Fifty Shades of Zeus

Or, The Gods Must Be Crazy

Hera was p.o.ed. Royally peeved. Absolutely livid. Madder than a disturbed nest of hornets. Besides all that, she was not happy. Not happy at all. How dare her husband make a fool out of her again. She went off and spent one weekend at the spa for some well-deserved R and R. Wanted to prettify herself just for him. And what did hubby do? Zeus, her husband of the past ten millennia and the king of all the gods, went out chasing skirts again.

‘Course Zeus would protest like he always did. He said that it wasn’t his fault. It was his charismatic personality. The women saw that grin on his face and those teeth whiter than white. Next thing he knew they wanted to feel his thunderbolts. Yeah, right. Like he couldn’t fight the women off, the big show-off. Hera had had enough of her husband poking the first dumb blonde he took a hankering for. Before you could tweak Poseidon’s nose, the papparazzi would be asking her all those Princess Di questions.

Just why had Hera ended up with the big Z anyway? What had a practical, level headed young goddess seen in the Playboy of the Universe in the first place? Back in the olden days, she could have had her pick of the litter. Poseidon. Hades. Even the sun god, Helios. But no. She had to go with Thunderbolts. Thing was that she’d been impressed with his management skills. He could multitask like he invented the word. ‘Course he did invent the word.”This is the guy for me,” she said after their third date. If she had it to do over again, she would follow the advice of the Who when they sang, “Won’t get fooled again.”

But that was then. This was now. Like a lot of CEOs, Zeus got used to having his own way. Getting to travel in the corporate jet. Staying in the penthouse suite. Having his pick of the secretarial pool. Thing was that lately Zeus was bored. “What’s a god to do if he can’t have any fun?” he said to Hera after a long argument about his indiscretions. “Boys just wanna have fun.”

“Fun, my butt,” Hera threw back at him.

“Look, if I don’t do this, I’m going crazy. There’s only so much ambrosia a god can take.” Then he pointed one of his thunderbolts at her.

She took a glare at him that would have killed a lesser god. “You know where you can stick those thunderbolts, don’t you?”

Well, Z went out and did his thang. And he did it a lot. Finally Hera had had enough. It was her way or the highway. In a moment of trying to please, Z promised to give up his philandering, his womanizing. But he just couldn’t. To give credit where credit was due, he did give it the old college try. He even tried Sexaholics Anonymous. The problem was that he picked up three women at his first meeting. A little poke here. A little poke there. Pretty soon you got a hokey pokey. Before they knew what had happened, all three were knocked up.

So that was that. No more S.A. for the big guy. And now he was out chasing a woman named Leda Swan. Pretty soon there’d be a demigod here, a demigod there, a demigod everywhere. Then one of those demigods would be sitting on Hera’s doorstep, asking for a place among the stars, wanting his own constellation. Can you imagine the gall of it all? Well, there would be none of that this time.

Sure she was fond of Herakles. He was named after her after all. And he was cute in a crude sort of way. But dumb. Real dumb. How could anybody get talked into doing that labors thing?

Hera sent Hermes to go find Aphrodite. He found her alright. The goddess of love was modelling her latest nightie from Victoria Secret for Ares, god of war and regular all-around tough guy. Hermes showed up just as Ares was about to make his moves. Aphrodite loved his moves, that was for sure. But when Hera called, she knew she’d better go running off to Olympus

First thing Hera said to Aphrodite, “Where’s that little bastard? I am going kick his butt all the way to Hades if I get a chance.”

“Now, Mom, it’s not Cupid’s fault that he’s such a malicious little troublemaker. He takes after his dad, you know.”

Hera wasn’t looking for any excuses. This was the last straw. She wanted to kick Zeus in the place it would hurt the most. Right between the thunderbolts. That would teach the big galoot. So what did she do? She called a War Council. The other gods and goddesses showed up under protest. Everybody but Artemis. She hated politics. Somehow Apollo got his little sis off the hook. It wasn’t easy but he did it.

All the council was thinking they better find a way to calm Hera’s anger. Or there would be consequences. Last time anybody took on the Big Guy, he had them for lunch. Atlas still had the scars.

Hera called Exhibit A to testify to Zeus’ transgressions. Europa. You’d think Europa would have known better than to get involved with Zeus. The girl had heard the stories. About Semele and Thalia among others. But what young woman could resist the attention Z gave her?

It was downright flattering that the king of the gods would even be interested in her. After all, her nose was slightly larger than the rest of the maidens. Her friends always made fun of it. And her breasts were a little bit too small. The guys said so. But Zeus went for young ladies with a few imperfections. I mean Semele had big ears and Thalia a rather large rump. And small breasts and a big nose was a real turn-on for him. He promised Europa a continent of her own. How could she resist that? What with the price of real estate, she’d be richer than Warren Buffet and Bill Gates put together. So what the heck?

Besides there were those blonde curls of his. She couldn’t resist running her fingers through them. And she just loved the big Z on the chest of the god who loved her. Reminded her of Zorro. That was enough for Hera. She knew that tattoo very well. It was Z’s chest that it was on. And the beard. Europa remembered the beard too. It tickled.

After the testimony, Poseidon tried to calm Hera down. “It’s just Zeus. You know how he is. These flights of fantasy don’t mean a thing. It’s you he loves. Always has been. Always will be.”

But there was no quenching Hera’s thirst for revenge. But what to do? the Councilors asked each other. If they weren’t careful, war would break out, then they, the gods, would have to choose sides. That just wouldn’t do. Brother against brother, sister against sister, sister against brother, brother against sister, mother against father, child against parent, parent against child.

So the Council adjourned to give the whole matter some thought. Knowing that it wasn’t good to think on an empty stomach, they threw themselves into a feast.

Z came home that night. He took one look at the feast and said, “You guys threw a party without me?’ They all nodded yes, not wanting to give the Big Guy a clue about what was going on. But he took one look at his wife’s face. Knew he was in trouble and that is Trouble with a capital T. He didn’t know what he had done but he knew he’d better come clean with an apology. “I’m sorry,” he said. “No, you’re not,” Hera answered. He should have known that was coming. Already he was digging himself in a hole and he wasn’t sure how to stop.

Zeus gave her that smile, you know the one with the dimples and the boyish grin. “My friends,” Zeus said to the Court of the Gods, “do I not look like I am sorry?”

“He’s sorry,” Hades said. “Yep, he’s really sorry,” Athena chirped in.

Hera held her peace and faked her forgiveness. She gave Zeus a big hug.

Relieved, the others finished their libations, then dozed off. The next morning Zeus was up bright and early and on his way, checking out the world to make sure things were a-okay. Hera called the War Council together again. “Give me what I want,” she demanded. “Or there is going to hell to pay. And you know I can make you pay it.”

“What did you have in mind?” Apollo asked.

“Your daddy is partial to the city of Troy. So I am thinking we can do some real damage to the place. Then he won’t be able to pin anything on us. When it’s all over and we have leveled the city, I can tell him why.”

“We can’t go down and blast Troy to Sodom and Gomorrah,” Athena said. “Daddy wouldn’t let us.”

“No,” Hera said. “But the Greeks can.”

Well, all the gods and goddesses liked this plan. It had been a long while since they’d had a first class war. It was going to be a lot of fun.

“Now where did you say that Paris was?” Hera asked Aphrodite.

And that was how the Trojan War really was started.

Short Story Wednesday: A High School Sophomore’s Book Report on “The Metamorphosis”

Short Story Prompt: “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka

I have a report to do on a book by this Franz Kafka guy. It’s called “The Metamorphosis”. But I just can’t focus. My mind’s bouncing off the wall, running hither and thither, and from here to there. Every time I try to concentrate on this story, my mind goes off and does its own thing.

Here this Kafka guy has his main man, waking up and finding himself a stinkbug. I’m thinking what stinkbug worth his salt as a stinkbug would want to wake up as a character in a story like this. None, I’m sure. Not that I know any stinkbugs personally.

Now I have to admit my Uncle Griffin looks like a stinkbug. Smells like one too. When he came over the other day. Mom said he hadn’t bathed in a week. All I know was that he was p.u.-ing all over the place. So she made him take a good long shower. I googled stinkbug in Google Images. Yep, there was Uncle Griff.

Back to the story. Guess this stinkbug guy’s like the Penguin in Batman. It ain’t Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot’s fault he’s got flippers. He just does. Clark Kent doesn’t have normal guy underwear either. You ever see him in his Fruit of the Looms?

I’m thinking maybe Kafka’s stinkbug is not a stinkbug at all. Maybe he is a fellow with the DTs. That would explain his strange behavior. I looked it up and yep, that’s what my uncle has alright. It’s short for something called delirium tremens. Mom’s got Uncle Griff locked in our guest bedroom and he’s calling out for help. Actually he’s not calling, he’s screaming, “Marge, Marge.” That’s my mom’s name. Griff is her younger brother.

I have to say that his screaming sounds pretty good. I been getting into the scream scene myself, grooving to a band called the Screaming Marbles. Uncle Griff could be the lead singer. Come to think of it all five guys in the band look like stinkbugs, so my uncle would fit right in.

Seems all this DT stuff started with something my mom calls “An Intervention”. Mom says it’s where a bunch of people get together and tell a drunk what-for and he’d better get “the cure”. They did that day before yesterday at the house after Uncle Griff’s shower and clean-up. Before they started intervening, they sent me off to the movies. I wanted to see that new X-Men movie but this intervening sounded like a lot more fun. But I did what I was told.

“Your uncle will be staying with us for a while,” my mom said when I got home from the movies. Then she explained, “Your uncle is sick, and we’re going to make him well.”

I smarted off, “You mean he’s a drunk.” My mom slapped my face for saying that like she never slapped my face before. Think it’s ’cause she’s all stressed out about Uncle Griff being an alcoholic. That’s what mom calls his sickness. I ain’t saying he’s a drunk anymore ’cause I don’t want to be slapped no more. But he is. Still a drunk, that is.

Anyway things been getting a little Kafkaesque around my house these days as you can see. One thing I sure hope. That my Uncle Griff don’t croak the way the stinkbug did in that Kafka story. He’s a really nice guy when he ain’t drinking. My favorite time with him was when he taught me how to ride a bicycle. He sure had a lot of patience. Every time I fell on my keister, we laughed. Once I rode my bike a whole block, he ran up side the bike and told me we were getting an ice cream as a reward for all the hard work. So you can see why I hope Uncle Griff don’t die.

By the way, Mrs. Hastings, I hope you don’t ever get them DTs. They ain’t nice.

Next Wednesday’s Short Story Prompt: “The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs.

What’s the world coming to?

Man, Uncle Bardie must be getting past his prime. Hate to complain but first Rand McNally, you know the Atlas people, they changed an easily identifiable Siam to Thailand and Rhodesia to Zimbabwe. But they didn’t stop there. Suddenly Ceylon was Sri Lanka Dutch Guiana was Suriname. Then Burma became Myamar, Nanking was Nanjing and Peking was Beijing. Pretty soon there will be no more Peking Duck. It will be Beijing Duck. Kind of takes the romance out of the dish, don’t you think? Talk about taking the romance out of a name. Now Ireland’s King’s County is County Offaly. Hope that isn’t pronounced awfully.

And those are the easily pronounceable ones. In the olden days, it was so much easier to lump all those countries into one big Soviet Union than to have to call them by their real names, names like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and all the other stanleys. Makes me wonder where Oliver Hardy is these days. Some of those stanleys are three miles long. And what about Canton becoming Guangzhou, Sian now Xi’an and just plain Bolivia changing to the Plurinational State of Bolivia. It’s enough to make a map dizzy.

Next thing you know they’ll be changing Bombay to Mumbai. Oh, they did that. Thank God, they didn’t change Constantinople to Istanbul. Wouldn’t that be something.

Used to, we dealt with leaders who had sensible names like Stalin, Gandhi, Churchill, DeGaule, Wilson, Meir, Nehru, Castro, U Thant. We even figured out how to pronounce Adenauer and Pompidou. What a haircut. Oh, that was a pompadour. Kinda like matador, only with hair. Everybody ignored Mussolini cause they knew the man with the more easily pronounceable Hitler was in charge.

And the fellow in Canada, Trudeau, ran things so long we finally got his name down right. It helped that he had a great looking wife. Even Maotse tung was Chairman Mao. Nobody ever said his buddy’s name, you know Chou Enlai. The last sensible name in recent memory was a President of Mexico named Fox. Who can even remember the new guy down there now?

Sometime in the seventies, leaders started cropping up that required a translator to get the name straight. Names like Gaddafi. We ignored Osama bin Loden for a long time just because Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather couldn’t figure out how to pronounce his name. Nobody was sure how his name went. It took 9/11 to get the newscaster to say his name.

Now look what we have to deal with François Hollande, a guy named after a country; Kim Jong-un, just one of a long line of Jongs; that guy in Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki and Israel’s Netanyahu. Now that is some name. At least, the new sheriff in Pakistan Nawaz Sharif isn’t the previous guy, Mir Hazar Khan Khoso. And I do like the name of the new guy from Iran, Hassan Rouhani. Easier to pronounce than the previous guy’s name, Mahmoud Abba-dabba-who. Then there was that Russian president who replaced a perfectly good name like Putin. Well, the new guy’s gone now anyway. Only a prime minister and he’s not really of any consequence anyhow. What’s his name? Oh, yeah. Medvedev, and only God knows the name of those fellows in Georgia and Ukraine. The country, not the state. At least the guy from Japan has a good old fashioned American name, Abe. Isn’t that nice?

I mean, just what is the world coming to?

By the way, have you noticed that every time the anchor of NBC News, Brian Williams, leaves the country there is a disaster like a earthquake or a war? He should be banned from travelling, sealed into an NBC studio in Washington, DC and not let out.

Short Story Wednesday: A Southerner’s Redemption

Short Story Prompt: “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Richard Wright

Last Saturday afternoon my wife and I went to Sears. It was not a pleasant experience. I dropped my wife off in women’s dresses, then moseyed over to the Men’s Department.

While checking out the sales, I caught a glimpse of a guy I’d known in high school, Johnny Newton. Better than known, we’d been best buddies then. Here it was 1982 and it had been some thirty years since I’d seen him last. He had acquired a little paunch around his middle, lost some of his blonde hair to baldness, and now wore glasses. Otherwise he hadn’t aged at all.

Trying to avoid him like he was the chicken pox, I made a start to leave through the maze of shelves that was Men’s. Before I could skedaddle, he spotted me with that cut-you-to-the quick stare of his that always gave me the willies.

“Shucks, if it ain’t Breckinridge Robert E. Lee Beaudreaux,” he called, stopping me in my tracks. “You old son of Nathan Bedford Forrest High you. It’s a long way from Mississippi and here I find you in Orlando, Florida.

It was too late for a getaway, so I sauntered over to where he was standing by the men’s shirts. I took his hand and warily shook it and said, “I live here. Been here for the past twenty-five years. Since I got out of the service.”

He squeezed my hand something hard and said, “Ah, c’mon. You can squeeze that wet noodle of a hand better than that. Give me a man’s shake.”

I returned his squeeze with a harder one of my own just to prove that I had some gumption in me. “Hi, Johnny.”

“That’s better,” he said, releasing my hand. “Same old Bobby. And here I am so proud to see you.”

“Same old Bobby? I’m afraid I don’t get your drift.”

“You’re still trying to check out and avoid the inevitable, ain’t you?”

“Listen. That night was not inevitable.”

“That night?” There he was, acting like he had forgotten when I knew he hadn’t. One thing for sure was that he would never forget that night. He had been way too proud of what we’d done.

“You know what I am referring to.”

“Oh, you’re joshing me. You still fretting ‘bout that Saturday night. It ‘bout done gone and slipped right out of my brain. Now here you go reminding a fellow about it.” He was grinning from ear to ear like he was putting one over on President Reagan.

“If you’re the Johnny Newton I recall, if you’re that same Johnstown Newton, you have a memory like Sheriff Clawfoot used to have. ‘Member people thought he was kin to an elephant with those big ears of his and that memory.”

“Every little thing he ‘membered. Nothing seemed to git past that old fart of a cop. That’s for sure.”

“Like I said, Johnny…oh, well, we don’t need—“

He laughed. “Sounds like you’re the one who’d like to whup hisself up a little case of that amnesia.”

“Perhaps.”

“What’s all that perhapsing for? I just can’t believe it. You’ve done gone and got yourself some citification. Wanting to be sophisticated and all. Trying to put on airs and leave where you came from behind. Ain’t you now?”

“It’s not that,” I said. Which I shouldn’t have.

“Oh, yeah it is. Just like you’re wanting to forget we had ourselves a time with that boy.”

“You call that tomfoolery we did entertaining?” I tried to appear nonchalant as I fiddled with the shirts.

“I still get goosepimples. That ol’ boy sure made a nice sack of taters.”

“I’m telling you I get nightmares. Just thinking ‘bout that poor black kid tied up in a burlap bag and swinging from that giant oak tree and us two taking pot shots at him with your .22.”

He grinned a big one. “I sure loved that gun. That’s the one my daddy gave me, you know.”

“Us not knowing,” I said, hoping somehow to get out of the conversation, “that he had a heart condition and all.” I turned and started to leave.

He grabbed me by the shoulder and pulled me back toward him. “We never hit him or nothing. He went and killed his own self. Or don’t you ‘member that part?”

“He had a heart attack. Damn it.” I was struggling to keep my voice down. But the anger was piling up in me.

“So?” he said, his voice speaking in a normal tone.

“Just the same he died,” I said, the exasperation filling my voice. “And we were responsible.”

“Aw c’mon. We didn’t cause nothing. And besides he deserved it.”

“Deserved it?” I spat out the words.

“Never knew nobody deserved a dying more. Messing around with Katie the way he did. No nig—“

“Don’t call him that…that word,” I interrupted. “I hate that word.”

“Well, I declare. What’s a white boy like your own sweet self getting all jittery ‘bout. You ain’t gone and—“

“Never you mind.”

“Anyway, ain’t no black boy gonna be with a white girl. That is, if I can help it.” The smile was gone from his face.

“Everybody else had his way with Katie,” my words confronted him. “Leastwise that was the rumor. Why not Seymour? Besides we never had no proof that he did or he didn’t.”

“Walking her home from school like he did that week before graduating. That was all the sure-fire proof we needed. I’d say that n—“

“He had a name, you know.” I confronted him.

“Okay, Seymour. I’d say that Seymour got what he had coming. For getting what he thought he had coming to him.”

“Maybe they were just friends. He always seemed respectful towards her. She never had any of us for friends.”

“That’s ‘cause none of us wanted to be with a girl like that. Like you said your own self, she was downright trash.” He winked like he was revealing a secret we all knew but pretended we didn’t.

“I never said that.”

“Sure did, and you know you did.”

“Well, it still,” I said, “leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I think of what happened to him.”

“Sure tasted good to you back then. Didn’t it?” He grinned, then held up one of the shirts in front of his chest. “Think I’ll look good in this?”

I took the shirt from him and threw it back on the shelf. “That was a lifetime ago. And I just want it to go away.”

“You ain’t changed that much. You can’t tell me you have.”

“Oh, I’ve changed.” I knew I had changed and I wasn’t about to let the likes of him tell me otherwise.

“Only thing changed, those civil rights Jews come through and replaced old Creawfoot hisself and gave us a n…sorry, a black sheriff. All prim and proper in that bright new uniform of hissun’s too. That’s all. Soon as that happened you hightailed it. Got out of the country. The state even. You were always the first to scat at any sign o’ trouble. Just like you want to skedaddly-do right now and get away from the likes of me, don’t you? But I’m your heritage. I’m you past. You ain’t never gonna get away from that.”

“Not—“

“Go ahead,” he said, joshing me. “Admit how afraid you are not that the cops have all gone liberal-like. But you oughtn’t to worry. They think it was the Klan that went out and done that there mischief. Come to think of it. Maybe it was the Klan. Now why don’t you admit it. Them was your Klanning days.”

“They were not. I’s never a part of that bunch and you know it. Don’t you want to—“

“Come clean? No sirree. You probably scared I’ll go and spill them beans, ain’t you? With the kinds of odds against me I’ve had lately. No way. Been arrested too many times for owning up to that.”

“Arrested?” I asked.

“For all kinds of rigamarole. Just not for shed of no nig…coons, that is. ‘Course I could let them know it was you. Anonymous-like, if you want me to. You do want me to, don’t you? Give you a chance to come clean with that educated conscious you gone and got yourself.”

Frustrated, I shook my head. I was losing my patience big time. “No, I don’t. I just want it all to go away. It’s past now. That was a lifetime ago. I was a kid, doing dumb things back then. Getting into all sorts of trouble. I’ve changed. But I can see you haven’t.”

I wanted to hit him. I started to grab him by the collar. But something stopped me. I realized I was in Sears, not in some Alabama backwoods I’d left behind a lifetime ago. I was a civilized man now. I wasn’t going to sink back to down to the level I had been way back then.

“You ain’t changed nary a bit,” he said, his voice getting loud for the first time. “You just want me to think you’re better’n me. But you—“

“Breck,” I heard from behind me. I turned to see an attractive black woman in her mid-forties walking toward me. It was Chastain. We’d been married for twenty years. “I left my credit cards at home. Can I borrow yours? I found some dresses that I want to purchase.” She was now standing beside me.

“Sure.” I pulled out my wallet and handed her my Visa. “I’ll meet you over in women’s in a sec,” I said softly to her.

She took the card, kissed me a quick thank-you and said, “That’s fine. I’ll be with the dresses.” Then she left me alone with Johnny Newton.

“Well, I’ll be,” he said, shaking his head. “I’ll just be. Now if dogs could talk. But maybe they do.”

I started to say something, but I held back.

“Now, I get it,” he said “Nice, real nice. A fellow ought to not keep a secret from a lovely lady like that. It might go and get itself loose and finish him off. Then there’d be no more happily-ever-afters.” He slapped me on the shoulder and smacked his lips.

I gritted my teeth.

“Wait till—“

“Don’t,” I said, glaring at him. “Don’t even think it. If my wife ever finds out—“

“Oh, she’s gonna find out. You can’t keep a secret like that forever.”

“She’d just better not get it from you.”

“I hear confessin’ could be good for a soul. Get him a free ticket through them Perly Gates I done heard Saint Peter guards. Keepin’ out all the riff-raff likle our friends, Katie and Seymour. Seymour,” he said and laughed. “Now that’s a name for you.”

“Like I said—“ I couldn’t finish my sentence. I was so angry. I turned and left him there by the men’s shirts.

“I didn’t know yellow dogs could fly,” was the last thing I heard him throw at me as I stomped away. I stopped by the children’s shoes, calmed down and then walked over to the women’s department and met Chastain by the cash register. I signed the credit card receipt and picked up her packages. She took my hand and we walked out of Sears together, my white hand safely enfolded in her dark brown palm. It comforted me.

We made it to my light blue Honda Accord. My wife released my hand. I opened the trunk and dropped the packages inside. Just as I opened the car door for her, I heard Johnny’s yell. I looked up to see that he was across the parking lot several hundred feet away, calling after me, running towards me. A car slammed into his body and knocked him out of the way.

I noticed that my wife had not seen any of this as she settled into the passenger seat of the Honda. I breathed a deep relief and walked around to the driver’s side and got into the car. Then I looked at Chastain. I looked at Chastain and felt waves of guilt and shame rise in me like the tides at full moon.

A shadow of worry must have crossed my face because she asked, “Are you all right?” There was concern in her voice.

I looked away from her and straight ahead. I turned the ignition. The car didn’t start. On a second try, the car’s engine started up. I put the car into gear, then thought for a second and turned off the engine.

“Are you all right?” she asked again, taking my hand and squeezing it lovingly like she always did.

As I sat there in that Sears’ parking lot last Saturday afternoon, I realized what an unpleasant experience it had all been. Running into Johnny Newton. Now it was over.

Looking straight ahead, I tried to hold it all in. However I could only do that for a moment or two. It was no use. I turned to Chastain and said, “I have something to tell you, something that happened a long time ago. And I’m not real sure—“

Next Wednesday’s Prompt: “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka

“It’s just the wind”

Short Story Prompt: “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

I don’t usually write Sunday’s post, using a prompt. But the story I created here I do think is a good Father’s Day story. So here goes.

“It’s just me, the wind,” the wind howled, trying to calm our fears. It was not working. No, the bewitching lie of that West Texas wind was not working on my ten-year-old brother and me. Ralph and I buried our heads under the bed sheets, shivered in our pajamas and hugged each other. We were barely breathing, trying to keep that wind from finding us all alone in the house.

“Th-th-that wind d-d-d-don’t like us, do it?” Ralph said. There was a hope in his quiet, chattering voice that I would contradict him. But I knew that he was right. That Old Devil Wind was outside, circling our house and hankering to come at us inside. I swallowed hard and there was nothing to swallow. My throat was dry.

Just then my brother surprised me. He buckled up his courage, wrestled himself free from my hold and threw the covers off us to face the dark. Sitting bolt upright in the bed, he said to the wind, “You’d better leave us alone, or we’ll tell our Daddy.”

Still the wind howled. But its words changed, “I ain’t none too scared of your daddy, but he should be scared of me,” it laughed. It was not anything near a human laugh. More like a banshee screeching at us.

I sure wished my Daddy was home to prove it wrong. He would prove it wrong. At least, I could hope. Mother and Daddy had gone out to a party for the evening and wouldn’t be back until past midnight.

Ralph ducked back under the sheets and pulled them completely over us. He scrunched up beside me and grabbed a tight hold of my twelve-year-old body. I wrangled myself free. The wind’s screech turned into a wail. A tree branch clack-clack-clacked against the bedroom windowpane. I reached for my brother and we held each other close. I felt him shiver; he felt me shiver. The smell of his sweat filled the bed. His strategy had not worked and now the wind knew where we were. It smelled our fear. It was coming, and it was coming for us. It was just a matter of time.

“Do you have to sweat so much?” I asked. “That Old Devil Wind is going to smell you. It’ll know exactly where we’re at. We’re going to be goners. It’s going to eat us alive.”

“I can’t help it. I’m scared and I sweat when I’m scared. That thing out there scares me. ‘Sides you’re sweating too. More’n me actually.”

I hadn’t realized. My pajamas were soaking wet with sweat.

Everything went quiet. The house. The tree branch. The wind. Nary a sound, not even a whimper. No wind wailing at us. Just a dead silence, the kind of silence you hear in a cemetery in that evening twilight after everybody has departed from their loved ones’ gravesites and before the spooks come out to go on their nightly haunting. Seemed as if the wind had left us in peace, and maybe, just a big maybe, headed out across the West Texas plain that reached out and shook hands with the sky.

“You think?” Ralph whispered into my ear.

“Shhhh.” I was taking no chances. Could be that Old Devil Wind was lying outside in the grass like the snake it was, waiting till a cloud slipped over the full moon and dowsed its bright light. In the darkness, it would strike. “Boo!” It would be out again and on the hunt for my brother and me. We couldn’t drop our guard. We had to keep scared. That wind loved to eat brave boys. At least that was what one of my friends at school had said. Said he knew a boy that stood up to the wind. Rumor was that his scream from the wind’s bite could be heard across three counties.

I whispered back to Ralph, “It’s just waiting on the moon to slide behind one of them clouds. That’s cause the moon and the wind ain’t friends and it ain’t coming out till the moon has disappeared. You know that, don’t you?”

“No, I never heard.”

“Oh, it’s true,” I said, trying to keep my mind off the thing that scared me most. “Those two, the moon and the wind, they don’t get along at all. ‘Least that’s what Daddy says. And he ought to know. He’s had dealings with the moon.”

But it was quiet and, after a while, we were feeling a little safe, relaxing our grips on each other.

“Look,” I said in my quietest voice, “and see if it’s gone.”

“I’m not about to look. What if he catches me looking?”

“He won’t ’cause he’s gone.”

“If you’re so sure, you look.”

“Aw c’mon. Be brave.”

“You be brave. You’re the older one. Mom says you’re supposed to watch out for me. I’m just a dumb little kid. I’m allowed to be scared. So you be brave and look.”

Well, it was quiet. Seemed like it was safe enough to slip the covers from over my head and down to my neck. Couldn’t hurt anything. My head peaked out from the bed. The moon filled the window. The shadows grew longer and longer as the moonlight reached across the room and shone in my eyes.

“I got to go pee,” Ralph said, throwing the bedding off of the two of us.

I grabbed his hand. “Are you crazy? He’s probably waiting to ambush us like some outlaw gang when he catches us by ourselves. You stay here, y’hear me?”

“But I can’t wait. I got to go.”

I choked back my fear. Maybe it would be all right. We hadn’t heard from Old Devil for quite some time. Maybe it was in Amarillo by now and wouldn’t be back. I released my brother’s hand.

“Well, go,” I said. “But you get back here in a hurry, y’hear? Before you-know-who…before it’s back and at us again. And leave the lights off so it won’t know you’re up.”

Ralph jumped out of the bed and lunged for the hall. The moonlight was fading, a cloud passing across the sky. A shadow crossed my face. Then the room was dark, then chilly. It seemed like a good idea to go all the way back under the covers to warm up.

The wind rose from the grass, then whistled its way across the field and toward our house. Under the sheets, I heard that hunter coming for its prey and prayed that my brother might make it back to the bedroom before the wind go to us. Maybe together we could fight it off. Alone there was no hope for Ralph or me against the beast.

I thought about giving a yell out to warn Ralph. But he could hear the wind and would hurry back to the bed as fast as he could.

The whistle outside grew stronger and transformed itself into an even scarier howl than before. The tree branch tap-tap-tapped against the window. The howl became a banshee scream just the other side of the window. The branch kwak-kwak-kwak, and it broke the glass. The wind was inside our bedroom and slammming the door to the hall shut. Every board in the body of the house creaked under its weight.

Under the covers and shaking, I heard Ralph from the hallway. He turned the doorknob and pushed at the door. “Let me in,” he said. Let me in.”

The demon of a wind laughed, knowing it had me trapped.

“Let me in, Door. Please. Let me in,” Ralph said, struggling with the door.

The banshee was coming for me. I could feel its cold breath and it was turning frosty under the sheets. If I didn’t move, maybe.

“I’ve got you,” the wind’s words seeped into the bed.

But it was not talking to me. It was talking to the door. It was threatening Ralph. It was readying itself to let him fling the door open and rush into its arms. Then that would be the end of my brother.

“No,” I said and threw the bedding off my body. “You leave my brother alone, y’hear me?” I jumped out of bed and made for the door. I grabbed the knob, turned it and jerked the door open. Suddenly the wind was gone.

“Dad?” I said.

My father’s silhouette stood behind Ralph in the dark hall. I hugged Daddy’s waist as tight as I could.

“What’s the matter, boys?”

“The wind, Daddy,” I said, relief surging through my body. “The wind was coming for us.”

“Ah, the wind.” He looked down at me and, even in the darkness, I could feel reassurance in his voice. His fatherly smell of Brut Aftershave calmed my nerves that had been all shot up with fear from that Old Devil Wind. “Where is it now? I don’t hear it. Do you, guys?”
I had to agree that my Daddy was right as he usually was when it came to things that go bump in the night. “No,” both Ralph and I said.

He took my brother and me by the arms. He ushered us back into our bedroom, still dark from the lack of moonlight. “Get back into bed.”

Ralph and I did as we were told. Tucked into bed and under the sheets, I looked up at my father standing at the end of the bed. Though I could not see it, I could feel his smile. I knew that there was no wind in the world that could challenge that smile.

“Haven’t I told you boys not to be afraid of El Diablo. It can’t hurt you. That is unless you let it scare the fear into you. James, when you suspected your brother was in danger, you stared it down face to face. You wouldn’t let it bully you. Now, look. It’s gone, and it will stay gone as long as you don’t let it get at you.”

Daddy reached down and mussed my hair, then Ralph’s. Then he said, “We’ll repair that window tomorrow.” He walked out into the hall.

“Is everything all right, Alan?” I heard my mother’s soprano ask my father.

“No need to worry about our boys. They’re brave boys.”

Their steps receded down the hallway and outside onto the back porch. Safe in my bed, my brother already dozing, I looked through the broken windowpane and saw the moon peak out from behind the clouds. My mother and my daddy gazed up at it. Then my parents, two werewolves, raised their heads toward the sky and bayed their love song for that moon.

Happy Father’s Day to all you fathers.

Next Wednesday’s Prompt: “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Richard Wright