The Other Half-Circle of Hell


Two Marine iguanas from the Galapagos Islands

by cheri

Someone stole one of my blue ceramic pots from a small arched alcove up by our gate. To take the pot, the thief had to wriggle it  through Spanish iron. This is the second theft I have experienced in two months–first my wallet from my purse in Chicago and now, a simple cobalt blue pot. I thought, “Why wasn’t that rattlesnake I killed in my garage last month coiled under the alcove? Why wasn’t I looking at my security camera with a loaded shotgun?

I was so mad that I took my dog for a walk up the road at a brisk pace.

A sweet and gentle  woman who lives on our road stopped to say hello as she drove home from work. I lamented and vented. She suggested that I just “give up the pot” to that person.

This type of thinking, while a way to unload frustration and Buddhist in nature, runs counter to my whole existence.

“NO!” I said. ” Are you kidding me? The person who took my pot is a thief. That person deserves to go to that part of Hell reserved for those who take others’ personal property.”

While yammering there on the road to a woman who, in her last life was that of a sweet doe, I found myself up in one of the oak trees, looking down on a 10-year-old girl, with straight hair and bangs, trying to make a point on the playground to a bossy group of 6th grade boys. Such emphasis!

I think I scared her. Actually, I know I scared her. I asked her if she had read Dante’s Inferno? She said no. I suggested that a 13th-century treatise on morality might be important to have under one’s literary belt.

Ho hum.

If she had had her fawn with her, they would have leaped up the dead-grassy side of the hill, nosed hysterically through the barbed-wire in a panic, and trotted gracefully, as deer do, away from that little human with tremendous emotion.

I continued to march up the road, yellow Labrador in hand, hoping that the thief would find herself with other thieves in the Malebolge of the 8th Circle of Dante’s Hell, holding my blue pot, caught blue-handed. In that bulge would be snakes and dragons. She  would find herself bitten by dragons and snakes incessantly.

When I studied the Inferno in Fiesole, Italy, sixteen years ago, it was the Malebolge that captured my imagination. There, deep in the bowels of a fiery earthen cavern, lay ten darkened ditches  reserved for the worst sinners–flatterers, hypocrites, sorcerers, and thieves. These sludgy trenches led to the infamous 9th Circle of Hell where the worst of the worst were.

Perhaps, as you are reading, you are thinking that I am a bit dramatic–that this is an overreaction to the theft of a small nothing. That I should “let it go.”

I am not a doe.

I am a hot dragon. Well, a small hot dragon.




About Cheri

Writer, photograph, artist, mother, grandmother and wife.
This entry was posted in Life, My childhood, On fiction and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to The Other Half-Circle of Hell

  1. Sharon Gallacher says:

    While I have my morning coffee, this post is making me laugh so hard, that I am going to go reread Dante’s Inferno! Boohoo Bad people!!!:-)

    • Cheri says:

      The bad people in the Inferno receive punishments commensurate with their sins. Of course, we have all failed in a number of ways. When we read where we would be in Dante’s Hell, it is gruesome.

  2. Lucky Demon says:

    You know I am not a Doe but take solace from the fact that when you looked at that pot I am sure it conjured up nice memories of of the circumstances of its acquisition. The thief, assuming he/she keeps it, must forever be reminded of this “hellish” deed each time he/she looks at the pot (a living Hell?). On the other hand, If they celebrate their mischief at each encounter then I agree.

    • Cheri says:

      I wish I could imagine a thief with such a conscience. I like your allusion to the pot being a living hell. I have one pot left…the stolen pot’s twin. How shall I view it?

  3. Richard says:

    I was going to say all sorts of things. Then I stopped myself. Would I be the pot calling the kettle blue?

  4. Brig says:

    What is it with those people and their belief that we must canonize the perp and demonize the victim.
    Stay hot, little dragon!

  5. Richard says:

    I sometimes wonder what it would be like to meet myself. Doubtless a frightening experience!

    • Cheri says:

      Meeting yourself in Heaven would be quite pleasant. You would have feathery soft wings and gorgeous jewelry. In Dante’s Hell, you would meet me in a number of circles…not gluttony, not thievery, but maybe heresy, selfishness, lust.

  6. shoreacres says:

    It caught my attention that you assumed the pot-thief was a she-thief. That’s reasonable enough. On the other hand, your thief might well have been a dementia-addled old man who, in a brief moment of lucidity, thought to himself, “The kids keep talking about pot. I’m going to get me some, and see what the fuss is all about.”

    • Cheri says:

      You are such a careful reader, Linda. I hesitated when I deemed the thief to be female. I just had a hard time visualizing a guy taking a pot. Now smoking pot? Yes, that old codger you describe could well have snatched the pot from its alcove…although getting it out of the iron would have taken nimble and quick fingers.

  7. Richard says:

    The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying ‘This is mine,’ and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau , “Discourse on Inequality”, (per Wikipedia, “Property is Theft”)

    Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. – Matthew 6:19-21

    And for the young man seeking eternal life:

    Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” – Matthew 19:21

    Render therefore unto Caesar’s the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s Matthew 22:21

    For a man’s house is his castle… Sir Edward Coke, The Institutes of the Laws of England 1628

    To which circle of Hell is the Englishman to be consigned?

  8. wkkortas says:

    I applaud you ability to maintain (or at least assume) a wry perspective on all of this. I would be fashioning a Hell for this particular thief which would lead the good Alighieri to comment “Whoa, friend, you need to dial it back a bit.”

    • Cheri says:

      So, all six of our new security cameras are working. When I look at the flat screen panel with so many pictures, I wonder if I am working security at Macy’s. Our latest idea, provided by my “compassionate” daughter Sara, is to put new fancy pots in the same alcoves and electrify them. I’m thinking about doing this…

  9. Chris says:

    Stealing the pot is like a person cheating at golf, tennis, any sport. At first there is a sense of pleasure then the reality sets in and there is no pleasure just a sense of defeat – being a real loser.

  10. Cheri says:

    Great metaphor, Chris! I would hope, as you observe, that “reality would set in…” In your vast experience as an educator and principal, is it your view that most people do have consciences? That most thieves do feel that “sense of defeat”?

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