I wrote the following as a writing assignment during my sophomore year of high school. My class had just finished studying Dante’s Inferno. We were then given the opportunity to write our own story about who we would encounter in Dante’s version of Hell.
As I pushed the button on the elevator to the basement of Hell, I expected to be brought down to Judecca. I assumed I would interview someone like Judas Iscariot or Satan. As I descended, Burt Bacharach music began playing over the elevator speakers. This should have given me a clue who I was going to visit. I felt some moisture on my brow, but I couldn’t tell if I was sweating or if raindrops were falling on my head.
The elevator suddenly stopped on the eighth floor and fourth section. I knew this was not the bottom floor; this was the floor for Diviners, Astrologists and Magicians. The doors opened and I looked around. The walls were covered with Tarot cards, but there was no ceiling. Above me, the sky was filled with constellations.
In front of me stood a person wearing one of those telephone headpieces with a microphone, holding something that looked like a crystal ball in one hand and a credit card verifier in the other. She wore a button with “Psychic Friends Network” printed on it.
It was Dionne Warwick. I should have known she didn’t know the way to San Jose. She waved me out of the elevator, but seemed to be listening intently to the other side of the phone line.
“Who are you talking to?” I asked.
“No one at the moment; I’m on hold,” she responded. I looked down at her hand and got a good look at her “crystal” ball. It was really a Magic 8 Ball.
“Who are you trying to talk to?” I asked.
“God,” she answered. “If I can get through to Him, I’ve been told I’ll be released from this place. But I’ve been on hold forever.”
I laughed to myself, wondering how much this was costing her an hour. “I hear some music on the other end. What is it?”
“It’s Burt Bacharach. He’s my favorite!”
I laughed again. ” So how is life, uh… death… how are things down here?”
“Not great. There are no infomercials or plastic surgery down here. Also, all of my Gold Records have melted,” she replied. It wasn’t very hot down there, so those must have been some pretty low-quality records.
“So, looking back on your life, are you sorry for telling lies to gullible people who gave you seven dollars a minute?” I asked her.
“Well, I never really thought what the future would hold.”
I turned this in on the day I turned sixteen-years-old. I got a 96 on it. My teacher thought it was “Interesting!” but I needed “more description and narration.”
I want to clarify that I really do not hold an actual grudge against Dionne Warwick. She just happened to be associated with the Psychic Friends Network around the time I wrote the story. And I, for some crazy reason, associated that with the Fraudulent and Malicious found in Dante’s Eighth Circle of Hell.
I’ll admit that the comment about the quality of her records was unnecessarily mean-spirited, though. I don’t know how much of her music (or Burt Bacharach’s for that matter) I had even heard at that point. And it’s not like we had YouTube back then where I could search for one of her songs. If I wanted to listen to one of her albums, I would have had to ask my parents to drive me to the mall, go inside to Tower Records, and buy one of her CDs for like $30.
But we have YouTube now. And look what I found: