The Iron Writer Challenge #108
2015 Spring Equinox Open
The Allen Ginsberg Bracket
A Moon Rock
Artemis made her way around the studio, taking care not to step on any of the piles of discarded clothes and trash. Her flowing robes snagged the corner of a pizza box, pulling it open to reveal sickly-colored crusts. She exhaled in disgust, tugged her robes free, and positioned her bow tight to her body.
She paused to look at sketches tacked to the wall at odd angles. There were women in various states of undress, with blotches of blue and red haphazardly applied.
“These are terrible,” she said, glancing up at the ceiling. “You want me to play muse to a hopeless dilettante? How am I to do that?”
Over the insubstantial blare of distant drunken cheering, she heard the hollow sound of an empty can bouncing off the wooden floor in another part of the apartment. She sighed and headed down the apartment hallway toward the sound.
Though the studio she left was well lit, the rest of the apartment was in shadows. In the living room she located the source of the noise: the television. Here it was unbearably loud, the drunken cheering joined by distorted club music. Light from the idiot box flickered across the living room, and across the man sitting on the couch, alone, watching intently. He gulped from a can of beer, belched loudly, and cheered, vicariously joining the scene.
Artemis stepped into the room unseen, and crossed to see what was so enthralling. On the screen, the camera panned across the crowd of drunken revelers, then focused on two scantily-clad women in an inflatable pool filled with red and blue gelatinous chunks. They wrestled awkwardly against each other. Artemis turned away, disappointment showing deeply.
“Is this pale imitation of a man why you sent me here? If I am to be his muse, this will take something extreme.”
With an arm reached skyward, Artemis concentrated. “Stone of Luna, come to me!” Light flickered at her palm, and she closed her hand around a summoned stone. From her belt she withdrew a sling, loaded the moon rock into it and spun it at incredible speed. With one last glance at the waste of meat and his drunken half smile, she loosed the stone and destroyed the television.
Sparks exploded out from the pulverized electronics. A buzz built up, culminating in a pop, and the room went dark. The man stood up from the couch, unable to comprehend what had just transpired. Into the silence, Artemis giggled at his Spongebob boxers. He spun around, trying to take in the whole room at once, trying to make some sense of what just happened. He looked near her, through her, but she was invisible to him. Then as though waking from a dream, he seemed to see the state of his apartment for the first time. He picked up the empty beer can and took it into the kitchen.
“Remind me never to kill your prize buck again, father,” said Diana, looking up once more.
Zeus’s face appeared above her. He smiled, nodded, and vanished.
Shoot the Messenger
Artemis pulled the bowstring taught. The feathery fletching grazed her cheek as she released the arrow. Deadly, and paradoxically straight, it thrilled skyward. Winged feet crumpled as her prey landed.
The clouds over Mount Olympus parted as Zeus awakened; scattering lightning bolts carelessly, he approached his child.
‘You’ve killed Hermes.’ He boomed.
‘What’s the message?’
Artemis teased the scroll from the messenger’s fingers, and unfurled the parchment.
‘It’s all about the mortals, sounds like the world’s gone to Hades in a handcart –while we were sleeping.’
‘We’ve been asleep for a few brief millennia, merely a nap. What could the mortals have done in such a short time?’ He threw another petulant bolt.
‘Well, Jello wrestling seems popular,’ Artemis was reading the scroll, ‘and the victorious Nike is selling sports clothing.’
Zeus took the scroll from his daughter.
‘Dad, can I take Pegasus? I’m going down there to remind the mortals who their true gods are.’
Zeus dropped the scroll, and thumped his mighty fist. The stars cascaded and converged; Pegasus emerged from his constellation.
Artemis adjusted her lunar tiara.
‘Every time you do that, my moon rocks – which reminds me…’
She packed some moon rocks into her saddlebags, and threw them on to Pegasus’s back. She mounted the stallion, and soared.
The sulfurous fumes burned her nostrils as she approached the underworld. The Styx was bubbling below her. She dropped four moon rocks; a hoof alighted on each floating rock. She passed Cerberus, who nodded three heads in recognition as she drifted downstream. Her loathsome host greeted her.
‘Ah, my beautiful moon. Have you come for eternity, or just a visit?’
‘Just a visit, Hades, you’re looking bad.’
‘Thanks. Who do you seek?’
‘A champion, someone heroic to wrestle with the mortals.’
‘No, Jello, they wrestle in big barrels of it.’
‘I’ve heard it’s a bit messy.’
‘Not to mention: immoral, and unchaste. Would Sisyphus fight for me?’
‘He’s a bit busy.’
‘What about Icarus?’
‘He can’t swim, but I’ve got some Italians in.’ He clicked his heels, and three figures appeared.
‘This is Debutante; she’s just arrived. And this is Vigilante, a law unto himself.’
‘What about him?’ Artemis waved her bow.
‘That’s Dilettante, a sculptor in the making.’
‘Could you organise a Jello wrestling match, Dilettante?’
‘Not my usual medium, but I did a weekend course in Event Management.’
Artemis nodded, realising that she was the only possible champion.
The next day, a large crowd gathered on the beach. A huge oak barrel was being filled with liquid for the challenge. Pegasus landed, his huge wings folded as Artemis dismounted; the crowd parted as she walked up the beach. She approached the barrel, caught sight of the lettering on the last container, and grabbed Dilettante by the collar.
‘What’s this?’ She pointed at the container.
‘Jelly. I got it from the quarry; I barely scratched the surface, they had loads.’
‘Gelignite: you’ve filled the barrel with gelignite. In the name of Zeus, you’re such an amateur.’
Zeus heard her taking his name in vain. The lightning bolt sparked as it hit the liquid.
M. D. Pitman
Mary felt her stomach over her sweatshirt as she stared at the several options of pregnancy tests in the aisle of the convenient store. She felt the clerk’s gaze. She chose a pregnancy test and placed it on the counter followed by two crumpled ten dollar bills she from a jean pocket. She pulled her sweatshirt’s hood over her head, and swallowed as she kept her eyes down. She made sure to come to this store – an out-of-the-way store several miles away from where she lived with her parents.
The clerk looked down at the blue, pink and white box and at Mary. She didn’t ask the usual, “Is that all?” line most clerks give to customers, or offer any dilettantish advice – another clerk trait. She just smiled as if she’d been in Mary’s spot.
The clerk bypassed placing the box in the store’s semi-opaque plastic bag, instead pulled out a plain brown paper bag and gave Mary an “I’ve been in your position before” smile as she handed her the purchase. Mary flashed a sheepish smile at the 20-something clerk before jerking toward the exit.
She pushed open the door, ignoring the giant Jell-O wrestling poster on the door’s window pane.
With her keys in her right hand, squeezing the moon rock keychain, Mary sat in her car and stared at the plain brown bag as if it held her future. Mary noticed the clerk, straining her neck as if she was checking on her. The clerk raised a hand to wave. Mary returned the gesture.
In her room, Mary laid the bag on her dresser, avoiding the mirror that hung over it. Instead she looked at the poster that hung beside it of Artemis. While she was the goddess of childhood, she quickly averted her eyes remembering she’s also the goddess of virginity and childbirth.
She sat on her bed, but as she did caught her eyes staring at her in in the mirror. She was entranced by her eyes, her face, hoping to see a glimmer of her life with a baby.
In a burst of determination grabbed the bag and went into her bathroom.
The kit’s instructions directed to wait until the morning. She couldn’t wait. She wouldn’t wait. She took a test and then placed it on the sink. She leaned against a wall, gazing at the oval that will show either a plus or minus. At first she hoped for a minus sign, but a small piece of her wanted to be a mommy – though the thought quickly dissipated.
She imagined her entire pregnancy in that ninety seconds.
Mary looked away as the shape formed. She hyperventilated. Her mind flashed to one thought: “No plus. No plus. No plus.”
She took a deep breath, turned and looked at the stick. Mary clutched the white plastic stick tight in her hand. She inhaled and exhaled several times to stop herself from crying, though a couple tears escaped and flowed down her cheeks. She rubbed her face.
She opened the kit’s second test. Ninety seconds later an identical blue plus sign started to appear, as was the third test.
Artemis was awoken by the sound of parchment being slid under the door. Mercury had delivered the morning post. She glanced at the sundial. It was nearly lunchtime. Unlike her brother Apollo she’d never been much of a morning person. Lately she’d been in something of a rut. It had been Apollo who had suggested she borrow one of the muses and dabble in the fine arts.
‘Why don’t you take a break from hunting and do something creative?’
She’d been working on her manuscript late into the previous evening. That muse he had left was hardly any help at all, spending the whole time complaining about penal rates and meal money for working so late, but Artemis preferred it that way, she’d always done her best work at night. Nonetheless Mercury’s early delivery was something of an unwelcome intrusion.
She roused herself from the chaise and walked to the front door where she collected the papyrus. She glanced at the inscription on the outside, the mask symbol of Momus’ Publishing. Unlike her previous failed attempts at painting, perhaps this could be promising news.
She took a hunting knife from the kitchen drawer and slid it underneath the seal.
‘Dear Diana…’ She was already having second thoughts about sending unsolicited work using a pseudonym.
‘We regret to inform you that we are not in a position at this time to accept your work Jell-O/Goodbye – the story of one woman’s quest for gender equality in the world of jello wrestling.
While there was a degree of originality in the prose itself, we see little demand among readers for contact sport romances. The plot, based on an androgynous central character struggling with her own sexual orientation and ‘hilariously’ being mistaken as a young boy, was little more than a thinly disguised erotic fantasy, most likely born of the author’s own repressed desires that even Cyclops could see through. My dear, if we wanted elaborate social misunderstandings, we would’ve stuck to Jane Austen.
Were we to publish this manuscript in its present form we would risk alienating a significant demographic of our existing audience. Our recently published autobiography of Palaestra was hugely popular and it is almost certain that your poorly executed script would be deemed to be offensive by both the author and readers of this publication.
Also, for your future reference, we do not accept manuscripts formatted in modern fonts such as Times New Roman, but prefer submissions via papyrus only, in Hellenic script, double spaced.’
Artemis folded the scroll back up. Who did that Momus think he was? She decided not to take it to heart. He was known for it, after all he’d already been banished from Olympia for bad reviews. ‘Haters gonna hate’, she sighed. As for offending Palaestra? Please, she was a total diva.
Artemis took the scroll to her studio and placed on top of the pile beneath the moon rock with the others and consoled herself by compulsively scrolling reviews on Godreads.