Iowanferno opens on the night before the Iowa State Fair.
Traveling through a dark corn field, Danny Allamakee has lost his path and now wanders fearfully down the rows. The sun shines on a silo ahead of him, and he attempts to climb up to it but finds his way blocked by three monsters: a disembodied hawk’s eye, an anthropomorphic cyclone, and a panther, which appears to be weak and sickly, and is generally ignored by the other two beasts.
Frightened, Danny returns to the dark corn field. Here he encounters the ghost of Herbert Hoover, the great American President, who has come to guide Danny back to the path toward the silo, atop which Danny’s beloved Mamie awaits with a fresh pork tenderloin sandwich. Herbert says that their path will take them through Hell, adding that it was Mamie who — seeing Danny lost in the corn field — sent Herbert to guide him. Danny says “Let’s do this, bro!”
Herbert leads Danny through the Gates of Hell in Omaha, marked by the haunting inscription “306 Miles to the Illinois State Border.” On the beach beyond the gates, they see the souls who in life could not decide whether to caucus with the Democrats or the Republicans and now must run in a futile chase after a blank Des Moines Register editorial page for all eternity. Danny witnesses their suffering with repugnance, and curses them for their cowardice in life.
The Ferryman Carson then takes Danny and Herbert across the Missouri River into the First Circle of Hell, Limboni, home to the great Iowans from antiquity – including Herbert – who died without ever having the chance to taste Maytag Blue Cheese. After meeting Bix Beiderbecke, George Washington Carver, and Black Hawk, Danny continues into the Second Circle of Hell, reserved for the sin of political lust.
At the border of the Second Circle, the monster Cloris lurks, assigning condemned souls to their punishments. Inside the Second Circle, Danny watches as the souls of the politically lustful swirl about in a terrible storm, desperately trying to visit all of Iowa’s 99 counties. Danny meets Michelle Bachmann and Howard Dean in the Second Circle. Bachmann attempts to manipulate Danny’s power of reason with her crazy eyes while Dean rattles his soul with blood-curdling screams, but Herbert safely guides his shaken charge onward.
In the Third Circle of Hell, Gluttonous Farmers must lie in a hog confinement and endure a never-ending rain of pesticides. In the Fourth Circle, the Insurance Agents and the Bankers are made to charge at one another with giant works of garish corporate art. The Fifth Circle of Hell contains the River Raccoon, a swampy, fetid cesspool in which the Political Fundamentalists spend eternity struggling with each other to diminish the rights of all the other souls in Hell. Danny glimpses Bob Vander Plaats in the muck, and watches in delight as other souls tear him to pieces. The Tea Partiers lie motionless beneath the Styx’s waters, bound tightly in old “Don’t Tread On Me” flags.
Herbert and Danny next proceed to the walls of Dis Moines, a demonic city located within the south central region of Hell. The demons who guard the gates refuse to open them for Herbert, until John Wayne arrives from Heaven leading the full cast of The Longest Day to force the gates open before Danny. The Sixth Circle of Hell houses the Heretics, and there Danny encounters an old rival for Mamie’s affections named Grimes, who blasphemously denies the quality of La Quercia Prosiciutto and praises the Wines of Story County.
A deep valley leads into the First Ring of the Seventh Circle of Hell, where The Violently Friendly and The Aggressively Nice spend eternity in a river of boiling blood. Herbert and Danny meet a group of Agonyaunts, creatures who are half human, half scorpion. Twin Agonyaunts named Abigail and Ann take them into the Second Ring of the Seventh Circle of Hell, where they encounter those who were violent toward their own political careers. These souls must endure eternity in the form of trees. Danny there speaks with Mitt Romney, who explains why he put a dog on the roof of his car.
The Monster Grassley transports Herbert and Danny across a great abyss to the Eighth Circle of Hell, known as The Muscatine, which is divided into a series of ten mud-filled river locks called Keokuks. Each Keokuk features a different sin being punished in a different fashion:
- First Keokuk: The Social Media Consultants are lashed with frayed wires;
- Second Keokuk: The Registered Lobbyists lie in a river of their own bullshit;
- Third Keokuk: The Partisan Cronies hang upside down in hickory-fueled smokehouses;
- Fourth Keokuk: The Community Development Consultants are forced to walk with their heads backward;
- Fifth Keokuk: The Fraudulent Nonprofit Directors steep vats of fake Templeton Rye while demons stab at them with cocktail spears;
- Sixth Keokuk: The Wasteful Sport Hunters walk through endless fields of brambles wearing heavy camouflage vests loaded down with steel dove shot;
- Seventh Keokuk: The Farm Mortgage Repossessors sit in a pit of weasels, becoming weasels themselves when bitten; to regain their form, they must then bite other Repossessers.
- Eighth Keokuk: The Political Flacks are trussed and tied with their own power ties, then broiled on their own individual rotisseries;
- Ninth Keokuk: The Compulsive Trash Talkers walk through a sleeting rain of feces, with wounds like open mouths flapping all over their bodies;
- Tenth Keokuk: The Child Support Check Bouncers suffer from horrible sores and festering wounds, and none of the other souls will talk to them, ever.
Herbert and Danny finally leave The Muscatine and proceed to the Ninth Circle of Hell through the Giants’ Well, which leads to the massive drop to Quadcytus, a great frozen lake. The convivial giant Andy Williams picks Herbert and Danny up and sets them down at the bottom of the well, in the lowest region of Hell where those guilty of declining Federal subsidies and tax breaks are frozen in the ice forever. A huge, mist-shrouded form lurks ahead, and Danny approaches it.
It is the three-headed giant Terry, plunged waist-deep into the ice. His body pierces to the center of the Earth beneath Iowa, where God threw him on the Seventh Day, frustrated that He could not find an open restaurant. Each of Terry’s mustachioed mouths endlessly chews one of Iowa’s three greatest sinners: Harkin (who opened the gates for Ernst the Castrator), Ferentz (who dared to put on Fry the Magnificent’s shoes), and Willson (who wrote that God-awful Music Man play).
Herbert leads Danny on a climb down Terry’s massive thighs, holding on to frozen tufts of Polyester Sansa-Belt Slacks. Eventually, Herbert and Danny reach El Bait Shop, the river to forgetfulness, and travel downstream from there out of Hell and back into Iowa. They emerge on the morning the Iowa State Fair opens, just before sunrise.
“I’m outta here, Bro,” says Danny. “That Mamie chick is a pain in the ass, yo.”