Games of the Gods
“Why so glum, my sweet?”
“We never do anything together. You’re always running off somewhere.” She didn’t mention that he ran off after nymphs, sylphs, The Graces, and mortal women.
“My prerogative. But today, how can I make you happy?”
“We haven’t taken a trip together in centuries.”
“You know my duties require my full attention.”
She laughed in his face. “But you have time to dally with other women?”
He could see this was not going well. He looked out the windows of their shining palace on Mt. Olympus. The clouds parted when he snapped his fingers. His gaze drifted up to the heavens, and then down to the earth. “Let’s have Apollo take us with him in his chariot today. We’ll see the world together.”
“But the children.”
“There you go again,” he sighed. “I plan something at your request and you back down for a silly reason. Hermes is well equipped to inform us if we’re needed. Come, my bride of many years, who looks as sunny as the day we met. I love it when you smile, Hera.”
She kissed him. “Mmm, I like that flattery! Maybe we could take more than a day? Apollo could drop us somewhere exotic. “Do you really trust Hermes to watch over the realms?”
He nodded, and before she could protest again, they flew off in Apollo’s golden chariot,
leaving Hermes muttering oaths.
Hermes tentatively took the throne of his father, Zeus. He settled against the velvet cushions. He smiled, for this might work out very well. He chuckled on looking at Aeus’s many playthings. Hermes chose a thunderbolt or two to throw, neglecting to see if the bolts caused any damage.
Soon he called for the banished Atë. Her slim, girlish figure and sparkling mischievous eyes pleased him. She wore the garments of mortals because of her banishment to Earth. She gazed at Hermes, resplendent on the throne, though his legs stuck out straight. He was so little in comparison to his father..
“Your father will punish you, Hermes, as he has punished me. No one takes the throne of Zeus.”
“He commanded me here,” Hermes replied with a cocky smile. “And of all women, goddesses, demi-goddesses, and mortals, with whom could I have more fun and make more mischief than with you, my dear Atë? Don’t worry. Zeus won’t banish you to a more unpleasant place, for Earth is as unpleasant as it comes. Well, except for the Nether Regions. I travel there too often, what with all the mortals dying sooner or later. Let’s talk of something else and have some fun while the ‘rents have their romp.”
They stood at the window together. Hermes slipped out of his winged shoes. He called for a servant to massage his feet and shoulders. The sun shone in and warmed his back. Atë switched on the viewing window to mark Apollo’s progress.
She turned to Hermes. “We have enough time for play. I agree. What have you in mind this time, you boy-god?”
“You’re better at making trouble than I am. I’m forever falling in with the thieves and messengers, who beseech me with their prayers. Have you a plan?”
Atë studied the mortals as they trudged about their daily work. Half were enjoying their night’s slumber, awaiting Apollo’s chariot. “Is Aphrodite on call?”
Hermes checked his list. “No, she’s still feuding with the Trojans. Let’s time travel. I’m so sick of these petty quarrels that turn into years of war.” He buckled his winged sandals on again. With a flick of his wrist, he spun the pot of time. Atë dipped a golden ladle into the pot and brought up a multi-colored goo. She poured it out onto a waxed table so that the elements would dry and separate.
“Hermes, come quickly,” she called. He had flown off, not having an ounce of patience. “See, here in the muck? Do you see that woman? Why is she standing at her door? Why is she crying?”
“Women! The world wouldn’t turn without their hysterical responses to every little thing. She probably couldn’t afford her machiatto coffee. . .”
“Do you think she’s lonely?”
“I would be more than happy to find out.”
Atë grabbed his arm. “No, Hermes. The Oracle can tell us. Fly to her and find out how to make the woman happy. And no stopping yet to engage in any of your tricks.”
“Since I invited you here, I will do as you wish, madam.”
Within seconds, Hermes flew out the window and back again. “You were right. Her name is Della. She is lonely. She did something the moderns call divorce. She left her cheating husband, and now she lives without a man. But her heart is broken. We could deliver nectar or chocolate, but where’s the fun in that? Have you ever thought how it’s a good thing there’s no divorce on Olympus?”
Atë smiled a wicked smile. “It would be too typical for us to provide her with a delicious meal or a perfect mate.” She peeked at Della again. Della had gone into her apartment and was winding her watch, setting out her clothes for the next work day. “See how she’s so constricted by time?”
“Let’s pair her with an opposite, someone who doesn’t worry about time.”
“She won’t like that.”
“All the more fun to watch!”
They found a suitable subject, Ralph, who lived in the building across the sidewalk from Della’s. He too was alone. His shoulders slumped at the end of long days of work, nothing to look forward to but cold beer and a ball game on television.
Della felt a wispy tickle near her ear. She rubbed her ear against her shoulder, but the feeling persisted. For a reason she could not explain, she drew a bath, adding bath crystals that smelled of vanilla and sugar. She relaxed, turning the jetted tub’s bubbles on. She began to sing.
Her song flew into Ralph’s window. “Man, I’d better cut back on the brewskis,” he said. “I’m hearing things. It sounds like an angel singing.” He leaned out his window. Ralph could tell the music came from the apartment across from his, and standing on his tip toes, he saw a fetching woman covered in suds, singing her heart out.
He had seen her before, rushing by on a regular schedule of work, tennis lessons, and swimming. Ralph rubbed his chin. Had he ever seen her with a man? No, he had not! He shaved, dressed in a snappy pin-striped shirt and khakis, and without knowing why he would do such a thing, he knocked on her door.
Della answered, wearing a fuzzy blue robe. Her hair was clipped to the top of her head. Her eyes narrowed- “Yes? Can I help you?”
Ralph often felt tongue-tied around women. But with Ate’s help, he managed to say, “I heard you singing. That’s my favorite song! I had to meet you. I’m Ralph.”
“I’m Della,” she said, surprising herself because as a rule she confronted those who disturbed her at home with hostility. “You like country music?”
“Honestly, no. I’m into acid rock and guitar riffs, but I love that one song, the one you were singing. Kenny Rogers, right? ‘Bring Me a Rose’?” Ralph brought his right hand out from behind his back. He held a single red rose. “For you.”
Della blushed like a girl. They talked the night away. They had little in common. She liked books and romantic comedies. He liked fast cars and action movies. She ate salads. He ate beef. She drank wine. He drank beer. They were so much the opposite of one another that they felt each minute brought out something new.
The mischievous gods had played their joke. They checked back frequently, laughing as the new couple knocked heads. Another time they heard scolding words. But in the next few decades, the couple had been laughing, laughing, laughing. Della and Ralph felt they were made for one another. Della and Ralph became a boring success rather than a tumultuous disaster.
Atë said, “Maybe I should talk to Cupid about giving us another chance to mess around with romance?”
Hermes answered, “You think? Most mortals don’t know what they’ve got even when they have a dream come true in front of their very eyes. These two are living proof of making the most of the moment. It wasn’t our doing. It was theirs.”
On Olympus, the Fate Lasheete laughed aloud. Her two sisters cocked their heads. She told them, “Will the gods never learn, as most humans have, that we Fates control destiny?”
The sisters joined hands to dance, knowing that in all worlds they were indeed supreme.