Short Story: Divine Intervention

I wrote this one probably fifteen years ago as well. I liked it then, especially the one-liners and the word play on “intervention”. Nobody else really did. I only submitted it a couple of times, though, so not a whole lot of rejection made possible. Regardless:


Divine Intervention

Before the door was even open, I could hear three or maybe four voices behind it, talking together.  It sounded like one was eating something.  That better not be my sausage! I thought.  I fumbled the key in the lock, and opened the door to find five figures spread all around my small two-room apartment.  “Ernie!” they all shouted.  “Good to see you!”

Taken aback, I had to frown.  I recognized most of them, of course, all but the one sulking on the rocking chair.  His dark hair fell into his eyes often.  He brushed it back just as quickly as he could, but never made more progress.  His pouchy stomach showed through a toga.  Only Diana stood to welcome me.  Eros stayed on the couch, and Atlas continued chewing something that looked like my Swiss cheese as he leaned against the hallway.  Good, it’s not my sausage.  He nodded.  I nodded back.

“What’s going on?”

“It’s an intervention, Ernie.”  Diana spoke quietly, with a note of feeling.

“A what?”

“An intervention.”  Eros sounded sarcastic.  “Oh, they’ll be all the rage in about sixty years, you know, for alcoholics, gamble-holics, whatever you need to get someone off of, just stick a few friends in a room and talk them out of it.”  Then he frowned.  “Like it’s going to work.”

“Of course it’ll work,” said the man, maybe even a boy, in the rocking chair.  “It has to.  She promised!”  He pointed at Juno, sitting on my couch.  I would have bet she was giving it fleas.  Her robe was dirty, and her hair, stringy and blowing around her face.

She shook her head at him.  “Dear brother, when will you ever learn?  All that power has gone to your head.”

He pouted.  “Has not,” as a bolt of lightning came from the ceiling and struck the floor in front of her.  The boy looked a little embarrassed.  Juno frowned; she was disappointed.

Diana tapped my shoulder to get my attention again.  “Listen, Ernie, we don’t like what’s going on.  Now, we all understand that you want to be a writer, and that’s fine, but just for now, I think it might be time to give us a little rest.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“She means,” said Eros, as another lightning bolt struck my couch next to Juno, who looked absolutely disgusted this time, “that we’re tired of being subject to your beck and call.  We’ve all got our own jobs to do.  We don’t need yours, too.”

I fingered the burnt cushion.  I would have to get a new one.  This close to Juno, she smelled a little.  Eros didn’t look so hot, either.  He was rather covered with pimples, and had absolutely no chest hairs.  I wondered how the women stood him.

“We’re here because we care,” Diana said.  I took a good look at her.  For the goddess of the hunt and of nature, she seemed so comfortable inside here.  She was a natural city girl.  Her hands were perfectly manicured.  Every hair was in its place.  She was even wearing makeup!  No way this was all real.

Another lightning bolt struck the couch, this time close enough to make Juno jump.  “Cut it out, Zeus!  It’s not funny!”  The little boy giggled with laughter, rocking back and forth, smiling for the first time.

“So, what, you’re all mad at me?”

“Not exactly mad,” Eros said.  “It’s more like we’re disappointed.  And we’re tired of being made to do things we don’t want to do.”

I shook my head.  “I don’t get it.  You’re gods and goddesses.  You’re supposed to do that stuff.  I read all the mythology books.”

Diana sighed.  She cupped my cheek in her hand.  I suddenly felt an attraction that hadn’t been there in years.  I looked down, and she did, too.  Her eyes widened, and then she smiled.  “Mythology?  Honey, those boys didn’t have a clue what they were talking about.”  She glanced down again.  “Neither do you.  I mean, come on, have you even read what you’ve written about us lately?”

I shrugged my shoulders, as I heard another lightning bolt strike near Juno.  This time, everyone shouted in unison, “Cut it out, Zeus!”  That little bugger was starting to piss me off.  I couldn’t wait for the rest of them to leave, and I’d find out just what was under Diana’s cloak.  Ooh, baby…

Eros tapped me on the shoulder.  “Hey, I’m off duty.”  He was acting like he could read my mind.  “No touchy-feelies.”  He pointed towards my …ahem.  My face wasn’t the only thing to droop.  “Anyway, we’re very concerned with how you’ve bought into the stereotypes of us gods.  We’re regular guys, just like you, Ernie.  We just want to do what we gotta do, then take a nap.”  He yawned, as if to highlight his point.  “I mean, do you have any idea how hard it is to seduce a woman?  And in that last story, you had me making it with one a night for a week!  Man, I was so tired after that I slept-”

zap – “ZEUS!” – “Sorry!”

“-like Atlas over there when he gets off his shift.”

Atlas shrugged.  “Whatever.”  He seemed bored.

“But you’re Eros.  Aren’t you supposed to do all that?”

“Man, no!  It’s like the garbage man picking up someone else’s trash all day, then having to go home and take out his own.  Or the dentist – you think he’s pulling his wife’s teeth over the dinner table, telling his kids how to floss correctly?  Same with me.  I gotta work my butt off making people like each other, so there’s enough of all of you to keep this gods-forsaken race until the next century, and then you write stuff like ‘Eros smote her with his intense good looks and stunning charm.  Her heart strained against the chains of her body, yearning to be with him.  He took her, then and there, and they made the music of the spheres for hours upon end.’  Ugh, gag me with a spoon.”

Ah, I remembered that line.  From “For the Love of the Lover”.  I actually thought that one was pretty good.  None of the editors did, though.  “Too over the top?”  I asked.

Juno stood, brushing some dirt off her robe.  No longer stately, she seemed simply another dumpy woman who’d forgotten to bathe that day.  “Not just over the top, Ernie.  Way out of line.  I’m sorry, but I can’t go around messing in mortals’ lives any longer.  I’ve got to watch over my brother over there,” she dodged another zinger, raised a threatening hand to slap him, “and that’s starting to become a full-time job.”  He stuck out his tongue at her.  “You never would have thought he’d be made ruler of Olympus.  And if I ever catch who taught him how to throw lightning…”

I turned back to Diana.  Oh, sweet Diana.  Eros tapped me on the shoulder again, with a stern warning look.  I asked again, “So what’s this about an intervention?”

“Right.  We need you to stop writing about us.  It’s just not going to work any longer.”

“What do you mean?  I’m trying to be a writer.  This is how they tell me it’s done – write some stories, then a novel, then live off the royalties once everyone in the country buys a copy of your book.”  Everyone laughed at that one, all except Atlas, who had his face wrapped around my loaf of sourdough.  “What about Atlas?  I’ve never written about him.”  I pointed at the man’s rear end sticking out of my icebox.  “Why’d you bring him along?”

Juno dismissed the question with a wave of her hand.  “Oh, he’s just the muscle.”  I must have looked confused.  “In case you tried to run.”

“But he’s not real.  You think he could stop me?”  A swift backhand from the man himself told me I was out of line.  As I staggered up off the floor, I had only one thing to say.  “Dammit!  That hurt!”

Okay, I had to admit I wasn’t going to run.  But what should I do?

“Write what you know,” said Diana.

Pshoosh!  I raspberried my lips at her.  “I’ve heard that before.  What do you mean?  I know mythology, and I’m writing it, but you seem to think I need something else.”

“Think, Ernie,” Juno had come up behind me and was now resting a hand on my shoulder.  “What have you done in your life?”

I paused a moment.  “Well, I was in the war.”  Zeus laughed and sent a bolt flying between our ears.  I ducked quickly enough to avoid it, but I could have sworn he did it on purpose.  “Okay, I was an ambulance driver.”

“And?  Not what you did, but what you saw…felt.  What you wanted.

“Well, there was this one nurse…”  My zipper somehow caught Diana’s attention again.  I blushed.  “Okay, more than one.  But who wants to read about that?”

“Enough people will,” said Juno.  “They want something real.  They want to know that the sun also rises in Paris, or Italy, or India.  They don’t just want what you hope.  They need something tangible.”

“You think it’ll work?”  Atlas had finally emerged from my small kitchen, still looking bored.  He dodged a shot from Zeus and took off, probably to smack the immortal tar out of the kid.  I could barely talk over the noise they were making.  “You think I’ll be able to be a writer?”

“Of course,” said Diana.  Oh, sweet Diana.  Her deep eyelashes, her dark hair, her stupid bodyguard Eros standing there so ugly-faced and making it hard for me to get to know her.  Oh, well.  “If there’s one thing gods know, it’s people.”

“So what’s the suggestion?  I need something to get me started.”  I took a pen from the table and sat down with a pad.

“Well, for one, you really need to move out of this place.”

“That might take some time.”

“Ernie, you ain’t got time.  You gotta go now, or you’re never going to leave.”

I could see her point.  I bent over to jot a quick note to my landlady.  Heading out.  Please forward mail to address specified next letter.  Will notify within fortnight.  Back never, sell my things, keep half and send me the rest.  Yours, E. Hemingway.

By the time I was done, everyone had disappeared, all but Atlas, back again in my pantry, finishing off a box of saltine crackers.  I startled him with a tap on the shoulder.  “Hey, where’d everybody go?”

“I don’t know about them,” I said, grabbing a notebook and a backpack, “but I’m headed to Paris.  Want to come?”  He shrugged again, slugged me on the arm hard enough to knock me over again, and simply evaporated.  Took like five minutes, too.  I was totally bored the whole time.  I checked the icebox for my sausage, but no luck. I gave Atlas the evil eye for it, but he just shrugged again.  I wished he’d hurry up, and when he was finally gone, I left, not bothering to lock the door.

And their intervention?  You tell me if it worked.