Choices

The museum was lit for the night. Mostly it was dark but the exhibits were spotlighted. The statue stood before Jeff, the security guard. Otherworldly like an angel, she was a goddess. Athena, all draped in white, her arms raised, her head neither bending nor looking up but straight ahead. Athena, mistress of Athens, the goddess who had given Zeus a headache, then crashed out of his head. Virgin, unlike the slut Aphrodite. Womanly with her small breasts. Athena who had always been Jeff’s favorite. The statue was almost alive.

Jeff turned away from the statue. Then he heard a voice, “She’s not so much.”

He looked where the voice had come from. There was no one there. Then it spoke again, “I tell you that if I’ve seen her once I’ve seen her a hundred times. And there’s nothing to admire. Really.”

A woman, at least seven feet tall, appeared before him. She twirled around in what was a transparent dress. “What do you think?”

Jeff’s legs gave way and he managed to sit down on one of the museum’s benches. To say he was overcome would be a misstatement.

She looked down at him and smiled. “Well, what do you think, big boy?”

Jeff closed his eyes and opened them again. Not once, but several times. If he told anyone about this, not only would his security guard job be gone. They’d put him in the loony bin. This is what he got for drinking all that coffee. His mother kept warning him.

He felt the woman’s hand on his face.

“Oh, come now. I’m not that bad,” she said, then laughed. “Of course not.”

“W-w-w-ho are you?” Jeff stuttered out.

The woman backed away and straightened herself. “Who do you think?”

“Well, tell him,” a voice from behind Jeff spoke. It was motherly and deep.

Jeff hesitated, then looked. His jaw dropped. This woman was at least eight feet tall.

“I will,” the first woman said as she reached over and turned his head back toward her. She was the sexiest woman he’d ever seen. His lust was overcoming the awe. “See. He already knows that I am Aphrodite.” She leaned forward and kissed his mouth. It was so deep he almost exploded. “The goddess of love.”

“Aw right. Let’s get this over with. Cut the nonsense and tell him.” It was the statue of Athena. She was alive. She stepped down from the pedestal.

“Just hold your horses,” Aphrodite said. “And let him take it all in. It’s not everyday we get to meet a mortal. And, Hera, good choice.” Aphrodite winked at him. “Such a handsome fellow I could just eat him up.”

“None of that,” Hera said. “Tell him.”

“Okay,” Aphrodite said. Then she said to Jeff. “We need you to judge a little contest. Which of the three of us makes the best impression. Sort of like Miss Universe, only without the swimsuits. The winner of the contest gets a golden apple. And you will be rewarded handsomely.”

Like so many others before him, and so many who came after, Jeff was pretty darned sure he did not want to get into this. He vaguely remembered the last guy who judged such a contest had started a war. A bad one. So Jeff dropped his head into his hands, resisting the offer, hoping the women would just go away. Yes, that’s it. Just go away. Then he started praying.

“Now, now,” Aphrodite said, rubbing her hands in his hair. “Nobody’s going to come and rescue you. This is your big moment. And I want you to think about this. If you choose me, you can have any woman in the world. Just think of it. Any woman in the world. Movie stars. Models. That cute girl you’ve been gushing over. Choose me and they’re yours.”

That got Jeff’s attention. That, and the erotic moves Aphrodite’s hands were doing to his face. How could any ordinary mortal resist those hands?

Athena stepped down from her pedestal, walked over to Jeff, pushed Aphrodite out of her way, and pressed the palms of her hands on to his bald head. His head felt warm from her touch.

“Now don’t you feel smarter?” Athena asked.

Jeff nodded. “Actually I do.”

“If you choose me, you’re going to be smarter than Einstein. And you do know that women love a smart man.”

A lightning bolt struck the floor beside Athena.

“Oops, you missed again, Hera,” Athena laughed. “Maybe Artemis can give you some lessons.”

Hera raised her arm to throw a second thunderbolt.

Athena stopped her by saying, “I wouldn’t do that. You know how mad Dad gets when someone else tries to use his thunderbolts.”

Hera rushed over, her fists ready to sock Athena, but she held her temper. Athena was smart. Hera never knew what trick she’d come up with.

“Oh, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. And he’s too busy right now to find out about a missing thunderbolt or two. He’s out chasing that Europa or giving a swan song to Leda.” Then she turned to Jeff. “You choose me you won’t need to be sexy or smart. You’ll be powerful. Powerful enough to stop whole armies.”

Aphrodite was in no mood to loose. “Nothing like a good woman.”

“Right,” Hera said. “Look what happened to Julius Caesar when he took up with that Mae West of a Cleopatra. He ended up et-tu-ing all over the place.”

Athena put in her two cents. “And Romeo ended up stabbing himself. Just because Juliet couldn’t wake up when the alarm clock went off.”

“How ’bout that Henry VIII,” Hera said. “I told him to stay away from Anne Boleyn. Did he listen? No. Miss Boleyn shook her booty and Henry went all ga-ga. And Josephine cost Napoleon to loose at Waterloo.”

Bling! an arrow sailed by Jeff’s head. He turned and saw an auburn-haired woman in a short white dress. She carried the largest bow he’d ever seen and a quiver of arrows. She pulled a second arrow from her quiver and notched it against the bow string.

Hera yelled, “Now, Artemis, quit that.”

“Scared you, didn’t I?”

Artemis smiled, rested her bow against her leg, and approached Jeff and the goddesses.

“You know you three are a bunch of trouble makers,” the huntress said. Then to Jeff, “Let’s go fishing. You like fishing, don’t you?”

Jeff thought about it for a few minutes. If he was irresistible to women, he’d have them fighting over him all the time. Just look how Solomon turned out. He ended up with seven hundred wives. That’s way too many for one man.

As for smarts, he knew a kid who was so smart that they drafted him. He became the head of some bigwig program and was always complaining how the government wouldn’t leave him alone. And who would want all that power? Everybody would hate you.

No, fishing sounded like a real good idea.

He stood up and said to Artemis, “Let’s go fishing.”

Walking away from the three, Artemis at his side, Jeff heard her promise, “I’ll teach you some usable skills. Like how to live off the grid. Won’t that be nice? You do know this internet thing isn’t going to last.”

Hera turned to her competitors. “We’ve got to do something about her. This is the third time this week.”

“Fourth,” Athena corrected her.

“Don’t give me any of your smart mouth. I said the third, and it’s the third.”

Athena shook her head. “You’re just going to have to learn how to count.”

Aphrodite stamped her foot. “Would you two just shut up.”

 

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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.”

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.