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Calling Dante's Inferno
by Kevin Underhill

audio Listen as lawyer and satirist Kevin Underhill presents his new translation of Dante's epic Inferno, on Weekend All Things Considered.

[A male narrator reads the first 2 verses]

Midway in the journey of our life I came to myself in a dark wood, for the straight way was lost.

When I reached the foot of a hill, there where the valley ended I saw a phone booth, with a number scratched inside.


Hello. Thank you for calling the Inferno. We are sorry you have died without achieving a state of grace. All representatives are currently assisting other customers, but your call is very important to us. If you believe you have reached this recording in error, and would like to speak directly to God, press the pound key.

[he does]

I'm sorry, that voice mailbox is full.

To abandon all hope, press 1, now.

[presses 1]

Thank you. If you are an attorney, press 1, and a representative will be with you immediately. If you know the number of the Circle you are destined to reach, you may press the star key, followed by the number, at any time. If you would like to leave a message for Hitler, press 0, now. Otherwise, please wait.

AC/DC's Highway to Hell plays while holding.

Hello. You have reached the Inferno's main phone menu. Please listen carefully, as the selections have changed. Your cooperation will allow us to assign you to the Circle that is appropriate for you. Please be candid, as your answers will be compared to your permanent record.

To continue, please press 1, now.

[presses 1]

Thank you. Please wait.

(AC/DC's Hells Bells plays.)

Thank you. You've reached the first circle of hell, Limbo for virtuous pagans. Frankly, the worst punishment here is the long line at Starbucks, so don't panic. But if you happen to be an ancient Greek philosopher, or a Unitarian, press 1. Otherwise, press 2 to continue.

The second Circle of Hell is for the Lustful. If you coveted your neighbor's spouse, press 1. If you coveted a co-worker, press 2. If you sat through all three hours of Eyes Wide Shut, press 3. If you collected boudoir photos of Bill Clinton press 4. Otherwise, press 5.

The third Circle of Hell is for the Gluttonous. If you died choking on some kind of pastry, press 1. If you were large enough to be seen from orbit, press 2. If your liposuction needs caused power shortages in California, press 3. Otherwise, press 4.

The fourth Circle of Hell formerly housed the Avaricious and Prodigal, but is now reserved for people who talk on cell phones while driving. If you were doing this just before you died, press 1. Otherwise, press 2.

The fifth Circle of Hell is for the Wrathful and Sullen. If you are still mad about the cell phone thing, press 1. If you are still mad about anything that happened during the Clinton Administration, press 2. If you are just plain mad, press 3. Otherwise, press 4.

The sixth Circle of Hell is reserved for Heretics. If you started your own religion, press 1. If it required nudity, press 2. Otherwise press 3.

The seventh circle of hell is for the violent. If you were a tyrant or murderer, press [*bang*] -- please press [*bang*] -- please do not strike the [*bang*] -- your response has been recorded. Press 5 to continue.

The eighth Circle of Hell is for the Fraudulent. If you pandered, seduced, or flattered, press 1. If you were a thief or fraudulent counselor, press 2. If you ever hosted an infomercial, press 3, but if you feigned an Australian accent while doing so, press 4. If you were a psychic friend, psychic healer, pet psychic, or the CEO of an Internet company, press 5. If you routinely falsified anything else including but not limited to money, grand jury testimony, or boudoir photos of Bill Clinton, press 6. Otherwise, press 7.

Finally, the ninth Circle of Hell formerly housed the Treacherous, but is now being reserved for creators and stars of reality television shows. If this describes you, press 1, and Lucifer will be with you as soon as he is finished with Judas. Otherwise, press 2.

Thank you for your cooperation. However, I was just wasting your time. One of our representatives is standing right behind you. Press 1 to abandon all hope again, and thank you for calling the Inferno.

[presses 1]