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/.