THE VIEW FROM OLYMPUS • by Sarah Hilary

When they decided old Nye was no longer capable of living alone, they offered him a ‘nice room in a lovely home’. He chose a park bench at the top of Primrose Hill.

Not long after that, he met up with Vanessa. “Hello, you old rogue,” she said.

“Nessa, you beauty!”

She shuffled onto the bench at his side and they sat, so muffled in layers they took up all the available room. They stank a bit, the pair of them, but who was to know? No one else came near. They sat in silence for a long stretch.

“Remember Olympus?” said Nye in due course.

Nessa nodded. “But tell me,” she said.

“The air is perfumed with pink clouds,” Nye began, “which take their hue from the blushes of chaste maidens who happen to catch glimpses from time to time of the sinful life being lived below.” He paused as they contemplated London laid out beneath them. Nessa folded her mittened hands in her lap, her lips puckering like the flesh of an aged apple. “On thrones sit Zeus and his wife, Hera.”

“Her!” Nessa gathered her spit and hawked it sideways.

“Remember Ganymede?” Nye sighed. “And sometimes too he shrouds, his soaring wings amongst the clouds — ”

“Those were the days,” Nessa agreed.

Nye dug into the depths of his tartan suitcase, extracting a bottle of Diamond White. “Your turn.”

She got comfy on the bench. “In a room of palatial proportions, ivory pillars support a suspended ceiling above a floor tiled in black marble and spread with rugs. The light is distilled by tall windows shuttered with sandalwood and carved with the images of peacocks which cast intricate shadows in all directions. Lamps and incense burn inside braziers of ruby’d bronze.” At her side, Nye’s breath caught in the back of his throat. “In the centre of the marble floor on a sea of silken cushions reclines a youthful figure of inebriated beauty. This is Dionysus. His hair is golden like his skin, his eyes bright as sapphires. His limbs are long and superbly sculpted. At his side stand a dozen bowls piled with fruit, and tall flasks set with precious stones. In his hand is a cup of hammered gold.”

“Hammered.” Nye nodded.

“From which he sups a purple wine of potent bouquet.”

“Cheers.” Nye took a long swig of Diamond White. “Carry on.”

“Your turn,” Nessa insisted, claiming the bottle of cider.

Nye cleared his throat. “In the gardens of the palace of Aphrodite, Goddess of Desire, vines climb everywhere, weaving with their sweet and fleshy fruit a forest of purple and green. Pillars thus transformed into trees support a canopy of entwined branches which keep the fiercest rays of sun from the coral plaza below. Here sits Aphrodite, on cushions of jade beside a pool of water as rippling as her golden hair, drinking a pale wine perfumed with honey.”

“Nice,” said Nessa.

“Fish dart to and fro in the pool, bright as gems beneath the water — ”

“I bloody loved those fish,” said Aphrodite.

“I know, my love.” Dionysus patted her mittened hand. “I know.”


Sarah Hilary won the Fish Historical-Crime Contest with “Fall River, August 1892”, and has two stories in the Fish anthology 2008. She was a runner-up in the Biscuit Short Story Contest 2008. MO: Crimes of Practice, the Crime Writers’ Association anthology, features Sarah’s story, “One Last Pick-Up”. Her work appears in Smokelong Quarterly, Literary Fever, Every Day Fiction, Ranfurly Review and Zygote in my Coffee. Sarah blogs at http://sarah-crawl-space.blogspot.com/.


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Every Day Fiction

  • Quite impressive, apart from the cushions of jade of course. Talk about numb bum!

  • We are all gods when we’re young. Lovely writing, Sarah.

  • Thanks, PM. Those gods are rock hard!

  • Thank you, KC!

  • FrancesG

    Fantastic story, Sarah!

  • Thank you, Frances!

  • Lamia Van Marle

    “I bloody loved those fish,”

    That bit made me laugh out loud!!!

  • Thanks, Lamia!

  • Douglas Bruton

    Yep, ouch to those Jade cushions… and how the mighty are fallen… this has a lovely wee ache in it… shall not look at the local drunk with the same eyes after reading this!!

    Thanks

  • Thank you, Douglas, for reading and commenting!

  • What a brilliant start to the New Year.Original, sweet without being sickly and with a great laugh at the end.

    Cheers

    Mark

  • Thank you, Mark, what great feedback!

  • Shezan

    “I bloody loved those fish.”

    Genius – flips and lifts the story!

  • Yes it seemed the perfect place to stop. Thanks, Shezan!

  • Kathleen

    Beautiful imagery.

  • Thank you, Kathleen.

  • Well of course that’s why you should never drink water 😉 I was hoping to stay on Veuve Cliquot all through 2009 but someone just handed me a cup of tea so I suppose the party’s over…
    Nice, Sarah

  • Fish swim in it, Oonah? Thanks for reading!

  • Superb – loved every image, every smell and every sip.

  • Thank you, Sue!

  • Jen

    Very cute. A nice nostalgic moment between old friends.

  • When the little people put on new coats of thought the grand, petty adventures of the passed on gods are relegated to mere myth and rote didactics; stripped of their power by pure disbelief of the magical and left to pine away in cloying institutions that smell of dust and death, they count the pearls of memory that slowly tarnish in Time’s wake.

    The wistful sadness is apparent from the first line, and this concise and well written work is reminiscent of certain favorite British New Wave authors of mine. It is enough to circumvent my extremely short attention span and propel me onto your other pieces. Keep on writing! (evidently you don’t need anyone to tell you this)

  • Bob

    Lovely stuff! My favorite part was the “blushes of chaste maidens” bit – perfect!

  • Thank you, Jen and Bob! And Sam, what can I say? Lovely feedback and I’m so pleased it made you want to read on. Thank you!

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  • Well done, Sarah! 5*****

    –dj

  • Thanks, DJ!

  • gay

    You and those words, Ms. Hilary. As always a five! Love it.

  • Thanks, Gay!

  • Avis Hickman-Gibb

    Absolutely Brilliant!

    Best bit:

    “I bloody loved those fish,”

    Sweet, funny, with plenty of pathos. Good start to 2009.

  • Thanks, Avis! I’m chuffed so many people have taken to that line about the fish. It was my favourite, too.

  • Oscar Windsor-Smith

    Sarah, that is pure magic. And Primrose Hill, my personal magic kingdom… I’ll meet you on the bench anytime you say (I’ll even take a bath and bring my own bottle). It’s not far from the venue of my latest revue:
    http://blog.verulamwriterscircle.org.uk/?p=290

    Happy 2009. A truly lyrical start.

    Thank you, Sarah.

    🙂 scar

  • So there’s this rockstar band of demi-gods and goddesses putting on a celestial concert in my head right now.

    Excellent story, Sarah!!

  • Nicholas

    Yep, those old gods are in pretty poor shape these days, aren’t they?–especially Dionysus and Aphrodite in this uptight old world. They may be old and weak but at least, as your story suggests, they’re still around. I think they’re due for a comeback–starting with this great little story for New Year’s Day!

    Ozment

  • jade pillow fights always end in tears

  • Justine

    Deliciously evocative, surprisingly joyous and sad, and a lovely homage to the power of words. Happy New Year, Sarah, and thanks!

  • Thanks, Oscar! See you up there. Mine’s a large one.

  • Kevin, I want to live in your head. Thank you for reading!

  • Thanks, Nicholas, chuffed you liked it.

    MS, I’ll pillow-fight you any time.

    Justine, thank you! That feedback made my morning.

  • sarah ann watts

    Fabulous – a great start to the new year – love it!

  • Thank you, Sarah!

  • Celeste

    The light is distilled by tall windows shuttered with sandalwood and carved with the images of peacocks which cast intricate shadows in all directions. BEAUTIFUL writing, as ever. A great balance of your wonderful prose and a splash of humour makes for a glorious little story. I really loved these two characters. Happy new year, Sarah and here’s to getting published in 2009!

  • Gorgeous!

  • Oscar Windsor-Smith

    Sweet Sarah, I could reply in similar vein, but modesty (and verity) forbids.

    😉 scar

  • Someone above mentioned “wistful sadness” and that is exactly how I felt reading this. Wonderful, Sarah!

  • Lisa

    This was a pleasure to read. Beautiful words tinged with sadness and humour and love. Fantastic!

  • Thank you. Celeste! I’m so tickled by how many people liked this story and these characters. It’s absolutely made my day (today and yesterday!).

  • Thank you, Madeline and Lisa, I’m very glad you both liked it.

  • Lovely story, Sarah. Great example of one where you pretty much know where it’s going right from the start, but you enjoy the ride and then it still does something surprising at the end.

  • Thank you, Jonathan, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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  • lkbeswick

    what a lovely story! the immediate condition of the characters was completely believable,as was the delicate lyricism of their story – each enriched the other – very touching.

  • Thank you, LK!

  • Carla

    Hello Sarah,I am a swiss student and in our english-conversation-class we read your beautiful story “One last pick-up”. I know that this is not the right place to write you about it but I would like to ask you something: we didn’t quite understand who actually killed Tim!Thank you for your answer!
    Best regards from Lugano, Switzerland
    Carla

  • Hi Carla, and thank you for your kind comments on One Las Pick-Up. Are you reading the MO: Crimes of Practice book in class? How exciting!

    Rita (Tim’s wife) hired a female hitman to kill Tim – someone who posed as a damsel in distress to lure him and then – wham!

  • carla

    Yes we’re reading MO: Crimes of Practice book in class. Very interesting and unusual stories. Thanks a lot for your answer, most of us were happy with it.
    In the meantime I read The View from Olympus, I think it’s a very sweet story and at the end there is a real surprise! I will read more of your stories in future.

  • Thank you, Carla, that’s very kind of you. And please thank your friends in class for their views, also.