Zeus’ Dilemma

Last Wednesday Zeus decided to come down from his mountain. Olympus had gotten boring lately what with this god and that one trying to out party each other. He wanted to take a looksee around the earth. It had been a bit of days since his last walk around. On top of that, he and Hera had a fight and he just had to get out of the house.

He stepped down onto the earth. The grass was wet and green. It had been awhile since his toesies felt grass. Not since Agamemnon and his bunch whomped up on them Trojans. That’s what Priam and his gang got for putting Poseidon on the pedestal over him. After all, he was the Big Guy. He had the thunderbolts.

It was nice to know that Demeter was doing her job now that Persephone was home for a visit. He took in a long breath of the spring air. Then it hit him. The carbon monoxide. He coughed several times, then cleared his throat.

“Geez, what’s that,” he said to no one in particular. The air was worse than breathing in that stuff he’d breathed when he went down to visit Hades once upon a time.

Poseidon stepped out of the ocean. “Well, it’s about time you came out of your ivory tower and noticed the crap we’re putting up with down here.”

“What is that smell?” Zeus wanted to know.

“It’s those darn chariots the humans have come up with.”

Zeus turned to his brother. “What happened to your nice green color? Man, you look awful.”

Posey was streaked with yellows and blues and purples and all sorts of colors. And they didn’t look pretty. He could have been an abstract painting if he hadn’t been such a mess.

“Junk,” Posey said, displeasure in his voice. “I’d say our brother, Hades, has been up to no good. But even he can’t make a mess like we’ve got down here these days. You seriously have to do something about this place. Remember the lovely wine Bacchus used to make. It’s turned to grape juice these days.”

“Yeah, that Prometheus sure did a number on us,” Demeter said behind Zeus. “He gave the humans fire. What’d they do? They took it and ran with it and now we’ve got a mess.”

“The waters, my kingdom,” Posey protested, “is filled with crap. The fish can’t get a break. The dolphins and the whales constantly protest. I tell them to get in touch with you and give you the old what-for. But you’re never there. What’s with you anyway?”

Zeus had a one-word answer, “Hera.”

“Oh, come now,” Demi said. “Don’t blame on her.”

“I’m telling you,” Zeus said. “After that Hercules, there was no settling her down.”

“Well,” Posey said, “he was your kid.”

“It took me a millennium to get her to let me out of my room. It’s only been recently that she let me out of the house.”

“So,” Demi said, “you just thought you could let things go down here.”

Zeus nodded. “Kinda.”

Then Demi hit him with the news. “You do know what that Thor’s been up to?”

“What?” Zeus said, worried-like.

“He’s been making appearances all over the place. Comic books. Movies. He’s even doing commercials.”

“I knew it,” Zeus said. “I knew it. When Athena suggested we let that Odin go off and have his own kingdom, it was a bad idea. But everybody said she was smarter than the average goddess.”

“Now, now, Dad,” Athena joined the group. “I thought it would be a good idea. It gets cold up there in the north. Nobody wanted to go up there and take care of the Ice Kingdoms. When Odin volunteered, we all agreed. It was for the best. And I wasn’t the one who suggested Thor get his own hammer. You-know-who did that.”

“Hephaestus,” Demi said.

“Hephaestus,” Athena said.

“Hephaestus,” Posey joined the chorus.

Then Athena reminded Zeus, “It wasn’t me who came up with the idea of sending Hephy to the basement where he could play with all his toys.”

“We had to do something,” Zeus said. “It’s all that Aphrodite and her nighty business. She wanted to run out and play with Ares. Little did I know that he was as adept at playing kissy face as he was at war.”

“Apollo didn’t tell you either,” Athena laughed. “Just like him. What good is that gift for prophecy he has if he can’t help his colleagues out.”

Suddenly Apollo appeared. His face filled the sky with sunlight. “Somebody mention my name?”

“Why didn’t you let us know?” Athena asked. “Hephy gave Thor that hammer and now he’s become more popular than the Khardasians? You should have told us.”

Apollo smirked. “What, and spoil all the fun?”

It was then that Ares, the god of war, put in an appearance. He had one heck of a frustrated look on his face. “She’s got a headache. It’s the seventh one this week.”

“Who?” Zeus wanted to know.

“Aphrodite, of course,” Ares let the crowd know.

“Well, that’s what you get for messing around,” Zeus said.

“I was just taking after you, Dad.”

That night Zeus walked into the throne room on Mount Olympus. Hera was waiting. When she saw the look on the Big Guy’s face, she gave him one of her extra-special hugs. They always cheered him up. But not this time.

Zeus plopped his big bottom down on the throne. “It’s all turned out badly.”

“What?” Hera said.

“Everything.”

“Well, that’s what happens when you have kids. You can put everything into raising them and they still turn out the way they’re going to turn out.”

Then Zeus had a brilliant idea. “I’ll turn everything back over to Pater.”

At that, Rhea, his mother, appeared. “Oh no, you’re not. Cronus isn’t having anything to do with the mess you’ve created. We’ve been on a nice long retirement and we’re not bailing you out. And you’re not turning things over to Odin. One Ice Age was enough.”

Hera said, “I know what will help. I’ll give you one of those extra-special massages you love.”

Zeus looked up at his wife. He had a pathetic look on his face. “Not tonight. I have a headache.”

Advertisements

The passing of Arthur

It is evening and Arthur walks his rounds in his camp, speaking to each man with a friendly jest here, a smile there, comforting one, urging another he can bear up well. Then Arthur, king of the Britons, returns to his fire and warms his hands. His squire gives him a spit of meat. Arthur bites into the meat. It is tasty, roasted as he likes it. As he sits there, he realizes that he is a king without a country.

Soon, maybe tomorrow, he will join his friends and his family in the west where men sit by the hearth and tell their tales of great deeds. Tonight he thinks of what might have been. He thinks of how he failed all those who believed in him. He thinks of his two closest friends, Guinevere and Lancelot du Lake, and how they failed him. They didn’t fail him. Can those you love and those who love you ever fail? He failed them. Thinking upon these things, he drops off to sleep.

It is a night of fitful dreams, tossing and turning. He rises before dawn. He calls his squire, Richard, out of his sleep.

“Yes, sire?” the squire asks.

“It is time to ready for battle this one last time.”

The squire suits up his master and king. As he looks into Arthur’s eyes, he sees loss. When the king is completely suited in his armor and ready for the battle ahead, he turns to his squire.

“Boy,” the king says.

“Majesty?” the squire says.

“Kneel,” the king says.

The boy kneels. The king raises his sword and taps the squire on each of his shoulders.

“I dub thee knight,” King Arthur says, warmth in his voice. “Rise, Sir Richard Bonnesworth.”

The newly knighted rises.

“Today you will ride forth,” his king tells him, “from these battlements and tell the land of the great things you have seen. Never let the dream of Camelot, the dream of Justice and Compassion for all who are Weak, die. That is your charge. Now go.”

Then it is over. Arthur defeats Mordred. Arthur receives a mortal wound.

It was a marvelous dream, Camelot. And now we enter into the dark times. The long shadows at the end of the day are upon us. Who will hold back the night? Camelot and Joyous Gard are in flames. Arthur stands, watching the work of Mordred and his henchmen. Lancelot is dead and Guinevere has gone away to a convent. It is the time of the waning of the west. Arthur’s dream of being a just king has died.

The king is heavy with grief. How did it come to this? Where was Merlin when he needed the wizard most?

**********

We all know how Arthur passed into the West, how he was accompanied by three Queens, how Guinevere returned Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake. As Arthur sailed to the healing lands of the West, the evening set into the horizon. Soon there was the long darkness. But dawn would return.

As it has so many times before. With the defeat of Hitler and the Nazis, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, with the release of Nelson Mandela, with the shaking of the hands of Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin. The sun shall rise in the East and the day shall come again.

As Merlin once told Arthur, you can never determine the outcome of things. But, if you live with a pure heart, the dawn shall always bring in a new sun and the light shall return for a new day.  So do not despair.

Arthur sent forth his messenger to bring hope to all those who are dispossessed and might despair. That they know that hope is alive, that the King has not forgotten them. Arthur will return from the West and the days of Camelot shall be upon us again.

As it was written, so it shall be.

Halloween Brew

Happy All Hallows’ Eve to you and yours.

‘Tis a dark and stormy night

The vampires are out for a bite

And the ghosties on the prowl

Something out there’s smelling foul

While down in Zombie Town

There’s the howl of a devil hound

And deep in Castle Vlad

Frank ‘N’ Stein are in their lab

Mixing up their ghoulish stew

Stirring up that Halloween Brew.

On Transylvania Street

There’s a lot of trick or treat

As the jack ‘o lantern choir

In their Halloween attire

Walk the walking dead dance

Skeletons doing their scary prance.

The headless horseman rides

With his head held at his side

In the Grand All Hallow’s

Eve Parade and Spooktastic Show.

Under a full witching moon

Midnight’ll be here soon

Then at “The Pit and Pendulum”

They’ll gather with their ghastly grins

For the Ushers will be there.

A cask of Amontillado they’ll share.

They’ll spill their tell-tale hearts

Spinning tales of the darker arts

And the time of the Halloween Brew

When they drank F ‘N’ S’s stew.

Another year rolls around

And the dead sleep safe and sound.

Then October shall arrive

When the dead come alive

For another show and tell

Under autumn’s darkest spell

When the goblins take to the air

For the Great Halloween Affair

And more of that Good Stew,

A tall hot mug of Halloween Brew.

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.

The One-eyed Leprechaun

If you’re Irish, you’ve heard all sorts of tales about the leprechauns. This was one of the strangest that ever came my way.

The one-eyed leprechaun O’Toole was an old warrior who’d seen more than his share of battles. He was tired of all the war and very little of being left in peace. In his younger days, there wasn’t a tussle he wouldn’t go out of his way to find. He’d been in so many scraps he’d come to be known by the others of his breed as especially mean-tempered. And many of these quarrelsome altercations he’d fought were in defense of what was rightfully his, his precious bag of gold.

Yet here it was a fine spring day in the Glen of Cloongallon and there was another Irishman slogging along on the path below O’Toole’s hidden green cottage and he’d come looking for trouble. Of that, the leprechaun was sure. As sure as Patrick was the patron saint of Ireland, he was wanting the leprechaun’s gold. And he was loud, so loud he could be heard all the way to Dublin and back. They were always noisy, these greedy knuckleheaded humans after his treasure. There was not getting around it. O’Toole and his solitude was not to be left alone

Though his muscles ached and he wasn’t as young as he used to be, O’Toole, being O’Toole, couldn’t let a challenge like this go by the wayside. He set aside his pipe and his hammer and the shoe he’d been working on and rose from his wooden chair. He took a quick gulp from a mug of poteen, strapped on his short sword and stepped through the cottage door.

He looked to the sky and sure enough there was a rainbow. He walked past the hawthorn, the ash, and the blackthorn hedges and between the chestnuts toward the man. He was a tall muscular man, all dressed in green, with a shillelagh in his right hand. He called himself Darcy and he stood by the six large standing stones. The leprechaun stopped aways off from the man. Then he drew his sword.

“What is it ye’ll be wanting, Muscles?” O’Toole called.

“I’ll be a-needing yer gold, Leprechaun,” Darcy answered. “Where there’s a rainbow, there must be a leprechaun and his gold.”

“Me? A leprechaun?” O’Toole laughed. “There’s no fairy folk here.”

“That’s not what I’m a-believing. I would be a-guessing ye’re one of the wee people yer own self, tain’t ye?”

“I’m a-telling ye none of the folk ye’re seeking are here in the meadow.” O’Toole swung his sword twice.

“I been chasing that there rainbow for a dozen or so years and here’s the end of it, right here in yer parlor. Ye’re not denying it, are ye?”

“It’s not me parlor. I just happened along.”

Darcy laughed as he pounded the end of the shillelagh against his left palm.

“Be that or not, I’ll be taking yer gold, and I’ll be taking it now.” Darcy started toward O’Toole.

“What will it be worth to ye? Yer own sweet life?”

“That and all me ancestors, as well.” Darcy continued to advance.

“Stop there, or it’s yer head. There’s many a headless chucklehead walking around in this dale. Here ye’ll be one more ghost for the banshees to chase.”

“Ye think ye’ll be about to keep ye head out of the way of me shillelagh?” Darcy asked as he stopped and reflected upon the circumstances that he and O’Toole found themselves in.

“Club or no, ye’ll be a dead chucklehead.”

Darcy raised his stick and O’Toole raised his sword. The two stood there eye to eye and waiting. The leprechaun knew he could defeat the chucklehead before him, but what was the point? He was tired and his muscles ached and there would be others. There were always others. There was no stopping them. As much as he loved his gold, it was a curse. O’Toole lowered his sword.

“So, ye wants me gold? And ye’re about to die for it.”

“Live or die, it’ll be mine.”

“And yer ancestors, knuckle-brain?”

“They’ll die for it too.”

O’Toole sheathed his sword and reached behind himself. When he turned back toward Darcy, he had a large bag of gold in his hand. He dropped it into Darcy’s palm. Then he said, “Take the gold and all the troubles that will beseech ye because of it.”

With that, the old leprechaun turned and walked away happy.