Wednesday, December 28, 2011

TFBT: Ten Things you did not know from Greek Mythology

1. Helen of Troy had two brothers that were demi-gods and heroes. Maybe you heard of them. The Dioscuri? Castor and Polydeuces? Castor and Pollux? How about the zodiac sign; the Gemini Twins? They went to their reward well before the action in The Iliad, hence their obscurity. The Spartans worshipped all three of the siblings along with their spouses as gods.

2. Achilles should have ruled the universe. We know Achilles from The Iliad along with his tendon, which was struck by Paris’ poison arrow. He was a heartthrob during the medieval ages and Brad Pitt played him in the movie “Troy”. Both Zeus and his brother Poseidon wooed Achilles mother Thetis. Thetis was a Nereid with great influence upon Olympus. (Thetis was Hera’s foster daughter and helped Zeus once during a revolt.) Thetis had her pick of any of the mightiest gods in Greek mythology as husband. Then either Themis or Prometheus let slip that her child would be greater than his father. Which suggested to the Olympians that the Thetis' divine child would overthrow the government of the world and assume Zeus’ throne. Consequently, they forced Thetis to marry a mortal. Rather than the crown that was his birthright, Achilles received unending glory. That is why we are still talking about him three thousand years later.

3. Ares, Hephaestus and Hades were the only strictly heterosexual gods on Olympus. The goddesses Athena, Artemis and Hestia always remained virgins. Which might explain the behavior of the other Olympian males!

4. The Sun once landed on Earth. Helios is probably most famous for rashly allowing his mortal son Phaethon to drive the solar chariot. The boy lost control. The horses ran towards earth, scorching the land and setting the forests ablaze. Zeus threw a lightning bolt at the boy. The steeds of the solar chariot, like good post horses everywhere, found their own way home. However, there was a time when Helios landed his chariot on the earth. It was during the Gigantomachy when all the gods and goddess of Olympus battled the earth-born giants. Hephaestus the smithy-god was taking on three giants at once and not doing well.
“Helios who had taken him up (Hephaestus) in his chariot when he sank exhausted on the battlefield of Phlegra.” – Apollo Rhodius, Argonautica 3.211Read more about the two of them in my essay; “Friendship Among the Gods”
5. Hera was foster mother to most the monsters in Greek mythology; the brood of Echidna. She pretty much created Typhon, Echidna’s husband. Typhon was unbelievably huge and monstrous. (He actually defeated Zeus in some accounts while all the other gods were hiding in Egypt.) She wet-nursed both the multi-headed Hydra and the Lion of Nemea. In addition, she sent the Sphinx to devour the youth of Thebes. An odd little aside here. When she wet-nursed these little beasties, she used her left breast, the one that had been poisoned by one of Heracles’ arrows. Heracles poisoned his arrow tips by dipping them in the blood of the Hydra. Hey, wait a minute….

6. Homer thought the world is round. According to him;
“the Aithiopes, who are divided in two, the most remote of men: Some, where Helios sets, others where he rises“ - Odyssey I 23-24So, Aithiopes lies in the far west and in the far east, which would make it the same country if the world is round. Right? See the full argument at Homer Says the World is Round.

7. Cadmus the founder of Thebes was a god. Well maybe not a god, but you tell me how to describe him. He helped defeat the monster Typhon. He married the Olympian goddess Harmonia; the illicit daughter of Ares and Aphrodite. His daughters included the goddesses Thyone and sailor-saving Leucothea. Another daughter married the god Aristaeus. His grandsons included the sea god Palaemon and the Olympian Dionysius.

8. The Greek gods had a real aversion to death, old age and all those other unpleasant demons that leaped from Pandora’s box. Artemis coldly abandons her favorite Hippolytus at the moment of his death, by saying “Farewell: it is not lawful for me to look upon the dead or to defile my sight with the last breath of the dying. And I see that you are already near that misfortune.” Demeter can command Limos the demon of hunger, but loathes standing near. And Aphrodite refers to the demon Geras as ruthless old-age even dreaded by the gods.

9. The Greek gods did not weep; certainly not for the death of a mortal. Once again Artemis speaking to the dying Hippolytus; “Aye, and would weep for thee, if gods could weep.” (Euripides, Hippolytus). Statius in The Thebiad says of one of the gods, “He spoke and almost his inviolable face was stained with tears.”
10. 1. The beds of the gods are always fruitful. As Deborah Lyons points out in Gender and Immortality, “Zeus' list of conquests reveals … (that)…Inevitably, each one of these encounters results in a child.” Imagine that rate of reproduction! No wonder river gods swim the Grecian creeks, satyrs haunt the wilderness,dryads run through the forests, naiads populate the springs and rivers, limnades the lily pad gilded pools, oreads the mountains, napaea the valleys and alseids the fair groves.

TFBT:Homer Says the World is Round

Gregory Nagy in his odyessean volume “The Best of the Achaeans” presents some excellent Homeric arguments that the world is round. [i] Nagy lays these gold crowns at the reader’s feet and then strolls away without comment.

First Nagy begins by discussing Memnon; son of rosy-fingered Eos and King of the Aethiopians. As he puts it, “king of the realms along the banks of the Oceanus in the extreme East and West”

“the Aithiopes, who are divided in two, the most remote of men: Some where Helios sets, others where he rises “ - Odyssey I 23-24
I would like to pick up this argument by posing a question for the imaginative reader, but first two points. 1) If you travel West from holy Delphi for quite a ways, you will discover a happy people called the “Hawaiians”. They live on the shore of the Pacific Ocean and are ruled by Governor Linda Lingle. 2) If you travel East from holy Delphi for some time you will arrive among a group of islanders also called the “Hawaiians”. This happy race also lives on the shores of the Pacific Ocean and is shepherded by the same Governor Linda Lingle. So here is my question wise reader, with the two facts above disclosed do you assume that I’m talking about two different states of the union or that the world is round? Hint; there is no great freshwater river girdling the ancient world. The earth is not flat. Likewise, Memnon ruled on group of people. The world is round.[ii]

The second of Nagy’s points is that “from the overall plot of the Odyssey, we know that Odysseus is wandering in the realms of the extreme West when he come upon the island of Aiaia …Later on the way back the from the underworld, the ship of Odysseus has to leave the Oceanus before returning to Aiaia, which is now described as situated not in the extreme West but in the extreme East.

“the island Aiaia – and there are the abode and dancing places of early-born Eos and the sunrises of Helios” Odyssey XII XXXX
Aiaia can easily be in the far West and the extreme East at the same time if the world is round.

Thirdly, Homer describes tireless Helios as he rises in the East from Oceanus. (Iliad VII 421) Later poets tell of a most magnificent palace of Helios in the east a gift from his grateful friend Hephaestus. Homer speaks only of the gates of Helios in the west, later writers mention a second palace in the west and the golden barge in which the sun god slumbers upon the earth girdling river in route to the east again. Apparently, for Homer Helios’ only home is Aiaia.

And finally to use a non-Homeric example; Jason’s adventures with Medea take place on the eastern edge for the known world, followed quickly by adventures on the far western edge of the world. Later authors came up with some incredible explanation of how this was possible. Robert Graves explains these theories;
“…at first, to have returned from the Black Sea by way of the Danube, the Save, and the Adriatic; then when explorers found that the Save does not enter the Adriatic, a junction was presumed between the Danube and the Po, down which the Argo could have sailed; and when later, the Danube proved to be navigable only up to the Iron Gates and not to join the Po, she was held to have passed up the Phasis into the Caspian Sea and thus into the Indian Ocean and back by way of the Ocean Stream and Lake Tritonis. The feasibility of this third route too, being presently denied, mythographers suggested that the Argo had sailed up the Don, presumed to have its source in the Gulf of Finland from which she could circumnavigate Europe and return to Greece through the Straits of Gibraltar.”[iii]
An easier explanation is that they simply sailed back into the known world by sailing around the smaller Homeric planet. In short, the world is round.

[i] “coincidentia oppositroum” pages 205-207
[ii] Roll up a map by Anaximander or Hecataeus of Miletus. Compare two points on that map to a world atlas for a ratio. My estimate is a circumference of 3700 miles
[iii] Robert Graves, The Greek Myths Vol. 2 pages 243-244

TFBT; Friendship Amongst the Gods

“Helios who had taken him up (Hephaestus) in his
chariot when he sank exhausted on the battlefield
of Phlegra.” – Apollo Rhodius, Argonautica 3.211

For the purposes of this essay I will define evidence of “friendship” as deities fond of one another’s company and who seem to swap favors. Obvious family groupings will be disqualified, as well as spouses and lovers. The best example of friendships amongst the gods appears to be Helios and Hephaestus.

Helios rides the blazing sun-chariot; he shines upon men and deathless gods. His piercing eyes gaze from within his golden helmet. Bright rays beam dazzlingly from him, and his bright locks streaming from the temples of his head gracefully enclose his far-seen face: a rich, fine-spun garment glows upon his body and flutters in the wind: and stallions carry him. Then, when he has stayed his golden-yoked chariot and horses, he rests there upon the highest point of heaven, until he marvelously drives them down again through heaven to the River Oceanus. [i] Glowing Helios whom mild-eyed Euryphaessa, the far-shining one, bare to the Titan Hyperion For Hyperion wedded glorious Euryphaessa or some say Theia, his own sister, who bare him lovely children, rosy-armed Eos, rich-tressed Selene and tireless Helios who is like the deathless gods.

Like the “deathless gods” but never quite an Olympian. He is close to his sisters. They were presumably raised by loving parents whom Helios and his sisters possibly betrayed during the Titanomachy. He drives the chariot of the sun across the sky each day and is presented as handsome and all seeing.

Hephaestus is the smith of the Olympians. Strong, mighty Hephaestus, bearing splendid light, unwearied fire, with flaming torrents bright: strong-handed, deathless, and of art divine, pure element, all-taming artist,[ii] "Hephaestus goes with the pride of his great strength limping, and yet his shrunken legs move lightly beneath his massive neck and hairy chest."[iii] He is a cripple from birth; born lame and ugly. Both parents brutally rejected him by flinging down from Olympus.

Helios and Hephaestus don’t appear to have been childhood friends nor share many myths until the adultery of Hephaestus’ wife; Aphrodite with Ares. All-seeing Helios must have seen a lot but no myths report him blabbing, until cornered by Hecate and Demeter searching for Persephone and “the bright goddess enquired of him”. [iv] But in the case of Aphrodite and Ares, “…Helios the sun god had seen them in their dalliance and hastened away to tell Hephaestus”[v] In revenge Aphrodite “loads the whole race of Phoebus (Helios) with shame unspeakable”[vi], when it comes to affairs of the heart. In revenge Hephaestus curses the whole race of Harmonia (the produce of that illicit affair) with the Necklace of Harmonia[vii].

During the Gigantomachy when it was Hephaestus that “sank exhausted on the battlefield of Phlegra” it was Helios who took him up in his chariot. (Oddly enough Hephaestus is the only deity that could have ridden in the blazing sun chariot.) Hephaestus gave many gifts as a thank-offering to Helios[viii] [ix]" For example, the palace of Helios,[x] his high chariot, [xi] the boat that carries him home and the marvels that Hephaestus the great Engineer contrived for the palace Aeetes, son of Helios.”[xii]

The only other myth they share is the blinding of Orion and strange curing. Blinded by King Oinopion, Orion found his was to Hephaestus’ forge. Hephaestus gave him an apprentice named Cedalion to guide him to the dawn where Helios cured the giant’s blindness

So, why were Helios and Hephaestus friends? They have a little in common: certain solar attributes. Both sink from Heaven only to rise again and then repeat the process. Helios could present celestial fire while Hephaestus’ subterranean forges light the underworld. And when Helios steps from the edge of knowing each evening and rides the golden boat home on the River Oceanus, Hephaestus replaces him in the sky by ascending to his palace on Olympus. Some authors name one or the other as the source of Promethean fire.[xiii] If Helios wanted a day off could he have called upon Hephaestus? There are no myths to support that and Nonnus says specifically not.[xiv] This leaves us with two marginalized brotherless, fatherless friends indebted to one another.

Hecate also is brotherless an only child, the goddess receives not less honour, but much more still, for Zeus honours her.[xv] He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honour also in starry heaven, and is honoured exceedingly by the deathless gods. Hekate, lovely dame, of earthly, watery, and celestial frame, sepulchral, in a saffron veil arrayed, pleased with dark ghosts that wander through the shade;solitary goddess, hail! The world’s key-bearer, never doomed to fail; in stags rejoicing, huntress, nightly seen, and drawn by bulls, unconquerable queen; Leader, Nymphe, nurse, on mountains wandering, hear the suppliants who with holy rites thy power revere, and to the herdsman with a favouring mind draw near." [xvi] Few are then myths about the Hecate, she who is honoured exceedingly by the deathless gods. The prime exception being the “Hymn to Demeter” where bright-coiffed Hekate came near to Demeter and Persephone, and often did she embrace the daughter of holy Demeter: and from that time the lady Hekate was minister and companion to Persephone."[xvii] This is all I have to say on the classically and scholarly assumed friendship of Hecate and Persephone, except to point out that Persephone too was brotherless.

Likewise Leto was brotherless, dark-gowned Leto, always mild, kind to men and to the deathless gods, mild from the beginning, gentlest in all Olympos.[xviii] Leto rich-haired[xix] "Neat-ankled Leto[xx], goddess of the gold spindle."[xxi] According to Deborah Lyons in Gender and Immortality; “A fragment of Sappho (frg. 142 L-P) calls Niobe and Leto true companions (hetairai), pointing to a time before Niobe's hybris shattered their friendship”,

[i] Homeric Hymn 31 to Helius
[ii] Orphic Hymn 66 to Hephaestus
[iii] Homer, Iliad 20. 37 ff
[iv] Homeric Hymn 2 to Demeter
[v] Homer, Odyssey 8.260
[vi] Seneca, Phaedra 124
[vii] Statius, Thebaid 2.265
[viii] Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3.211
[ix] American Journal of Archaeology; Vol 86, No 2 pp 227-229
[x] Ovid, Metamorphoses 2. 1 ff
[xi] Ovid, Metamorphoses 2. 104
[xii] Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3. 215 ff
[xiii] Michael Grant, Myths of the Greeks and Romans, pp108
[xiv] Nonnus, Dionysiaca 38. 90 ff :
[xv] ." Hesiod, Theogony 404 ff

[xvi] - Orphic Hymn 1 to Hecate
[xvii] Homeric Hymn 2 to Demeter 436 ff :
[xviii] Hesiod, Theogony 404 ff
[xix] Homeric Hymn 3 to Delian Apollo 177 ff :
[xx] Homeric Hymn 27 to Artemis 14 ff
[xxi] Pindar, Nemean Ode 6. 36 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :

Saturday, November 12, 2011

M&R: You Don't Have to Tell Deliberate Lies

The ornate silver fork fell from Maeve’s hand into her porcelain dinner plate and rattled to a stop on the gold-trimmed edge. Sir Mark Roofer, their self-possessed host continued glibly protesting his innocence to his guests and the young women who accompanied them. He appeared tall and long faced. At first appearing blonde, but on second glance his white hair proved bleached in places by the South African sun. He might once have been handsome. But he surely always had that touch of “goofiness” in his features. He certainly didn’t look like a criminal mastermind. His practiced, polished performance contained just the right amount of pathos with all the innate charm that an English accent can bring to these moments. He never noticed Maeve and Roxanne’s response. However, his mother , the former prime minister of the world’s largest commonwealth did.

“Are you alright, Mrs. Sienna?”

Maeve, was still too dumbstruck by the realization to respond.

“Oh, I was just telling her a joke.” Her sister Roxanne Scamander explained. “Are you familiar with Halloween?” The elderly stateswoman sitting on the other side of Maeve nodded pleasantly and waited for the red-head to continue. “In the United States the children dress up on the eve of All Saints Day, as demons, hobgoblins and … fairy princess…” That finally provoked a response from Maeve; a smile and a smirk. “and go door to door begging for treats.”

“It's more like exhortation.” Maeve corrected. “It’s called, trick or treat.” She explained while glancing pointed at the tines of her upturned fallen fork.

The former prime minister chuckled. She’d shrunk since her hay-days. Her hair was still robust but now white. She wore a matronly outfit and seemed overdressed for the weather. She seemed quick, lively and as sharp mentally as ever. Her laughter proved an honest, deep, hollow noise. Roxanne liked Baroness Roofer, but that was a given they both being red-heads once upon a time.

“Anyway,” she continued, “ one boy came to my friend’s door. He carried a knife, was covered in blood and was collecting his treats in a large “Rice Crispies” box. ‘Do you know what I am?’ he says to my friend. She said, no. ‘I’m a serial killer.”

Baroness Margaret Roofer did just exactly what everyone else does when Roxanne tells the joke; she grinned widely with a blush and laughed loudly. Roxanne was delighted, as the triumph shake of her cascading coppery locks revealed.

“I’m so glad your girls sat with me!” Margaret hooted.

Actually it was Margaret who insisted “the girls” sit with her. The Scamanders and Siennans had been invited to a “barbeque in the country” by some friends. They’d driven into the country with their friends to a rambling home at the foot of a forested mountain overlooking a vast plain. Their husbands arrived at the party in their swim suits, Hawaiian shirts and barefoot. Worse yet, Maeve and Roxanne wore Mumu’s matching their husband’s shirts. Instead of steaks on the grill, they arrived at a catered formal dinner where the men wore linen jackets and their “girlfriends” wore short sequined cocktail dresses. They quickly reassured their host that they’d be changing before dinner. Mr. Sienna’s valet fetched wraps and jewels for the Maeve and Roxanne and suits for their husbands. Margaret later told them tongue in cheek that they “cleaned up real good.” However, changing clothes in the pool house (and donning shoes) made them last to sit down for dinner. There were two seats at one table and two at another. Margaret had called “Please sit here ladies.” While patting the empty seat nearness. Maeve and Roxanne accepted her invitation and their husband’s sat at the adjoining table. Margaret introduced her husband Dennis on her right and the ladies were chatting when their host began pontificating.

“So tell us about your children?” Roxanne suggested.

“My son, the baronet, of course.” The baroness began. He raised a water glass before her mouth to cover the conversation, but her subject was oblivious to everything but what he said. “As you can tell he has a charming little bracelet on his ankle and hasn’t been off the property for a few months; an investment in an oil exploration company that went bad. This is his crowd. I can usually make up my mind about a man in ten seconds, and I very rarely change it.” Roxanne nodded vigorously, until she realized they were talking about a different kind of “sizing up.” Margaret’s eyes lead the gaze of the sisters’ around the room from right to left, naming a few as they went. The threesome exchanged looks at several of the more notorious names. “All of whom, including my son, the papers described at one time or another as “nefarious.” In response Maeve and Roxanne could only smile and go back to eating. “Oh, and I have a daughter of course.”

“A journalist…” Maeve said with an approving nod of encouragement.

“Well, if being a journalist is writing books and filming documentaries about your parents, she is one. I think she’s used up all her childhood memories and family connections. She makes her living now as a celebrity in reality television. No man, no children. Of course, Mark has two darling little tikes. And you ladies?”

Roxanne had already pulled out her “Grandma’s Brag Book”. The Baroness was engulfed by a photographs of dark-haired tan children, most of whom had bewilderingly similar names and features. Sir Roofer or “Surfer” as his cronies called him nodded to his majordomo. Sherry and cigars were passed around as the chatter’s people cleared the dinner dishes. All his coarse acquaintances happily accepted a Cuban or two. Their dates did not. When the box passed by Sir Dennis and Baroness Roofer, they both took one. Maeve and Roxanne shook their heads and whispered, no thanks.

“Oh goodness. My manners. Would you ladies mind if we smoke?”

“Not at all.” Maeve responded with a sad smile. “My first husband smoked. I’ve always loved the smell of tobacco smoke.”

This comment got a surprised look from her sister but Roxanne had no chance to speak as “Surfer” rose from is chair, sherry in hand. “Before our guest of honor enlightens us with a few words about the future of this continent.” Roxanne and Maeve leaned forward to follow their hosts gaze and on the other side of Sir Dennis spotted the octogenarian prime minister and gasped. “I would like us to raise our glasses in honor of absent friends. In particular to Simon Black whose been unbelievable accused of leading a coup d’état in Buranda. Here’s hoping our friends…” here is shifty eyes returned to his parents and guest of honor. “…can use their influence for his speedy release.” He put on a gracious smile and then added confidentially, “ You don't have to tell deliberate lies, but sometimes you have to be evasive. To Simon!”

Margaret groaned in recognition of the quote. It was from her political days. Sir Dennis grunted quietly in disgust at his son, but all raised their glasses politely. As the crowded returned to their sherry and conspiratorial whispers. Margaret turned to find, the two sisters wide-eyed and preparing to vacant their seats.

“We didn’t realize this was the main table.” Maeve apologized as she prepared to leave.

“Maeve! Roxanne! Please don’t leave.” Margaret exuded. “They always put such bores next to me at theses thinks. If you leave one of Mark’s parasitic thugs will move over here with his moll. Plus I was so excited when I discovered that Ralf and Jenny had invited you. While in the government I’d heard so much about your family’s import/export business and I so wanted to meet you both.”

Roxanne and Maeve promptly and proudly sat back down. For all the trappings of a far-flung commercial empire and their vast influence in society, the sisters were generally so preoccupied with grandchildren, family and planning birthdays, graduations and weddings that they little knew nor actually cared what other’s thought of their family.


“Ladies, I happen to know that “Forbes” actually estimates your family’s wealth as “endless” rather than the smaller number they list annually. And from personal experience I know your influence is unimaginable. Trust me. Governments all over the world talk about your family business all the time. Now, to what does South Africa and I owe the pleasure of your company?”

Roxanne’s ruby cheeks glowed in response. “My oldest daughter is getting married this weekend at Crystal Mountains National Park. She and her fiancée visited there a few years ago and fell in love with the place. Have you been there?”

Margaret shook her head and Roxanne went on to describe, a high-altitude forest rich in orchids and begonias, with the highest species count of butterflies in the world. She spoke of crystalline pinnacles rising sporadically above the oasis of fog shrouded juggle below. And high in the stratosphere; the “Elfin Forests”; The pygmy bonsai trees growing between the thin air and the mossy carpet.

“Isn’t that on the Buranda border?” the baroness asked absently. Easing closer to her new friends . “That wouldn’t have been too good if there had been a coup d’état in Buranda.” She winked and then glanced about the room to see if anyone paid attention. “I’ve heard…” she whispered “…that the Siennans have the best private intelligence network since the Rothschilds. I’ve heard how you handled the kidnapping of your youngest son’s fiancée. No one will ever touch any of your grandchildren after that. I also happen to know that an anonymous tip alerted the Rhodesian authorities to the 737 full of heavily armed “oil workers” stopping to refuel at their capital. “

Maeve and Roxanne exchanged knowing looks with the former prime minister, but said nothing until the guest of honor rose to speak. At which point Maeve whispered, “All I can say is you don't have to tell deliberate lies, but sometimes you have to be evasive”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

TLtS: Am I a God or a Star?

I was battle-born.
I sprang forth from my mother,
Fully-armed like
Athena from her father.
I am cyclopean,
A giant dressed in bronze armor

Like they born
From the blood of Uranus
I sprang up; enormous
With the steed Pegasus

Upon the western shore
Of the River Oceanus
I, Chrysaor, in my hands
A falchion held
Of beamy gold
Which my mother felled

I am Pegasus’ twin brother
I am the spirit of bia, Might;
A warrior of stout heart
And powerful-mind

My brother is Wisdom,
metis; and inspiration.

He is a horse, I a mortal
I a demigod, he immortal

I human, he a beast of feather
He and I are a centaur together

I road upon his back to Olympus
Enthroned on winged Pegasus

I left beneath holy earth,
And soared to Olympus; and there abode
In palaces of Zeus and to the god
Deep-counseled, bear flaming arrow and bolt. [i]

I rode between the Deep and Heaven.[ii]

I wed beautiful-flowing Callirrhoe,
Daughter of glorious Oceanus
Blending in love, lying in his embrace
She bore me two fine children of my mother’s race.

Like the stars before the Sun
I faded before the onset of history
I faded dew-liked before the day
From all time and all history[iii]

Who was I? What happen to me?

I was flung to earth by Zeus
Same as his fiery son Hephaestus

But like an immortal star
As each day grows fainter

I am rising out of the sea,
Beamy gold and shining
Leaving the arms of Callirrhoe
Forever tender, soft and inviting

Thus over the ocean and forth
Trailed the gleam of my falchion far
Riding inside Night’s gleaming car
Am I a god or a star?

I return to Olympus
Summoned secretly each day by Zeus.[iv]

I am a winged boar with sharpened tusk

I am the All Father’s right hand
I am the slayer of Typhoeus,
The conqueror of the Titans
I was the gold falchion hidden in Tartarus

The one who dubs heroes
Upon Pegasus’ hooves a thundering
I am the thunderbolt[v]
I am Chrysaor the Lightning

[i] Hesiod’s Theogony, translated by Charles Abraham Elton

[ii] Awakening Osiris by Normandi Ellis

[iii] Helen in Egypt, HD

[iv] Longfellow

[v] Awakening Osiris by Normandi Ellis

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

M&R: There is Forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be Feared.

The unfurled flowers that once decorated, the chain of rolling "muskegs" alongside the river were gone! Instead, across the swampy shores marched the twilight millions of grass blades; in metallic gray, steel blue, gleaming gold, brash bronze, tin, rust and frosted green. Dueling clumps of contrasting colored blades cluttered the rolling lumpy fields. Here and there a lone yellow stalk stood above the fray like an ashen spear. It was autumn in Southeast Alaska, but here up the glittering Stikine River the warm Canadian wind rushing down river still ruled the landscape. Five mile downstream where the cold jade-green waters of the Gulf of Alaska surged upstream with the tide, the reign of the warm winds was not so secure and three foot chop upon the waters of eastern Sumner Straits indicated the battle line.

Here, upstream the silty waters of the Stikine calmly rambled and meandered across the wide valley beneath the high peaks of the Alaska Coastal Range, freshly dusted with new snow. The 16ft Lund with a drivers console on the port side raced by a tidal sandbar where seals had warmed themselves in the sun the afternoon before.

“Maeve, did your husband ever tell you about the best job in the world? He says the story has saved his life twice.”

The breeze coming across the bow carried bursts of Roxanne’s words to their grandsons sitting behind them. Maeve’s sharp oval eyes, swapped a knowing glance with Roxanne. They’d both heard snatches of the same conversation coming from the boys something about “-flipped the zodiac”. Her husband taught her years ago that she could hear all sorts of things if the kids didn’t think she was listening and she didn’t interrupt.

“I only remember the once that it saved his life.” Roxanne explained rotely, as she turned to face her sister and hence better hear the stories the boys in the back of the skiff swapped. A few strands of her sun-streaked red hair escaped the coarse braids she’d wrapped around her head like a halo. “We left Flagstaff headed west in that burnt orange Chevy of his. Around Quartzite, the road races through some hilly country.” Her ringless hand rises and falls in a wavy motion, which neither woman looks at. “It was a new two lane black top with wide shoulders. Your husband started telling the story. His dad was a big fan of Coors and he decided to put his money where his mouth was and bought shares in the company. Anytime they were anywhere near Golden they took the tour. “

“- the falls…two feet high“

“Now your husband and his brother were little kids being dragged along by the hand, bored to tears with the adult lectures given on the tour. But something caught their eye. There was a guy on the production floor sitting in a chair doing nothing but staring at bottles of beers as they passed a sheet of well lit paper. There were no labels on the bottles yet. Well, they knew exactly what this was about; a mouse had recently been found in a Pepsi bottle. It was all over the news, so apparently Coors was taking no chances. As the boys discussed this they noticed the worker glance at a bottle coming down the line. He’d spotted something! He kept watching the other bottles as they passed but also kept track of where that one bottle was as it approached his station. He leaned forward. He’d spotted something in the bottle! He snatched it from the production line as it tried to pass, popped the cap off and took a swig!”

Maeve laughed her diabolically laugh as she had every time she’d ever heard this story. They both listened quietly to the joking youths in the back talk about emptying their pockets and taking off their boots before they tried it.

“So, your husband is telling me and Stan this tale as he drives us through the hilly country outside Quartzite. At one point he looks up and sees two semis in the opposite lanes headed side by side down the hill. Not wanting to deal with gusts of wind and flying gravel they’d be producing, he signaled moved into the right hand lane and kept talking. Eventually, he returned to our originally lane and finished the story with his usual flourish. Neither Stan nor I laughed. He asks us what was wrong? I exclaimed “We could have died!” He had no clue what I was talking about. He said the semis were in the east bound lanes, what was the big deal? I pointed out that it was a two lane road and that one of them was coming at us down hill head on. He’d signaled, dodged a reflector at 60mph, and moved to the shoulder without ever missing a beat in his story.”

By now the boys were leaning forward to hear.

“If he hadn’t been busy telling the Story of the Best Job in the World, he would have freaked out, hit the brakes and we all would have died!”

“What? What! Grandma, tell that again.” erupted from the back of the little boat, but they’d arrived at their destination.

The tanned boys, dark-haired like their Grandmother Maeve, untied the scuffed red rubber zodiac tied behind the skiff all this time. Promising to be careful, they intended to paddle down the meandering northern anabranch of the Stikine called the Ketili. They would spend the afternoon drifting down the shallow, cottonwood lined stream to the hot tubs fishing for Dolly Vardon and wayward salmon to where the rest of the family would be. Their grandmother turned the skiff around and headed back down to Chief Shakes Hot Springs below the rapids in Chief Shakes Creek running from iceberg-laden deep, cold, Shake’s Lake beneath the edge of the coastal range ice fields.

“So let’s see, when they came back from Shakes Lake two days ago, instead of carrying the zodiac around the falls, they decided to go over them; flipping the zodiac and losing the cooler and two paddles.” Maeve said with a scowl growing across her glacial features. “I can’t believe how they retold that whole story without even noticing we were here.”

“Well, it’s like when we were girls. You were too young to remember.” Roxanne said using the code phrase to denote an event that her adopted sister Maeve wasn’t actually attending. “Our parents use to spell things at the table when they didn’t want us girls to understand what they were talking about. Eventually, I could spell, but I couldn’t figure out the word in time to understand the context. So as they spelled the words, our sister would listen to the story and I’d feed her the words, and then she’d recite the whole thing back to us. Our parents were so busy talking they never noticed what we were saying.” Roxanne nodded her coppery head back to the boys they’d just left at the head of the Ketili. “It worked fine for a long time. Then one night at dinner, they stopped talking just as our sister was reciting the conversation back to us. The looks on their faces. They thought she could spell at 4 years old!” Roxanne exclaimed with a shout to the sunny heavens above and the heavily forested canyon walls.

Both women hooted. Maeve weakly estimated she recalled that. This got them even giddier.

“What were our grandsons thinking?” Maeve asked with a grin still on her face and a “boys-will-be-boys shake of her head

“”Well, dearie” Roxanne began, “They thought the tide was high enough. They’d seen their fathers do it plenty of times. They figured 5 out of 10 times they would have made it. ” she explained.

“Their fathers, apparently know all about this? Do you think their mothers know?”

“Not yet.”

When Maeve and Roxanne arrived at the two red-cedar hot tubs, Roxanne’s step-daughters and granddaughters soaked in the upper screened-in tub safe from mosquitoes and notorious no-seeums. The men and younger boys wrestled around the lower tub out in the open, cropped, grassy field alongside Ketili Slough. The older boys’ mothers found out about them going over the rapids and their father’s discretion soon enough.

That night, after dinner at the family A-frame when the older kids played outside and the younger were in bed, the adults had a few words on the front deck.

“When were you going to tell us about this?” one of Roxanne’s step-daughters asked the men folk.

“We were going to have them tell their grandfather when he and your dad get here. The zodiac is company property.”

“When were you going to tell us?” asked another of the sisters with the emphasis on “us”.

Her husband replied that “It was their idea.” Trying to separate himself from his brother-in-laws.

“Come on girls. We’ve let those boys run skiffs up and down the river for two summers now.”

“Maybe that’s been a bad idea.”

“Who told you about this?”

One of the three sisters started to say “Mother, told us…”

“Aunt Roxanne, I appreciate we are talking about your grandsons, but…”

Maeve stepped between her offending son and Roxanne.

“I meant your mother.” his wife quickly explained as the younger generation feel silent under Maeve’s dark gaze.

The whole time, Roxanne looked at her step-daughters and sons-in-law with a bemused expression on her rosy features. A smiled sipped out of the firmly shut lips. She held herself, keeping her stout body still. Her laughing green eyes jumped from speaker to speaker. She held the satellite phone in her hand. Her only motion was to grab Maeve’s wrist when she’d stepped forward.

“Boys!” Roxanne called to the children. The older boys came running. She turned to her own sons and daughters-in-law. “Your sons are becoming quite the young men. You know, your father arrives tomorrow. Someone has to take the skiff across Sumner Strait to Mitkof Island and pick him and your Uncle Stan up. Your father thinks these young gentlemen are old enough to handle the trip. Don’t you?”

All around her, Roxanne saw jaws go slack, mouths fall open, and tense shoulders fall. She even heard a few sighs of relief exude from her loved ones. She beamed

Sunday, September 18, 2011

M&R: There’s Always a Stick When you Need It

He gimped.

That’s not what caught the attention of Maeve and Roxanne. The big smile spreading sporadically across his face caught their eye. The dimple in a narrow chin covered with blonde stubble made them both do a double take. The way he held his thick chest out and shoulders square as he hurried to his gate across the glistening mosaic floor attracted everyone’s attention. The friendly greetings of “Buck!” he got from the other soldiers dressed in their desert khakis convinced everyone in the terminal to think of Buck in friendly terms. He had a baby face, but the graying short cut hair showed his true age. (Maeve thought maybe he should grow it a little longer so his ears didn’t stick out so much.) He joined some buddies at table in the lounge just next to their gate. Maeve watched when he got up and went to the bar.

Dearie! What a lovely blouse.”

Maeve’s dark eyes turned to the passing short-haired, well-endowed brunette her sister addressed. The woman wore a beautiful red blouse of heavy cotton decorated a flattering angular ruffle. The woman gushed her thanks, admitted she made it herself from a pattern and apologized, but must meet some friends. She was a good looking woman. But, the raising of two (now grown) kids and the passing of her husband wore on her. She gained a few of the pounds that age inevitably brings. Her name was Linda. She seemed disappointed not to see her friends anywhere & went to stand in line at the bar behind the soldier. She ordered a virgin peach daiquiri. The soldier made a comment about a cherry daiquiri and they both laughed.

Even against the glare from the big windows overlooking the tarmac, Roxanne knew a “spark” when she saw it. She grinned at the unmitigated flattery the hero of the scene showered on the heroine. Roxanne nudged her sister Maeve, sitting beside her, also watching the middle aged strangers standing at the bar in front of them.

Maeve pushed back her hair in imitation of the Linda. She exchanged a grin and knowing look with Roxanne.

“You know dearie, when we were all younger, your husband use to wear a special tee-shirt at keggers.” Roxanne waited to make sure she got her sister’s attention. “It was a bunch of cartoons characters in an orgy. He’d work the room, asking guests which character they wanted to me. If he found two people who chose adjoining characters he’d introduce them.”

“Did that work?”

“Twice, I think. It was his effort at playing cupid.”

“Maybe we should mind our own business.” Maeve suggested weakly.

They exchanged a glance and burst into laughter, delighting those around them.

Maeve, it is our Christian duty to set them up; Genesis 2:13 “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone;” I’m guessing that applies to women too!

“Well, then we need to find someone to play Cupid to those two.” Maeve whispered with an arch of her painted eyebrow.

Roxanne was still grinning at the love-struck couple. She started nodding her head, but stopped and her green eyes took a double take of her black eyed sister. “Dearie, we are talking about the winged cherub on Valentine’s Day? Right?”

“Well, you know me the one that “tames lions and tigers, breaks the thunderbolts of Zeus, deprives Heracles of his arms and carries on his sport with the monsters of the sea.” is more to my taste, but “the fairest of the deathless gods” will do.

Roxanne was grinning again. “Okay, how we going to do this?”

“Well, my husband says, “There’s always stick when you need one.”

“Pardon?” the red head asked, her ruddy features twisting in confusion.

“It’s what my husband says about stray dogs. If you see some strange dogs headed your way, you pick up a stick. Good dogs sit back on their haunches and wag their tails in hopes you will toss the stick for them. If they are bad dogs, they put their tails between their legs and skulk away. In which case you don’t throw the stick, because you’ll need it later when they sneak up on you.

“Oh.” says Roxanne, gazing into the Heavens. “Sort of like Cadmus tossing the bones of the Earth among the Sown-Men? What about “There’s always a stick when you need one?”

“Oh it’s a magic thing; there’s always a stick if you need it and not if you don’t. Now who we going to get to be Cupid?”

“Surely, he’s with some of the other soldiers. Maybe one of them. ” Roxanne said casting her admiring glance about the crowded terminal. “You know those new desert camouflage pants, the way they are cut sure does a good job of making the boy’s-”


“Well, you know I’m a sucker for a man in uniform.” Roxanne was about to point out that when she first met her current husband he was wearing a uniform, but she thought better of it because Maeve would point out that in fact he was naked at the time!

“Well until we find our cupid, I know something you and I can do.”

“What’s that dearie?” Roxanne asked as Maeve took her by the hand and led her towards the bar.

“We’re loaded, why shouldn’t everyone else be?

Roxanne laughed her loud joyous laugh, hooked Maeve through the elbow, and now led the way herself.

“Excuse us...“ Roxanne said to the well dressed woman they’d been admiring, effectively shoving her into Buck‘s strong arms.

“Well…” Linda began harshly in response to being shoved, but then thought better of it when her gaze rose to Buck’s sparkling brown eyes, “ ...excuse me!” she finished with a laugh.

“…but, we’d like to order…“ Roxanne continued loudly. She winked at Maeve with whom she now held hands and led the way as they said in unison “…a round for the house!”

The crowd erupted around them, particularly the soldiers sitting at a table in the corner. She waved to the boys and gave a wink to the Linda and Buck beside them, while Maeve dug around in her purse. Maeve pulled out a handful of cash and laid it on the bar.

“Buy a round with these?”

Dearie!” Roxanne burst out. “You can’t buy anything with those. They’re Francs!”

“Oh?” laughed Maeve, “I guess I haven’t used this purse in a while.”

Maeve’s what you call ‘old money’.” Roxanne observed to the crowd as she pulled a handful of American bills from her purse.

Maeve slipped away when she saw the pilot and his “stick-buddy” approach the gate. She quickly spoke with the attendant, found the correct currency and returned to Roxanne’s side, empty handed. Roxanne handed her a glass of champagne. The soldiers and other gathered around, thanking the pair and shouting their orders to the bar maid. In effect pushing Linda more fully into Buck’s arms.

As the hubbub calmed a little, Roxanne turned to the Buck; “One of your friends looks so familiar to us.” She began glancing at the soldiers in the corner table. Is any of them named Rod?” Her index finger and thumb of each bejeweled hand encircled the imaginary rod , the length of which she indiciated by the spread of her hands.

“Lance?” Maeve suggested

“Dick?” Linda interjected with a laugh.

Buck with his arm around Linda’s waist guffawed.

Maeve and Roxanne didn’t get it until later so they continued with “Cain?” “Castor?” “Juan?”

Maeve was going to ask if any of them was a “Pole”, but gave up and turned instead to raising her glass in honor of “such a good looking couple”. Linda and Buck blushed and gushed and denied it, but their attraction was unavoidable and obvious to all. The flight attendant at the gate announced boarding for their flight. Maeve and Roxanne, being in first class, bid everyone adieu before Linda and Buck made their awkward goodbyes. Roxanne and Maeve handed their tickets to the attendant at the gate. They burst out laughing. When the coach class boarded, Buck and Linda entered together looking somewhat stupefied; first class tickets in hand.

“Oh dearies! Did that nice flight attendant, Mister Stickman upgrade you two?”

Monday, August 22, 2011

M&R: Gunny

The relief bartender poured a last round of shots for several gentleman-patrons who were about join their wives in the mezzanine. One of the gentleman said something about the ladies at the other end of the bar. The bartender turned quickly, wiping the bar in the process with a white clothe and moved in the direction of the two well-dressed ladies and a gentleman in a red jacket standing next to them.

“Hi, Max. We are looking for Steven.” the dark-haired woman said sweetly.

“He’ll be back in just a minute. He said to expect you… You must be Gunny.” the bartender said as he stuck out his hand to the gentleman, and then pulled back. “Gunny” extended his long arm instead and gently shook the bartender’s hand.

“Nice to meet you Max.” he said guilelessly

Gunny was actually sitting on a barstool, not standing next to the ladies. Up close, his cherubic smile did little to hide the knife-scar on his rugged handsome face nor the blackness in his eyes.

“So,” Max continued cheerily once he was looking towards the ladies again, “Gunny gets a drink at the beginning of each act and gets a round of champagne for you ladies ten minutes before the intermission.”

“Thank you Max.” Maeve responded with a wink, which promised her usual good tip. She patted Gunny’s shoulder in emphasis as she spoke.

Gunny continued to gaze at the wary Max pleasantly will showing an active interest in everything else going on.

“I like your vest.” Gunny said to Max.

Max looked down at his uniform vest; it was black, but somewhat shimmered with hidden threads of red and gold. That’s when he noticed he’d forgotten his name-tag.

“Thanks.” Max responded with a big smile that wilted momentarily in confusion when he realized the vest beneath Gunny’s red jacket was “bulletproof”.

Meanwhile, the red-head standing next to Maeve Sienna commented to her sister, “Look dearie. It’s our friend Mrs. Green.”

Roxanne waved at the sullen faced, drab woman in a straight unaccessorized gown. Mrs. Green had to work her way through the crowd of patrons moving into the opera house proper.

“You know the worst thing about being Christians, Roxanne?” Maeve asked her sister through the gritted teeth of her false smile.

“Having to be nice to people we don’t like?” Roxanne Scamander responded in a like manner.

“Well there’s that too. It’s that we will live forever. So, I have all eternity to regret ever befriending that woman!”

Roxanne bit back a laugh and mumbled something about opera just being a phase she was going through, as Mrs. Green arrived. Max burst out laughing at the whole scene, which got him a dirty look from the new arrival. He went to help other last minute patrons.

“Is that Messier Seingalt with you?” Mrs. Green asked lusciously.

She meant Gunny who was partially hidden from view.

“No, this is our friend Gunny. Gunny, Mrs. Green.”

She offered a gloved hand. He stood to his impressive six feet, four inches and shook her hand. His dark gaze laid softly on her as she studied his admirable Aryan figure with a predatory eye.

“This is our nephew?” she asked and then turned to Maeve and Roxanne with a knowing look.

“This is our body guard.”

“Well, he’s certainly got a body! But, bodyguard?”

“Yes, our husbands feel it’s unsafe for us to be out in this town unescorted.”

“Unsafe for the town?” Mrs. Green retorted. “Did you want to say something Gunny?”

There was something innocent and unaffected about Gunny’s response. “You are a beautiful lady.”

“Oh my goodness!’ growled Mrs. Green as her gloved hand lifted to her non-existent bosom.

“We should head to our seats ladies.” Roxanne suggested firmly as the orchestra began warming up.

Maeve whispered to Gunny that he should get a whole bottle and an extra glass. Max, who had returned, got the message. He offered Gunny a drink.

“Oh, no thank you.” Gunny responded cheerily. “I never drink by myself.” Before Max could question, he asked, “Max do you practice karate?”

“No.” stuttered out a confused Max

“I know Steven does. I thought maybe you do.”

“No, I’m more of a carpenter. I just got back from a church mission in Peru.” Max lied.

“Oh! Hope you didn’t have any trouble at the Shining Path.”

“How do you know about the Shining Path?” Max asked hesitantly.

“Well, I work for an important/export company. We had a kidnapping down there and I went down to provide additional security and help with the negotiations.”

Max flinched at the euphemism of important/export company. He carefully studied Gunny’s dark eyes and disarming expression before asking, “So you handled the ransom?”

“Oh, I’m sorry I thought, I explained that. We negotiated. The young woman came home just fine, got married and had a baby. Want to see? ”

Gunny pulled a picture from his wallet of a himself holding a baby in a baptismal gown alongside the beaming parents. Max found the woman in the picture familiar, the man too.

“Who’s this?” Max asked pointing at the baby.

“This is my god-son Gunny Schmidt Lusigan.”

Max gasped in recognition. “You foiled the Siennan kidnapping! I remember their photograph in the news.”

“Oh, not just me personally.” Gunny blushed.

“Oh, how precious.” gushed the personal assistant who had joined them at the bar

Speechless, Max excused himself and went to clean up the bar. He waved Steven over and discretely whispered, “What’s with that Gunny?”

“Ain’t he the sweetest thing on two feet?”

“Ah, karate, Shining Path, bulletproof vest and a famous kidnapping? Oh and I offered him his drink and he says he doesn’t drink alone.”

“Yeah, I saw him at the national finals last year. He’s the real thing. Come on.”

Steve barreled down the bar dragging his relief bartender along.

“Gunny, can we get you a drink? We’d love to join you.”

Steven winked at the personal assistant, who’d stepped away from Gunny’s side to answer a call from her boss. Steven grabbed the Jose Cuervo Gold and three shot glass, but the other bartender balked.

“What would you prefer to drink? I’m sure Steven and I can drink that.”
They settled on vodka. After downing their shot. The other bartender drifted away again.

“What’s with your eye’s buddy?” Steven asked as he poured two shot of tequila for them.

“Oh, Madam Sienna thought black contact lens were more appropriate for my line of work.”

“I think she’s right.” Steven suggested as he indicated Gunny should raise his shot in toast to his boss.

Gunny complied, but his wide-eyes glued themselves to the young blushing personal assistant listening to her bored boss on the other end of the phone.

“See something you like?” Steven asked knowingly.

Gunny smiled back at this friend, looked at the assistant and then gazed around the opera house. “I like everything I see.” He answered sincerely.

By the time the first act neared completion, Steven saw the personal assistant was sitting up close to Gunny admiring his muscular biceps, dibbled chin and square jaw. From her angle, she could not see the current color of his eyes. From Steven’s perspective, he didn’t think the smitten girl would care. He prepared trays for both of them to take to their bosses in the boxes. When the crowd thinned out a little, Gunny said good bye to his friends, picked up the tray and headed to the Sienna family box.

Mrs. Green was holding forth on the “Opera Tour” she intended to take soon. “I think the highlights with the be opening night ball at the Dresden Opera House, you saw the video I sent you right? Incredible! And end at the Singapore Lyric Opera. The place looks like a giant Faberge Egg at night.”

Roxanne and Maeve nodded pleasantly, until they were forced to comment.

“So dearie, do you speak Chinese?”

“Don’t be silly! It’s Mozart in German with Chinese subtitles. Now, if I just knew a German-speaker to escort us.” She turned quickly on Guenther Schmidt standing idly nearby. “Do you speak German, Gunny?”

Behind her back both Maeve and Roxanne shook their heads violently. Roxanne thought to hold up five fingers on one hands and four on the other.

“Nine!” Gunny answered gleefully.

“If only I could find some way to steal you away from the Siennans. You’d have such a great time. “

Gunny simply smiled back as though pondering all the pleasure that could be. His arms were crossed. His ankles were crossed and he leaned into a pillar in the corner of the box. A Hispanic man dressed in a tuxedo, slipped up to Gunny, called him by name and shook his hand. He spoke quietly in Spanish to the equally as friendly Gunny. He seemed to urge him from the box. Gunny with a nod of the head deferred to Madam Sienna.

“Ma’am, Gunny and I served together. My boss would really like to meet them.”

Gunny assured Madam Sienna that he’d be back in time to pick up the tray before the next act and the two men hurried away. The ladies watched them move along the line of boxes to one, three down.

“Isn’t that the governor?” Mrs. Green gushed.

“Yes, dearie that’s what the young man said to Gunny.”

Gunny indeed picked up the tray in time and returned to the bar as did the “personal assistant” and several other similar people. As Gunny resumed his seat next to the young lady, the bartenders joined them, as did a drunk patron who got a little to uppidity with the help and too friendly with the young lady.

Gunny leaped from his bar stool and with a voice full of concern asked the man, if he was all right “I’d hate for you to fall and have something bad happen to you.”

The intensity of Gunny’s black eyes and firm grip on his elbow convinced the drunk to return to his seat. One of the board of directors happen to be walking by at the moment and bought Gunny and his lady friend a round. Gunny invited him to join them. By the end of the opera, everyone seemed to be crowded around Gunny.

Several opera goers asked about him as they filed out of the theatre with Maeve and Roxanne. Once in the lobby, there was their body guard waiting for them with another tray. They gleefully sipped on their bubbly while Gunny went off to say good bye to his new friends. The young lady slipped him her phone number.

“God bless his heart.” Whispered Roxanne gratefully as they tapped their flutes.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

M&R: Roxanne at the Society’s National Leadership Meeting

In a darkened cloak room stood a lady with her back to noise and feminine chatter of the conference’s primary meeting room. She wore the Society’s eponymous hat trimmed with a shortened black and white ostrich plume, a boa of purple peafowl feathers and a beaded gown shimmering with black and the Society’s eponymous color across the shoulders cascading into lighter and lighter shades of each until it at length reached the sparkling white beads at the gold trimmed hem. She quietly fanned herself with the day’s program. She tried to control the occasional sob that shook her stout frame. She’d taken a cell phone out of matching beaded handbag, but seemed to think better of it.

“Are you all alright, honey?” a southern voice drawled.

Roxanne Scamander turned to find “Molly” (that’s what her name tag said) holding out half a glass of water and a box of tissues to her. Molly in her dark “maid” outfit looked at the slightly taller woman with sad, sympathetic brown eyes and a disbelieving shake of her head. The two women exchanged greetings as Molly was distributing coffee to the tables early in the morning. Roxanne was as fair as Molly was dark. Roxanne’s usually carefree expression contrasted just as sharply with Molly’s features worn by hard years.

“Oh, thank you, Molly” Roxanne gushed, with another stream of tears.

“It’s no problems missus. Us red heads have to stick together.” (Roxanne’s smiled at the redbone’s reference to their hair color.) “Now what game is that uppity blond playing?”

“Well, I don’t know.” gasped Roxanne, and then took a drink to calm herself. When she spoke again her voice no longer waivered. “But apparently, I’m playing the part of a guest invited here to be made a fool.” She took another sip of water as Molly nodded for her to continue.

“I’m the new provincial president back home. We are doing real well on our membership drives. So, the National Vice President for Membership invited me down to represent my province and to help with the some presentations.” Here, Roxanne pointed out the blond. Molly was already staring at her distastefully. “The vice president and the president sat at the first long table. I thought I’d best not sit with them because all the national office staff people would crowd around her. If I want to get better at my job, I’d best get to know the other provincial presidents.

“So you were sitting there in the midst of them, when she came over and acted like she was somebody?”

“Yes. She asks me if I am staying all week. The question dumbfounded me, since she invited me to the meeting and it lasts all week. I admitted that I intended to stay. Well, she says, ‘I don’t what to blind side you but-‘”

“Honey,” Molly interrupts “When you are sitting with a group of people and she uses that phrase it means that she’s about to blindside you. “

Roxanne nodded in agreement. “Anyway, she says, “-people have asked why you are attending. I’m going to explain that you are only a guest, that you don’t vote and that you are just here for the discussion on membership.’ ”

In the main room, the meeting was being called together by the facilitator.

Molly patted Roxanne on the arm and said, “I’ll pray that Lord Jesus send you some angels today, missus.”

“He already has, dearie.” Roxanne assured Molly with a wink and a smile.

For those who knew her, it would have been obvious that Roxanne was biting her lip and was sitting on my hands as the meeting began. She recited her practiced lines for the membership presentations that morning and otherwise kept her mouth shut. She introduced herself briefly when it was her turn. The provincial president next to her was a negress whom Roxanne assumed was another southerner. She was delighted that the woman was from Quebec. She and Madam Cote whispered conspiratorially in French during the rest of the conference.

Later in the morning Roxanne discussed with the vice president that the last two days had nothing on the agenda about membership, so she’d head home. Roxanne informed the hosting provincial president of this and hence would not be part of the planned local tour. When the local president asked why, Roxanne repeated the company line. This didn’t please her hostess.

Yes, Roxanne was hurt, offended, disappointed and embarrassed that half the provincial presidents witnessed her humiliation. She could fuss, fume and conspire with her sister Maeve. Instead, she did something more affective; she prayed. Prayer calmed her and prepared her for the role the good Lord intended her to play. Late in the morning session, the conference broken into small committees to work on various issues. In the process, they dragged their chairs hither and yon. Roxanne had a great time with a group of provincial presidents, with whom she went off to lunch.

When they returned from lunch, Molly caught Roxanne’s eye. With a wink and a nod she indicated Roxanne’s seat at the second long table. During lunch some “angel” brought all the chairs back to the conference table. Roxanne’s had lost her seat at the provincial presidents table! With a knowing smile she sat at a couch behind them.

“You don’t have to sit over there Roxanne.” the vice president called from across the room.

“Oh, I lost my chair and I don’t want to take someone else’s place.”

The provincial presidents promptly found her a place at the end of their table. While the provincial presidents were shuffling chairs around for Roxanne, one of their number sitting at the third table moved to the seat vacated by the National President, hence next to the blonde. Everyone commented. At this point “the uppity blond” made the announcement about Roxanne’s attendance and defended her presence at the meeting. She also mentioned Roxanne would only be attending one meeting a year.

When they discussed cost cutting measures, one of the staffers suggested they cut part-time employees to minimum hours. One of the provincial presidents at the far end of the table responded. The staffers returned fire; a double barreled volley launched from the provincial presidents.

Roxanne literally ran for the table of fruit, bagels and muffins, which Molly was tending.

“What is this all about?” whispered Molly.

Roxanne was almost chocking in shock. “It didn’t occur to me at first that only provincial presidents supervise part-employees, all the employees working for the staffer are permanent full time.”

“You have part-time employees? What do they do?” Molly asked as the debate raged louder

“Oh, for things that folks usually don’t volunteer to do. I’m our one and only part-time employee. I vacuum, and set up chairs for meetings.” Roxanne raised a knowing eyebrow. After wagging a finger at Molly she glanced admiringly at the job Molly had done at cleaning the area while they were all at lunch.

From this safe position they discovered that all the staffers had indeed gathered around the vice president. During the chair shuffle Roxanne had been turned into a buffer state between the two factions. In fact the long table where Roxanne sat was occupied by no one but provincial presidents. (One interesting exception; the union representative, Mrs. Moore sat there so as to be as far from the president and vice president as possible. She made the comment at one point that “Madam” Scamander and she were the only union members at the conference.) The remaining provincial presidents spilled on to the third table. Roxanne returned to the table when it was safe.

Towards the end of the day, Madam Cote, pulled her aside. She’d been sitting next to Roxanne when the vice president had “not” blindsided her. Madam Cote felt Roxanne should be on the leadership team. With Roxanne’s permission she wanted to pursue that. Roxanne said how flattered she felt and encouraged Madam Cote to speak with the vice president.

The final presentation Roxanne and the vice president sponsored. It was well received and exactly what Roxanne had hoped. While the leadership team got their picture taken. Roxanne stood with the union representative.

While distributing congratulatory glasses of champagne to the group, Molly noticed the lengthy conversation the two had. “What was that about, missus?” she asked worriedly.

“Dearie! Mrs. Moore mentioned that she couldn't attend all the meetings and occasionally needed a union member to cover for him. She asked me to join the union since I was now officially not on the leadership team!”

Both women shared a big toothy grin and silent laugh.

Monday, July 4, 2011

M&R; An Old Chestnut

Roxanne fidgeted before her best friend. She’d sat down with a plop on the couch and slapped widespread fingers on her thighs. She started to speak, then drew breathe, smiled weakly at the woman to whom she told everything and began to speak.

“You know Maeve; I just love your husband to death. He introduced me to my husband and eventually you. He’s responsible for all the happiness in my life. I’ll never have a bad word to say about him. Now, we aren’t the kind of people who cares what everyone else thinks…“

“Actually, I think it’s me who doesn’t care. “ Maeve whispered back softly. “I remember once a party we hosted. One of the guests commented to me within hearing of your husband, that all the guests seemed to be your friends and hardly any of them were mine. Your husband responded for me. Moved in close and stood over the person who was sitting on the couch next to me. “Yeah, my wife knows everyone and loves everyone. My sister-in-law and I only love a few people and spit on everyone else.””

Roxanne blushed with surprised embarrassment, holding her manicured right hand over her mouth. Maeve started snickering at the thought of the spittle flying in the direction of the offensive guest as Stan said the word “spit”. Maeve finally admitted why she giggled. Roxanne roared again! Roxanne laughed so hard she bent in half and the blush ran all the way down her chest. She laughed so hard she couldn‘t breath. The effort to restrain herself forced tears into to Maeve ever-somber dark eyes and made her bosom heave with hiccup-like breathes.

When they recovered, Roxanne let out a lyrical sigh, saying, “Well, gossip is that your husband flirts with every woman he meets.”

Maeve smiles a sly smile, one corner of her mouth rising higher than the other. “He just tells them the truth. He just tells them they are good, beautiful, smart and a gift from God.”

“But, dearie; not all women are good and beautiful.”

That cocky smile again; “But, Roxanne he never talks to the evil, ugly one.”

Roxanne’s jaw drops. Her eyes, red with recent laughter grow wide. Her tear-stained checks begin to crack into her ever-ready smile. She roars again. Maeve is clearly enjoying the moment. An outside observer might have noted she was bidding her time. Roxanne regains her composure for a second time. Maeve licks her lower blood red lip with the tip of her little pink tongue and then asks. “You didn’t hear this from some green-eyed, horse-faced, flat-chested munchkin we both know, did you?”

This time Maeve actually was concerned about her sister’s well-being, that she laughed so without self-restraint. She thought about telling Roxanne so, but thought better of it.
“We’re awful!” Roxanne gasped. “You know everything!”

“No!” Maeve insisted with a wave of her hand. “You and my husband know everyone, hear everything and share with me. I see a few things and just put two and two together.” She glanced Heavenward, rolling her eyes that way as though giving all the glory to God. Then a thought visibly struck her and her black eyes veered away from her best friend. “You know the one thing I can’t see?”

Roxanne looked Maeve’s way hopefully.

“I can’t see either of our husbands ever cheating on us. Particularly yours.” Maeve stated firmly and quietly.

Roxanne took a deep breathe and for the first time today, rather than laugh, she blushed with pride.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

M&R: Aegir’s Door

Roxanne gazed away pensively at a pair of bald eagles high up, flapping their wings towards the gray waters of Prince Frederick Sound and the land of “The Strangest Story ever Told.”

Maeve asked, “Do we know any atheists?”

“I don’t think so, but in college I knew a man with five spleens.” Green eyes still gazing into the blue sky overhead Roxanne continued, “Wasn’t the pilot on the corporate jet an atheist? Mitch?”

“Oh that’s right. Totally didn’t believe in anything he couldn’t see. I remember one time, he’d just called “Sukoi, inbound.” We were making our approach from the mouth of the Narrows still over the white–caps on Prince Frederick Sound. He asks, if the engine went out, would I prefer to be high in the sky or low to the water.” Roxanne gasped and prepared to comment. A raised immaculate hand from her sister accompanied by the nod of her ivory brow stopped the red head from speaking. “I said high in the sky, so we’d have time to discuss him accepting Christ as his personal savior.”

Roxanne laughed to Heaven. Maeve burst into a grin of delight in response. As Roxanne’s laughter faded, she gave Maeve a mischievous glance. “Remember that time at the company party when I asked to be introduced to the handsome young man you were talking with?”

Maeve’s ivory brow now crunched in confusion as her dark eyes squinted in concentration.

“You said, “Roxanne! It’s Mitch!” “Mitch, who?” “Mitch, our pilot!” I’d only ever seen the back of his head!”

Their laughter erupted again. A passing trawler left ripples on the otherwise placid jade green waters of Wrangell Narrows. The river like body of water rises from Sumner Strait to the south, flows between Mitkof and Wowodeski northward to Beecher Pass and the tidal flats and muskegs of Blind Slough then beyond northwards some more between Mitkof and the long peninsula of Kupreanof in a sluggish, winding course to the gray waters of windswept Prince Frederick Sound. Alaska’s Little Norway, otherwise known as Petersburg stands at the head of the Narrows. Opposite lay the ice fields and fjords that reminded its founder Peters Buschmann of his home in Norway far across the gray Atlantic.

The afternoon sun still high over Kupreanof Island laughed upon the summer scene. Maeve and Roxanne sat, like the locals, on the deck overlooking the water at The Beachcomber. It was too cold for the tourists, who sat inside. Maeve and Roxanne’s husbands went to the bar to fetch a round of margarita with a touch of cilantro in them. Roxanne knew without mentioning it that the boys would down a couple of shots of Jose Cuervo Gold while awaiting the blending of their drinks.

“Dearie, Mrs. Green’s husband was an atheist.” She remembered.

“Oh that’s right! Poor man!” Maeve said without explaining whether she meant; how unfortunate that he went to his grave unsaved or how unfortunate he ever married Mrs. Green. “And he was the saddest kind of atheist.” She noted with a shake of her head and rolling of her black eyes to the right.

“Whatever do you mean dearie?”

“Well, it wasn’t that Mr. Green didn’t believe; I think he just resented God. You know the usual, “How could God let such awful things happen?” blamed Him for a rotten childhood and unloving, certifiable mother.” Maeve ended by shaking her head sadly, eyes slightly downcast, the beginning of a frown upon her fair features. “Let’s talk about your friend with the five spleens.”

“What?” came their husbands’ deep voices almost in unison.

They landed the margarita glasses on the table and straddling the restaurant’s low backed chair joined their wives.

“Well, actually…” Roxanne confided, leaning closer to the center of the small table. “She was a friend of my friend Kathy Blair. Kathy was one of those big blonde smiling girls that should have been named “Sunshine”.

“Was she the one that came up here during the pipeline and had five job offers in one day?”

“Yes, dearie. There was a man involved of course, but who wouldn’t want a full-figured friendly blonde-haired woman greeting their customers. Anyway this is years before. I think she was a freshman. We were at party with a bunch of forestry majors and we met him; Joseph Einer. He looked like a Viking; sky blue eyes and blonde curls. He had a ready grin and deep lingering laugh. “ Her men folk made no effort to hide the glance they exchanged. “Of course, sort of a skinny Viking.” She commented with a lift of her shoulders. “He was a foreign exchange student. That’s sort of a leap of faith isn’t it? Coming across the gray waters far from home. He was from Schleswig-Holstein.”

Blank looks from Maeve and their husbands.

“Yeah, I know. I was never sure whether it is Denmark or Germany. But, he made it clear he was German. He had that sort of idealized Aryan v-shaped torso; broad in the shoulders tapering to a skinny waist. Anyway, Kathy was smitten. She didn’t speak too much German and his English wasn’t very good. However, they had something in common, they both loved Tuborg; The Beer of Danish Kings. It was very popular then!” Roxanne said with a wave of her hands. “Ends up that drunken English is very much like drunken German. They got along famously. A couple of weeks later the three of us were headed out for the weekend. As we were leaving campus, we hit a speed bump and Joseph groaned. He assured us he’d be fine, but Kathy and I were not too assured. On the next speed bump, he buckled over. He wanted to go to the health clinic on campus, we took him straight to the emergency room. After we checked him in, all we could do was pray. We went to a nearby Catholic church and lit candles for him.”

Several eyebrows raised around the table.

“Yeah, yeah I know! About then is when his swollen spleen actually ruptured. Teach me to go to a catholic church! Anyway, we go to see him the next day. He’s on the phone to his mother. Kathy’s sober of course, so she doesn’t understand a word, but the nurse tells us, he has four more spleens. He’ll be fine.

“I’m guessing he wasn’t an atheist.” Maeve mumbled.

“No, Lutheran like us.”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

M&R: Desperation

“I took the only course that desperation suggested and that of course was the wrong one.” –Casanova-

Roxanne looked up from her book, laughing silently at her “dear friend”. That’s how Jacque Casanova referred to his future readers two hundred years ago. She looked up into the handsome face of a young man returning her smile. He took that as an invitation and sat down on the bench in the airport waiting room one seat away from her.

Roxanne folded the collector-edition volume shut in her lap and scooted up a bit in her seat in anticipation of a conversation.

“Picking up or headed out?” she asked with a smile and dancing, painted eyebrows.

“I’m picking up a couple of new guys. I work on the Coast Guard Cutter “Anacapa”. You?”

“I’m picking up my sister. We’re opening our family cabin up the Stikine before everyone else gets here.”

The public address system announced that flight 65 should be landing at James A. Johnson shortly. Roxanne took the interruption to study her bench mate. The coastie struck her as a handsome young man, maybe in his early thirties. His short hair wasn’t quite the shade to be called “sandy” nor as red as as her own. The word “ginger” came to mind. He sat in profile, so she could see his tan face, light blue eyes, shortened chin and dreamy grin.

“You’ve got a smile that won’t stop, dearie. What’s up?” she asked as the announcement ended.

Chris, she’d discover later that his name was Chris, blushed, then turned his face more fully to the bright eyed, stylish, big bosomed woman he suspected was old enough to be his mother.

He leaned closer and announced, “I’ve been made an officer over in Sitka.”

Roxanne slapped her hands together as though in prayer and clapped the fingers while beaming with happiness. “Congratulations! Sitka is one of the prettiest places in the Southeast!”

Chris accepted her congratulations with a shake of his head in disbelief at his great good fortune.

“Oh!” she added hurriedly. “And congratulations on becoming an officer.”

They discussed the high cost and low availability of housing in Sitka, the attitude of his teenage children about the move and the difficulty of flying in and out of the primary town on Baranof Island. As they spoke the sun, rarely seen during the spring in the Alexander Archipelago continued his track just barely above Raven’s Roost Ridge. At this angle the sun’s rays blasted across the single runway, shot under the building’s overhang and filled the little airport waiting area with warmth and sunlight. As they spoke, Roxanne absently rubbed her chin in some subtle fascination over the fact that Chris, unlike her husband and brother-in-law, did not have a dimple in his unshaven chin.

The jet, flying low, screamed by. This was the signal for the local folks of banner-hung Petersburg to head to the airport. It would take the jet a while to taxi back to the terminal and deplane the passengers. Roxanne was confident one of them would give her and her sister a ride to where their boat was tied up.

“You are still beaming! Is this officer thing a surprise?”

“It sure is, if you know how far I’ve come.”

With a nod of her head and weep of her open upturned right hand, she ushered in his apparently oft-told tale. He told of good parents, a good family and without specifics of his rebellious youth. Roxanne nodded knowingly, thinking of her grandson Deuce. The story led to his dropping out of high school and joining the Coast Guard at seventeen.

Clutching her ample bosom Roxanne asked with a furled brow and lips pursed in woe, “How could your mother sign the papers?”

“Out of desperation, I suppose. I would've gotten in trouble. The Coast Guard was a good fit for me. I got my GED, my education and even…” here he leaned forward conspiratorially, “my masters. It’s all a miracle.” With a big smile on his face, he continued to shake his head in disbelief of his great good fortune.
Roxanne mumbled, “God be praised.” As they, both turned to watch the jet turn off the runway for the terminal. The gathering crowed moved towards the windows to watch their loved ones and neighbors disembark. Chris and Roxanne rose from their bench so their respective people could see them. With passengers lined up to board, other passengers entering the waiting area and with the hubbub of greeting and hugging; Chris and Roxanne lost track of one another. When the room eventually cleared out again, the luggage arrived. Chris and Roxanne met there and swapped name amongst the chaos around the luggage bin.

“How long till you go to Sitka?” Roxanne asked, as her sister slipped away through the throng in search of her suitcases.

“Two months; July.” Chris shouted back above the tumult as he herded his crewmen toward the exit.

She extended her right hand. He took it with his. Her left grasped his right too. “Dearie, it’s been a delight… Oh, give me a hug! Have a wonderful time in Sitka!”

They departed one another’s embrace. Roxanne’s sister wasn’t there for most of the conversation and couldn’t follow it when she was there due to the noise. Besides, Roxanne hugging perfect strangers is perfectly routine. However, as they hurried outside into the morning sunshine trying to flag down a friend for a ride, Roxanne’s sister saw tears in those emerald eyes.

“Roxanne? What’s wrong?”

“Oh, I am just desperate to tell you a wonderful story, later…”

Sunday, May 8, 2011

M&R: A Single Tear

“They are not going to be late.” John assured everyone in reference to the bride and matron-of-honor and then blessed them with the same benign smile Galenda used when reassuring the munchkins that the witched witch of the west was gone. “And sorry boys we can’t go up the Miraculous Staircase. We are too big; too tall, too muscular.” Both his teenage sons smiled in response and nodded in acquiesce. At which point John standing tall to get everyone‘s attention turned not to Stan’s grown daughters, nor back to his two beloved boys, but rather to his 10 year old stepson. “Puck, I need you to be in charge. When the music starts line everyone up and get them marching down the aisle as we practiced. Your Uncle Stan and I have to go up to the altar. ”

The pleasant smiling groom led his best-man along the right side of the chapel under the Stations of the Cross. The walked on their toes to lighten the stoop of John’s boots wouldn’t disturb the few worshippers. The walls stood talk and white with a sharp at the apex of the ceiling. Sort of a French style interior in sharp contrast to the Mission-style exterior done in adobe.

They came to the place before the altar and greeted the pastor. The young
man was fresh from the seminary at Strasburg. It was his first wedding.
He spoke neither of the local languages.

All the tourists buzzed excitedly about a wedding when they saw the handsome groom and best man take their places. Stan with his impossibly wide shoulders, longish black hair, dazzling green eyes, and today, saintly smile looked every bit the “radiant” groom. They wore charcoal gray pinstriped suits with tails, gray cummerbunds and white handkerchief to match their ruffled shirts. John tied both their tuxedo ties. John was just as tall as stand; 6’1” but with eyes of blue and auburn locks and a matching moustache. They wore boots for John’s sake, though both preferred to be barefoot.

John hid his cell phone in his cupped hand and cuff of his shirt. He looked at it furtively when Stan’s attention drifted to the screen behind the altar and the statue of “La Reina” who’d lead the Bloodless Re-conquest of the region.

“Nervous?” John asked out of concern and for something to say. He’d switched to English.

A knowing smile spread across Stan’s fair complexion, which he kindly didn’t let his worried friend see. “No, everything will be fine. She’s with Maeve.”

As sigh of relief escaped John, then he did a double take at his buddy. “Wish we’d invited your distant relatives?”

Stan glanced around them. The few invited guests sat on the bride’s side. Even then they were mostly John and Maeve’s relatives. “No…”

John studied the side of Stan’s face, saw him gulp as a thought crossed his furled brow. “Do you really think my mom and Nana are looking down on us.” Stan asked with hope, but no emotion.

“I am sure they are.” whispered back the church-going Lutheran at his side. Suddenly the two men stared at the floor, sheepish grins began to spread across their faces, finally John broke the silence by nudging Stan in the ribs and saying out loud what they were both thinking. “and I pray your father is not looking up at us!”

The both laughed freely, much to the delight of the tourists. It was the first time the worshippers looked up to see them standing at the altar. As Stan went back to pleasant reminiscences of his departed loved ones, John flipped open his black heavy duty cell phone, scrolled to his wife’s image and called her.

His wife, Maeve, dressed in a vintage floral evening gown disdainfully picked at the fabric flowing over her knees. she awaited the inevitable call. Floral evening gowns of any age were not her attire of choice. But it was Roxanne’s (fifth ) wedding so she got to chose the bridesmaid’s dresses. She held Roxanne’s right hand

Roxanne sat next to her fidgeting, fluffing her gown and fanning her face in hopes that she could keep her mascara from running. The red-head’s cheeks were flush and green eyes glistened with emotion.

The phone rang Maeve answered making it clear that she wouldn’t be handing it to Roxanne, spoke with her husband, reassured him and hung up.

“Dearie, is Stan worried that we’ll be late?” queried the bride with lips rounded in woe.

“No my husband says he’s perfectly confident we will arrive on cue.”

“That’s because I’m with you.” Roxanne gushed, patting her best friend on the knee affectionately. “Is he mad?”

“No.” Maeve assured, patting her right hand with her own. “You know he never gets angry. John’s never seen him get angry and Nana told my husband that she’d only seen Stan get angry once in his entire life.”

“That’s true. He‘s perfect for me. ” Roxanne giggled in relief with a nod of her piled up ringlets. Then with a laugh shook her head in disbelief that she’d finally found such a man. “Tell me a funny story.”

As though expecting such a request Maeve began. “During my first marriage…”

Roxanne started. They never discussed Maeve first marriage and the loss of her daughters. The only time she’d ever seen Maeve cry was once, the first time she’d ever confided that terrible story. She turned and looked intently at Maeve’s pleasant smile.

“My brother-in-law and his wife lived in the valley with a large back yard. One of their cats birthed a litter of kittens and they could not find homes for them. So, the man of the house announced they were going to keep them. In that family the wives didn’t have much say. (Well, at least until I came along.) So, my sister-in-law said he could keep them, but that they’d have to be outside cats. They had three small children. So each day he’d fill up a big bowl of cat food on the back porch. The neighbor cats and feral cats started joining his and I don’t think he ever had his cats fixed. I remember being there once at feeding time. He carried a big bag of food out into the middle of the back yard and dumped it on the ground. I recall cats flying over the cinderblock wall and joining the feed frenzy. There were cats of all kinds everywhere. I don’t recall if they were feeding them 50lbs of food a day or whether it was 50 cats they were feeding.” Maeve finished with a shrug of her shoulders and up turned palms.

“How awful! They must have been spending a fortune. What happen?”

“Well, you can imagine my sister-in-law was beside herself. I felt so sorry for her.”

Roxanne nodded in rampant agreement.

“One day I stopped by with a gift for the children; a full grown German Shepherd.”

Roxanne laughed so hard the limousine driver became concerned.

When John got off the phone, the pastor before the white washed, gold trimmed altar of the Chapel of Loreto asked if everything was okay. John assured him everything was fine. Out of the corner of John’s eye he say another blob of tar sticking to Stan’s jacket and discreetly tried to pick it off with his finger nails.

“You are the only person I know that can get hit in the head by a half empty 5 gallon bucket of tar and not be fazed at all.”

“If the construction workers let one slip on my bride…

“My wife will…”

Both men grimaced at what could happen in Maeve (or Roxanne) was struck with refuge from the fifth story of the neighboring hotel.

“Feeling okay?”


“Let me see.” John said as he turned his best friend’s head by his dimpled chin and looked for pupil differentiation; a sure sign of concussion. He shrugged when he saw nothing. Actually, in all their adventures as bachelors he’d never seen Stan get hurt much less bleed.

The music began and they turned to watch the groomsmen and bridesmaids (their respective children ) stroll arm and arm down the aisle.

“There’s a sign of things to come.” John whispered in Latin, a language none of their children spoke.

When Puck finally arrived at his position before the altar he assured his step-father and “Uncle Stan” that’s he’d spoken to the policeman out front blocking the street. Hotel management shut down the re-tarring effort. Between the idle workmen and gawking tourists there was quite the crowd awaiting the bride before the chapel. Stan’s daughter hadn’t been party to conversation, so John whispered it to them across the aisle as Stan gazed happily upon the whole scene.

Earlier in the day, the newly ordained man from Abasace and Lorraine had witnessed the accident. When he discovered that the handsome young ladies spoke French, he asked if their father was okay. Then asked if he was happy. They assured the pastor he was physically alright and was the happiest he‘d ever been in his life. They knew because John had told them so. Now with them all standing before the altar the young pastor observed aloud that Stan must be made have a head of steel with a heart of stone to be so calm and nonplussed about the absence of his bride. An awkward silence fell upon the wedding party with the seminarians harsh words.

In self-defense Stan quoted “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?”

“No!” responded his daughters in unison.

John’s sons burst into laughter and John’s mouth hung open in shock that his friend could quote Shakespeare. The pastor was baffled by the whole English conversation. Before anyone could translate the bridal march began. Everyone in the pews stood.

Meanwhile Maeve had dabbed away Roxanne’s laughter generated tears. The big-bosomed bride took a deep breathe and with a sigh announced. “I really feel like I have it right this time.”

There was something otherworldly in the way she stated it. A tone of confidence and serenity that Maeve rarely heard in her best friend’s loud voice. Roxanne gazed blissfully at the earth tone buildings along the narrow winding street as they passed.

Maeve spoke softly so as not to break the spell. “We are all going to have a great future together.”

An ephemeral light still lit Roxanne’s glowing features. “And how do you know about our future, dearie?” she asked innocently.

“My husband has a little voice…”

“1 Kings 19:12” Roxanne offered in way of assurance.

“John says it is his guardian angel. Who he’s somewhat arbitrarily named “Mark”! That is how I know about the future. As to your future husband; I believe, I know only two things for sure about Stan; his friend ship for my husband and his adoration of you.”

Roxanne seemed to like the idea of adoration; she looked like she was going to burst with happiness. “And you, how do you like Stan?”

“Oh, I like Stan just fine. We have that whole orphaned at an early age in common. It’s made us tough as nails.” Maeve raised a clenched fist in emphasis.

Roxanne glanced mischievously at her best friend. Behind a gloved hand she reminded Maeve of several embarrassing moments that Maeve hadn’t been all that hard hearted. She kept playing it up until Maeve burst into giggles.

“Okay, okay. It’s made him tough as nails.”

The car pulled to a stop. Maeve pushed the door open without waiting for the chauffer. They crossed the hard-packed earth beneath he ancient cottonwood and ran up the first two of seven steps before the gathered crowd below and those waiting above noticed. That’s when the shouts of recognition began. Maeve and Roxanne stopped before the great double doors, spun in unison, curtsied to the crowd and pushed the door open. The crowd roared. Blinding afternoon summer sun burst into the chapel. Their guests gasped. The church bells began to ring. Whistling and clanging came from above. The crowd began screaming its joy. Roxanne saw only the man of her dream. Only John could hear the affect she had on Stan’s hard heart. Only Maeve could see on his cheek the single tear.