Inferno

Dante wrote his famous epic poem, Inferno, in the early 1300's. It tells the story of the narrator (Dante) on a journey through nine concentric circles (worlds) which comprise Hell. The poem begins in March. Dante steps through the gate of Hell, over which is inscribed "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." Immediately upon passing through the Gate of Hell, Dante recognizes a man of considerable political power whose selfish thirst for his own welfare serves as the metaphor for the door through which too many have entered into delusional salvation. For the next 190 pages or so, all hell breaks loose.

The poem is religious, but times, attitudes, beliefs, perspectives, and scientific revelations change. What a great plot for a modern story.

Oh wait. It's not a story. It's happening right now, seven hundred years after the original version, and because after so many centuries the poem is no longer protected by copywrite, my version of Inferno differs.

My main character could be any man, woman or child who walks out their front door, and who discovers their once-familiar portal to the outside world is now the gateway to Hell, in all its flame and fury.

The Inferno is here. Pick a calamity, any of which is a massive story by itself:

1) An inland hurricane in Iowa, which destroyed 43% of the state's corn and soybean crops.

2) Tornadoes in Massachusetts, not unheard of, yet rare.

3) Fires in California, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado which have scorched the West to ash and cinder.

4) Unconstitutional civic behavior and violence condoned by the White House.

5) Racist murders on our city streets and within our homes, justified by the White House under a mandate of "law and order."

6) Corruption and international meddling in the upcoming election.

7) Social media so loaded with lies and altered photographs one cannot decipher what is or is not true.

8) A dangerous person in the White House, and too many misguided souls who want to extend his residency.

9) COVID-19.

... and now an additional level: 10) the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

My story begins in March, just like Dante's tale, yet this updated Inferno is not a story I can write. This series of unfortunate events writes itself daily, sometimes hourly, and each new plot twist becomes so surreal I could never conceive such madness; this story reaches beyond my understanding and creativity. Even if I could, my writing is dark; the ending would be extremely bleak...

... and I don' want this new Inferno to end that way.

To Her Lost Breath

My wife made a good run of it, but then was done. A month after the second anniversary of her yoga studio, the world shut down to acquiesce the COVID-19 virus. The government mandated "temporary" closure of her studio, along with every other business not deemed "essential." A damned shame, because her studio had just begun to take off: five teachers, twenty-one classes of various techniques―with plans to add more―and a membership that began to grow weekly.

People in the area had begun to realize the benefits of yoga in their hectic, Silicon Valley lives. My wife was excited; her dream was coming true.

Then... nope... the virus... doors closed... indefinitely.

I continued to manage an office supply store. My work selling plastic crap that did not work long enough to invoke an extended warranty was deemed essential. Seven of us worked ten to twelve hours a day, while nine of my employees opted to use their accumulated sick and vacation time to remain at home until the end of the "Shelter-in-Place" (SIP) mandate issued by the State of California, and vehemently enforced by Santa Clara County, where my wife and I lived and worked... or rather, where she had once worked.

The end of March, the mandate was extend to June. My wife made a decision: her studio could not last four months without income. She closed her studio permanently. We cried endlessly for several weeks. For awhile my wife wondered if she had closed prematurely, particularly when the State said it would do an an early re-assessment of the restrictions on businesses. May 1st it did, though business owners were stunned by the restrictive restrictions that remained in place. Gym and yoga studios were not included in the re-assessment; were to remain closed until the next re-assessment the following month.

For the next two weeks, my wife and I could not count on our four hands the number of yoga studios that closed their doors permanently. A husband and wife, who I knew, closed their gym and left town. June came, and "fitness" businesses were allowed to reopen, but only at a third their capacity. Once again, my wife and I could not keep track of all the yoga studios that decided to close permanently. The yoga studio owners group she belonged to online dwindled from thousands to hundreds.

My wife and I felt sorry for how much it cost the other studio owners who thought they could hold out. By closing down when she did, my wife saved herself a heavy financial loss. The yoga studios that remain open in California offer classes outside. It has cost them a ton to do so. Unfortunately, the smaller memberships they now experience will dwindle even more when the winds and rains of October and November remind people that yoga and working out ain't all that and a bag of chips when the temperature outside drops to 46 degrees Farenheit.

Will the restrictions on yoga studios be fully lifted by then? My wife and I don't think so.