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Milton In Hell
... Paradise misplaced
Milton awoke to the night sweats…again. As he groped around the area in front of him he began to scream, “I had another dream,” his hands flailing wildly at the air as he rose to his feet, “I had a dream, I had a dream!” Spencer jumped up and grabbed him, slapping his face, screaming, “Shut up John, shut-up! You’re going to have them down here with the needles again.” Milton slowly began to regain his composure, “What…what is that…is that you--Edmund? I cannot understand you. Speak in verse; by all that is holy (ouch), speak in verse!” Spencer, looking around and noticing the dormitory door as it opens, starts to walk away, “Fuck John…now you’ve done it, here comes Horner with the needle.”
Cal Horner (our attendant), comes into the room… “Now, now John, we’ve been dreaming again, have we? We all know what happens when we have these dreams, don’t we? That’s probably how you wound up here in the first place… isn’t it? Let’s have your arm…nothing a little Thorazine can’t take care of.”
After placing the needle in Milton’s arm, Cal tries to sooth him stating. “There we go, almost done.”
“Donne, did you say Donne…John Donne?” Milton nervously whimpered, as he fell back into his cot, whispering, “Keep that flea bitten pervert away from me, how did he get in here anyway…here—where is here—where are we?
It has gone on for centuries this way. You see, when writers die, they are not forgotten. Certainly, they are read… on occasion, set as an example by modern day scholars; their works dissected, critiqued, argued, and at times, even burned. It is not of the writer’s works, though, that we are concerned with here; it is their mortal soul! As you might have guessed, this is Hell… writer’s Hell.
The year of this entry is, for your own reference, is 2010, on the Gregorian 2554: Buddhist, 5771: Hebrew, 1432: Islamic, and somewhere between 5111, and 1933, on the Hindu calendars. I am sure there are countless other significant dates for other significant cultures, but we will focus on religious dates here. That is what put your world in its predicament, is it not?Time really has no relevance though; this is eternity, what would the sense be of keeping time? The purpose of our little club…if you will, is to allow each particular writer to live out their works, until they are faded into obscurity, or until humankindis completely obliterated (please don’t worry, the Mayans were wrong).
I’m certain that by now you must be wondering who I am… my name’s Bob. Yeah, I know…you were expecting me to be, well, you know…the BOSS. Nope. It’s just me…Bob. They’re not watching now, so let me talk to you in plain speak. I figure, we’re all regular guys here, right?I’m in middle management, and was sent here from corporate to oversee this section. I have no idea why. I really know nothing about poets, or poems, or writers of any kind for that matter. I was a plumber! I was sent down here because I got greedy and ripped off an old lady, or maybe it was because I was using PVC…I don’t know, but, having to listen to these guys day after day, really is Hell for me.
I’m writing this because I’m bored, and because I’m not supposed to. I mean, since the merger, and this being Hell, and all, I figure if I do something real bad I might get a promotion. So let me try to lay it out for you, it’s like…ya’ know?What’d that guy from maintenance call it… “A real flam shooter.”
A while back, we (well, they) formed a sort of alliance with a corporation from your side (and you think it’s bad up there). So the Boss, he figures that the gap between us is closing and calls on Mr.”M.”… Try to follow me now... Mr.”M” is the head of some kind of media thing that has TV stations, newspapers, movie studios and all that kind of stuff.Now, the Boss is expecting some kind of big rush pretty soon. He calls it “The biggest influx of doomed humanity since the days of Nero.” He likes to talk like that…all poet-y and stuff. So… what the Boss does, to free up space, is he tells Mr.”M” he’s thinking about doin’ a reality show. We swap out some of our “dead weight,” for a little while and make a little room while we’re working on the expansion. Now, Mr.”M,” he’s all over it. He figures he’ll get to see what it’s all about down here (he doesn’t realize we’re making a special wing just for his type), and he might get a block buster for his ratings to boot. This is where Milton and Spencer come in, ya’ see…they’re the pilot episode.
Listen…they’re gonna be comin’ back pretty soon! So I got to get into character. Remember though, it’s me that’s talkin’ to ya. They’re gonna have me talkin’ in hoity-toity words and all, but that’s just the script, I’m the narrator guy. Just remember, it’s really a guy in old Levi’s with a pipe wrench talkin’ to ya. Television really has a way of distorting the truth…I really do feel bad about that old lady though, I didn’t even know about PVC being bad.I’ll get back to ya’s at the break. Gotta go…!
Milton surveyed his surroundings. He listened, touched, and through his tongue and nostril, he would taste the stale air. He contemplated fate, once more, and once again concluded that his blindness, physical in life, had become the universal metaphor for his soul’s eternity. He had incurred the wrath of Satan through the slanderous definition of hyperbolic interpretation. Through a blind man’s vision, he had succumbed to his very nightmare. The Paradise, of which he dreamt, and lost, shall never be regained. His surroundings were majestic, contrary to his taste; the floors were laid in Russian Sable, save for the coals beneath his feet. The overhead was glitter with grand and gleaming stars, but this was Satan’s humor, and reward.
Within the realm of this Inferno, rest sixty trillion cells. Within each cell of each division, lay sixty trillion Hells. Mathematics put aside, the one singular sin, if you will, that poor Milton had committed, was to bring family into the material of his writing. Satan, who happens to be our overseer (we use that for irony), was so incensed with the perverse description of his relation with Sin and Death, that he took his case to the higher court…and won!You must remember, this is Hell, the best lawyers live here.
We paired Milton with Spencer for an altogether different reason. Spenser, in appearance, actually had the penchant to perpetuate a likeness of our overseer. One will never afford Vanity at these depths. Aside from that, as Milton may already have related…snakes carry a bit of weight in the territory. The snakes, being of equal lobbying strength, presented their case of Spenser’s proposed genocide of the Irish population. Once again, this was a matter of stepping over the boundaries of accepted mortal arrogance. But today it was the time to mess with Milton alone.
We needed one more piece before we could present out treatment in full… a guide. We considered a few from the depths, however, a suggestion was made that we should look for a higher authority. With that, we bypassed corporate protocol, and made a deal for the loan of a highly regarded journalist, one of whom should be familiar with both, our team of poets, and the modern age they will be released upon.
Milton was particularly distraught on this day. You see, every so often (because we can), we send one of your masters out into what might be considered “modern day society.” Yesterday it was Milton’s turn, we sent him to a city on the North American continent currently known as Chicago. He was to be an audience member on a popular television show, and bring back with him his impression of something called “Oprah’s Book Club.”
Milton, however, still maintained his stubborn ideals and wandered blindly into the twenty-first century Chicago night. Now, had he stayed at his assigned designation, there would have been no problem. We placed him in a climate-controlled environment. We dressed him in the appropriate attire of the day. We briefed him on what he was to expect, and how to behave in an acceptable manner, in accordance with the day. Nevertheless, old Milton just had to go wandering off, wandering into a strange milieu, his sightless eyes burning, and pink lungs choking on contaminated air, only to find himselfin an inner-city coffee house featuring the readings of one Charles Bukowski.
Bukowski is with us, in fact, he is on our board of resident advisors. The fact is this was his idea from the start. We hadn’t foreseen the chance that a blind man would stray from his calculated location, and follow the tempting aroma of Jene Nate’ out the studio door. We are not perfect!However, this is when we decided to send him a companion, someone to be his eyes. Bukowski suggested Hunter Thompson, and after some thought, we too found the humor in the idea.
Thompson was more than willing to oblige, under the condition that he could, “fuck with a couple of heads.” As we saw no harm in his request, we set him down next to Milton, and provided the $2.000 Thompson stated would be needed in order to carry out the experiment.
Actually, we could not have found a better companion for Milton, from an urban survival point of view. Thompson was new to us, he had only been here for five years, and therefore, he was familiar with the ways of the world, as it was.
True to form, the first thing Thompson did was to take Milton into a small resale shop of Halsted Street. He explained later, “I didn’t want us to blend in too well…these people can smell a phony a mile off. We needed color… flair…we needed Foster Grant’s, and Nike’s…we needed something to keep creep-show’s mouth shut, and I knew how to get it. As a result, they left the shop with Milton attired in black spandex pants, Converse high-tops, a Hello Kitty tee shirt, and a beret. Thompson acquired a cowboy hat, full length fake raccoon coat, and a pair of Dingo boots. They walked down the street unnoticed.
Milton resented everything that was going on. His brain; rattled by all the confusion on the street. The sounds of automobile and truck engines, air brakes, and jetliners overhead formed a ghastly concerto in his mind, and played through his head like a symphony from the depths of what he had previously perceived as hell. His other senses heightened from his lack of sight; overcome as well. His mouth was dry, but on fire from breathing the unfamiliar air, his nostrils burned. His feet were non-conforming to concrete pathways of which he could not escape. He was certain that the true definition of “Hell,” was the picture of where ever it was he stood at that moment.
Milton, since he came too us, has always been a stubborn individual. He insisted from the start that we allow him to retain the wig, of which was on his person at the time of induction. We saw no harm in this, at the time. Thompson, though, had different ideas in his mind, as he knew of the reputation of the city’s Halsted Street, and immediately had John and himself on a bus, headed north, towards the area of the city known as “Boystown.”
Boystown, in Chicago’s Lakeview area, was the part of town frequented by the city’s gay community. Thompson had figured that given the place and time that Milton had come from, this would be the perfect place to leave him, as he had noticed in the newspaper that there was a National League Baseball game that afternoon just down the street.
When they had found a bar on North Halsted Street, Thompson ordered a shot of Jim Beam and a Budweiser for himself and a White Russian for Milton. Milton truly enjoyed the flavor of this new beverage his, now, friend had introduced him to, and after the fifth drink, became much more comfortable. Thompson, all the while, had made arrangements with the bartender to keep Milton occupied, while he ran off to see the Cubs play the Rockies. When he left, Milton was up at the Karaoke stage singing along to the song “It’s Raining Men,” and twenty minutes later, Thompson was at the ballgame having hotdogs and beer.
As I stated earlier, we are Hell, but we are not a perfect Hell. We foresaw Milton and Thompson running off; however, what we failed to take into account was the trickery of the networks and their unique phrasing in the small print of their contract. Milton and Thompson are now network property, and the souls of all of that network’s viewers are to be retained solely by that network alone. Bukowski has been banished to the cell reserved for religious writers, and I, as punishment, have been ordered back to the modern day mortal world. Am I angry? Hell yeah…and if I ever watch that network again, it’ll be a cold day back home.