Art by Fred
“I’m bored,” said young Mina, who sat with her face in her hands.
“Me too. Can we go now?” asked the whiny, childish Jonathan while plunking on his dreadfully-out-of-tune guitar.
“Oh, children. I thought that you were enjoying our picnic,” said the very adult and reprehensi… I mean, responsible Countess Elizabeth.
“There’s hardly anything left of Nic to pick on,” moaned Mina.
“You kids these days,” Elizabeth continued. “Let me tell you a story about patience. There was once a lonely little girl named Igorrina who lived just down the road in the haunted forest.”
“Is there any other kind of forest?” asked Mina.
“No. Now listen, my children of the night. Igorinna, who couldn’t even find a friend to play Toe Tag with, was convinced that there was nothing in her future. So, not giving a damn, she always took her futen time doing things. She was never in a big hurry to go…anywhere.
One day, Igorinna decided that she’d had enough of this world. She tied the end of a rope around the neck that connected her useless head to her body and the other end of the rope to a young spruce tree, determined to stay there until either death took her away or her dream-boy Prince Charmin’ arrived on his white steed to rescue her from her misery. Even the local wolves, lynx, and bears found Igorinna uninteresting and unappetizing. Poor Igorrina spent most of her life tied to that spruce tree in Hoia-Baciu Forest, watching the bats and ghosts fly by in the evening, while protected only by vicious badgers who lived in the dens that circled her.
Why did they protect her? The badgers didn’t care for Igorrina, but were curious to see what might happen to her in the end. They kept her minimally fed with worms, grubs, and insects. Over time, Igorrina had begun to grow old and ugly while tied to the same branch of that same tree for forty-five years until …”
“Until what, Countess?” asked Jonathan. “A handsome woodsman came along?”
“Fah!” said Uncle Vlad.
“A knight in shining armor?” asked Mina.
“Fat futin’ chance!” said Elizabeth. “You children can be so gruesome.”
“Of course! The handsome prince!” said Granny Lupta Axe.
“No vay,” said Vlad. “Prince Charmin’, the ass vipe, never showed up.”
Elizabeth continued. “So, sad Igorrina sat, leaning against the tree trunk until, you know, one lovely grey day the spruce finally grew tall enough…tall enough to slowly pull Igorrina up by her neck and hang her.”
“No guano! That is so cool,” said Jonathan.
“Talk about patience!” said Mina.
“You kids should see her,” said Vlad. “Igorrina can vear a choker, a string of pearls, a locket, and ten necklaces…at vonce!”
Vlad’s eyes seemed to catch fire. His mustache bristled. “Fute patience!” He pounded the table. “I vant all of the Wisitors and tourists out of my castle! Now!”
Art by Vitaliy Hagen
“And God Spoke to Moses” — Exodus 33:11
“Are you listening Moe? Stop looking at your tablets. Focus on the flame. Tell your people, I the almighty, will watch over them as long as they keep me entertained. ”
T.K. Betel nut is a living, seven-foot-tall tiki. A curio. A half human stick. On a normal day’s stakeout Agent Betelnut will spend hours standing statue-still while tuned into the latest (mostly) fair and no longer completely ad free, news broadcast by the world’s oldest Wi-Fi: the Telepathica Pacifica Network (TPN).
Thousands of years ago, the TPN was set up as a web of psychic protection for plant life around the globe.
The TPN does not accept monetary donations from even plant-loving humans. Throughout the history of plant systematics, the TPN’s green members have all witnessed friends, relatives, seedlings and saplings chopped or mowed down, and mashed into paper currency for humans.
Today,T.K. was listening to the plant-based network while on a stakeout for his carnivorous friends at Interpol. His assignment was related to the protection of front yards everywhere. Specifically, he was there to protect the prestige of the original Don Featherstone lawn flamingos produced by Union Plastics.
Interpol believed North Korea intended to flood the free world with cut-rate birds. If left unchecked, the commies could ruin lawns everywhere with cheap knock-offs.Until now, the free world’s front yards—the ones blessed by genuine Featherstones—had been worth defending against marauding juvenile delinquents — the ones whose parents never lifted a hand to smack some goddamned manners into the noisy “little bastids.” Yeah, the same “little bastids” who made life a living hell for the half human half log, T.K., by tipping him over in public, just because they thought it was “funny.” Brats.
Beneath the hot afternoon sun on a quiet Tuesday, T.K. tilted himself a few more degrees to the east, to help improve the reception on the grassy slope.
Bernie ‘The God Whisperer’ is taking a stroll, minding his own f*cking business, on an unusually warm December night in Cleveland, when this bullsh*t happens >>>>>
There were bicycle lights approaching him from the corner. An attractive silvery haired couple, dressed in spiffy casual wear, wheeled up to the curb, smiled with perfect teeth and stopped.
“Where in Hades have you been?” the beautiful silver-haired woman said to Bernie as she swiped at him with her freshly manicured nails, tearing the collar of his cheap Hawaiian shirt.
“Hey, What the?”
“Art thou Cupcaecius?” asked her handsome executive-type companion with the obligatory sweater tied around his neck. They both looked as though they’d just ridden off the cover of every other issue of Molten Silver magazine.
“No!” Bernie backed into a rubbish can and fell. Who were these two new gods with a healthy active lifestyle?
Leto pulled her bike onto the pavement and bent down toward a display in the hotel’s gift shop window. “Look, Zeus! It’s a darling car charm. It looks just like Artie’s little car! That’s cute.” Leto looked down at the pathetic human cowering on the sidewalk. “Is that real sapphire?” she asked.
“Are you asking me, m-m-m-ma’am?” Bernie looked up at the the woman wide-eyed. Leto winked at him and whispered. “You can call me Λητώ, or Λατώ.”
“Our daughter—she doesn’t need thou or thou cheap gifts, mortal. You need her!” spoketh Zeus from the bike above.
“Zeus and Leto?” He bowed his head in respect. “Artie, I mean Artemis told me that you’d banished her from Olympus.”
“Human!” Without warning, Leto grabbed Bernie by his nose. “Listen to thy husband, Waffle of Dung!”
I’ve managed to piss off Zeus and Leto.
Zeus pointed a finger and zapped Bernie’s trap with a tiny lightning bolt. Bernie doubled over onto the pavement then smiled when he’d realized that yet another strand on the human-proof trap had snapped. Only the gods have the power to remove this thing.
Thus spoke Zeus: “Buying my daughter cheap trinkets will not make her more beautiful. It is because of her that ‘things’ become beautiful. That is the generous nature of a goddess.”
“Owwwww,” croaked Bernie as he pulled himself to his feet by grabbing the bricks on the wall. They act like they’ve been smokin’ incense.
Zeus spoketh again: “You’ve seen Artemis improve the luster of a diamond, the scent of a gardenia and the spirit of the untamed sea. How much proof of the divine doth thou needest, Bernie?”
“Your daughter ith, I mean is amazing.”
“Artemis must remain pure,” said Leto. “Junk food! Television! A girl her age should be hunting across the heavens instead of twiddling…thumbs…with you.”
“Twiddling? We haven’t twiddled any thumbs. How old is Artie?” asked Bernie.
“Artie! So, it’s Artie, is it?” Zeus pointed his index and middle fingers at Bernie’s eyes. “Why, I oughta…”
Leto stopped his cruel hand. “Stop. What my husband should explain to you, you bug, is that the twiddling of thumbs is the way we profess our love on Olympus. If Artemis twiddled with you, we are obliged to spare your miserable life. However, if we find out that you two have twaddled, we will kill you a thousand times in a thousand ways. And to answer your question, our virrrrrgin daughter is five thousand, give or take a hundred years,” said Zeus.
Five thousand years. And no boinky-woinky? Bernie thought.
“What my husband is trying to say is—what did I just hear you think, young man? ‘Boinky-woinky?’”
“Five thousand years?” Bernie asked again.
“Maybe this upstart needs me to sling a bolt of lightning up his κώλος,” said Zeus.
“No, Zuzu,” said Leto.
“Psssst! Don’t call me that,” Zeus snapped back.
She calls her husband, the ruler of Olympus, Zuzu? Thought Bernie, trying not to laugh out loud.
“Lightning! That’s my husband’s solution for everything. So, Bernie, do you know the damage you have done to our daughter with the bad food and her clothes?”
“What did I do to her clothes? I have no control over the goddess. She loves to shop and eat.”
“Our little Artemis is up there, twenty pounds overweight!” she said, pointing. “In your room—right now—not wearing her short tunic.”
“She is wearing, thanks to your flea-bag cat, a handful of white downy feathers, placed in three strategic locations, upon splashes of perfumed garlic infused olive oil given to her by your cat, Bomba!”
“For your plebeian amusement, I imagine,” added Zeus.
Her curves oiled and writhing, succulent and wearing a handful of feathers. And no boinky for five thousand years. The two Olympian gods could hear every dirty thought.
“Writhing! You worm! I shall slay you!” said Leto.
Zeus blocked his wife’s right arm from smiting. “I am only going to spare you because Artemis swore to protect you. Our daughter, is pure, Mr. Cake. Purity is what she does.”
“Purity,” added Leto. “Like June Cleaver, Margaret Anderson, Shirley Partridge…”
“This relationship wasn’t my idea,” said Bernie. “I think that you should talk to her pal, Dauna,”
“Who?” asked Leto.
“Dauna, the shark goddess from Kupaio,” said Bernie. “She asked your daughter to watch over me. Have you two met Soapy Puppies, I mean Her Sauciness? She is what you might call a bad influence. Peligro—ow!”
“What dost thou think, Zuzu!” said Leto.
Bernie switched gears, from suppressing pain to suppressing a major guffaw.
Leto ignored Bernie’s thought and turned to her stylish spouse. “Zuzu, dost thou know of this Dauna?”
“Remember the wedding that we couldn’t go to in Fiji, dearest? The one we sent Artemis to?”
Leto turned to Bernie. “I wish we could have gone to the pre-wedding party with the mbolo worm buffet. I love worms. We had the nosoi flu at the time, Bernie. You must have heard of Dauna. What do you know about her all-knowing-all-seeing-all-fucking, Zuzie.”
Is Zeus sweating? thought Bernie. Zuzie! Don’t laugh.
“Oh, yes. You mean Daucina. That Dauna!” said Zeus, “is just your average goddess, dear. A nobody.”
“Oh, I remember,” said Leto. “The oracles spoke of her. ‘The steamy one with a mouth like a pigsty gutter who spoketh offenses from the pools of the god Cess, and a great set of cans.’”
“The poor thing suffers from Tourette Syndrome,” explained Zeus. “She may come on like a gluttonous eater of slack serpents, but she’s harmless. I checked.”
“Thou hast checked thine trollop, Zuzu?” asked the angry Leto.
Bernie was forced to jump in. “Dauna is not a trollop, great goddess! She’s just …uh, friendly. Yeah, that’s it. Friendly.”
Leto added to Bernie’s pain when she flicked her middle finger on Bernie’s forehead. “I don’t likest thou, Sir Smart Ass.”
“Ow! What the…” Bernie felt a lump growing on his temple. “Am I bleeding?”
“No. I’ve just downloaded some information into thine lust filled head,” said Leto. “It’s all that thou needest to know except for—good fashion sense! Your frock! Thou dresseth like a Walmart model. I thought Artemis picked up a suit for you. My heavens, what adolescent California crap aaaaaare you wearing, Bernie? C’mon, Zuzu. Let’s go. We have to meet the Buddhas at seven.”
And they rode off into the night. Zeus calling back, “Remember I want her home by the twenty-second century!”
“And one more thing,” said Leto. “Keep her laughing if thou want to remain healthy. She doth needeth to laugheth.”
“Laughing?” Oh yes, I‘ll keep her fancy tickled. He envisioned Artie’s strong body jerking beneath him in fits of laughter. Ow! Dammit!
“Don’t even think about it, pig!” Leto wheeled back to the curb and smacked him again.
Ow! Dammit, again. Bernie touched the new bump on his head.