Robert Allen Lupton first joined the Infernal Clock in the DeadCades anthology with a great tale from the 1960s so I called him back to join us in Inferno. This time, he plunges into the Fourth Circle, with his story ‘Cookie Jar’.
Infernal Clock: What was the inspiration behind your story?
Greed. People are blinded by greed, politicians, businessmen, and even everyday people. Decisions are made every day clothed in piety, which are selfish and self-serving. The protagonist of the story wears his greed like a crown, proud and unashamed, but greed can be its own punishment.
Infernal Clock: What is your idea of hell on earth?
A world ruled by a religion or government that ignores science and punishes people for their individual rights and beliefs. I expect that a true god doesn’t care whom one chooses to love, how one chooses to live, and what choices one makes about one’s own body – when those choices don’t harm other people.
Infernal Clock: The Inferno was created on old ideas of sin. If you had to label the nine levels how, what would you call them? Would you keep it at 9? Increase or decrease?
Wow, long question. In keeping with my answer to # 2, the levels would be based on doing harm to others.
First, I’d do away with Limbo.
Second, I’d combine levels, two, three, and four. Lust, Gluttony, and Greed are three sides of the same coin. A three-sided coin – how about that. All three can be described as a variant of lust, gluttony, and greed. Greed for sex, lust for food and drink, and gluttony for riches.
Anger is a little more difficult. Anger or rage is not necessarily a bad thing. I get angry when people abuse animals or children. I feel anger at people who punish others for their beliefs. Is that anger a sin? Perhaps it is in the eyes of others. (My anger is justified – your anger is not.) I’ll leave anger in place.
Let’s add a new level here – Hypocrisy.
Eliminate level six, heresy. Heresy is just another way to day that people who don’t agree with me are going to hell.
Level seven, violence, stays, but it needs a little work. Murders still get their own ring. Rapists, child abusers, bullies, and the like all get a ring. Blasphemers get a pass. The only difference between blaspheming, heresy, and doctrine is which side of the pulpit you’re standing on. The last ring of violence is for suicides. I have some difficulty with punishing people for suicide. After all, I didn’t walk a mile in their shoes.
Levels eight and nine are fraud and treachery. The difference between the two are a matter of scope and context. Let’s call the new combined level, “Deceit for Personal Gain,” and let it go at that. Give it some rings if you feel the need to define it more tightly. There’s no end to how many different types of fraud or treachery we can list. Seems a shame that the human mind hasn’t been more focused on how to help each other rather than on how to cheat, deceive, and betray each other.
Infernal Clock: They say the Devil has all the good tunes. What song would you recommend as an accompaniment to your story?
I Want It All by Queen
Infernal Clock: If you were able to visit the Inferno, what level would you want to go to and who would you want to see there?
Level 8, fraud. I’d live to see every minister, priest, pope, shaman, and preacher who every used his position for financial gain or to sexually abuse a parishioner of any age.
Infernal Clock: What is the hottest food you’ve ever eaten? Can you share a recipe?
Good New Mexico Red Chile Posole – note that chile is not misspelled, that’s the way red and green chile is spelled as opposed to chili, as in Texas, or chilly, as in cold.
1 cup red chile sauce (recipe below)
1 tbsp olive oil
1.5 lbs pork loin cut into 1″ cubes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 onion diced
3 cloves garlic minced
6 cups chicken broth
3 cups hominy
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Season pork loin with salt, cumin, and pepper. Add to pot and brown on both sides. Remove pork.
Add onions to the pot and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, another 30 – 60 seconds.
Add back in pork, red chile sauce, chicken broth, and hominy.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for 30 minutes, or until pork is cooked through and tender.
Top with desired garnishments.
Red Chile Sauce
24 red chile pods (HOT – depending of the season and source pods could be mild, medium or hot)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic minced
1 tsp dried oregano
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Remove stems from red chile pods. Place chiles in water and boil until tender, about 15 minutes.
Transfer chile pods to a blender, along with one cup of the water the chiles were cooked in. Blend until smooth, adding more water, if necessary, until consistency is similar to tomato sauce.
Strain sauce through a sieve to remove any peels and seeds.
Return sauce to pan and add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat.
Sauce keeps in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for 6 months.
Infernal Clock: Who is your ‘favourite’ villain in history or fiction?
Hard question. Darth Vader immediately comes to mind as does Voldemort. Sher Kahn from the Jungle Book is certainly a contender as is the Nome King from the Oz stories. I considered Cruella de Ville, but the one that kept me up at night was Hannibal Lector. He gets my vote.
Infernal Clock: What is your long-term ambition for your writing?
I’m 72. I want to keep writing as long as I can. I’d like one of my novels or stories to be filmed.
Infernal Clock: Top-tip for other writers
Writing is a numbers game. Write every day. Bad writing can be edited, but you can’t edit a blank page. Rewrite as necessary and don’t be discouraged. Submit, submit, and submit again. An un-submitted story is a waste. My first professional sale (10 cents a word) was rejected 23 times before it sold. Submission and acceptance is another numbers game as well. If you don’t submit a story, no one can buy it. Grow a thick skin – I need to work on this one myself. (It doesn’t matter what the editor says or edits as long as they buy your story.)
Robert Allen Lupton is retired and lives in New Mexico where he is a commercial hot air balloon pilot. Robert runs and writes every day, but not necessarily in that order. More than a hundred and fifty of his short stories have been published in several anthologies including the New York Times best seller, Chicken Soup for the Soul – Running For Good. His novel, Foxborn, was published in April 2017 and the sequel, Dragonborn, in June 2018. His first collection, Running Into Trouble, was published in October 2017. His collection, Through a Wine Glass Darkly was released in June 2019. His newest collection, Strong Spirits was released on June 1, 2020. His third novel, Dejanna of the Double Star is scheduled for publication in October 2020. His edited anthology, Feral: It Takes a Forest to Raise a Child was released September 1, 2020. Follow Robert on Facebook and read over 800 drabbles, his 100-word short stories.
“Feral, It Takes A Forest To Raise a Child.”
I also right an Edgar Rice Burroughs themed drabble every day – over 900 as of November 2020. All are available, along with several articles on my page at https://www.erbzine.com/lupton/