If you’ve spent any quality time in the Hoosier state recently, you may have noticed that very few people are masking or social distancing. It’s true that things looked bleak in September: Last month’s new infection rate was our second highest ever, hospitalizations were through the roof, and an average of around 40 people per day were dying of one variant or another of the novel coronavirus. Yet if you were to walk the streets of any Indiana town today, you’d see that our folk are still about their business, eating in restaurants, breathing on each other, giving hand jobs in public restrooms and other normal Indiana stuff. This might lead you to believe that COVID 19 is no longer a problem here. And you’d be right. Despite the numbers, we have eradicated it completely. This is the story of how we did it.
To the west of here lies a village called Marengo. In Marengo there is a cave. The locals call it “Marengo Cave.” Marengo Cave is a U.S. National Landmark, so the main mouth of the cave is open to the public at designated hours, but there are smaller mouths in the area which one could slip into, even accidentally.
Such was the fate of 42-year-old Jimmy Dingle, a Marengo resident and casual methamphethamine user who, after his fifth DUI, stole a child’s bicycle so as to ride around blasting Eminem from a boom box duct-taped to the handlebars and look for jobs that would hire people with five or more DUIs. He found none.
After two unsuccessful days of searching, Jimmy rode to the top of a grassy knoll and lifted his transition lenses to wipe the sweat from his brow with the short sleeve of his wide-open button-up shirt. Suddenly, the earth ruptured and swallowed Jimmy and his bike, along with empty Polar Pop cups, cigarette butts, discarded bags of pork rinds, and other artifacts common to the hills of Marengo. There, having been sucked into the darkest recesses of the village’s namesake cave, where even the most intrepid of tourists do not go, Jimmy found himself riding along a long, narrow path.
One curious fact unknown to most readers is that phosphorous, a necessary ingredient of homemade meth, if smoked in just the right quantities, can allow one to see in total darkness. As such, Jimmy was able to observe what even the most seasoned of spelunkers could not: The pathway he was on was, in actuality, a series of seven gateways into Irkalla – the underworld.
Without sufficient space or good sense to turn around, Jimmy continued on, past the seven gates, past Goltar and Yipyip, the giant hounds responsible for protecting both ends of the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone, past the great pillars that mark the end of the Middle West, and finally rolled to a stop at the triple-wide trailer of the demoness Mammetun, who, as it happens, is the Regional Death Coordinator assigned to Indiana.
There, for want of anything better to do, Jimmy smoked a blunt and lay with the demoness, whereafter she promised him one wish, anything he desired, so long as he stayed in the trailer with her, washed the dishes every so often, and contributed whatever he could to the power bill every month. “I can’t contribute nothin,'” Jimmy complained. “Can’t get no job ‘cuz of COVID.” That was a lie, but Mammetun did not know it, and so she rescinded the COVID death orders. She decreed instead that those gravely ill with the disease should have their ages reduced to negative numbers, so that they would not be truly dead, but waiting in the underworld until such time as the Central Death Coordinating Managerial Director (Mammetun’s supervisor) gave the all-clear to return to the world of the living in one form or another.
And so it was that Jimmy Dingle of Marengo vanquished COVID in Indiana. Many details of his journey have been omitted here, but the gist is: Jimmy gave himself for all of us so that we could once again share drinking straws, use overflowing portalets at our county fairs and snuggle total strangers on airplanes if we damn well please. As with all sacred tales, there will be those who call this one a ludicrous, fantastic fabrication. Those critics underestimate both the power of myth in communicating fundamental truths about humanity, and the capacity of our people to believe even the most outrageous crock of shit, especially when reality is profoundly unpleasant. We Hoosiers, having considered the alternatives, will tell this story until it becomes true.
Dan Canon is a civil rights lawyer and law professor. His book “Pleading Out: How Plea Bargaining Creates a Permanent Criminal Class” is available for preorder wherever you get your books.
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