Life in hell: Pass the Pepsi Clear

Kevin Cowherd

March 22, 1993|By Kevin Cowherd

I was asked to describe my vision of hell the other day to a creative writing class -- one or two students even stayed awake long enough to hear the answer.

Basically I see hell as a bleak, joyless place with a lot of long lines, sort of like a warmer version of the Motor Vehicle Administration.

There will be flames everywhere you look and pools of melted tar underfoot. Men will walk around in sweat-stained undershirts, Bermuda shorts, knee-length black socks and sandals. Women will wear loose-fitting "I'm With Stupid" T-shirts and leopard print stretch pants tucked inside cowboy boots.

As for the populace of hell, it will consist of pretty much who you'd expect: golfers, TV repairmen, performance artists, French maitre d's, car salesmen, dental hygienists, personal injury lawyers, etc.

Much as they do here, golfers in the nether world will dress in tangerine polo shirts and bright green slacks and robin-egg blue visors, oblivious to the horrified stares of passers-by. At parties they'll stand around talking about the best approach to a dogleg left while everyone else's eyes glaze over.

Every afternoon at 4 in hell, people will be forced to gather around an outdoor amphitheater to watch a mime.

The mime will perform the same dreary routines mimes always perform: Walking Against the Wind, Man Trapped in a Glass House, etc., while the audience members yawn and glance at their watches.

Invariably, the mime will fall in behind one late-arriving old guy and imitate his walk. No one will laugh. It will be just like here on Earth.

On alternate Thursdays, attendance will also be mandatory at "Elvis Impersonators Night!" A succession of beefy guys named Sal and Vinny, all wearing the requisite cheap shades, bushy sideburns and faded rhinestone jumpsuits, will take the stage and mumble through horribly off-key versions of "Heartbreak Hotel."

During the break, they'll circulate in the audience and talk about past gigs at the Holiday Inn in Altoona, Pa., or the Ramada in Richfield, Ohio.

Accordion music will be piped everywhere in hell. You won't be able to get away from it. No matter what button you hit on your radio dial, a voice will chirp: "This is your 24-hour accordion music station!" before another version of "Beer Barrel Polka" comes on.

The TV will consist of only Jim Varney movies, with "Ernest Scared Stupid" aired a half-dozen times a day.

There will be many suicide attempts because of this, even though everyone in hell is technically dead already.

There will be lots of car mechanics in hell. That evil little cretin who said your carburetor was shot and charged you $500 for a new one, only you found out later it just needed a simple adjustment -- he'll be there.

He'll be just like you remembered him, too, hunched over a grease-stained desk, one eye cocked at the Miss Penzoil calendar on the wall as he says to a customer on the phone: "Won't know 'til I get 'er up on the lift" and "We're still waiting on that part" and "Gimme a call Thursday, we should know something by then."

The tobacco industry will be well represented, too.

Every once in a while, just for laughs, the Devil will stop by and drape his arm around a tobacco lobbyist and say: "Yo, tell us that one about how there's no link between smoking and cancer."

The lobbyist will quickly clear his throat and say: "To date, there is not one scintilla of evidence proving conclusively that. . ."

When he's finished, everyone will crack up and Devil will walk away chuckling: "You gotta love that guy . . . "

There will be very few sunny moments in hell, but that will definitely be one of them.

Those who have the misfortune to be consigned to hell will run into lots of famous people.

It would be nothing, for instance, to be splitting rocks in the hot sun, only to glance up and find "Papa Doc" Duvalier swinging a pick next to you.

A little later you might notice Pol Pot working the wheelbarrow, or Hitler emptying the slop bucket, or Torquemada cleaning out the stables.

The food in hell will not be very good. Mostly it will be a thin, bug-infested gruel. On special occasions -- let's say someone like boxing promoter Don King is arriving -- they might break out chunks of raw cauliflower with a plain yogurt dip, and Pepsi Clear.

Pepsi Clear -- whoever's running the hell commissary is probably importing that stuff by the truckload.

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