Initially a two part short story it has been edited into one.
Dinlas returns from being away several weeks and drags his feet going to see his Grandfather Zeus about the workers he spirited away from his grandfather’s grand project. He isn’t thrilled, because he knows he will be called on the carpet about it, but he also knows he must face the music for what he did.
By Wayne Davids/originally published on July 9 and July 11, 2019
The elevator finally appeared, I took it up to the administrative offices, and when the door opened again, I walked into a large foyer. Sitting at the desk in front of Zeus’ office, her face partially obscured by a large computer screen, is Aphrodite, my mother. She is no one I want to see. I move forward and she raises her head; it’s not Aphrodite. It’s just some blond-bombshell look alike.
“You Dinlas?” she asked as she ignored all the normal mortal customs of greeting.
“Yes. And you are?”
She smiled and ignored my question. “Zeus will see you in just a moment. He’s finishing with the appointment ahead of you now.”
I sat down, but almost immediately, an explosion rocked the large double doors leading into the inner office. A man, burly and hard, shot out, headed for the elevators. He rippled with muscles covered in tattoos. Scars chiseled his body like testaments to a life lived hard. Looking at his face bore those testaments to hard truths.
He’s crying like Aunt Demeter in late fall when Persephone returns to the Underworld.
“Your turn,” the blonde receptionist smirked.
I stood and headed for the still open door. I could see Zeus. A snarl graced his lips and a bright blue nimbus of light encircled his right hand. He saw me and smiled a crooked smile that screamed, I just figured out who I’m going to take my frustration out on.
I looked at the secretary as I went by her desk. She couldn’t wipe the laughter off her face at my predicament. “What’s so funny?” I asked as I paused.
She leaned forward, with her elbows on her desk, and rested her chin in her palms.
“I’ve had to listen to him rant about you for three weeks while you were off on some vacation. It got old real quick. I am so going to enjoy hearing this through the door.”
I looked back at the door as another low rumble of thunder emanated from the office.
“Ok,” I thought, “here we go.”
I swallowed hard, but just as I reached the door, Nana Hera swept out of a side office and grabbed me by the arm. She startled me, but I didn’t resist her effort.
“Dinlas, my darling. How are you?” She closed grandfather’s office door and redirected me to a smaller, but still beautiful room. From the CEO’s office, I heard a sharp crack, and then the long, low rumble of thunder that lasted almost a minute.
“Oh, honey,” Hera said over her shoulder to the secretary, “be a dear and get Zeus to sign all those permit applications I gave you earlier.”
The receptionist ceased all smirking. She sat upright and rigid, as if she thought it would better facilitate all the color draining from her face.
“You want me to go in there now?” she asked with a sidelong look at the closed door. Thunder rumbled again on the other side.
Hera smiled and said, “Yes, dear. It’s time for you to realize he has two sides. The one where he comes out here and flirts with you and then, well, this side.”
Hera closed her office door between us and the dumbfounded receptionist without waiting for an answer. She turned to me and looked me up and down.
“Dear, you look positively gaunt,” she commented after she finished examining me. “Do you want something to eat? I can get something brought up from the bistro downstairs.” I shook my head. Nana Hera is part mama bear, part wolverine. The side of her you see is really up to you.
“No, thank you, Nana,” I answered after giving her a hug. “I’m fine. Zeus called me in about the labor issues here at the Olympus.”
“Well, dear, it upset him when the workers all disappeared.”
“I didn’t realize those workers came from this project.”
Nana gave me a look, and said, “I don’t remotely believe you.”
I shrugged and responded with a weak protest. “How could I have possibly known?”
Nana sighed and pointed to a chair and said, “Dear, sit down.” I obliged, so she continued, “Everyone knows this is the biggest construction project in history since the Pyramids of Giza. I find it extremely difficult to believe that you had no idea where those workers came from. There is a shortage of skilled construction labor for five-hundred square miles. Where did you think those Italians came from, if not here?”
I looked down and when I looked up; I did my best attempt at puppy-dog eyes.
Nana sat down across from me.
“Do not,” she said, “lay those sad black eyes on me. It will not work this time. You knew better than to do this; you have enraged your grandfather.”
“I know. After I collared Eddie Pastorini, I got access to all his men. They said they needed money, and I needed work done at the warehouse.”
“You will return to Zeus all of his Italians. I will speak to him so he doesn’t smite you when you least expect it.”
“What will you tell him?”
“I don’t know yet. It doesn’t matter; he’ll know I’m covering for you.”
“Nana, just tell him the tru-” I started, but a knock at the door interrupted me.
The door opened, and Ares stuck his head in.
“Hey, Mom? I can’t find Dad’s secretary and I just wanted to ask you something,” he stopped when he saw me sitting there.
Nana clamped her hands down on her knees and interjected, “Well, isn’t this nice? Family reunion.”
“Nana, did you set this up?”
“She didn’t set anything up,” Ares said. “I didn’t even know you were here.”
I looked back and forth between the two. As I made eye contact with Nana, she reached out and patted my knee.
“No, I set nothing up. Dinlas is here because there has been a misunderstanding about the construction workers.”
“Misunderstanding?” Ares snorted, “Well, I guess, if you want to call it that.”
“Yes, we would like to call it that,” she replied.
Ares looked from Nana to me, then back, before he said, “I’ll take care of it, Mom. I’ll tell Dad I authorized the workers leaving to work on the warehouse and that I forgot to tell him.”
I cut in here. “Hold it. Not interested. I’ll take my chances with Grandfather.” I looked directly at Ares and added, “The last thing I’m interested in is being indebted to you. Why are you even offering? You don’t give a shit about me. What is this, some way to score points with Nana?”
Nana Hera cut me off immediately. “Stop it, Dinlas. Ares is offering to help. Put your pride away. Trust me, Zeus is irate. After the sabotage at the forge and the anonymous threatening messages, he is more than a little on edge. There are some people who are unhappy about our return. He thought this work stoppage was part of that.”
I sat silent, sullen, and pointedly avoided eye contact with either of them.
After a minute of silence, Ares rubbed his forehead with the palm of his hand and sighed. “Look, Dinlas, you aren’t in debt to me. This will not put you in debt to me. I’m just offering to help. I, uh, I’ve had many years to think about how I have acted in the past. I don’t think for a second this washes it or makes it even between us. I just am offering to help here. Take it or leave it.”
I continued to look away from both of them, but felt Nana squeeze my knee. The last thing I wanted was a favor from my father, but I also knew Zeus would gleefully take out his anger on Ares rather than me. I would be off the hook. “Fine, if that’s what you want to do.”
Ares glanced at Nana. He clearly didn’t appreciate my tone, but Nana shook her head, almost imperceptibly. He looked back at me and said, “Yeah, Dinlas. I’m doing this because it’s what I want to do.” He turned and left the room, slamming the door on his way out.
After a few seconds, Nana broke the tension, “Dinlas, are you sure you don’t want something to eat? I think I have some ambrosia cheesecake in the deity executive lounge.”
I smiled and said, “That sounds good, but maybe next time, Nana.” Each of us got up, and she opened the door for me to leave. We stepped out of the side office at the same time the blonde receptionist flung open the door to grandfather’s office, soaked to the skin and carrying a stack of wet papers. I could see inside as rain poured and another rumble of thunder pierced the entire floor of the building. Nana smiled as the blonde stormed past us and dropped the stack of wet permit applications on her desk with a splat and a spray. Her hair was hanging limp and everyone clearly saw her skimpy lace bra through a soaked and clingy blouse. She turned to us and blew a limp curl of hair out of her own face.
“Here are the signed permit applications,” she said to Hera. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I am taking the rest of the afternoon off. I will see you in the morning.” She picked up her handbag and without a backward glance, exited the suite amid a chorus of catcalls from the other employees admiring her now transparent blouse.
Nana said, “Well, I’m impressed. She may make it here after all.” Nana then turned to me and put her hand to the side of my face. “Dinlas, just let Ares help you. He knows you two will never be close. Just let him do this thing.” She kissed me on the cheek and smiled in her motherly sort of way.
I hugged her and nodded my head. “I’ll talk to you later,” I whispered. Then I turned to leave.
I paused for a moment because it was an enormous office. For an instant, I forgot which way to the elevator.