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David Fitzsimmons, Tucson’s most beloved ink-stained wretch.

A flawed man, I expect to be judged harshly upon my demise. I do not fear hell for I have spent many a summer in Tucson.

Ancients believed hell had various levels of torment to offer its residents. The first level of hell featured the most dreaded eternal punishment. According to legend, the damned were buckled into a stalled Ford Pinto in Tucson at high noon. In July. On Speedway. With no air conditioning. Windows up. For eternity.

Like any Tucsonan who has weathered a summer, I sneer at whatever feeble torments hell might hold. I expect to be greeted by one of Lucifer’s horned minions behind hell’s registration desk. “Welcome to hell. Can I interest you in our Hell-come Home Special? Apply for our credit card today and you’ll get 15% off your first lashing!”

“No, thanks. I’m checking in. Nice molten lava.”

With his viper’s tongue the scarlet beast licks the end of his quill. “Name.”

“Dave.”

“Town of origin, Dave.”

“Tucson. The town where summer spends the winter and hell spends the summer.”

“I forgot to laugh. It’s comedians like you that can make hell a living hell.”

“I thought hell was supposed to be hot. This is nothing compared to last Tuesday in Tucson. I saw a snowbird combust outside the Safeway. Could you turn up the heat? It’s chilly down here.”

He frowned and pressed the sharp sizzling tines of his pitchfork into my chest. “Silence! There is no land in all the world that burns hotter than hell! None!”

“Spend a summer in Bullhead City and then we’ll talk. Last July it was twice as hot as this ice box.”

“Enough! You won’t be so full of yourself when you’re cast into the ‘Furnace of Broiled Souls.’”

“Furnace of Broiled Souls! Hey! That’s what we call downtown Tucson in the summertime.”

“You have flames licking at your feet. You’re surrounded by molten lava. You’re red as a lobster and sweating like Don Rickles. According to the thermometer behind me we are currently enjoying a 28 million degree day. That’s a million degrees hotter than the core of the sun.”

“In Tucson we’d call that ‘sweater weather.’”

He just glared at me with his glowing red eyes.

I kept going. “People back home in Tucson were always saying it’s hotter than hell in Tucson in the summertime. And you know what? Now that I’m actually here I can say they’re absolutely right. In Tucson we’d call your so-called ‘eternal hellfire’ nothing more than ‘tomorrow’s forecast for mild summer temperatures.’

“Anything else?”

“Yep. What’s with the horns? How come you get horns and I don’t? All I get is a pitch fork and a lousy set of flammable pajamas.”

“Silence! List your sins.”

“OK. Let’s start with the fact you can’t drive in Tucson in the summer time and not take the Lord’s name in vain.”

“Uh-huh.”

“And thou shalt not covet, right? I’m guilty of that. I have coveted many a shady parking spot in June. I remember offering you my soul for a parking space, in the shade, in the middle of the summer of 2016, near the entrance to Tucson Mall.”

“And here you are now. I hope that shady parking space was worth it.”

“It was. I’d do it again.”

“Cause of expiration?”

“I forgot to take enough water with me on the trail yesterday. Say! Is that Jack Frost nippin’ at your pitchfork?”

Lucifer’s toady sneered. “We hope you don’t enjoy your stay. Take your pitchfork and flammable pajamas and go the end of that line over there. Where the sign reads ‘Hell Pit Entrance.’”

“Could I get an electric blanket on my way out? Some mittens? How about some pocket warmers?”

“You Tucsonans think you are all so tough. Laugh all you want, you wretched sinner. You will burn! You will broil! And you will roast.”

“Burn, broil and roast! Now there’s a coincidence. That was last week’s three-day weekend forecast for Tucson. A walk in the park.”

David Fitzsimmons: tooner@tucson.com.

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