Zelda Loves Zeus
If you want to make a Long Island Iced Tea, take an ounce of vodka, stir in an ounce each of gin, rum and tequila, then touch it off with a healthy dose of cola and crushed ice. Throw in two ounces of depression and a mousy brown haircut, and youd have Zelda Marsh as she sat alone in After Hours, overlooking the waterfront.
It was after nine and she was already on her third Long Island. The cafe was nearly deserted this time of nightexcept for one young Italian couple whispering to each other along the railing, watching the lights play out upon the water. Zelda tried not to stare and took another slug of her drink.
Dennis, her date for the evening, was more than just a little late. He was AWOL. Zelda kept looking at her watch, trying to pass the time. She had the right place. The right day. And her Timex had a lifetime warranty. Where the hell was he? Maybe he got stuck in traffic... Yeah, right, she thought. Maybe he just got stuck in Tracey-
Zelda felt someone standing behind her and turned to see the waiter whod been her only companion all evening.
Ms. Marsh? he said with a tone of finality.
Dennis Rathbone just called...Im afraid its not good news.
Zelda gritted her teeth and continued nursing her drink.
Out with it, she said. Im a big girl...
Said hes sorry but he cant make it. His car broke down.
It didnt bother Zelda so much that Dennis was two hours late. Or even that he wouldnt be showing up. But the fact Dennis was an auto mechanic did. Zelda knocked back the last of her drink. Andre stood by and struck his best sympathetic pose.
Im really sorry. Can I get you anything?
Unless youve got men on special tonight, I think Ill pass. How about you, Andre? You married?
Yes, he said with an embarrassed laugh, Seven years this April. But thanks for asking.
Figures...guess this just isnt my night. Hey, maybe could you get me-
Another Long Island?
Zelda sighed and looked up into Andres eyes with a sad, unsteady smile.
Bingo, she said.
By the time eleven oclock rolled around, Zelda had staggered off down the roadsidetwirling her shoes in her hand. Zelda was sure God had created two things to make women miserable. The first was men. Heels were a close second. After three blocks of stumbling along, shed finally given up and whipped them off.
Not that five Long Islands helped either. Zelda hadnt been this toasted since her sister Cassandras wedding last June. And she didnt have a clue where she was. Zelda only knew one thing. Not a taxi in sight. Just like men, she thought. Never around when you need them.
Zelda still couldnt get over how miserable things had become. It seemed for every nice guy shed meet, there was another herd of guys like Dennis who thought nothing of trying to avoid her like a parking fine.
My car broke down? God, why not something more original like: My water broke. or I just got abducted by aliens!
Thats the last time I let my mother set me up, she thought. As God is my witness. Sure, her mother meant well. But a certified mechanic, she said. I should be certified for even showing up!
Zelda took out a tissue and wiped away the mascara running from her eyes. She could make out a hazy glow in the plaza down the way so she headed towards it to rest her feet for a second. But as she wandered into the growing light, Zelda stopped wiping her eyes, realizing where she was.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Surrounded by spotlights, the hedge-rimmed courtyard was completely desertedexcept for an immense fountain sparkling out in the open. With all the water flickering into the air, Zelda couldnt tell if she was crying any more or not. She paused to look at the rough metallic figure silhouetted in the midst of the fountain.
It was a bronze sculpture of a man riding a chariot, his powerful arms holding a team of steeds at bay. His features were finely chiseled, his broad shoulders and firm chest draped in a long, twisting cloak. A thick mane of curls hung back in the breeze as he stared out over the city. Zelda looked at the plaque at her feet.
Zeus - Greek God of Thunder, it said.
Zelda stepped back a bit and sat down on the pavement, eyes fixed on the statue.
God. Now why cant I find a man like that...?
Maybe cause youre one drunk little lady.
Zelda jumped and spun around to see a policeman leaning against a tree behind her, calmly smoking a cigarette.
Should I call you a cab, miss? Or should I leave you two lovebirds alone?
Great, just what I needed, thought Zelda. A sarcastic cop. She stumbled to her feet and tried looking as dignified as possiblefor a drunk. Zelda was tempted to say something, but finally said cab and brushed some dust from her skirt. The officer threw down his cigarette and headed for his cruiser parked out by the curb. Zelda sat beneath the fountain to watch him.
My hero, she said.
When Zelda finally opened the door to her small brownstone apartment, it was nearly midnight and it felt like a freight train had just run over her head and was coming back for more. She slumped into the nearest chair and prayed for the room to stop spinning. A small Persian tabby appeared, racing into the kitchen like Mario Andretti.
Skittles! cried Zelda as the cat sprang into her lap. Did you miss Mommy?
Skittles purred his appreciation and Zelda wobbled over to the fridge, probing her hands out in front of her. She stopped to look at the photo stuck there with a pair of magnetic grapes.
Years ago, she and Cass had caught Tony Danza at Caesars Palace. They were lucky enough to corner him backstage, and Zelda and Tony had made with the poses. Both of them were looking into the camera, a beaming smile on Zelda as Tony gave her a big smooch on the cheek. The photo turned out so good, Zelda had put it up as a conversation piece. But right now, it just struck her as a little sad.
She stopped to look at herself in the window. A thirty-two year old woman. Her hair all matted to one side. And her make-up smeared across her face like itd been applied with a paintbrush. Zelda felt a good cry coming on.
Men are scum, Skittles, said Zelda, pouring him some milk. God, its enough to make a girl go lez. The cat lapped up the milk without paying any attention. Zelda wiped the hair from her face then leaned against the wall, ever so slowly. She sank to the floor and wistfully brushed his coat.
Come here often? she whispered.
As if from out of a dream, Zelda began to notice a fog over her eyes. Skittles stirred and Zelda rubbed her eyes for a moment, finally realizing what was happening. A fine smoke billowed from her living room. Skittles! she cried. The houses on fire! Zelda scrambled to her feet and thrust her hand into the dark, fumbling for the light switch. She snapped it on, immediately blinded as the light turned the smoke into a dazzling mist.
Moments later the mist vanished. In its place stood a giant of a man. He was almost seven feet tall, his massive arms and shoulders wrapped in a long flowing cloak of gold and white. Zelda froze. The man fingered his short iron grey beard and glanced around the room. Zelda could hear the sound of a distant harp as his cool blue eyes turned to meet hers.
I have come, he said.
Zeldas jaw hit the floor.
Coffee, she said, twenty seconds later. I need coffee... Zelda stumbled into the kitchen and groped for the coffee maker, muttering over and over: Theres a guy with a toga in my living room. She turned. He was standing in the doorway. Skittles sniffed around his feet, not sure what to make of him.
I will never drink again, said Zelda, trembling. I will never ever never drink aga-
I am Zeus...God of Thunder, he said. I have-
Look Spartacus, she stammered. This girl has had an awful lot to drink! Now...either you and your Birkenstocks get the hell out of my kitchen orDID YOU SAY, ZEUS!?!
Yes. I saw you were in need of comfort. And I have come.
Zelda backed away, shaking her head.
This cant be happening... she said wide-eyed. It just cant...
Why? he asked in a voice as soft as a summer breeze. Does my appearance displease you?
Zelda studied his bronzed physique for so long, she wanted to take notes.
Oh god...NO. Its just...I-
Zeus stepped forward and Zelda found herself lost in his eyes. Before she knew it, his arms folded gently around her. She didnt feel afraid. Only warm. Electric. Alive. As their lips met, Zelda felt a hush come over her.
She knocked the phone off the table beside her and was swept away.
Zelda woke up late next morning sprawled across her bed. The bedclothes strewn all over. And not a hangover in sight. She smiled and nestled into her pillow, feeling like shed just slept for a month. Zelda couldnt recall much about last night. All she could remember was this wild dream shed had. Something about some Greek god whod...appeared in her...living room...and...
Zelda blinked her eyes wide. There, across her bedroom wall, was a message written in a fine, golden script.
Come to me, the message said. And I shall be by your side once more. Zeus.
Then the words vanished.
It all came flooding back to her and Zelda checked beneath the covers. Naked! Shed just fucked her brains out with a God of Thunder! She didnt feel used, mind you. Shed wanted him just as bad. But no man had made her feel like that before. Ever. She rolled back and sighed at the thought of those eyes. That body.
Hey. Wake up there, Zel! Those mannequins arent dressing themselves.
Zelda turned to see her supervisor, Judy, standing over her shoulder. Working as a sales associate at Sears, Zelda was trying to get the new display together. She wasnt getting far.
Sorry, Judy...guess I was daydreaming...
For the last hour, said Judy. Speed it up, kid. I mean, I know you like naked men and all but enough is enough!
Zelda looked around at the wooden figures and laughed. Yeah. Too bad these guys dont have money.
So tell me. Howd that big date go?
Zelda was hurriedly trying to put a tracksuit on one of the mannequins. She paused, looking at his smooth, wooden features. Picturing the clear, blue eyes of a god underneath.
Amazing, she said. Couldnt have gone better...
During her lunch hour, Zelda went down to the museum and munched on her tuna fish sandwich while the crowds went by. She sat out in the plaza, studying the statue, looking up at the chiseled features of Zeus. Her stomach tightened like she was cramming for final exams. Gazing into his dark bronze eyes, Zelda couldnt help but feel small and insignificant. I wonder if hes watching me right now, she thought. What could he be thinking?
Zelda looked down at her watch. She was going to be late if she didnt do this fast. It was crazybut she just had to try. As everyone passed her by, heading in their own directions, Zelda hoped no one was staring at her. But in a quiet, plaintive voice she said: Please Zeus...come visit me again...
At six oclock, Zelda took the phone off the hook and dimmed the lights. Shed set a table for two with a little candlelight, and some romantic music in the background. Zelda hoped Zeus liked Enya. Dinner was another matter. What does a Greek god eat anyway? Souvlaki...? Zelda finally decided on Cornish hen. Hell, if he doesnt like it, he can change it. To top things off, she wore her hair back with a sprig of orange blossom and a sexy blue satin number shed dug out of the back of her closet. Even Skittles purred his approval.
Zelda was taking no prisoners. Enough of this mystery man stuff, she thought. Lets see what makes this guy tick.
By 6:45 p.m., Zelda wasnt disappointed. Again, her living room filled with a dazzling liquid light that became so intense, Zelda thought the room was going to explode. Just as quickly, the glow vanished, replaced by the Greek god himself, his robes billowing in some imaginary wind. A spoon tumbled out of Zeldas hand onto the floor, her heart beating like a July rain against a hot tin roof.
Uh, hi, she said.
Greetings, my little dove, announced Zeus, I have returned once more to partake in the radiance of your beauty... He looked about him at the embroidered place settings, the soft candlelight settling over the room. Youve changed this place since I last saw it.
Zelda couldnt think what to say. When the words finally reached her lips, all she could mutter was: I did it for you. Zeus looked down and smiled.
I am deeply flattered, he said stepping towards her. How magnificent you look tonight! What a shame it will be to have to free you from such garments. Zeus pulled Zelda towards him and she melted into his arms. Her knees buckled as they kissed for a long, intoxicating moment. Before she forgot herself, Zelda whispered: Please. Dinners ready.
I thank you, he said, stopping to regard her. But I am not here to eat. I am here for you.
But I dont know anything about you, pleaded Zelda, letting go. Please, just sit down and tell me- Zeus placed a finger against her lips.
Words fail me in the presence of such beauty, he whispered. There will always be time for words. But for love, there is never enough time... Zeus took her into his embrace and once again, Zelda was lost.
Zelda sat back in her kitchen early one morning, painting her toenails. She was wrapped up in her favourite bathrobe, singing Man! I Feel Like A Woman! with a cup of Sanka and a Poptart. Skittles just batted Zeldas chair with his tail and watched her. He didnt look impressed.
Sorry, Skittles, said Zelda, scratching his head. Was Mommy ignoring you? The cat gave her a dirty look and Zelda took another sip of her coffee.
Shed been riding the lightning for four days now, and the whirlwind romance just kept picking up speed. She was still disappointed Zeus didnt have much to say for himself, but Zelda knew it had to be a temporary thing. The guy was obviously crazy about her.
A few nights ago, hed even turned her entire apartment into a rose garden, filled with the sound of swallows and morning doves. Even the faint hint of ancient music far off in the distance. In the fading light, Zeusd laid Zelda down in the tall grass and made love to her. It was more romantic than anything she could have imagined. It was like a dream. Then Zelda woke up alone as she had before.
Wheres this all going? she wondered. Sooner or later, hed have to meet Cass. And her mother! God, what would she tell her? She could see it all now.
Ma, Ive met someone, Zelda would say. His names Zeus.
Thats great, Zelda! Whats he do for a living?
Oh...hes a God of Thunder. Zelda shook her head and knocked back her Sanka. I must be insane. The phone started ringing and Zelda grabbed it with a yawn.
Yello, she said.
Good morning, my dear...
Zelda spit out a mouthful of coffee.
So. Zelda. You never tell me a thing. Howd it go with my mechanic?
On her last few dates, Zeldad been lucky if she could find a pulse. This time, an arm wouldve been a good start.
Uh. He was nice, Ma, she lied. We just didnt have anything in common.
Ah, thats too bad. When I get my tires rotated, Dennis, he just seemed the guy for you. There was an audible sigh on the line. Zelda, you a nice girl...real nice girl. Cassies happy now. You gotta find someone. How about that Tony Danza? He really liked you!
Gotta good job...hes even got his own hair-
Ma, I am not calling Tony Danza! Okay?
There was a long silence. Zelda strained to listen, wondering if her mother had fallen off the edge of the earth. Please.
Geiger... she said.
Howard Geiger...yeah, thats his name! I saw him work in the Dunkin Donuts the other day. Now I know you two used to go to school. He didnt have a ring on. So I put in a good word for you...
Zelda smacked herself in the head.
Ma...Howie Geiger just got out of prison for shoplifting.
There was another pause.
So. What? I should tell him not to call?
Zelda started wavering, her tongue just seconds away from dropping the bomb about her cute little Olympian. That is, until she had another thought. Visions of her mother trying to get Zeus to put some pants on. Zelda took her finger off the trigger.
Ma...I got someone on the other line. Look, Ill call you later, okay...
Okay, my dear. Just think it over...I know where Howard lives. Bu-bye!
Zelda thunked the receiver down. Not that she actually had another line. But it was always the perfect excuse when it came to narrowly averting a maternal collision. Zelda looked over at Tony and groaned.
See what youve done to that woman?
Before Tony could even offer a reply, the phone rang again. Zelda let out a brief primal scream and scooped up the receiver.
Ma, what is it now??
Zelda, said a terse voice. Whats wrong? You know what time it is?
Zelda immediately recognized the voice, and glanced at the clock.
Judy...oh, God! Its Saturday!
No kidding, replied Judy. Call me crazy, but dont you start at nine?
Sorry, Judy...I thought you were...I meanit wont happen again!
Zel, its okay. I know youve got a lot going on. Just dont let it affect your work, kay?
Thanks...I wont let you down. Promise! Be there in twenty minutes! Zelda slammed down the receiver, and made a mad dash for the bathroom, almost running over Skittles in the process.
Later that day, Zelda was busy fiddling with her turkey casserole and turned down the heat, the sweat still dripping off her brow after squeezing in a last minute workout. She balanced the phone in the crook of her arm. Her little sisters familiar voice coming from the other end.
Cass, I dont know, said Zelda, This whole Dating Game kick shes on. Its gotta stop...
Zel, Mom just wants you to be happy.
Yeah, I know...I love the woman. But this is something I gotta do on my own. She tried to hook me up again with...are you ready for this?
Oh yes! Cass, the guy doesnt even have any teeth!
Her sister laughed to herself. Well...at least hes still got a tongue...
Ew! Ew! cried Zelda. Cass, I am never eating again...
So when are you and Howie picking out china patterns?
God, when the cows come home, I hope, said Zelda, Cass, I...I thought I should tell you...I just met this new guy. She stirred her casserole with a conspiratorial grin. I think hes the one...
Zel...Zel, thats great! said Cass. So cmonspill it, baby. Whats he like?
Well. Uh. Hes a weatherman.
Wow! A real talking head guy. Is it Willard Scott?
Okay, okay, she laughed. What channels he on? I gotta check him out...
I dont remember. Basic cable somewhere, I think. Hes from out of town actually...just flies in when he can and- Zelda looked at the clock. Hey sis, gotta run...is that dinner still on?
You kidding? Wouldnt miss it for the world! And I wanna hear more about the mystery man, Zel. Were talking measurements...references...
Zelda let her sister go with a whistle and finished with some final preparations. Like she was getting ready to launch the space shuttle. She set the table with a little candlelight. In the vase, she placed a rose Zeus had given her the night before, so intense in colour, it nearly glowed in the dark. Zelda took a deep breath, replaced it with a sigh, then rushed back to the stove like an expectant father.
By eleven oclock, the candles had burned down to waxy stumps. The meal was long since cold. And Zelda turned the TV off. She dug out an old bottle of peach schnapps, and took it to bed. Skittles sat on the edge of the bed, giving her a disapproving stare.
I dont get it, Skittles, she said. I prayed for him and...nothing. Hell, maybe hes doing a storm in Romania or somethingI dont know. Zelda picked up Zeus rose and clasped it to her breast. I just wish he were here.
Zelda was about to turn in when her lamp quivered, then the whole apartment began to hum. Louder. And louder. Zeldas neighbours were on vacation. And it sounded too unearthly to be a low flying plane. It just had to be...
The walls shook suddenly and Zelda heard the brief shout of a man. There was a terrible crash in her bathroom, followed by a muffled noise like it was raining watermelons. Zelda dove under her bed and returned with a five pound barbell. It didnt sound like Zeus. And whatever it wasit was damn big.
Skittles took off to investigate and sniffed at the door despite Zeldas protests. She tiptoed over to the doorway. She listened. Something was still fumbling around in there. And the smell of smoke hung heavy in the air. Zelda didnt like this. It reminded her of one too many Nightmare on Elm Streets. And she didnt want any Freddies.
Taking a deep breath, Zelda nudged the door open and snapped on the light. Inside, the room was coated in a fine layer of ash. Dozens of small embers burned here and there. Her blue and white tile floor was broken and mangled, and the walls battered with a number of jagged holes. The medicine cabinet yawned open, its tubes and bottles scattered across the floor.
But what really grabbed her attention was the man fumbling around in her bathtub. He was built just like a quarterback, his thick, muscular frame wrapped in a matted brown tunic. A full beard covered a none too handsome face. He didnt notice her thoughhe was too busy putting out her burning shower curtain.
And Zelda screamed.
The big man turned, a pained look coming across his face.
You Zelda? he said.
Zelda hid behind the door, staying a respectful distance.
Whats going on?? she squeaked. Who are you??
Uh, just a sec, he said. He snuffed out a few more fires before speaking. Sorry bout the curtains and all. Mind helping me up?
It was then Zelda noticed the mans legs. They were normal-sized, but twisted a little at the hip, and his feet were obviously deformed. He had to be lame.
The big man reached over to grab a handle protruding from the wall and ripped it out, revealing a huge iron mallet. He swung it around the room and everything returned to normal.
So, you gonna help me or you want me living in your bathtub? He held out his hand to her. I dont bite.
Zelda took a small step forward and gingerly took his hand. It was big and rough, almost dwarfing her own, but she pulled with her entire weight. The big man eased out of the tub and steadied himself with his hammer. Zelda led him into her living room, Skittles running at their heels.
Thank you, he smiled. Zelda?
Hephaestus...God of Blacksmiths, at your service! Zeusll be busy fighting giants for the next few-
Don't worry. Zeus can handle himself. The Giants of Attica arent real big in the brains department. Hes just keeping them in line.
But I had dinner all set-
Sorry, Hephaestus shrugged, pulling out a huge parchment datebook. Zeus a busy god...he should be free...lets see. Next Wednesday.
Yeah. About eight thirty-five. Right after that storm in Romania...
Hephaestus, said Zelda, arms akimbo. Can you hear that...?
The big man looked around her apartment. He waited. Uh. No, what?
Its my clock ticking...
Hephaestus was about to answer, then shuffled his feet and made himself a note.
Clock...ticking... Okay, see what I can do. Remember, Zelda...Wednesday. Goodnight and farewell! Hephaestus tapped the side of his hammer.
And he was gone.
On Wednesday, Zeus returned. But it was a Zeus she couldnt recognize. Sure, he still had those liquid, baby blue eyes. And a physique Fabio would risk jail time for. But Zelda could tell he had other things on his mind. She didnt mention Hephaestus visit the other night. Instead, she decided to take their relationship to another level. Quiet dinners and magic, passionate lovemaking with a god of few words was great. But it was time she tried something new.
So the two of them were lying on the sofa, watching Nick At Nite.
I cannot fathom this, he said. If it was only a three hour tour, then why did they bring so many clothes??
Zelda sighed and nestled into him.
Its a TV show, honey. Make believe! Its not supposed to make sense. Its just entertainment.
This is not entertainment. Flying the winged chariot of Apollo is entertainment. Battling the dreaded Cyclops of Thebes is entertainment. This is utter nonsense!
Well, said Zelda, her eyes perking up, Why dont you show me what you do for fun? Id love to see where you come from! Zeus closed his eyes and began rubbing his temples as if the weight of the world had just fallen on his shoulders.
I grow weary. Perhaps a massage by your delicate hands would help ease my troubled mind.
Zelda pulled out a magazine and dropped it in his lap.
Ive got a better idea. How about dinner and a show? Ive picked out an outfit in GQ you can change into.
She ran her finger along a full page Guess ad. A slender young man, his hair tussled by the wind, was leaning up against a motorcycle in a grey pinstriped blazer and slacks.
This!? What man would dare be seen in such florid attire??
But this is all the rage. Men always dress like this-
Then they are weaklings and fools! A warrior of Greece, let alone the King of the Gods, would never seek to shame himself by wearing womens garments such as these!
But how can we go anywhere if youre dressed like Julius Caesar?!
The gods eyes blazed with wrath.
The people of today have no time for gods, he said. Theyve ignored me for too long, and for that I can never forgive them! They can fend for themselves, and be damned!
Zelda grew quiet as the last of Zeus words echoed through the apartment.
Im sorry, she said at last, resting her face on his shoulder. I just wanted to show you off... Youre better than any man Ive ever met...
Of course I am, said Zeus, gazing deep into her eyes. And you are truly a better woman... The god drew Zelda slowly into his arms and under his spellkissed her.
Whatd you say these were?
Hephaestus was sitting in Zeldas kitchen, calmly sipping his tea. For the third day running, Zeus had failed to show, and Hephaestus had appeared to make with the apologies. He was being awfully polite about the whole thing, but hed always left as quickly as he came. So tonight Zelda invited him to stay. If Zeus wasnt going to open up, maybe Hephaestus would. Besides, Zelda needed someone to talk toeven if it was a four hundred and fifty pound God of Blacksmiths.
Fig Newtons, said Zelda. Here, have another... Hephaestus munched on one while Skittles curled about his feet. So. Whered you say Zeus is?
Fighting the four-headed Hydra, said Hephaestus between bites. Been terrorizing the farmers of Arcadia for, oh...months now...
I thought you said six heads?
Hey...is that Tony Danza?
Oh, yeah. Well...Hydras are tricky, see. They can grow all the heads they want. Nasty things. Zeus has his hands full, believe you me.
Zelda watched as Hephaestus tried unsuccessfully to avoid her gaze.
Dont the other gods help him?
Naw, theyve got better things to do. Like me, for instance. Im always busy at my forge, making things...
Really? Like what?
Hephaestus took a spoon in his hand and curled his fist around it. He opened his hand, revealing a small metallic figure of a fawn. It sparkled in his hand as he set it down beside Zeldas E.R. mug.
Wow, Zelda said, picking it up. Its gorgeous. Hephaestus returned to his plate of Fig Newtons.
Keep it, he said. I do stuff like that all the time. A shield for Athene, a new gazebo for Hermes...mmmm, these are delicious! I must get Aphrodite to make some...
Hephaestus pulled a wallet from his tunic and flipped it open for her to see. Inside was a picture of the most beautiful woman Zelda had ever seen. A thousand Linda Evangelistas rolled into one wouldnt even come close.
My wife, he said, studying it with his big dark eyes. You know, its tough being married to a Goddess of Love. All those strange men she keeps fooling with- Hephaestus threw his hand over his mouth.
Hephaestus, said Zelda, folding her arms. Whats wrong?
Hephaestus stared down at the linoleum, still covering his mouth.
Nothing, he muttered. Just bit the side of my mouth. Zeus! Hate when that happens.
But Zelda wasnt paying attention to the big man. She went over to the cabinet underneath the sink and rummaged around, looking to change tactics. Searching for the heavy artillery.
Actually, she said, bringing over a black labeled bottle. Newtons go better with this... She poured him a glass while Hephaestus looked the bottle over in his hand.
Never mind. Just try it. Okay?
Ten minutes and two empty bottles later, Zelda had one hammered god in her kitchen. Hephaestus leaned back and forth, his eyes swimming in his head. He began singing bits and pieces of some ancient folk songs Zelda couldnt recognize. He even sounded a little bit like Van Morrisonif Van Morrison was drunk out of his gourd and really couldnt sing worth a damn. Zelda prayed she hadnt made one major league mistake.
Hephaestus, whys Zeus keep sending you here? Why doesnt he just send me a magic letter or... Hephaestus stared back at Zelda doing a passable impression of a goldfish in an aquarium. He said nothing for a very long time.
Want to dance? Im a very good dancer...
Maybe another time. Zelda poured him another. You owe Zeus a favour or something?
Why not, Melba...? said the god. The guys my father.
Zeldas mouth fell into an unnatural O shape as she dumped a glass full of Jack over Hephaestus arm. He looked on with vague disinterest.
I say something wrong?
Zelda couldnt breathe. This...giant might be my new stepson??
You cant be serious...
Fine. Don't believe me. Hephaestus whistled and picked up Skittles with his one hand. He stuffed the tabbys purring face into his. Heeeeelllllllo, Middles!
Why didnt Zeus tell me?
Hephaestus put down the cat and shook his head.
Mel, wake up and smell the mead! Dads the horniest god in all Creation. Only reason Im his errand boy is he knows Ill cover his ass while hes out making the beast with two backs...
Liar! Zeus wouldnt treat me like that! Why else would he-
-bring you roses...tell you youre his little dove? Mel, you dont know a thing about Greek myth, do you?
Zelda had to think. Well, she used to watch Xena all the time...and she and Cass saw a stripper once named Hercules. Okay, not much really. But it couldnt be true...it just couldnt! Zelda jumped to her feet.
Get out! she cried. I dont care what you think of Zeusjust get the hell out before...before I do something Ill regret!
Zelda wasnt really sure what she could do to someone who could bench press her apartment. But Hephaestus didnt seem up to a fight.
Fine, lady, he said, dumping the plate of Newtons into his pocket. See if I make you anymore cute little animals... Hephaestus got to his feet and staggered like a wounded elephant. Zelda dove out of the way as he fell back suddenly, knocking her kitchen table over, and scattering its contents across the room. Hephaestus gazed up from the floor in disgust. Seconds later, he drew his hammer and tapping it, disappeared.
With her kitchen in a shambles, Zelda sat down in the middle of the floor, and chewed at her fingernails. Skittles stood in the doorway, staring at her.
Oh, shut up, she said.
The next day, Zelda trembled as she sat in her apartment with Skittles. Shed thrown on her favourite Eurythmics CD for good luck. Zelda curled up on her couch, her breakables all hidden neatly away. The library book lay unopened in Zeldas hands.
An Illustrated Guide To Greek Myth, it was called.
Zelda had yet to turn the first page. She tapped a nervous rhythm along its spine.
Trust... she kept saying. Trust...
Zelda threw open the cover. Each page was decorated with paintings of graceful, idyllic figures of a world Zelda could hardly believe she was dealing with. She stopped leafing, realizing she was delaying the inevitable, and flipped to the front of the book. The table of contents led her to page twenty-three, and her quarry...
Zeus, King of the Gods.
Here, she found a picture of a sculpture, an angry Zeus staring back at her, as if trying to scare her off. The illustration couldnt hold a candle to the real Zeus. But Zelda bit her lip, remembering those eyesand shut the book. She stared at the ceiling then opened it again.
...as ruler of Mount Olympus, it said. Zeus wisdom and fighting prowess were without equal among his fellow gods. His control of the elements made him a particularly fearsome adversary in battle. However, rather than dwelling on his tales of bravery, the legends of Zeus have always been largely concerned with his many amorous adventures...
Zelda let out a smothered cry, and kept reading.
She couldnt believe it. The list of Zeus affairs was like reading a New York phone directory. Electra, Niobe, Io, Mnemosyne, Leto, Callisto, Danae, Leda, Eurynome, Antiope, Alcmene, Demeter... This guy wasnt a godhe was a fucking rabbit! And it didnt end there. Zeus had dozens of kids. Argos, Perseus, Hermes, Minos, Apollo, Artemis, Dionysus...Zelda couldnt bear to read it all. She was beginning to feel sick when she came upon the last straw. It was a goddess named Hera.
As Annie Lennox began singing Would I Lie To You?, the book hurtled across the room at ferocious speed, smashing into the wall, knocking two pictures to the ground. Zelda kicked over her coffee table while Skittles ducked for cover.
Son of a bitch...that miserable, self-righteous, Greek, son of a bitch!!
Zelda tore the cushions off her couch and raced into her bedroom. She returned with Zeus rose and promptly tore it to pieces.
Fucking pig! she cried, stomping it beneath her heel. Take this and this and-!
Zelda stopped mashing the rose and bent to look at it. Filtering the petals through her hands, she sat there and cried for a good minute. Skittles rubbed up against her and Zelda ruffled his head, looking around at what was left of her living room. She wiped her eyes with the palms of her hands, wiped them again, then stumbled for her coat.
She had a date with a statue.
When Zeus finally made an appearance, Zelda was ready for him. There were no intimate dinners prepared. No fancy outfits. Not even a smile. She just stood there. Waiting. And there was Zeus in all his glorya mischievous grin on his face. Looking like a marine on a day pass.
My little dove! he cried, arms wide. Ive missed you so! Come, let me wrap myself in the splendour of your beauty... Zeus folded his arms around her and Zelda stiffened. All she could say was: Cut the crap, Zeus. The god of thunder stepped back, looking like a child whose balloon had just popped.
What...whats the matter, my love?
Go ask your wife, said Zelda, hands on hips. And the other thousand girls youve been fucking when Im not around.
WHAT!? Who has told you such lies?? Did Hephaestus-
Your son told me no such thing. Ive been studying Greek mythology. I know how to read, you know. Give me some credit. Zelda stepped up to him and Zeus almost staggered back. Now its perfectly clear! No wonder you kept me in the dark all this time! So you wouldnt lose your little whore when I found out what a miserable, insensitive, horny piece of-
Zelda! cried Zeus. Zelda shut up as Zeus spoke in fierce, patient tones. I am surprised at you! The ancient myths are full of the lies and mistruths told by scribes who were only concerned with their own well-being. Why would you choose to believe such storiestold centuries agoand not trust in me? Why...?
Zelda hadnt thought of that. But still, there was Hephaestus.
All right, mister, answer me some questions. How many children do you have?
Fourteen. But I am an immortal. Over such a lifetime, that number should not surprise you. Unfortunately, most of them and their mothers have passed from this world. I loved them all dearly. You see, immortality is a curse, as well as a blessing.
Zelda drew her hand to her mouth.
And your wife...?
Yes, Hera, said Zeus, his eyes tracing Zeldas. I loved her. Once. But like mortals, gods too grow apart. Our marriage ended over three hundred years ago. I grieve for Hephaestus. He has never recovered from the shock.
Zelda fell back to the couch, staring off into space.
That means youre only here because-
I love you, said Zeus, pulling her to her feet. As I have never loved another... He put his hand to her cheek, and Zelda felt warm all over. It was then she realized her sweatshirt and jeans had transformed into a shimmering gown of gold. Her hair was done up in a crown of violets. And the air filled with the scent of lavender and rosewood. She smiled up at him.
A more lovely and delicate creature, I have never seen, he said and kissed her. Zelda reluctantly pulled her face from his.
When you were gone...I thought-
There has never been, nor will there ever be another, but you, said Zeus, Now, please...how about some of your world famous chimichangas?
As soon as shed got off work and staked out their usual booth at The Newport Pub, Zelda knew her little sister wouldnt be far behind. Now that Cassd had the taste of the married life, the two of them still liked to get together once a month to trade stories, share some laughsand catch up on the drunken debauchery. Zelda spotted Cass over by the entrance and waved her down.
It was hard to miss a girl like Cass. She had on a black sleeveless dress and a red silk scarf. Wavy blonde ringlets running down her shoulders. And that same killer bod Zelda wouldve strangled her forif she didnt love her so much. In fact, the two of them looked so different, Zelda was sure the mailman had been giving her mother more than just a smile every morning.
Hey, sistah, smiled Zelda as Cass approached. They gave each other a big bear hug.
But a few seconds later, Cass still hadnt let go, and Zelda realized her sister was more than just happy to see her. She was crying into her shoulder.
Cass...Cass honey, whats wrong??
Zelda pulled out a Kleenex and Cass dried her eyes a little.
Sorry, Zel...Im such a fucking basket case today...
Its okay! You wanna go somewhere and talk?
No, IZel, I...
...I cheated on Patrick, Zel.
Zelda fell backwards and stared at her sister. Like Cassd just pulled out a .38 Magnum.
God. What happened?? You guys are so good together.
I know, we are, said Cass. Its...well, we had a fight last night. Big one. See, they were having a big staff party at this bar downtown, and Patrick introduced me to his new secretary...Kaitlin. Cass shook her head in disdain. You shouldve seen this girl, Zel. She shows up wearing this little mini-dress and her boobs sticking out. I mean, shes falling out of this thing! The guys are just hanging off this tramp. I swear, Patrick mustve spent half the night with her.
Well, Im sure they were just talking shop...
Thats what Patrick said when we got home. And Im sure thats all it was. But at the time, I was just so mad hed never mentioned her, I walked out. Went for a walk to clear my head. Thats when I met this guy out in the park... A tremor entered her voice. We just went into the woods and-
Zelda took her sisters hand and dropped her voice to a whisper.
Cass. This guy. Did? Did he rape you?
No. No, everythings okay, she muttered. I know where I was and all that. But...Id had so much to drink, and this guys eyes...I just wanted him so bad. I cant explain it. It was like he put a spell on me. She dabbed at her eyes. Fuck, I cant believe I did anything that stupid...
So he was just waiting out in the woods for you?
I dont know. Id just turned around and there he was. Weird thing though...he mustve been in summer stock.
He had these long robes...like he was right out of Antony and Cleopatra.
Zeldas butter knife tumbled off the table and clattered across the floor. She just stared down at it. Motionless. Like the ground had opened up and was about to swallow her whole.
Must be Shakespeare in the Park...
I feel sick about it, Zel. What am I gonna do? I cant tell Patrick...hed just freak... Cass turned and flagged down the waitress. Can I get a vodka and lime, please?
Zelda looked past her sister into the lights overhead and pictured the golden gown shed worn the other night. The way shed looked framed in her kitchen window. Shed seen a beautiful princess. Just like the ones she used to read about as a kid. The ones that always lived happily ever after.
Zelda ran a hand over her face as her aura of gold faded away.
Make it a double, she said.
When a glowing ball of light materialized in her apartment later that evening, Zelda had only one thought on her mind. How could she make it look like an accident? But as Zeus light began to dissipate, Zelda was surprised to find herself face to face with a different burly figure.
You! they cried in unison. Hephaestus drew his hammer, an irritated look on his face.
Ive had enough! he said. Zeus doesnt want to see you any more. End of story. Now if you'll excuse me, Im a busy god-
Hephaestus was about to tap his hammer when Zelda jumped forward, grabbing a generous handful of chest hair. She leveled a finger at him.
Sit down, she said. He glared at her a moment, then followed her order. Zelda turned and struck him hard across the face.
How do you do it, Hephaestus? How can you live with yourself?? Day after day...year after year. Pimping for him like that! Thats all you are, isnt it...one goddam, butt ugly Patron Saint of Pimps!!
The big man grabbed her wrist to try and still her but Zelda kept struggling. Her balled up fists hadnt made a mark on him. But his tone was bitter cold.
What are you on about??
Zelda swung at him again.
Cassandra! she cried. You let that...Grecian fuckmaster...touch my baby sister!!
With one small turn, Hephaestus took Zeldas arm and knocked her to the ground. Shaken, Zelda blinked and lay still as he pulled his huge datebook from his tunic. He flipped carefully through its rumpled parchment.
There is no name, he said.
You heard me. Zeus told me none of this. Nothing...
When she looked up, a tear rolled down the side of the big gods face. Zelda stood slowly and sat on the sofa beside him. She said nothing, then took his big grimy hand and held it in both of hers.
Im sorry... she whispered. About the Jack. About me. About everything... Im just so damn sorry, Hephaestus...
Hephaestus dropped his hammer and bristled. But he did not pull away.
Sometimes, I wish I didnt have a father, he said, a look of bitterness crossing his face. Weve put up with Zeus and his lies for centuriesbut this...with your sister. This is dirty pool. I can only ask that you forgive me...for that thing I call a father...
Where is he, Phaestus? Right now?
The Serpents of-
Oh, for Gaeas sake...
Hephaestus took his hammer and held it before Zelda, a hazy vision appearing in a silver cloud. She could make out a small cluttered shack. The paint peeling from the walls. A dim light hanging above. In the center of the room was a man with a young girl, no more than eighteen. Both were utterly naked. The two of them locked in some wild impassioned frenzy. Screaming as they banged up a storm. Zelda couldnt help but recognize the mans rippling muscles.
Her name is Meisha, he said, A peasant girl from Estonia. Theres also Carmen, a waitress in Buenos Aires. A housewife in Lancashire named Debbie...theres so many sometimes, I lose track.
Zeldas heart fell to the ground. Her voice just above a whisper.
And Id believed every word.
Forget him, Zelda. Hes not worth it.
I cant. Hes gotta pay for this...for Cass. Youve gotta help me...please...
Are you serious?? he cried. Were talking Zeus...King of the Gods! I tried to stand up to him once, Zelda. Once. He gestured down at his mangled legs. He threw me from Mount Olympus. That was no picnic, let me tell you.
There must be some way I can bust his balls...
The god paused.
There is one weapon Hera and Ive been working on for centuries...but...
I dont knowthis isnt such a hot ide-
Hephaestus. Bring it here.
The big man squirmed a little then disappeared with a tap of his hammer. An hour later, he returned. He held a canvas sack in one hand.
Youre playing with fire, Zelda. If Zeus ever found out-
Lets see it.
Hephaestus reached into his bag and brought out a small wooden box. Zelda fumbled with the clasp and peered inside. She paused.
...its a steak knife.
Course. What do you expectExcalibur?"
Whats it do?
Hephaestus took the knife out. Ran his grimy fingers along its cold tempered steel.
Zeus is only vulnerable on earth, he said, Stab him with this, and hell be sent to the Edge of the Universe, banished for a thousand years. If it doesnt work...
Will the gods try to help him?
Nah. Everyone at Olympusd be glad to have him out of the way. Except Poseidon, maybe. I think Zeus owes him money...
But howre you gonna get him here? Hes been avoiding you like the plague.
Zelda laughed. But there was a hollow, tattered quality to her voice.
Leave that to me.
Hephaestus looked at her and shook his head.
If you're going through with this, I cant help you. We dont have the power to fight him on Earth.
Its okay, she said softly. Thanks just the same. She nudged the big mans shoulder. You better go. I have some things to do... Hephaestus nodded his large brutish head.
I hope our paths cross again. If not... Zelda threw her arms around him. She didnt let go for a very long time.
Get out of here, she said at last. And wish me luck.
Hephaestus stood back and regarded her with saddened eyes. He raised his hand high.
Good luck, Zelda Marsh, he said, tapping his hammer. And farewell...
It was 9:31 p.m. in the city, and the wind was bitterly cold. Zelda was particularly aware of it because she wasnt wearing any underwear. Kicking off her shoes, shed waded out into the middle of the fountain. Luckily the museum was deserted at this hour. Zelda sat at the foot of Zeus statue, staring up into his eyes. Trying not to feel too pathetic.
Zeus... she said, fondling his huge bronze toes. I want you...in the worst way... Zelda reached into her purse and pulled out a long yellow object. A banana. She peeled it all the way around in a slow deliberate manner. She ran her tongue along its edge before taking it into her mouth with soft, even bites.
You know what I want, baby... said Zelda. And you know how I like it... Shed almost finished the banana when a short, middle-aged man approached her from the street.
Hey. Lady! he cried, You wanna make it snappy? I aint got all night...
Look buddy, is the meter still running?
So youre getting paid! Now get back in your cab and wait til Im done, all right? The driver grumbled and headed back to his car. Zelda waded from the fountain and looked up one more time.
Ive got to have you now, she whispered. Dont you dare keep me waiting...
Zelda licked her fingertips and crossing them, ran back to the taxi.
She didnt have long to wait. Zeldad only been home ten minutes when the light gathered in her living room. Zelda watched from her bedroom as Zeus came into view. He looked more ill at ease than usual, his thick, regal brow tensed with impatience. Zeus took a few swaggering steps, trying to hide his irritation.
Bastard! she thought.
Zelda, he said. She stepped from her hiding place.
Here I am.
Zeus turned. Zelda stood in the doorway. Her hair teased up into a wild, attractive curl. Her lips frosted with a shade of fluorescent red. She was wrapped in a red flannel shirt, unbuttoned almost to the waist, wearing nothing else but a smile. And his eyes glowed with fire.
What is this? This is not like you.
Zelda stepped towards him, her body drenched with nearly half a bottle of Obsession. She reached up and ran her thumb along his lower lip.
Ive been a fool, my love, she smiled. I want to make it up to you... Zeus wasnt listening. His eyes were busy taking a vacation down the front of her shirt.
Yes...I see. But...
Zelda grabbed Zeus by the front of his tunic and drew him closer. She put a finger to his lips, a devilish little smile spreading across her face.
Shut up, she said, And unwrap your present...
Zelda gripped Zeus shoulders and pulled him down onto her. She dug her nails into the back of his neck, and practically flossed his teeth with her tongue. The God of Thunder moaned his appreciation.
Youve started a fire in me, woman, he said, eagerly tearing back his cloak. A fire that must be quenched... The two of them fell to the floor in a long, torrid kiss. As Zeus started to pull off her shirt, Zelda laughed and slipped free of his arms.
Wait?? What do you mean wait??
This isnt right...I need some wine to get in the right mood...
Nonsense! Let the love of a god get you in the right mood! Still she broke free.
No...Ive gotta have a drink. She headed for the kitchen and looked back, Zeus lean, Grecian face looking like a child whod been told theres no such thing as Santa Claus. Zelda tried to hide her smile. Just a minute...
Zelda ducked into the kitchen, and spit into the sink, letting out a nervous breath of air. The blood raced madly through her veins. She turned on the water as a distraction as Skittles appeared. She tried to kick him out of her way, her trembling hands pulling the drawer open. It was full of knives. Zelda took out one, and held it up to the light. She shuddered at its touch.
Whats taking you so long, for Gaeas sake??
Zelda shivered at his barking tone.
Just getting us some glasses... she said, grabbing a bottle. Zelda looked into her living room and saw Zeus, his naked bronze back turned away from her. She tried to stall for time. You should see, baby...my supervisor said Im getting promoted to a new position-
Bah! The only position women should have is on their backs! Now come here!
The knife glistened in her hand and something inside Zelda snapped. She stepped into the living room. Son of bitch! she thought. The best position for you is six feet under! Zelda leapt at Zeus. With a sudden thrust, she plunged the blade deep between his shoulders. The god fell forward and Zelda screamed, scrambling back into her kitchen.
She curled into a ball in the middle of the floor. Skittles just sniffed at her, Zeldas heart screaming in her ears. Ohmygod, she cried. Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod...
Just then Zelda realized the whole room had gone black. She looked up. Zeus stood there in the doorway, his shadow blocking out the light. His eyes were white hot, pulsing with venom. A knife stood out of his back. Zeldas scream was cut short by Zeus words.
How dare you? he said. How dare youyou faithless minx?? You will learn that the wrath of Zeus is not one to be trifled with!!
Skittles made a dash for it but Zeus pointed at him, and the cat exploded in a sudden burst of flame.
Zeus flesh turned a fiery red, and the walls seemed to shrink back from his anger. He surged forward, fists clenched, seething.
Zelda screamed and flung open the drawer, scattering her knives all over as she threw them wildly at him. They bounced off his chest, his voice crackling with laughter.
So, this is how you choose to repay me...how pitiful. I see Hephaestus hand in this. But I shall deal with him soon enough! Zelda cowered in the corner, Zeus towering over her like a demon possessed. As for you, I havent killed a mortal in centuries. But nowId rather enjoy it! He reached for her as Zelda scrambled away. Your sister was a tasty dish. But youyou have quite a spark. Perhaps some torture would best suit your treachery! Yes...maybe a tree to be hacked down and forever grown back! Or maybe a cow to be torn apart...and roasted alive!! Zeus grabbed her by the throat and lifted her roughly into the air. Zelda choked in terror. No. Better that I should rape and kill you, like you deserve!! Yes! Prepare yourself, my little dovefor you are about t-
The words caught in Zeus throat, and he dropped her abruptly. Zelda watched him from the floor, his body glowing a phosphorescent bluehis parched flesh pulsing, contracting. Turning a powdery shade. Zeus cried out, his handsome face convulsing inward. Zelda gasped and he stumbled a moment. His fading eyes locked with hers in a dark wicked stare.
Damn you, he said.
Then Zeus crumpled, collapsing to the floor, and as he did, his human form burst into a fine ash, filling the air like snow. His voice echoed into nothingness. Zelda scrambled over to the blackish stain where Skittles once stood and wrung at her hands and neck. With the last of Zeus cries gone, Zelda could only sit there, alone, huddled on the floor, watching the falling ash in silence. She caught some of it drifting through the air. After a moment, she got to her knees and blew the handful away with a grim smile.
Youre forgiven... she said.
With the ashes of a god scattered about her apartment, there was only one thing she could do. Zelda broke out her vacuum cleaner.
My, this place is quiet, she thought. Six months later, Zelda was walking down a hallway filled with people. None of them saying a word. She still had some time to kill before she met Cass and Patrick out by the waterfront. So she was busy reading a pamphlet. Letting everyone pass by so she could be alone with her thoughts. The last few months had been hard, but at least now she had someone special she could share her long nights with.
Skittles. Zelda couldnt understand it at first. Weeks ago, shed opened her doorand there he wasthose same bright, quizzical eyes looking up at her, as if nothing had happened. There was no explanation for it, really. Just a small piece of parchment tucked into Skittles collar that simply said, H. Zelda examined him, expecting to see some bolts or gears. But nothing. The gift brought a smile to her face which was just what shed needed...
Zelda still felt a little empty about the whole thing. Some mornings were worse than others. But she tried to let the thought of him go. Sure, sometimes she swore she could hear his voice in the thunder. Or sometimes shed see a fleeting trace of him in somebodys eye, and wish things had gone differently. But she had to look on the bright side. It wasnt every woman who could say theyd loved a Greek god. If anything, the experience mustve made her stronger somehow. The trick must be in letting go of the past, thought Zelda. Today, it wasnt working.
She stopped to talk to the man at the door.
Just down the hall, miss. Over on your left.
Zelda followed the corridor, turned the corner, and found herself in the Hall of Mythology. The place was empty except for her and a roomful of antique statues. Zelda stopped at one. It was a copper sculpture of a man, his features smooth and peaceful. His delicate, almost boyish looks stared back at Zelda, as if in a smile. She looked down at the plaque at her feet.
Eros - The God of Love, it said.
Zelda took a long stemmed rose from her jacket and knelt. With a sad, unsteady little smile, she placed it gently down at his feet, and waited.
Scott Leslie’s writing has appeared in a long line of print and online publications. Some selected short fiction credits include Planet Magazine, All Hallows, Blue Murder Magazine, Ascent Magazine, Writual, The Crime Scene, The New Quarterly and Starry Night Review. Recently, his noir story "A String Of Pearls" was narrated by Barrett Whitener for the audio production "Oscar’s Hijack" by Blackstone Audiobooks.
Published by permission of the author.