CL Writing Contest (Top 10 Fiction): One Night on Olympus

Vote for your favorite story and poem at cltampa.com/writingcontest through March 3.

It was nearly 5 in the morning when the mighty Zeus, ruler of all gods on Olympus, tiptoed into his house. He noiselessly closed the door behind him and took off his shoes.

“Zeus? Is that you?” a voice called from the bedroom.

“Shit,” he muttered, “doesn’t that woman ever sleep?”

Hera, Zeus’s wife, appeared wearing a light blue negligee.

“Don’t start with me, Hera. I’m in no mood.”

“I’m not starting. I’m just asking where you’ve been all day and all night.”

“I told you this morning. Hermes and I did the old go-door-to-door-disguised-beggars bit.” He started to chuckle. “Hey, you want to hear about a couple of saps? Did we ever scare the hell of them! See, they lied about not having any wine to give us, and the look on their faces when they found out who we really were--”

“I called Hermes already. He said he got home over three hours ago and--”

“So what’s that prove? You know how fast he is with those winged sandals and all. Remember that time at Dionysus’s party, when we ran out of cigarettes? Who did we send to get some? And who came back in about four seconds?”

“You didn’t let me finish. He said you two didn’t go out today at all,” Hera said matter-of-factly. “Now try again.”

“I can see that you’re not going to drop this, are you?”

“Not until you tell me where you were.”

Zeus headed toward the kitchen. “I need a drink,” he said.

Hera followed him. “There’s some nectar in the fridge,” she said, despite herself.

“The hell with the nectar — where do we keep the scotch?”

“Must you do that now?”

“Is that a rhetorical question?” Zeus said, opening a bottle and pouring himself a half glass.

“And while we’re asking dumb questions, why the hell did you have the walls in this place painted orange? What, do we live inside the sun?“ he said, waving his glass around the kitchen. 

“Orange is the color of enthusiasm, joy and stimulation.”

“Yeah, well.”

Hera watched him take a gulp of his drink. Then, taking careful aim, she fired.

“I talked to Leda today.”

Zeus froze. He calmly — perhaps too calmly — placed the glass on the kitchen counter. He cleared his throat.

“Yeah?” he said finally.

“Yes. Turns out she had a — shall we say — liaison with a swan.” She glared at her husband. “Or something in the form of a swan.”

Another pause. “Yeah?”

“Yes. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”

“All right. Look. I can see you’re going to make a big production out of this, so I’m going to tell you something. You know, it’s not easy for me, being chief of the gods and all. It’s a tough racket being--”

“Did you sleep with her?” Hera inquired plainly, as though she were asking him to pass the maple syrup.

“Did I what?”

“Did you sleep with her?”

“Look, Hera. I don’t think this is--”

“Did you sleep with her?” she repeated, louder.

“Cut it out, now. I mean it.”

“Did you sleep with her!” she screamed, taking a step toward him.

“All right, dammit, enough! Yes, I slept with her — happy now? Are you? So I did it, but is it really my fault?“

Hera plopped down on a kitchen chair and put her face in her hands. “How can you say that?” she said through her fingers.

“I’ll tell you! Give me a second and I’ll tell--”

“It must be true then,” Hera said, looking up at him. “What I’d heard about the other one.”

“What are you talking about now, Hera? What other--”

“That Danae. I heard it but didn’t want to believe it. That you had sex with her in that tower, with a golden shower and everything. You did that, too, didn’t you?”

“Er, not exactly.”

“Then what, exactly, Zeus? Can’t you just be straight with me for--”

“Fine, you got me there, too. But I should point out that I was just in the form of golden rain. There’s a big difference.”

“How is that different?”

“Trust me, it just is.”

“You have the nerve to ask me to trust you? You, you--”

“Look at us, Hera! Rulers of the universe! Ha! Is it a marvel that all our marriages are going straight down the crapper?”

“Don’t try to change the--”

“Just shut up for a minute and listen! You want to talk dysfunctional? Then let’s talk dysfunctional! Let’s see, we have a drunken queer for the god of wine — nice touch, don’t you think? Then we have a goddess of love who keeps a toothbrush in every man’s bathroom — and the only one who isn’t clued in to that is her dense husband because he's too busy banging on his anvil, of all things! This one is so into owls it's practically a fetish, while that one's so lonely he decides to kidnap himself a wife! And more backstabbing, jealousy and petty grudges among all of us than you can shake a damn stick at!"

Zeus took a few quick steps toward his wife. “Of course, let’s not forget you and me, my dear sister — now how’s that for a healthy, normal marriage?” Let’s face it, this Olympus is a nuthouse — it’s a miracle we haven’t all been committed by now!”

“Is that any reason?” Hera asked, trying to control her voice. “Tell me. Is that any reason to…to do what you do? This is still a marriage, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. Boy. Is it ever.”

“And don’t you think as my husband, and as the ruler of gods and men, that--”

“Well, sister, I don’t want that job anymore. You have any idea what kind of pressure I'm always under? Let somebody else take it for a spin. Applications are now being--"

“Can you please just be serious for one minute?”

Zeus took a deep breath and massaged his eyes with his palms.

“Listen," he said. "I’m going out for a little while. I need some air…or something. I don’t know.”

“Oh, no you don’t! We’re going to finish this!”

“You can finish it. I can leave.”

As Zeus tried to brush past Hera, she caught him by the sleeve and looked directly into his eyes. 

“You’re not even sorry, are you?” she said, softly. 

Zeus glanced down at the floor, then up at his wife. 

“I…I am. I am sorry, Hera. It’s this crazy Olympus, I tell you. Honest. Maybe you and I should get away for a weekend. I want to forget this place, if only for a couple days.” He wrapped his muscular arms around his wife and delicately kissed her neck. “What do you say, just you and me? Just like when we were kids — what do you say?”

Hera moaned as he peppered her white neck with kisses. As she felt his lips on her skin she felt herself give in to him once again. She put her arms around his waist. 

“Yes,” she whispered finally.

“Then it’s all set. This weekend we’ll go. You want enthusiasm and stimulation? You shall have it. Now I’m going out for a while.”

Hera loosened her grip and stepped back. 

“What do you mean? You just got in.”

“Don’t worry, I’m only going out for some air, like I said. I’ll be back in a little while, all right? Hera? Okay?”

She looked down at the floor and said nothing. She nodded silently.

“That’s my girl," he said, then kissed her on the forehead. “Now don’t wait up for me. I may be a while.”

When Zeus closed the door behind him Hera waited, then walked to the window. She could see the dawn coloring the sky  all around Mount Olympus — an orange sliver peeking just above the horizon, suppressed by blankets and blankets of fiercely reddish clouds.

Against that backdrop she could make out the figure of a huge white bull, charging down the mountainside.


Vote for your favorite story and poem at cltampa.com/writingcontest through March 3.

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