Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Conference of the Immortals: Part the First

A Nightmare in Bohemia

What?” roared Zeus setting the summit of Mount Olympus a-tremble with his oratory eruption. Pegasus, startled from his luncheon buffet, discreetly and judiciously stepped out of the great god’s line of vision. “Did I just hear what I think I heard?

“No, no ... it’s impossible. She couldn’t have!” gasped Apollo. His glorious sunbeams paled at the very thought of it.

“She did!” Zeus thundered. “She did!

“What’s going on?” purred a slovenly but nonetheless Golden Aphrodite, rubbing Hypnos-bearing grains of sand from her eyes. “Can’t a girl get a little beauty sleep around here?”

“Around here,” repeated Echo.

“It’s “Oh her,” said Aphrodite, rolling her eyes. “What’s she done this time?”

“She and that husband of hers went to Prague this morning,” the Bright One whispered in not very hushed tones. “And just before they left she said 'what could possibly go wrong?'"

"She didn’t!” shrieked the laughter-loving Goddess, throwing back her head and dissolving in gales of derisive glee.

“She did!” protested Apollo.

“She did!” repeated Echo.

“Well no one listens to her anyway,” and with a wave of her pearly hand, She Of The Beautiful Buttocks dismissed the subject forthwith.

“He does,” whispered Apollo, surreptitiously pointing towards the prodigious black thundercloud forming to his left.

Oohhhhh!” bellowed Zeus, shaking his head like a maddened bull, scattering scores of tiny thunderbolts in its wake. “She dares to challenge me? What could possibly go wrong? I'll show her what can 'possibly' go wrong! The hubris of it all! Has she learned nothing? She must be punished for once and for all! Bring me Swift-Footed Hermes! Summon Rosy-Fingered Dawn! Convene all the gods.

An hour later, the entire Olympian pantheon was seated before the Son of Chronos. “I have given this much thought,” blustered Zeus. “Her punishment is to begin this evening.”

“Why then? Why this evening?” the fifty Nereids asked, cowering – in unison – under his wrath. (Scores of thunderbolts were still flying haphazardly from his head).

Traditionally we have meted out our justice to her during the return trips,” clamoured the All Wise One. Remember all those star-crossed buses and trains in Morocco? All those ferries from Spain?

“But it hasn’t really worked, has it?” quipped Artemis Of The Golden Distaff – a little too petulantly for Zeus’ taste.

“Has it?” repeated Echo.

This evening will be a slight variation and it will definitely affect their return trip,” scowled the Cloud-Gather. “Any suggestions?

“Well, I know for a fact," began Ploutus, God of Wealth, "that they don't have too much money on their persons. He only withdrew enough from the ATM yesterday morning to buy two one-way tickets and some spending money for their first day –"

“'Spending money'”, clarified Athena of the Washing-Day Festival knowingly, making imaginary quotation marks in the air. “That means beer.”

“Beer," repeated Echo.

“In any case,” continued blind Ploutus (for he is blind), “it would be easy to arrange for a skimmer to be installed in the ATM he used yesterday. Of course, I would need Chronos' help with the small matter of manipulating time –”

“Piece of cake,” murmured Chronos, Portion of Time.

“What exactly is a skimmer?" asked Well-Girdled Aphrodite. “Doesn't it have something to do with cows and cream?”

The gathered gods and goddesses doubled over in gales of laughter. Pegasus, startled from his luncheon buffet, looked up and gave the Olympians a filthy look.
“A skimmer is a device,” sighed Hermes, Leader of Thieves. "It captures a mortal's account number, bank balance, and often his or her PIN number from the bank card. And –”

The gods and goddesses leaned forwards, craning their heads towards him as one.

“And,” interjected Wealthy Ploutus, savouring their anticipation, “we install a skimmer and then pluck a techno-savvy lowlife off the street and poof! no more money! I believe the term they use is insufficient funds!”

“Bravo! Brilliant! Huzzah!” cried the gods, applauding raucously.

“But let them discover their predicament late at night, after they've spent what little cash they have on copious amounts of Czech beer” offered Dionysus of the Wine Press. “They should at least enjoy a few litres of pilsner while they can.”

“True! true! It's always brightest before the storm," sagely pronounced the Anemoi Thuellai, the Spirits of Violent Wind Storms.

“And let them try every ATM in a four-block radius of their hotel!” piped up the Lame God Hephaestos.

“Can it be cold?" suggested Golden-Winged Iris. “She hates the cold. She’s so snarky. I don’t like her one bit.”

“Bit," repeated Echo.

“Then," continued He of the Dragging Feet, “they can check the computer at their hotel which will tell them that all of their money has been withdrawn. Can you imagine their reactions?”

“They'll just try to call the bank for clarification,” Athena the Protectress pointed out.

“I couldn't help but notice,” began Wily Hermes, “that they both forgot to bring their cell phone chargers so we can easily arrange for their phones to run out of power. That way they'll have to run out and buy a phone card and then call from the pay phone near their hotel.”

“In a darkened corner?” asked Hades of the Dead.

“Does it need saying?” replied Hermes.

“No, I suppose not,” acknowledged the King of the Underworld.

“And,” mused Odysseus the Cunning, “when they finally do call, all they'll hear is a taped message saying that there's a technical problem at the bank's end and to call again. That will give them a bit of hope - a complete red herring of course - that the problem is technical and can be quickly and easily resolved the next day. Nothing but a computer glitch, they'll think.”

“Hypnos? Where's Hypnos?” Hermes the Trickster called. Seeing the God of Sleep dozing on a cloud, he motioned to Eos, winged goddess of the dawn, to rouse him from his slumber.

“Hypnos,” he continued, "I think it would be a good idea if you absented yourself from their bedroom tonight. A long night of tossing and turning can only add to the fun.”

“I saw a sex shop a few blocks away, so I can keep busy if I can stay awake,” nodded the Spirit of Sleep in agreement.

“During their dark night of the soul,” Apollo of the Oracle prophesied, “they'll probably come up with a few stratagems. They're not completely stupid.”

“Completely stupid,” repeated Echo.

“The next morning they'll probably look for an internet café - from there they can call their bank on Skype. I think this time they should talk to a real person. The real person will tell them – ”

The gods and goddesses leaned forwards, craning their heads towards him as one.

“That all of the withdrawals are," Foreseeing Apollo continued, savouring their anticipation and making imaginary quotation marks in the air, 'legitimate!'”

“Bravo! Brilliant! Huzzah!” cried the gods, applauding raucously.

“Can you make her cry?” suggested Golden-Winged Iris. "I want her to cry. She’s so snarky. I don’t like her one bit.”

“So they have no money for their hotel, no money for their train tickets, barely enough money for food, and their cell phones are dead,” Ares, Destroyer of Cities counted on his fingers, “Should I assume their credit card is maxed?”

The gathered gods and goddesses doubled over in gales of laughter. Pegasus, startled from his luncheon buffet, looked up and gave the Olympians a filthy look.

"So, they're completely stranded. And of course, she'll do what all mortals do when they're in a bind: call her mother. It's so typical - I could write the script.” grumbled Demeter the Great Mother.

“We are writing the script!" chortled Hermes, Messenger of the Gods.

“No, no, no. She's not going to call her mother - there's a five-hour time difference between them,” corrected Chronos. "It's four in the morning in Halifax. She's irresponsible and self-centred but she's not that bad. No, maybe they could call their friends - you know, the ones living in Italy.”

“The Nice Americans?" queried Hermes the Interpreter.

“Yes, but they'll be driving through the south of France on their way to an airport near Barcelona,” added Swift-footed Hermes.

“Why Spain?" demanded Dionysus, Giver of Unmixed Wine, “I mean, I love a nice rioja just as much as the next person - and a tinto de verano is really nice in the summer - but why Spain?”

“I like the tortilla," wistfully added Athena the Wise. "served cold on a bocadillo with a nice glass of manzanilla.”

“And a ración of patatas bravas or patatas aioli," sighed All-Nourishing Demeter. “I'm getting hungry.”

“Goddesses, goddesses, can we stay focused?” snapped Chronos, clapping his hands. “Why Spain? - because having The Nice Americans on the road, it'll be a few hours until they can wire money. In the meantime, she can e-mail her mother. And then they wait.”

“Can they at least walk about the city and enjoy the sights?” demanded the Dioskouroi, Patrons of Travellers. "Just because they don't have any money doesn't mean that they can't appreciate the beauty of the city. They can at least have a coffee.”

“A coffee?!!" scoffed Dionysus First of the Vintage, “By the beard of Zeus, they're in Prague! Let them have a beer!”

“And those nice little honey cakes you can get in Prague?” mused Bountiful Demeter. “What are they called?”

“Medový dort?” suggested Athena.

“Dort.” repeated Echo.

Enough!” roared Zeus of the Thunderbolt, setting the summit of Mount Olympus a-tremble with his oratory eruption. “You have made an excellent start. Let us stop and have some refreshment -"

“Thank the gods,” whispered Demeter to Athena, “I was getting hungry.”

- and after our luncheon, we'll continue to mete out justice to Mačka in Slovak,” concluded Zeus Olympios.

“Mačka in Slovak.” repeated Echo.

End of Part the First. To Be Continued ...


Cath said...

I look forward to the exciting conclusion to this week's story, but seriously... why do you two ever leave home?

Mačka in Slovak said...

We're starting to ask ourselves the same question.

Cath said...

Does this end with you standing in a long queue behind a bunch of canny Asians??