A DANTESQUE SCENE

(CONT’D) Behind the curtain in the back room, Michael bumps into a robed man dressed up as a Roman and holding a torch.“Who are you?”“I am Virgil, your guide.”“I haven’t hired a guide. I’m not going to pay you a penny. “”I freelance. I offer my services to everyone who crosses this threshold. Only ask for a donation. “”What did you say your name is?””Virgil.”“The poet? The author of those famous verses: ‘Death! Plop! The barges down in the river flop. Flop, plop…’ ” “I’m afraid you are mistaking me for someone else.”The torch illuminates the first flight of a steep descending staircase surrounded by darkness.”Where does this staircase lead? And what are those screams? “”It’s the cries of anguish from the Uncommitted.”Both begin to descend slowly.”And those others screams?”“Those are the anguished screams of the Committed.”The torch fall from Virgil’s hand as he tries to get himself to the front. He bends down quickly to pick it up, and then a yell sounds.”This shriek really sounded close!” Michael realizes that he is stepping on Virgil’s hand. “Oops, sorry. There is so little light here. “Virgil raises the torch, which lights up a desolate landscape full of individuals subjected to the most atrocious punishments. Michael notices a guy who is forced by a demon to study Cyrillic script. “What has that poor wretch done to deserve such punishment?””Everyone here sold their soul to the devil.”“How much does it go for?””Well, you know, stock prices can go down as well as up. I don’t have the today’s exchange rate list.””So this is hell, right?””We poets prefer to call it ‘the abyss’. It gives more play when rhyming.””Tell me one thing, Virgil …”“Please don’t call me Virgil. I don’t like the way it sounds in English. “”What do you want me to call you?”“What did your friend use to call his grandmother? Avocado?””‘Papaya’. Avocado is the legal expert. How about I call you ‘Coconut’? “”I’m okay with it.””Listen, Coconut, would it be possible to talk to the devil? Looks like he’s set up a cover business on Second Avenue, and we can’t tolerate that. “”Well, you will have to invoke him.””And how is that done?”Virgil cups his hands around his mouth and yells: “Hey, Beelzebub, there’s a guy here who wants to talk to you!”An approaching buzz is heard.”Look, here it comes.””Where?””It just landed on the tip of your nose.””A mosquito? Is the devil a mosquito? ““Consider that mosquitoes transmit many illnesses.” The mosquito buzzes.“Come on, speak up, he’s listening to you.””Okay. You see Mr. Beelzebub, New York is a quiet and idyllic place, like the Garden of Eden. Here neither evil nor sin is known. We don’t want anyone to come and sow discord. On behalf of Mayor LaGuardia, I ask you to dismantle that diabolical den disguised as a grocery store that you have on Second Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Streets.”BZZZ BZZZ BZZZ BZZZ”He says what do you give him in return.””How about a free pass to the Hell Gate at Coney Island?” BZZZ BZZZ “What the hell is that?”“You hop into an open boat which descends along rushing waters and through dim caverns swirling toward the centre and disappearing into a whirlpool.” BZZZ BZZZ BZZZ BZZZ!!!”He says that sounds cool.”“Then done. Tell him that some lawyers will contact him… Ow! The mosquito has bitten me!” “It’s his way of sealing the…” A clap is heard. “What was that?! You didn’t cap the mosquito, did you?!” “I didn’t mean to. It was a reflex action.”“Oh my, you killed the devil! We’ve really gone and done it now!”

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