Category Archives: Fiction

An Introduction to the Classics

The Birth of Venus

I.

Who is she? The question hovers over the class like a swollen raincloud threatening to release a torrent of inquiry. Who is that girl? It’s the question on everyone’s mind, but on no one’s lips. You see, her presence contradicts the widely-held belief that everyone knows everyone, because no one knows her. Furthermore, she makes no motion to explain herself, to defend her right to be among them. She sits quietly. She listens to music on her iPod. She ignores the whispers and the pointed stares. New kids shouldn’t be this bold or self-assured. Who is this girl?

Her unfamiliarity intrigues Joe.

He’s realized that once you reach the 300 and 400 level courses in an academic department, especially one as small and underfunded as PortHound’s history department, and especially in the Greco-Roman era-specialty, you are constantly confronted with a sea of familiar faces that are as bored, hung-over, and uninterested in the subject matter as you are. These are his colleagues. These are his best friends.

There are seven people in the class. Four of them, including himself, are the Greco-Roman specialists: there’s Sean Fratelli, some chemistry professor’s kid who tried to kill himself two semesters ago, Vivian Smith, an international student from England who is a surprisingly notorious puck-slut considering she’s black, and Laurence Gerdane, this kid from Utah with a nasty case of Tourette’s who runs the mile with him on the track team. He figures Meggy Shelton is taking the class to finish up her History minor and to indulge her Professor Mellose obsession. The other guy in the class is Suit-Kid—the only sophomore—this guy who wears suits all the time, like all the time, and has a permanent scowl on his face.

And then there’s her. Who is she?

II.

Introductions are traditional on the first day of classes and she is the last one to speak. While talking, she alternately sucks and munches on a green lollipop. Chunks fall off the hard candy and hit her desk like specks of emerald. Her name is Selene. She spent the summer hiking the Appalachian Trail. She transferred to PortHound this semester from Xavier University. She is a philosophy major. Her favorite Greek myth is The Legend of Cupid and Psyche. By the end of her mini-speech, she’s made it all the way to the bubblegum core. She rotates her tongue counterclockwise, rolls it off her upper gums, and then blows a perfect pink bubble. When she bites down on the gum, the snapping sound it discharges causes Joe, and every other male in the room, to jump in his seat. There is a moment of silence. When Mr. Mellose is finally able to talk, he says “Selene, please, for the sake of the entire class, no gum-chewing. Ever.”

III.

Joe doesn’t actually speak to her until the second week of classes and even then it’s only for five minutes during a group exercise. When she talks he sees electric blue sparks shooting out of her mouth, zapping the plebeians with her classical knowledge.

Joe’s taken four previous classes in this room, Thallus Hall 202 a.k.a the Bust Room; all four taught by Professor Mellose. There’ve always been two posters on the wall, a black and white London Calling Clash poster with some rock-star smashing his guitar on stage, and a sepia-tinted map of the Greek isles circa 432 B.C. The busts of 14 dead Roman emperors have always lined the shelves of a wall unit in the back of the classroom. Well that’s not true—there used to be 24, but Sean Fratelli stole one in an ill-fated attempt to impress a female professor, two semesters ago.

The point is Joe knows this room; he used to be comfortable in this room.

Now when Joe sits in his usual seat, to the left and next to the window, comfort is no longer a possibility. Selene takes up the whole room. Her thoughts spread faster than poison gas, seeping into his skin and burning his lungs, until he’s literally choking on her essence. Her face has been branded on the underside of his eyelids. When he blinks, he can see the outline of her face, glowing like those neon signs hung up outside of cheap bars.

He thinks her voice sounds like Angels howling.

He thinks she’s hooking up with Sean Fratelli.

He hates Sean Fratelli.

IV.

They officially meet at a party thrown by Suit-Kid at his theme house. Neither of them really knows anyone, so they cling to each other and make polite conversation the way people who are more than acquaintances but less than friends do at awkward social events. She’s new and all his friends are on the track team. He only came to the party to see her and he was only invited to the party because he and Suit-Kid work together at the bookstore.

After an awkward break in the conversation (he doesn’t know what else to say) they watch a pong-game side-by-side (Suit-Kid is on the table, and is surprisingly skilled when he’s drunk) in complete silence.

“This is your shot, Joe,” he keeps telling himself, “Maybe your only shot ever. Say something, say anything.” He imagines the possible scenarios. He could make a joke about Suit-Kid always wearing suits, but that seems too easy. He could offer her a beer, but what if she doesn’t drink? He could be bold, invite her back to his room where his four roommates are throwing the weekly kegger, but what if she doesn’t like his friends? What if his friends don’t like her?

“Want to be my pong partner?” she asks, slapping him out of reverie. Yes, he does. “I’ll sign us up.”

V.

That night, when she invites him back to her room and then proceeds to fellate him not once, not twice, but three, yes three times, he begins to fear that this is some elaborate prank the track team is playing on him. He is truly convinced that his teammates paid some flaxen-haired, demi-god prostitute to enroll in PortHound, take a class with him, hang out with him at a shitty theme house party and then take him back to her room and suck him stupid. But after she runs her tongue down his chest, around his nipples, across his appendectomy scar and then dips it into his navel, he allows himself to believe that she likes him for real.

After their fourth round, Selene gets off her knees and jumps into his lap. Straddling him, she shoves him into the mattress so that he’s lying flat on his back. She grabs his hands and makes him cup her breasts. “Tell me you love me,” she whispers into his ear. “Tell me you’d die without me. Tell me you want me. Tell me you need me.”

He obeys.

The Trials of Psyche

VI.

He thinks maybe she has an oral fixation. She gnaws on straws and toothpicks until there’s nothing left but filaments of plastic and splinters of woods. When she drinks coffee, she rips open five packets of sweet’n’low at a time, dumps them into her mug and then sucks any leftover grains off the paper. She smokes six cigarettes a day: morning, pre-lunch, post-lunch, pre-dinner, post-dinner and pre-bed, and if they have sex she adds a seventh—post-coital. She licks her forks and spoons so clean they dazzle like dishes in those annoying Jet-Dry® commercials. At parties—usually at Suit-Kid’s theme house because she hates his Track buddies—the rim of a red solo cup is permanently attached to her bottom lip. She is always eating candy, chewing on bubblegum, nibbling on ice . . .

And then there’s the blowjob thing. Joe likes blowjobs, he really does, but—she’ll only give him blowjobs. No vaginal penetration, ever. He doesn’t press the matter. She’s easily irritated.

When he brings up the oral fixation thing to her, she laughs in his face. “Joe, darling,” she explains, “you’re the one with the oral fixation. I just indulge you. You should be thanking me.”

VII.

She officially proclaims him her boyfriend—Facebook official status—right before Thanksgiving break. Joe spends the four day vacation rhapsodizing about her beauty to his family. Her hair is the color of wheat in mid-June—more gold than brown but not the least bit blonde—and when it’s not wet (it’s usually wet) its soft like bunny fur. Her eyes are green when she wakes up in the morning, blue when it’s sunny and brown after it rains. Her lips are pomegranate red—darker than blood. Her laugh is bells chiming over a river flowing down the Alps. She doesn’t walk, she glides. She doesn’t touch, she caresses. She’s perfect. There’s no one else like her.

Joe’s mother begs him to invite Selene over for Christmas break. He surveys his home: red carpets, peeling blue paint, faded green wallpaper, hand-me-down dishes brought over from Ireland, four bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, a cat named Kat, and a dog named Pooch. He appraises his family: a father who owns a store, a mother who tends a hearth, a grandfather who lives in the attic and refuses to die despite years of hitting the bottle too hard, a younger brother fascinated only by the moving pictures on the television screen, and a baby sister, who, despite having died two years ago, still manages to keep the house in a constant state of quiet chaos as if her nighttime cries were still a regular occurrence.

It’s all just so ordinary.

VIII.

When Coach tells him he’ll be running the 400 meter dash in an away game at Colby College, he gets worried. The 400 is not his run and those Colby bastards beat PortHound in sprints every year. He complains to Selene; he’s looking for a little comfort, specifically the kind of comfort that could segue into non-oral sex.

Selene is unsympathetic.

“Joe darling, you can feel either feel sorry for yourself or you can be a man and handle your problems.”

She gives him a few words of advice.

“In Sparta, wives and mothers would tell their sons and husbands ‘either come home a winner or don’t come home at all.’ Come home a winner Joe.”

At the track meet he breaks the state record for the 400 meter. It’s the first time they’ve beat Colby in any sprint in seven years.

Titanomachy

IX.

“It’s the closest you can get to death without dying” She tells him matter-of-factly when he asks her to explain the appeal. “It’s astral projection. When you take Special K, you separate from your corporeal form and your spirit becomes part of the greater cosmos. It’s seeing God—or seeing the Gods, rather. It’s beautiful. You’re not you anymore—you become us. We become it.”

She reads his face and sighs. “I knew you wouldn’t understand.”

He changes the subject and brings up the Christmas break visit. She doesn’t answer.

X.

Selene makes Joe attend philosophy club with her. It meets on Thursdays from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. It’s time he used to spend pre-gaming the night with his buddies by shot-gunning beers, but Selene doesn’t want him drinking anything besides wine anyway, so it’s not like he’s missing out.

Sean Fratelli and Suit-Kid are in the club too. Joe makes it a point to avoid sitting next to either of them, but Selene has made it clear that she likes Suit-Kid on her right and Joe on her left. Joe has never taken a philosophy class, but he’s read Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. He likes Aristotle’s idea that everything has a class, that everything belongs somewhere. Lions belong in the category of animals. Selene belongs in the category of goddesses. Sean belongs in the category of drug-addicts. Suit-Kid belongs in the category of pretentious, uptight, assholes. Joe belongs in the category of Selene’s boyfriend. Organization, it’s something Joe has always appreciated.

He hates the modern stuff though. It goes right over his head. He can’t understand Immanuel Kant and Nietzsche scares him. Words like foundherentism and existentialism whiz by his ears like brightly-colored glow-in-the-dark Frisbees.

“Do you get it Joe?”

No, he doesn’t.

XI.

When he tells her he wants to try it she’s skeptical.

“Joe, please don’t do this for shallow reasons. Erik and I use Special K in an effort to seek enlightenment, not for ordinary recreational purposes like the masses. Don’t do this just to prove something. You’ll be disappointed.”

Joe has noticed lately that Selene is no longer an I, she’s become an Erik and I. She was never a Joe and I. He doesn’t get what she sees in him. The guy wears a suit every single day. He’s a card-carrying member of the Communist Party. He holds a monthly screening of “Blade Runner” at his house. He wears a suit every single day.

Who’s he kidding? Joe absolutely knows what she sees in him.

Eventually she gives up trying to reason with him. “Alright Joe, as long as you’re sure. Whatever happens, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

XII.

He feels skeletal. Like his skin was melted off his body by the harsh light of the sun unencumbered by that burdensome ozone layer. He’s got no body mass, but he still feels heavy—heavy as a whale beached on the Athenian coast. He sees dead albatross chicks flying in the air, their tiny stomachs bursting open with non-biodegradable plastic materials—bottle caps, hair rollers, ink cartridges, lighters. Behind him he can hear the low growl of a hungry Cyclops roaming the Grecian plains in search of food.

“Don’t worry,” Aphrodite says to him. She’s in perpetual motion; her bubblegum pink stola is a forward propelling riptide, intricately pinned with clamshell broaches and snakeskin ribbons, whipping around her as she speaks. “That Cyclops won’t eat you. You’re nothing but a bunch of bones! I mean really, who would want you? That kid in the suit though . . .”

Then the drums start. A grand procession is soon to arrive. Joe knows he’s in trouble.

“Here come the drums!” Aphrodite shouts before vanishing in a swirl of smoke and fireworks and electrical discharges.

His bones are uncooperative. Joe is afraid, but no adrenaline burst is forthcoming. No blood equals no adrenaline. The procession draws closer and louder.

Leading the parade is The Man In Black. He shouts into a megaphone. The Man In Black speaks like a looped message.

“I’m coming for you Joe. I’m coming for you Joe. I’m coming for you Joe. I’m coming for you Joe. I’m coming for you Joe.”

Joe is afraid.

“Selene? Selene? Selene, please help me. I thought we were doing this together. Where are you? Save me Selene. I want it to stop now. Make it stop. Selene! Selene I need you. I can’t fucking move. Selene, where are you?”

And then The Man In Black is hovering over Joe and laughing.

“Selene says bye. I got you now Joe. You’re mine forever.”

XIII.

When Joe wakes up he’s slick with sweat and drenched in watery vomit. Selene’s gone. So is Suit-Kid. Sean Fratelli’s threatening to kill himself and Vivian’s trying to wrestle something—a knife or maybe a hairbrush—out of his hand.

God damn it. He hates Sean Fratelli.

The Punishing of Actaeon

XIV.

“I know what you’re thinking,” she says between sips of coffee, “‘I can’t believe she’s leaving me for Suit-Kid. He’s a fucking sophomore.’” She gives him a brief glance before turning her attention to her stirring spoon. She licks the outer-rim dry before plunging it back into her hot drink. “Well, am I right?”

It’s a rhetorical question. Of course she’s right. She’s always right. Girls like her aren’t born—they’re created. She’s Aphrodite; she emerged from the bloody foam that coated the Mediterranean Sea when Cronus cut off Uranus’ genitals. He imagines how she sprang fully grown on the Petra tou Romiou, naked and pink, nubile, wanton.

“That’s part of the problem really. You’re so . . . predictable. Dependable. Steadfast. I know everything about you and we’ve only been dating for two months. There’s nothing left to discover. It’s not that you’re boring—I just don’t see us as being anything more than what we already are. I want something epic. Something tragic. Something grand. Do you understand?”

Troy burned.

Greece crumbled.

Rome collapsed.

Joe breaks.

She regards him with disgust. “Joe, please. For Christ’s sake, stop it! You know I hate it when men cry.”

She hands him a napkin and waits for him to finish before resuming the conversation. “Well, now that you’ve composed yourself, is there anything you’d like to say to me? Be honest. Because Joe, if you need to hate me right now I would totally understand. It’s only natural—.”

Joe grabs her left arm so fast she screams and knocks over her coffee. He shoves her hand into his mouth and bites down hard. He hears—what he hopes is—the snapping of a bone. When she finally wrenches her hand free, he can’t help but yell.

“Do you let him fuck you in your pussy? Huh? Did you let him fuck you in your fucking pussy?”

XV.

Selene doesn’t bother carrying her stuff to tray return. For a second, he’s worried she’ll rat him out to security but he doubts it, she doesn’t support law enforcement agencies. Tomorrow’s the first day of Christmas break and the cafeteria’s fairly empty besides townie cafeteria workers—no witnesses.

He takes her teaspoon and inserts it into his mouth slowly. He sucks on the silver utensil until all he can taste is cold metal. He is struck by the thought that this is the closest he has ever come to kissing her on the lips, the closest he ever got to putting his tongue into her mouth. He always wondered what she tasted like. Some of the flavors he recognizes from the spoon include: Pink bubblegum, strawberries, coffee, what he imagines is Suit-Kid’s cum, cigarettes, peppermints . . .

He shoves the spoon deeper and deeper down his throat until he’s gagging and as he loses consciousness, he smiles—she was right, he was the one with the oral fixation after all.

Her Golden Opportunity

“Ella! Come lace my corset.”

“Coming,” Ella said, but not quickly enough.

“Ella!” Rose screamed again.

Ella was beginning to forget that she had another name once, back in the true world, and that she used to assume mortal form just for fun. All the faerie folk tried it at one time or another, but her timid friends took pampered lives, entering the human world with enough gold to power any enchantment they could wish. None dared what Ella did, to live as a servant instead of the served.

That was before. Before Ella went to work for the Lambert sisters. Now she was trapped.

“Hurry, you lazy wench!” This time from Beatrice, Rose’s younger sister. Who was she to call Ella lazy? Ella had been working since dawn. Beatrice and Rose were the ones who’d slept until noon, after dancing all night at the royal ball. From behind her glamour-cast, she’d watched Beatrice throwing herself at all the available lords, while Rose threw herself at the buffet.

Ella trudged to the stairs. She put one hand on the banister and hauled her feeble body up one step, then another, until she’d climbed all fourteen agonizing steps and stood in the threshold of Rose’s room.

Rose sat at her dressing table, and Ella welcomed the chance to stand near. She eyed the drawer hungrily, knowing what was inside.

Rose held her arms aloft. “Lace me!”

Ella pulled the stays snugly, using all her strength to encase Rose’s bulk. Once done, she reached for the drawer. If she could just touch a brooch, a necklace, something. “Shall I help you pick out some jewelry today?”

“No,” Rose snapped. “Today I stay at home.”

“Ella!” Beatrice called from across the hall.

“Coming,” Ella sighed, knowing that she’d find Beatrice still in bed, or at most, gazing idly out the window, hair uncombed, face unwashed. Worse, Beatrice favored jewelry of silver or pearls. Worthless. Ella turned to go, sweeping her hand lightly over the tabletop as she did. Rose would never miss an earring so small. Holding it in her fist, she trudged across the hall.

She wondered which one of the Lambert sisters—if either—would arrange her funeral and burial. For she was sure now that she was dying. She’d used up the very last of her hoarded gold to make a love spell, albeit one with limited duration. It had barely lasted until midnight. However, her thin body and pale skin were quite the fashion, and she’d gained the prince’s attention, applying all her available magic in one last burst.

Since then, she’d barely been able to move. Every step felt like pushing through mud. Every breath felt like her lungs were stuffed with wet rags. Only clutching this tiny piece of stolen gold kept her from collapsing on Beatrice’s floor.

“Breakfast?” Ella asked. “Or lunch?”

“Never mind that,” Beatrice said, turning from the window. “A carriage is coming. Go answer the door.”

Down the stairs. Again. At least it was easier than up. Ella concentrated on planting each foot below the other. How had she come to this? A faerie, dying in the mortal realm. She’d visited a hundred times before, in situations far worse, and always delighted in the game of finding or earning or winning enough gold to get back.

She opened the front door and found the prince, surrounded by half the court. She focused on the short, ugly, pockmarked prince, improbably holding her shoe. How charming.

“Does this…could you possibly be…are you the one…” He stopped himself, and without another word, bent and fit the shoe onto her foot.

He stood. “My love,” he said, as an exhale of relief and approval went around the court. “Will you marry me?”

The prince. Gifts of jewelry. A storehouse of treasure. She threw herself into his arms.

“Take me home.”

.

Visit Margaret Yang’s Web site, yangandcampion.com.

The Exterminator

I am sitting in the living room trying to study when my husband walks in. I see that he is frowning. It is never good when he frowns. He sits down directly across from me and shakes his head in dismay.

“Ali, why must you do these things?”

I smile and look lovingly at him over the top of my glasses.

“Oh! You’ve heard?”

He winces.

“Have you lost your mind? I carpool with Ed Stevens.”

I set aside the trusty book of mythology in my lap.

“Ed Stevens? This has nothing to do with Ed. This is about his wife Celia and you know it! The woman is a harpy and all you care about is that I am going to ruin your current carpool opportunity?”

He points an accusing finger at me.

“Yes! It took me two years to get into that carpool. If you kill his wife, I’m seriously screwed in the carpool department, aren’t I? And it’s not like you can manage to be discreet. By the time you’re done, everyone east of my elbow will know, won’t they? I am telling you right now, if this makes the newspaper, we are soooo getting a divorce!”

I laugh, shoving his finger away from my face.

“Divorce? You’d be lost without me! Besides, I’m just doing my job. You knew what I did for a living when you married me. If I don’t take care of this unpleasantness; who will? You? Ed Stevens? Global warming is a fact of life darling. Polar ice caps are melting at an alarming rate, and sea levels are rising. It’s not my fault that monsters which were once frozen under all that ice decided to walk among us again. Jon, you do not want to live next door to a harpy. She’ll rip your eyes out!”

My husband gets up from his chair and begins to pace the room. Every so often he glares at me. I wait.

“Celia is a lovely girl. Sure she gives Ed an earful every now and again, but she is not a harpy; and do you know why? Because harpies are not real Ali! They are myth; and may I remind you that had I known what you did for a living, I never would have married you. You lied to me! You told me you were an exterminator.”

Yup there it was; the cornerstone of all of our arguments.

“I never lied to you! How you managed to confuse dragon slayer and exterminator I have no idea. I was very clear when I told you that I slay dragons for a living. I can’t tip-toe around it. I really don’t think the armor I go around wearing all day screams ‘Hi, I kill cockroaches!’ By the way, have you seen my pocketed-sized, spiked harpoon gun anywhere?”

He scratches the back of his head with an exasperated sigh.

“Yeah, I think I saw it in the basement. It’s on the rack above the washing machine. I knew you didn’t use that thing to kill spiders.”

Actually, I did, but in his current state of mind, there wasn’t any need to mention the large prehistoric arachnid that I had killed last week in the backyard.

I continue to smile sweetly trying to lay out the facts for him.

“Harpies are beastly little creatures. They steal anything that isn’t nailed down and they splatter bird poop on everything that is. I can’t imagine how Ed lives with her.”

My husband, having had enough of our discussion, gives me a disgruntled look and storms out of the living room. Having my peace and quiet again, I go back to my mythology. Killing a harpy was no more difficult than killing a dragon. However, harpies were as fast as the wind.

“Maybe you don’t have to kill her. Maybe you could just clip her wings or something!”
I turn to see my husband standing just over my right shoulder.

“No! She is an ancient and vile creature. She has been abducting commuters every morning and dragging them off to Tartarus.”

My husband looks at me with disbelief.

“Tartarus!?! Ali, no one is going to miss a few corporate ladder-climbers! Besides, if they were smart, they wouldn’t take the train in the morning, would they? No, they’d carpool.”

I rake my fingers through my hair and gingerly ease closed the book of mythology. I do not speak, but I know my husband is waiting. He expects an answer. Of course I can’t tell him the truth. My husband does not do well with the truth. It makes him theatrical and he suddenly worries about what the neighbors will say. Not that I condone lying to my husband. I tell him the truth. I just give him the backward version. All the facts are there; it’s just that I arrange them in a different order. I turn and touch my husband’s arm.

“You don’t really want to let innocent people spend eternity in a dank pit, surrounded by three layers of night, just so you can keep your carpool? And what if she carries Ed off to Tartarus—what happens to your carpool then?”

My husband shifts uncomfortably.

“All I am saying is that you shouldn’t provoke her.”

“Jon, I am not going to provoke her. I am going to go over to her house for coffee like I do every Sunday afternoon. Then, when she asks me if I want sugar in my coffee—I am going to pull my harpoon gun out of my boot and shoot her between the eyes. When I am done, I will come home and make you a lovely Sunday dinner like I always do. Pot roast would be nice, don’t you think?’

My husband ponders this momentarily.

“Well, I guess…but only if you drive me to work on Monday!”

I smile at my husband and reopen the book of mythology on my lap. As I turn to the section I’d been reading, a large brown feather smeared with bits of blood falls to the floor. I quickly cover it with my foot so that my husband doesn’t notice.

“Yes darling. I will drive you into work on Monday.”

.

“The Exterminator” was previously published in the Imitation Fruit Literary Journal.

Fiction, January 2007-June 2010

As part of an overall site update and migration to a new host, the original published pages of Fickle Muses, January 2007 to June 2010, will become inactive in June 2015. The content linked from this page will accessible from category and archive pages (unless the content is removed at the creator’s request). The new pages should also be easier to find by search.

Volume 4:

6.27.2010—Rich Ives, “Mole Group”

6.6.2010—Pippa Goldschmidt, “Turning”

5.15.2010—Lo-Ann Z. Trembley, “Russelka”

4.25.2010—Terence Kuch, “Boon”

4.4.2010—Mary Sue Penn, “The Proper Tool”

2.21.2010—Jessica Gleason, “Confessions of a Decapitated Gorgon: The Medusa Story” (a play)

1.31.2010—Tom Fillion, “My Savior Floyd”

1.10.2010—Kelly Mathews, “Sanctuary in Mind”

Volume 3:

12.20.2009—Richard Bell, “The Flintlock and the Feather”

11.29.2009—K. Elizabeth Cornwell, “SHAPES: A Retelling of ‘Tam Lin'”

11.8.2009—Dani Raschel Jiménez, “Reasonably Unforseeable”

10.18.2009—David Macpherson, “Breaking Lions”

9.27.2009—David W. Landrum, “The Grave of Kokomo”

9.6.2009—Sucheta Dasgupta, “The Courtesan’s Bed”

8.16.2009—Kaitlin Phillips, “The Frost Giantess and the God of the Sea Fall in Love”

7.26.2009—Linda Ferguson, “Why I Ran From Apollo”

7.5.2009—J. Jones, “Icarus”

6.14.2009—Fran Walker, “First Love”

5.24.2009—Harry R. Campion, “Gold and Straw”

5.3.2009—Sean C. Hayden, “The Cobbler of Buttercup”

4.12.2009—Lillian Wheeler, “A Thing of Many Facets”

3.22.2009—Lisa D. Chavez, “House of the Fox Spirits”

3.1.2009—Alan Lewis, “The Gae Bolg”

2.8.2009—Michael Panush, “Puck Out of Luck”

1.18.2009—Helen Patrice, “Fair Winds”

Volume 2:

12.28.2008—Tinney S. Heath, “The Patience of Griselda”

12.7.2008—Vicki Kimmins, “The Magician”

11.16.2008—Vivien Jones, “Water Sprite”

10.26.2008—Dave Siddall, “The Wind, the Sea and the Thief”

10.5.2008—Jeanne Shannon, “Ileana”

8.24.2008—Anna Bennetts, “Shiva and Uma”

8.3.2008—Joanna Gardner, “After Vespers”

7.13.2008—Darcy Bruce, “A Four Star Spicy Curry At the Edge of the World”

6.22.2008—Margaret Hammitt-McDonald, “Elvenwood Acres”

6.1.2008—Ryan P. Standley, “Blizzard”

5.11.2008—Beth Camp, “Rusalka”

4.20.2008—S.V. Wolfland, “The Mathematical Box”

3.23.2008—Susan Hazen-Hammond, “Mudbow”

3.2.2008—Daniel Braum, “The Ghost Dance”

2.10.2008—Miriam Sagan, “Winged Victory” and “The Reader”

1.20.2008—Sam Leng, “Consulting Hermes”

Volume 1:

12.30.2007 – Nick Padron, “Papa’s Bastard Son”

12.9.2007 – Mary Rae, “Corvus The Crow: An ancient star myth”

11.18.2007 – Harry Youtt, “First Night”

10.28.2007 – Stephanie Johnson, “Thesmophoria”

10.7.2007 – Melody Mansfield, “The Rape of Persephone”

9.9.2007 – Stefan Kiesbye, “The Mill”

8.5.2007 – Elizabeth Furiga, “How Stars Came to Be”

7.8.2007 – Virginia M. Mohlere, “How it Came to Gingerbread”

6.10.2007 – Stephen Bunch, “Ad Astra”

5.20.2007 – Neil de la Flor and Maureen Seaton, “Fickle Myths”

2.4.2007 – M. M. De Voe, “From the Leaf Lore”

Fickle Myths

By Neil de la Flor and Maureen Seaton

Fated

The idea of three skinny spinning women thrown together into an old well appealed to Sly. She often divided up her own energies to fit impossible places. Why not squeeze them all in down there, those spindly spindle clickers – after all, the three shared one hazel eye (some even said one doggy tooth) – and see whose hair color lasted the longest: the blonde, the brunette, or the blue-headed bearer of last rites.

She (Sly) supposedly wrote the first paragraph, a grayish kind of word grouping with references to she and skinny. Those words, the last one for sure, were unpolished in an unbuttoned blouse kind of way.

But nothing easy ever came linearly to Sly – a shrug, perhaps, a crossed lifeline. Those three faces like clocks beside her cradle: point, line, counterpoint. What dimension did they come from? Who let them in the house, anyway? Anyone could see they were environmentally unfriendly. The god of fractals had turned them down long ago: they were so non-duplicable.

Recap: we have two characters. One is Sly, the other is She. God and fractals seem to be subverting the storyline in an environmental way, meaning, we can’t escape the environment and the incessant coverage on ABC World News. World Warming will last longer than these characters, which is a fact they couldn’t stand if they could.

After a while (thirty years), and not only when Sly was looking over her shoulder in a paranoid yet understandable way, she began to resent exhibiting the leery behavior of someone who’d been startled by three Roman women in her nursery before she could even shake a rattle. She’d be strolling along the streets of downtown Albuquerque and she’d hear snipping – snip snap – and the guy eating enchiladas alfresco would fall into his salsa, dead as a corn chip.

She was aligned with chilies and jalapeno peppers. She was also in love with agave and virgin tequila. She was a mouse to her peers, silent as one too. She was tall though undetectable to the many men and women street-strolling. The pasarela, the stroll through the streets, was her way of exercise and walking through limbo.

M: We need another character, Neil. Is Hector available? Remember when he was a baby and the first Fate, Nona, the blonde, dropped some threads of life on the floor as she was leaning over his bassinet and she acted all, “Who cares?” And Hector’s little foot kicked her in the nose for messing up his room?

 

N: Maybe Sly should be Sydney, not the place, but the boy with long hair and chin scruff who had great expectations for Hector, or the meaning of Hector. He, the Sydney, spent days on jet skis and random phone calls to the police and chopper cops. He was in love with Hector, the boy with the bassinet hidden under his shoe.

When Sly looked in the mirror, she looked vaguely familiar sometimes. At other times, she could see crossbows and Cheerios, Hector’s favorite weapon and/or playtime food from childhood (although he wouldn’t be caught dead sticking them on his fingers now). She thought to herself, who all along she’d suspected of a fragile duplicity: Sly girl, welcome to Sydney.

And the Fates moaned (as they often do when a human changes gender) at Sunday brunch.

Hector, Hectoria

Myth 1: Hector is not a town in Arizona but he is from the desert. He is illuminated by streetlamp. He is fierce in the only way a warrior can be, by his dress, by the coat of “armor” he wears. He is without the mean determination of a hero-want-to-be. He is also Hectoria. Not the female god with evil intentions, but the inner satellite of Saturn.

(Image of a boy with blond hair fades out on a white screen.)

Myth 2: Hector is cold and warm as a star and at the top of his country. While he inhabits Hectoria, and vice versa, his powers often shift from sword-mighty to chaos theory and his battles become erratic, sometimes taking years to affect butterflies outside of Greece, as he originally intended. He is often called mysterious by those who think he’s gorgeous. At other times, he’s completely invisible, like a narc.

(Image of a wounded teenager fades in.)

Myth 3: Hector was not a small boy or a small girl. He is neither a small dog nor cat. Hector, though wounded as a teenager, is ageless. He is a construction of ideas in the same way we all are constructs of other peoples’ imaginations. However, this Hector, the one we chose to mythologize, is not a myth. He is a real being, a sandstorm, a Venus Fly Trap, a dollop of butter. He wears the girdle of another man.

(Hector is seen polishing his sword with Paris, but not with Achilles, who is off buying boots with better-fitting heels at Footlocker.)

Myth 4: Hector’s brother Helenus (a psychic) has his hands full when they both find themselves girdled and part of the Folies Bergere Equine Guild (please see http://www.foliesbergere.com/ for a picture of Hector’s horse and gleaming helmet). Helenus suspects they’ve been transported to the roaring twenties by Zeus, or at least Homer, to prepare the Trojans for future fatal tussles.

(Screen fades to a bedlam of roses.)

Myth 5: Hector.

(Slain beside the little river Grange-Batelière.)

Myth 6: Hectoria.

(Wakes in a stone sarcophagus. Her last words are prophetic. The audience strains to hear them.)

ficklemyths

 

Psychic Hotline

Helenus often spends evenings at The Temple Bar & Grill with his twin sister, Cassandra. It’s said that one night, after they’d had a few ill-prepared crunchy mojitos, snakes appeared and licked the twins’ ears so clean they could both hear the future – and thus began their careers in clairvoyance.

Nobody at the hotline believes Helenus once counseled the greatest heroes of all time. His psychic co-workers look at him, slumped over the phone like a troll, and roll their eyes. He’s too confusing: one day all Bud Lite; the next, sealed inside himself like a code.

Cassandra is also a secret code, Sandra to some, Cass to others. She isn’t a singer but has a voice that could open a bottled Bud. It’s been clear from birth she was destined for bigger things even though she was always the smaller of the two.

Why do we all feel so fucked by fate?

Helenus asks himself this and other questions pertaining to destiny while telling his bereaved or beleaguered callers 1. what they want to hear, 2. what they don’t want to hear but he’s in a mood so he tells them the truth anyway, or 3. what nobody would ever want to hear in any language: Greek, Roman, or Miamian.

Neither Helenus nor Cassandra would have chosen the psychic life. They wanted to be soccer players or shell shuckers. They wanted to waltz and dance with sweaty arms. They wanted to be normal beings, not pawns in literature, or god-like prawns trolling the seabed. Each wanted to be the other, a little Hel, a little Cass.

Fate is a 4-letter word.

Cassandra (on her cell): Hey, Hel, how are tricks treating you?

Helenus (on the psychic hotline): I knew it would be you.

In the background a boy seems to be playing with cars or cards or something that creates a riotous sound. The boy, small in some respects, is bigger than both of them, Cassandra and Helenus, the Romans and the Greeks, even bigger than Miamians and that cockamamie race called human.

The background follows Helenus around like a cape. Whenever he checks, it’s there, red or blue or periwinkle, with children insinuating themselves, catching his third eye. He sees stuff from the past more often than from the future, mostly incidental and personal, nothing like bombs or war or tickertape. More like someone’s grandfather at age three, hiding in the back seat of a Buick. A flash of someone’s humiliation. It’s a real pain in the ass.

Cassandra: I knew you knew it would be me.

Helenus: Helenus?

Cassandra: Helenus.

Helenus tilts precariously in his swivel chair and closes his eyes.

The background floods with the wings of hawks and doves. Cassandra names every one of them – Sam, Ioa, Indemnity. She gathers their wings and makes pillows.


Read two poems from “Venus Examines Her Breast” by Maureen Seaton, the title poem and Pele.

See Maureen Seaton’s art, poetry and an interview at http://www.scene360.com/STORYboard_interview_seaton.html
“Venus Examines Her Breast” is available from Carnegie Mellon University Press at http://www.cmu.edu/universitypress

See Neil de la Flor’s Web site at http://www.neildelaflor.com