Home > 21st Century, American Literature, Proulx, Annie, Short Stories > Let’s redecorate hell and resurrect pterodactyls

Let’s redecorate hell and resurrect pterodactyls

I’ve Always Loved This Place and Swamp Mischief are two short-stories written by Annie Proulx and included in the book Fine Just the Way It Is. There are so funny and so different from the other Wyoming stories that I wanted to single them out. Both stories take place in Hell, literally.

In I’ve Always Loved This Place, after the Devil attended the “Whole World Design & Garden Show”, he decides to redecorate hell because it is not scary enough anymore compared to earth. He thinks about creating an extension but finds it unnecessary in the end because “The earth itself, with no labor on his part, would become Hell Plus. In the meantime he intended to upgrade the current facilities”

So he visits the place with his secretary, Duane Fork. It is made of several circles, each of them corresponding to a special torture. At each stop, he dictates improvements in sufferings. I particularly like the part when he wants to redecorate some corner as a mix of a perpetual Tour de France and Paris-Roubaix cycling races, with EPO mandatory breaks.

For a reason I don’t understand, the story is full of French references. The secretary sprays the room with “Eau de Fumier”, literally “Manure Water” and the Devil swears with loud “Merde!”. (No translation needed, I guess). The secretary also says “Chapeau!” (“Congratulations!”). News from President Sarkozy are asked, as if he were expected in hell soon.

I won’t tell more about the different scenery he imagines, I’ll you discover them by yourself, if you decide to read this short-story.

In Swamp Mischief, the Devil gets bored and decides to have Hell hackers fish some emails from the Upper World to distract him. He randomly chooses to peep over emails from ornithologists and reads one from an ornithologist complaining that his management did not care enough about birds and wishing he could have dangerous pterodactyls to draw more attention. So, out of fun, the Devil decides to re-create pterodactyls. He asks for advice to a BBC science films maker and a dinosaurs expert. The scenery needs to be a big production and the Devil worries because it would “call for advanced engineering and almost certainly a rearrangement of the yearly budget”. Creating a fake pterodactyl was trickier but successful after some efforts. They were sent on earth, in newly settled swamp designed for them. I won’t tell what happened then, not to spoil the surprise, but I really laughed.

 These short-stories are full of funny and inventive details, like this one about the bear scientist who saw the pterodactyls :

He prayed in German and English, for he was a religious man, a member of a group of hallucinated enthusiasts, Penecostal Grizzly Scientists, who met once a month in the back room of a taxidermist’s shop”

The other short-stories are about Wyoming cow-boys, ranches, and so on. I’ll post something on them another time, for they are really well written.

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