In Dante’s Inferno, the ninth circle of Hell is designated for those poor souls who have committed treachery while on Earth.
After today, I can safely say that Dante was way off.
The ninth circle of Hell doesn’t contain fire or brimstone. There is no weeping, wailing or gnashing of teeth… actually, strike that. That’s all it contains in fact. It contains that along with every blinking light, loud annoying sound and the faintest smell of old urine.
Welcome to the ACTUAL ninth circle of Hell Ladies and Gentlemen, Pizza Putt, where no one can hear you scream… because everyone else is screaming.
I think every parent has that one place, that singular place that is their achilles heel.
Pizza Putt is mine.
It seems like a good idea midweek when I suggest it. We’ll go on Friday, I say. The perfect end to the week. The kids eyes light up and that is the only joy this place ever gives me, the few seconds after I announce that we’ll go there and my kids get all excited.
I love making my kids excited. It’s a drug. But with every drug, there’s a consequence, a hang over, a horrible gut wrenching withdrawal. My consequence is actually having to full fill my promise and take them there.
The ride is usually pretty good. The kids are twitching in their seats talking about all the things they want to do there.
“I want to go in the ball pit!”
“I want to go in the arcade!”
“Can we do the mini golf?” Their energy is addicting and for a brief moment, I think all of those other hundred times I’ve taken them there by myself and it’s been a horror show have been a fluke. It won’t happen this time.
If a person continues to do the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome, they are deemed crazy.
I’m ready for my straight jacket, Mr. DeMille.
We get there right when they open at 10. It’s quiet. We are usually the only ones there, save for a few other kids whose parents are mistaking this for a good idea.
The kids start playing in the ball pit and it’s okay. My son is old enough now to climb on his own and my daughter is perfectly happy playing with me in the ball pit.
I’m looking past the old gum ground into the floor and the weird stains on the worn gym mats. My kids have immune systems, I tell myself. They’ll be okay. They’re so happy.
Then my son suggests mini golf. The horror is starting to begin.
My son is four, nearly five. He can handle mini golf and actually wants to do it.
My daughter is two, she hates mini golf but thinks she likes it, thus luring me into getting her her own club and ball each time we go. This time she’ll actually want to do it, I know it.
I take a size medium straight jacket in standard white.
This is the “Putt” part of “Pizza Putt”.
Back in it’s hay day, Pizza Putt was a miracle for Vermont parents. An indoor wonderland where their children could play mini golf indoors during the never ending winter and mud season. When it first opened there was a waiting line to play golf and the water traps even had real water in them.
Now Vermont has moved on, but Pizza Putt still stands, a shadow of what it used to be. Or maybe it was always a nightmare, but being a child myself when it opened, I never saw the depressed sideshow side of it. I just saw the mini version of the Golden Gate bridge and the incredibly realistic craters in the black light moon section.
We are now in the black light moon section, hole 4, when the knife starts to twist in my back.
The moon has been repainted over the years and now looks like an underwater scene with huge three dimensional sharks and loch ness monsters. My daughter is terrified and screams the entire time my son putts. I haul her up, along with her pink ball and golf club, which she doesn’t want.
“I want to get out of here!” She screams and my son snaps at her, as her loud sounds bother him.
I don’t blame her. This place is more terrifying than she knows.
The “golf game” ends and it’s onto the horror behind door number two.
It’s overload of every kind, auditory, visual with a dash of olfactory. It’s everything and by this point it’s jam packed with older kids, literally climbing over the top of mine for a chance to win ten paper tickets.
I loath this.
This is how imagine Hell to look. This is how I’ve always imagined it since I was a kid.
I remember watching the movie “Pinocchio” and being terrified. The scene with Pleasure Island. It stuck with me. It’s tricky to even put into words, what it was about that scene, but as a child I instantly, for some reason, believed THAT was what Hell would look like. No rules. All chaos. Luring it’s victims in with flashing lights and instant gratifiction, only to have the rug pulled out from under them.
Good grief, I sound like a Puritan!
But that is what that place reduces me to. It sucks the “I can be a relaxed parent” soul right out of me.
By the end of the morning, I’ve spent more time chasing and sniping at them then I really have been playing or relaxing with them.
We get in the car and I silently vow that if my children ask to go back there, it will take an act of God for me to say yes, or at least the back up of my husband coming with me.
Hell cannot and should not be faced alone.