Carol Harada

Almost Spring

            Down in the Underworld, Hades was held captive by creepy crawly things. With the new flat screen TV turned to the nature channel, his pals Scorpion, Centipede, and Black Widow Spider looked bigger and badder than ever. And here was a chance to learn more about them. He bored his guests at dinner parties with his encyclopedic knowledge of all the creatures that lurked underground. Yet Hades was never one to keep his passions to himself. He even had a soft spot for Bears, even though they were only partial undergrounders. They reminded him of his wife.

            Persephone stood in the bedroom drinking a tall glass of pomegranate juice. Eons ago Hades had tricked her by forcing six of the crimson jewel fruitlets into her mouth, thus contracting her to live six months of the year with him in the Underworld. The other six, she was free to return to the topside world and her mother Demeter. Since the two goddesses had their share of the usual mother-daughter fights, this arrangement turned out okay. Living full time with Hades would definitely have driven her bonkers, so Persephone secretly enjoyed her double life.

            Since the magic seeds had no more power over her, Persephone indulged her taste for the tart juicy fruit and loaded up on antioxidants. She made pomegranate persimmon salad with foraged winter greens. She liked ruining her nails by tearing away at the thick leathery skin to get at the rubies inside. Especially as Spring neared, she found herself craving more and more of the fruit that changed her life.

            She set down the empty glass on Hades’ nightstand. She opened the closet and eyed the top shelf, where her traveling bag rested. It was one of those contraptions that could carry just a few choice items clutched at the wrist, or expand to contain the whole world on her back. It was, according to the mortals’ calendar, the third week of February. Still too soon to pack up for her Spring departure.

            Persephone dropped her gaze to the knitting basket on the bottom shelf of the closet. She checked and found that she had just enough of the multicolored yarn to finish the light cape for her mother. She always liked to bring Demeter something homemade, to prove that she could still be creative down in the cold and dark. For some reason, she didn’t want her mother to know that Hades had diverted a hot spring to their palace, so she would never be chilly. Demeter made much of her daughter’s noble sacrifice to keep the world in balance. She did not want to know that Persephone had a hot tub right outside the bedroom. She did not want to hear about what a fantastic and inventive lover old Hades had turned out to be. No, Demeter wanted her daughter to be stoic in Winter and released running into the freedom of Spring.

            Persephone sat by one of the many fireplaces and resumed her knitting. A few rooms away, she heard Hades laughing, having switched over to that quirky show Bored to Death. He loved Ted Danson’s character George. Hades figured himself to be worn out, yet somehow still debonair just like this man of a certain age. Clueless, but with a good heart.

            Meanwhile, miles above them, Demeter unleashed some storms and floods to clear out all the accumulated debris in the fields and forests. She loved this time of year, getting the place spruced up for Persephone. It did take some orchestration to have all the flowers burst into bloom with her daughter’s every footfall. And darn that girl if she strayed from her usual path from the hell mouth. The flowers were being fussy this year, what with their fear of having their collective bargaining powers being taken away. Demeter had to remind them they all wanted the same thing: to work together to proclaim the start of Spring. They all missed Persephone and her playful spirit. They all wanted to bloom again.

            Demeter couldn’t guarantee that the mortals wouldn’t destroy the planet, but she assured her charges that there would always be those who wanted and needed the flowers for the path of beauty they create. And down below, after the knitting needles and the TV went quiet, Hades held Persephone close in their cozy bed. Like George, he didn’t really like being a bachelor anymore, so he spooned with his wife and thought about making another deal with Zeus. Keeping Persephone year round was sounding good to him. He always felt this way this time of year.