive sunglasses fell from the sky. 

     “No, something warmer!”

     A beautiful white silk dress fell down from the sky and the man wrapped himself up in it, ripped it, walked through the snow and got it wet and muddy and brown as the snow melted. 

     He sat on the street, wrapped in the tarnished dress, a million dollars by his side, and begged.

     “Please, let me eat and drink. I don’t want the money. Take it. Just let me use the fucking bathroom!”

     Walt waved his arm and the man was gone, replaced by another man writing at a computer.

     “Now of course hoarding starts as merely saving things for yourself, greed in its earliest stage, but the mind becomes the greatest hoarder of them all.”

     The man wrote furiously for five more minutes then stopped.

     “Okay,” he said, “thank God. That’s it. That’s all I remember ever having happened. Okay, okay, I’ll write that down.” He wrote some more. “And then of course how that made me feel. Oh, this can go on forever,” he wrote some more. “But at least it’s only in these short bursts.” He wrote some more. “At least it’s not one of those memories buried deep below.” He wrote. “That will keep me occupied for a year.” He wrote. “But then there’s the imagination” he wrote. “And is that ever really empty.” He started to write faster. “Stop thinking about it! Stop opening it up!” He started to write furiously. “No! But damn I must write every little thing, every second of my life, every second of every imagined life!” He wrote and his fingers began to bleed and disintegrate then grow back like Marlon Brando’s fingers.

     The man was gone and Walt Whitman and I walked in the darkness, and I felt we were sinking further into the American Inferno. When I saw light again, it was of  a giant, inflamed smiling face. The face and head had grown to three times the size of the body which I noticed was naked, and I further noticed that the testicles were tied to one rope and the penis to another.

     “Walt, why in the hell do you keep showing me this shit?”

     “Quiet! This man was wrathful in his old life. When anyone pissed him off, his brother for instance, he would hit him. He hit his brother, his classmates, his girlfriend. Whenever he was angry, he would first raise his voice, and then start throwing punches. But look at him now.”

     I looked again. I saw that there was someone standing across from him, an older man, wearing glasses, taking off his belt.

     “Now, son, I think you’re dumb. The dumbest I’ve ever known, which is pretty depressing because you’re my own son. It’s also embarrassing that you have the smallest dick in the history of America and that you’re uglier than the Mona Lisa.”

     When the giant head started to make a sound, the rope tightened on his testicles, the sound changed.

     “Now, you know I’m not your real father, just some demon here in hell, maybe even a demon hologram because they don’t feel like wasting real demons on your lousy ass, but you actually are a piece of shit and God has been spending every last hour since you were born in remorse, repenting the fact that he had ever let you come into existence. He even tried to blame you on the devil, but we all know he made the devil so his all powerful logic became a bit wonky there. Anyway, you’re too dumb to even understand what I’m saying, so I can just keep making fun of your small dick and small brain and that’ll be enough to tempt your temper.”

     The giant head started to make a sound and the ropes tightened on his penis and balls, the sound changed and became a squeal.

     “What’s that?” the demon said, “why don’t you tell me how you feel?”

     The demon folded the belt and whacked the giant head several times.

     The mouth of the giant head opened and started to scream, the ropes tightened again and the scream turned into a retreating squeal.

     “What’s that?” the demon said and whacked the face again. The mouth of the face opened.

     “Nothing,” the face said. “I think you’re right. I’m glad to have an influence like you in my life,” and the giant face smiled, and then the head became even redder and even bigger, threatening to burst the arteries which already popped out like stalactites on the fishbowled eyeballs.

     “Good,” the demon said. “Because we have a lot to talk about for the rest of eternity.”

     Like the drug trip it was, I was jump cut into a bright room. Walt Whitman handed me a pair of sunglasses and the light dimmed enough so I could see a figure lying in bed, then I saw that there were many more of the same type of soul lying in other beds. Their eyes were open, pried open with splinters, but they lay there and looked up at the sun.

     “In the real world they were too afraid to go outside and see the sun, spent most of their time in doors and in bed. Now, they are still in bed, but the devil gave them the sun.”

     “I think it’s pretty fucked up that someone would be in hell for not doing anything.”

     “Once again, I didn’t make the rules.”

     “What if they were afraid, what if they had social anxiety or some other type of psychological disorder?”

     “Well, I guess they should have overcome it, because an eternity awake, in bed, eyes burned out by the sun seems a lot worse than a little rejection here and there.”

     “I guess so, but it could happen to anyone. This place is terrible.”

     “Don’t make the same mistakes.”

     “I know, Dad,” I said, and waited for the next part of the trip to instantaneously throttle me into a completely different universe, which each part of the American Inferno was.

American Inferno (Chapter VI)

20 Jun

Suddenly there was a door in the wall of the motel room and Walt Whitman opened it. We walked through one door only to find ourselves in another room. The room was nicer, had been nicer is more accurate, because it stunk of rotten food and whatever else I don’t know. The room was gigantic, but all sorts of plates, empty food receptacles, bags of chips, pretzels, cookies, boxes of cookies, pints and gallons of ice cream, paper bags from Chinese delivery, pizza boxes, banana peels covered the floor and walls of the room. In the middle at the top of a pile of trash, a throne of garbage lay the fattest man I had ever seen.

     “Okay,” I said, trying not to breathe in through my nose. “I get it. He’s a glutton. Let’s get out of here.”

     “Oh, but Andrew, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for you. How often do you get to meet one of your idols?”

     “Not very often, but it seems like at least six times so far.”

     “Oh, yes, but this is no writer. In fact, he uses us, consumes us the same way he uses this food, except when he uses our words he spins them into beauty, for the most part.”

     “I don’t care.”

     “Get closer. Take a look.”

     “Fuck,” I said, and found myself wading through the trash. I felt not dissimilar to the way I had felt when catering an event the week before, the knife and fork smeared with meat and gravy, in my hands because the captain had told us to separate the silverware before we took the dirty plates back to the kitchen–except this time the meat and gravy and possible vomit and feces and urine covered me up to my belly button.

     “Fuck this,” I said, and them jumped out of it all. “This isn’t my punishment, Walt.”

     “Fair enough,” Walt said and laughed, then my clothes were clean and we were floating right next to the glutton.

     “You bastard,” I said to Walt, then turned and saw the bald head, eyes, and lips, which under so much fat that he now resembles a manatee and whale creature I still recognized as the greatest film actor of all time.

     “Marlon Brando?” I asked.

     “That’s right,” Walt Whitman said.

     I could only quietly examine him for a moment before Marlon Brando reached into his throne and pulled out a round metal trashcan filled with all types of food, as if he had gone down a buffet and just stacked everything on top of each other: mashed potatoes, rice, shredded beef, fried chicken, steak, chicken cordon bleu, bacon, ranch, a tuna sandwich, grilled cheese, cubes of cheese, spaghetti, linguini, angel hair, glazed donuts, jelly donuts, chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies, Girl Scout cookies, potato chips, tortilla chips and salsa, guacamole, quesadillas, lobsters, crabs, raw oysters, fried oysters, sushi, London Broil, steak tartare, shrimp scampi, filet mignon mingled with chocolate sauce and chocolate cake, layer cake, red velvet, brownies, vanilla ice cream, a chocolate milkshake, the biggest hamburger in the world with at least ten patties and ten types of cheese, and five types of mayo, ketchup, mustard, bleu cheese, and more ranch the only vegetables being the lettuce, tomato, and onion on this monstrous hamburger which was all but decayed by all the sauces including that of the milkshake and regardless he just grabbed everything in the trashcan and shoved it in his mouth, chewing so much that he bit off his fingers which grew back every time he took them out of his mouth only to be eaten again every time he put them back in. When the contents of the trashcan got low enough, which wasn’t that low, Marlon Brando picked up the trashcan and put his lip on the bottom and opened his mouth which revealed itself to have more teeth and space than that of a Great White Shark.

     I shook with fear, for when he finished, Marlon looked at us and reached out, his stubby little arms nothing more than hands which poked out of a plush skin blanket.

     “Don’t worry,” Walt said.

     “Come here,” Marlon said. “Come here.”

     We floated a few feet closer.

     “I can’t do this anymore,” Marlon said. “Tell them that I can’t do this anymore.”

     “I’m sorry,” I said, and for a moment, underneath all the fat, I saw the recognition in his face, the human, the genius, but then he forgot, and reached under for another trashcan.

     “Let’s go,” I said to Walt Whitman.

     Walt touched my face, removed a tear.

     “Okay, Andrew. I’m sorry.”

American Inferno (Chapter V)

13 Jun

     “Don’t worry,” Walt Whitman said, “we won’t have to wait that long,” and as if his words still held power after he was dead, the buzzer went off and we found ourselves in a cheap motel room that smelled of mildew.

“Stop,” a female voice said, “it’s too big.”

My eyes adjusted to the semi-darkness which was only semi-illuminated by the last legged tungsten in the solitary lightbulb above. A man had gotten up from a bed and then gone on to another bed, then started having sex. I looked away, but Walt Whitman put his hand on my shoulder and forced me to watch.

After twenty minutes and after that man had clearly finished this other female voice said, “Keep going. Don’t stop.”

“But I’m finished,” he said.

“Keep going.”

After what seemed an hour in which I did everything I could to look away, only to be led by Walt Whitman again to keep watching, the man stopped and said, “I’m done, okay! I’m not going to go again, and I’m in love with someone else.”

Then he moved to the first bed and started talking tenderly to the first woman. They smiled at each other and kissed. I felt even more uncomfortable watching this and wondered if they could see us. I felt like Scrooge hanging with the ghost of Christmas past. The man and woman moved to a sexual position and then the girl screamed and said, “Stop, it’s too big.” Then the man was forced to jump to the second bed again.

“I can’t watch anymore,” I said, no longer caring if the others in the room could hear us.

“You don’t have to,” Walt Whitman said.

“Who is that, man?” I asked.

“I thought you would’ve known. I guess the lighting in this room isn’t so good. Let’s turn up the dimmer.”

Suddenly the whole room was brighter than daytime and a man with a giant camera filmed from the opposite side of the bed. Then I saw the famous mustache and the even more famous member.

“Is that John Holmes?” I asked.

“Yes,” Walt Whitman said. “This circle of hell belongs to those who let lust control their lives. We could argue that he was God-given something like alcoholism which encouraged this lust, but God has many tests for us, after all. A man can similarly be well-endowed with money, luck, power, and if he uses it the wrong way, then he finds himself in the American Inferno.”

“He’s here because he had sex on camera then, for money?”

“Yes, and he encouraged it. He took his gift and he abused it, then he suffered and died because of it, and here he is to suffer more. He isn’t the only one here of course, but I thought he was a good example, a well-known example.”

I remembered how long Whitman had made us watch and doubted his true reason for showing John Holmes of all people.

“What about sex addicts? Those who didn’t ask for it?”

“They are not here, and you’ll find them in heaven or back with the alcoholics, depending on the rest of their lives, but John Holmes is much of the reason why their addictions became as bad as theirs. If it weren’t for porn those people might have just found someone to love.”

“Or ruined the lives of others while trying to satisfy their lust,” I said.

“That very well may be,” Whitman said, “but you have to remember that the American Inferno like any other place in America is an imperfect system.”

“Who else is here?” I asked.

“James Dean.”

“Shit, Whitman. I would have rather seen James Dean.”

“My mistake,” he said. “Most of the people here worked in porn or were heavily involved with sex in some other way. Marilyn Monroe is here as is JFK.”

“That’s fucked up,” I said.

“It is what it is. This is the American Inferno.”

“What can I do to stay out of here?” I asked.

“Just don’t let sex take over your life and if you somehow do, don’t let it affect the rest of society.”

“You know how stupid that sounds, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do. Think of this place as a standardized test, if you can’t figure out the question, just move on to the next one.”

“Fine by me,” I said.

“We’ll circle this circle for later.”

American Inferno (Chapter IV)

6 Jun

The sound of the music transported me back to consciousness like the loudest alarm clock in hell. Constant electronic music with a steady bass with the arrhythmic cardiac quality of a giant having a panic attack pervaded the lighted room. Barely clothed sirens danced in raised cages above the crowd. When I got closer I saw their aged and ageless quality, beautiful at a distance but dead close up. I followed Walt Whitman to what must have been a VIP table except there was an empty bottle of vodka in a black plastic bucket on top of it.

     We sat down at the table and it took six or seven times before I could hear what he said. He ended up getting close to my ear and yelling into it.

     “This is limbo.”

     His timing was off and it was clear he had more to say, but then I saw Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, William Faulkner, and Jack Kerouac who joined us at the table. Jack Kerouac kept close to Thomas Wolfe while Faulkner and Fitzgerald kept close. Hemingway sat down right next to me. He didn’t need to get close to me for me to hear everything he was saying. His voice creating a booming portal which canceled out the noise of the room.

     “What’s your story, sonny? Can I get you a drink?”

     “No thanks,” I said.

     “Come on,” he said.

     I had never been so tempted in my life, for I was in direct contact with the source of my fear of missing out. Hemingway had been a great writer. All of these men had, and they had also been terrible alcoholics.

     “Limbo is home to those good men ravaged by drinking,” Walt Whitman screamed into my ear. I almost jumped as suddenly he was speaking louder than before but still getting as close to my eardrum without his lips touching me. “You see, even in hell no one can agree if alcoholism is a choice or a genetic problem that afflicts those who do not ask for it, so they put all of them here.”

     “But what about suicide?” I asked, and smiled at Hemingway who couldn’t hear what I was saying. “I mean, if Hemingway is here and,” then I got a look at Hunter S. Thompson who was dancing on a table across from us, “he and Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide, then shouldn’t they be in another place in hell?”

     “Suicide is no sin,” Walt Whitman said. “Some people seem to think it is back in the real world, but there is no sin in self termination.”

     “What about the other things these men did?” I asked.

     “What? Multiple marriages, infidelity and the like? Mean spiritedness? Well, we can count that towards alcoholism as well. Besides, there are worse things than infidelity. It’s the twenty first century.”

     “Are we going straight to murder then? After this?”

     “Oh, you’ll see, Andrew, you’ll see. No spoilers. For now, though, I’d like you to look at these idols of yours. Despite the terrible things they did they were tremendous writers that you respect and their lives were taken from them pretty early and alcohol was at blame for a lot of what happened to them. Now here they are for the rest of eternity stuck in a Buenos Aires style dance club. It is loud, dirty, and never ending. This is the life they asked for, or that they were dealt if you want to go back to that genetic thing, and here they are to party, forever. I know you don’t drink anymore, but if you do, this is where you might be headed. How does it sound?”

     “I think it would be fun for a day or so,” I said, “and then I think I would lose my mind.”

     “That’s right, think about that, losing your mind every day for the rest of eternity.”

     “It beats that mirror bit earlier, at least the company is nice.” I looked around at some of the greatest minds of all generations.

     “They’re all a bunch of assholes, Andrew, trust me. Genius gets old. Ever had a drunk genius talk to you all night? Well, this is a long night.”

     I let the reality of it sink in.

     “Maybe I’ll just visit every once in a while.”

     “It’s true, higher ups do have that privilege. Higher ups make this sort of journey happen.”

     “It still doesn’t make sense to me. Can I just go home for fuck sake? Am I going crazy?”


     “Am I going crazy?”


     “Am I going crazy? Why is this happening? Can I just go home already?”

     “No, we have to go all the way.”

     “Fine, let’s hurry up then.”

     “Okay,” Walt Whitman made to get up, then sat back down. “You understand, then. Clubs are unpleasant?”

     “I’ve known that for a long time, Walt.”

     “Good,” he said. “Onto the next one.”

     I shook all of the writer’s hands, but realized a lot of them were so drunk and dirty that I found myself looking around for a place to wash my hands. Walt Whitman took out a plastic bottle and handed it to me. I squeezed some of the hand sanitizer on my hands and then rubbed them together.

     “You’re a lifesaver, Walt.”

     “Thanks,” he said, and then we walked through the crowd and into the next room.

American Inferno (Chapter III)

30 May










     The words were graffiti’d in glow and the dark green paint on the wall. Next to it was another giant opening, which an arrow, which resembled a penis, at the end of the message, pointed to.

     “Is this for real?” I asked.

     “The devil has a sense of humor,” Whitman said. “Where do you think that drawing of penises graffiti originated?”

     “Yeah, I always hated it when people did that in school,” I said.

     Walt Whitman did not respond.

     “Follow me,” he said after an uncomfortable while.

     As we walked through the opening in the wall I started to hear the sounds of people screaming. It wasn’t the screaming of bloody murder, but more so the so the screaming of someone who couldn’t get what he wanted to. Soon, Walt Whitman and I stopped to watch a man in the mirror shaving. As he shaved, he cut himself and yelled, “Shit,” then grabbed a small piece of toilet paper to put on the cut. Then he looked at his watch and yelled, “Shit,” again and continued shaving, only to cut himself again. When he finally finished, he looked at his watch again and yelled, “shit,” and started to get ready to leave the bathroom when suddenly his face was full with beard again, yet not a good looking beard that was charming and rugged, but an ugly beard which made him look like a homeless meth addict. “Fuck!” he said, then looked at his watch, then his razor. Then we were looking at another man on the inside of a subway car. The doors opened and he was blocked by a bunch of people. “Move!” he yelled. “Move!” Some people moved and as soon as he got to the door the doors closed and he started yelling. “Fuck!” he said, and looked at his watch. Everyone else in the car stared at him like he was an alien. Then we were looking at another man at a computer. He looked at his watch, profaned just as the others, then pressed a button. After he pressed the button a page started printing. When he looked at the page he yelled, “Fuck, I’m out of ink!” His first name showed on the piece of paper and then everything else was muted and dimmed with black and white in the wrong places to create a collage which served no meaning except for that of a fragmentary post modern poem.

     “These people are selfish,” Whitman said. “All they care about are themselves. They just want the job, the opportunity, the money to keep on living. And they do whatever they can do to get there, besides murder and all the horrible things. Because of their only slight infraction, they are here instead of deeper down in hell. The Devil and God didn’t really know what to do with them because of their dual bad and good nature, so here they are, to be tortured in the fairest way possible.”

     And all of them at once looked up at giant posters of beautiful men and women, smiling impossible pearly white teeth, baring impossible muscles, stuck in a perfect impossible moment, men and women with money, happiness, power, then they looked down at themselves and yelled “Shit!” and “Fuck!” and looked at themselves in the mirror constantly unsatisfied, pushed those around them in the subway car, destroyed the printer with their hands only to break their fingers and further blemish their imperfect bones and skin. I looked at them and realized I was in danger of becoming them, that I was guilty of being them at least on some days in this hellish city I had moved to.

     To be further reminded of the crowded city there was a line ahead of us and many people were waiting to get into a club, it seemed.

     “What are they waiting for?” I asked.

     “Shut up,” Walt Whitman said in a curt way which made me feel stupid.

     “It’s the vestibule of Acheron,” he said, almost repentant of how rude he had been. “It’s the small space between the inside and the outside of The American Inferno.

    We kept walking to the front of the line. Some people watched us and wondered who I was. Some thought I was an actor or athlete or old friend of theirs, but they were mistaken. No one recognized Walt Whitman.

     “Hey, why do you get to go to the front of the line?” one of them said.

     “Sh,” a second one said, “don’t you know who that is?”

     Walt Whitman looked at the second one with pride.

     “I don’t know who that old dude with the beard is, though,” the second one said, “probably some pedophile.”

     “Don’t pay attention to them,” Walt Whitman said, and we kept walking to the front of the line.

     We were stopped by a bouncer who was about eight feet tall. He had gigantic muscles and was wearing a black suit with a black shirt. He took out an encyclopedic list which would have crushed me like a Coke can if he had dropped it by accident.

     “Who are you?” he asked me.

     “Orders from above, and below,” Walt Whitman said.

     “Oh, it’s you,” Charon the Bouncer said. “Go on in.”

    And so I stepped in with Walt Whitman, and as soon as I did the music of hell overwhelmed me and I blacked out.