Garreth called to ask for a meeting about the “evangelical project.” I had some understanding of the evangelicals’ beliefs. After all, I knew Yahweh. I did not agree with his ideas about original sin and damnation. In fact, I did not agree with most of his Old Testament personae … Thou shalt not kill…except those who aren’t the Chosen People, and thou shalt slaughter them and their children and their manservants and their sheep and their goats … for example. The injunction to honor thy father and mother would make sense only if it had been balanced by don’t abuse your children, physically or mentally, something that seemed lacking in the modern canon.
And I certainly didn’t agree what with that lawyer … Saul of Tarsus … and the people who had forged some of the letters attributed to him … had done to mess up a decent and simple way of living that the demi-god Jesus had preached. I did, however, have a big problem with the way the evangelicals pushed their corrupted perversion of the good news, and brainwashed their children with it. I also had a problem with Yahweh not doing something about it. He is too—how would Nemesis have put it—too hung up on free will.
Even gods burn out after a while. The originals were the strongest. There were only a few of us originals left. Yahweh wasn’t an original, and I didn’t think he was going to be around for much longer. That was something that gave me encouragement.
It also led me to think. Why was I still on this plane? Why had I not given up as so many had? Artemis, goddess of the hunt, had been my friend and, on and off over the centuries, my lover. Then, she seemed to give up, and one day, was no longer. What was the difference? The only notion I could come up with was the difference between “the hunt” and “justice.” It gave me something to think about. I chuckled to myself. If I were to find another lover, it would have to be a lawyer. At that, I laughed out loud, startling Garreth.
My schedule was full, including some things I could not reveal to Garreth. I was fumbling through the calendar, looking for a time, when Garreth spoke.
“Um, would you like to get together for lunch? No matter how busy you are, you do have to eat. May I buy you lunch?”
He paused. “You do have to eat, don’t you?”
Dike laughed, again. She was truly in Jewish grandmother mode when she said, “Do you think we live on nectar and ambrosia? You’ve seen that boy of yours eat.” She laughed again. “I know a fine deli down the block from my office. And, it will be my treat.”
That boy of yours … she means Nemesis … and she called him “my boy” … I love him so much! I shivered, half with fear and half with love for Nemesis. She’s the elder god. She’s in charge. Nemesis is her servant. She’s going to see how much we love each other!
Oh, please, please don’t let her find fault with me!
We met Dike at the Deli: Gary, Caden, and I. I wore khakis—real dress ones, not cargo pants, a white pullover shirt, and penny loafers. It was exactly what Gary wore. He noticed, and was suddenly full of happy—and then, a little fear. He was afraid of Dike! I thought. It was too late to change. I was sweating when we walked into the deli. But, Dike hugged me. She smelled like a grandmother: all lavender and powder. She smiled and sent a feeling of … not love, not happiness, but … approval!
Lunch was truly out of this world. After we were served, Dike put some kind of shield around us, and we talked. Gary told her the plan for the evangelical operation. She said she would provide US Marshalls and warrants when we were ready to raid the place. I knew when she said “US Marshalls” she meant Scions of Hermes. I wasn’t afraid of them, any more. Still, I shivered a little.
Then, we just talked. She asked Gary about baseball; she talked about history with Caden. She looked at me, and I was afraid she was going to ask me about my old life, but she only smiled. Before we left, she pinched my cheek.
“You’re a good boy,” she said. “And Gary is a good man. Listen to him. Hide nothing from him … not who you are or how you feel. Do you understand?”
I nodded. Not everything came to me in words. A lot came from her mind, just as it had that first time in her office. I knew what she meant. I was happy.
The woman was a mass of contradictions. Gary introduced her as Superior Court Judge Everhart; she insisted I call her Candi, and laughed about how far ahead of the times her parents were to have named her that. She hugged Nemesis, and pinched his cheek, and I saw a grandmother behind the judge. Then, Gary told her about “the plan,” and I saw the judge come back … with eyes that glowed—literally, glowed, and I remembered being told that she was something more than either a judge or a grandmother.
After she and Gary settled some details, she turned back into a grandmother … no, she turned into an Auntie Mame. She regaled us with stories, and drew each of us into the conversation (including Nemesis, who seemed stunned to be in such erudite adult company).
I would like to have asked more questions of Dike; however, she seemed a pragmatist: this is the way it is, work with it. So far, that was the best advice I’d gotten.
Dike played her Jewish grandmother role to the hilt, even pinching Nemesis’ cheek before she left us. I didn’t hear what she said to him (and was pretty sure what she said aloud wasn’t all she said), but Nemesis looked at me, and smiled. It was a happy smile, one of the happiest I’ve seen from him. I smiled back, just to let him know I shared his unspoken joy.
Before we left, Dike surprised me, again. She opened her purse and pulled out a book. A pink autograph book. “Garreth, before we go … may I have your autograph?”
I think Caden will be the right tool for this task. He was interesting. He is as full of contradictions as Garreth and Nemesis, though. Garreth sublimates his lust for little boys by exhausting himself on their behalf. Nemesis wants to make love to Gary, but is afraid he would lose him if he tried. Caden is depressed by his medical condition and constant lack of sleep, but exhilarated by the thought of doing some good with what was left of his life. If it weren’t for the antipsychotic drugs he was taking, he’d be blithering. He is willing to help Garreth take on the evangelicals, but his energy is muted; he is not operating at 100%. I must do something about that.
I called in a favor.
I slid into bed and lay spread-eagle on my back, as usual. Two rooms down the hall, I knew Gary and Nemesis were cuddling. I felt sorry for myself, and managed to squeeze a couple of tears from my eyes.
The door opened. I saw the ceiling brighten slightly, and turned my head to the left. A shadow stood in the doorway.
“Caden? May I sleep with you?”
It wasn’t Nemesis’ voice. Who? Bobby? Benji? When did they get here?
I turned my head. The silhouette of a boy stepped into the room. The door closed behind him. Soft footsteps crossed the room. The covers lifted. A warm body slid into the bed beside me.
“Will you cuddle me, please?”
It was too late to say no. I rolled onto my side, wrapped my arms around him, and fell asleep.
I woke the next morning with a boy in my arms. I could see only his black curls. Black? Not anyone I knew. I panicked.
The boy stretched, yawned, rolled over, and looked at me. I did not recognize him.
“Good morning, Caden. How do you feel?”
“Quite well, thank you. Who are you?”
“A friend of Dike’s … she asked me to visit. I’ve got to go, now.”
He kissed my cheek, and then disappeared. Just vanished.
Other than wondering which god had needed a cuddle, I felt pretty good. I swung my legs over the side of the bed. My first task, every morning, was to put on long socks and then strap on leg braces. Something was different … my atrophied muscles … weren’t! I grabbed my sticks, and stood, and realized I could stand without the sticks, or the braces.
Asclepius, I thought. God of Healing.
Gary noticed, immediately. He was as stunned as I was. Nemesis had slept in, as usual. When he came to the kitchen, I was standing at the sink, rinsing a glass.
“Wow!” he said. “Apollo?”
I knew exactly what he meant. “Asclepius, rather, I think,” I said. “About your age, with black curls?”
“That’s Apollo,” Nemesis said. “He told me … he had a son who was the doctor-dude? But he’s not around, any more. Disappeared years ago. Apollo said he still does healing stuff, just to keep his license current.” Nemesis giggled.
I could not reconcile the magic that Nemesis and Dike were capable of, with the reality that I believed. So, I formed a hypothesis … something to ground me in reality. What I had seen included telepathy, illusion, healing, and translocation. For the moment, my hypothesis was that these people had a brain chemistry whose electrical component was stronger than normal, and made it possible for them to tap into something like dark energy. There was too much for me to understand, and it went well beyond my PBS Science Friday program understanding of science. I decided to be naïve, and accept what I didn’t understand. That didn’t mean I was going to worship any of them. And, as Sherlock Holmes had said, when you eliminate the impossible, whatever is left, however improbable, is the truth.
Notes and Disclaimers: Here are some more trademarks that are the property of their respective owners: Sig-Sauer, “Bulls,” and “Hawks.”
The quotation from “Sherlock Holmes” is in the public domain. There really is a “Science Friday” show on Public Radio. It’s also available as a podcast from the iTunes store. Oops … another trademark that is the property of its owner.
If you want to learn more about the forgeries in the New Testament, especially those wrongly attributed to Paul (and others, including Peter), check out “Forged: Writing in the Name of God…” by Bart D. Ehrman. It is well researched, well documented, and easy to read.
Auntie Mame and the sequel, by Patrick Dennis are well worth reading; and the movie with Roslyn Russell is nonpareil.