Barefoot Poetry

SS Matthews

Gods of Love and War

Then looking at him darkly Zeus who gathers the clouds spoke to him: (Ares)
‘Do not sit beside me and whine, you double-faced liar.
To me you are the most hateful of all gods who hold Olympos.
Forever quarrelling is dear to your heart, wars and battles.

And yet I will not long endure to see you in pain, since
you are my child, and it was to me that your mother bore you.
But were you born of some other god and proved so ruinous
long since you would have been dropped beneath the gods of the bright sky.”
Iliad by Homer

“We’ve got a glitch!” Harold shouted stepping from his office waving a sheet of vellum in the air. “Reynolds, you’re up!”

“Damn it Rod. I just got lunch?”

“Oh yeah? What cha got?”

“A half-pounder from Taco Runs! Best darn Tortilla in the world!”

”Yuck! Well take it with you. Cause you’re leaving now. And you better watch your language. It could get you fined, maybe even arrested”

“Jesus Rod, what’s the rush? And since when did we get a member of the Prude Patrol on staff?”

“We don’t far as I know, but you can’t be too careful. Anyway Mars is missing. Last seen August 14th 1969.You can read all about it while you translate.” Harold replied handing me the spec sheet.”

“Alright already. I’m on my way.”

As a rule I prefer setting the co-ordinates on the translator myself. Harold’s techno-geeks never seem to get the pinpoint on the drop quite right. One of these days I’m going to wind up inside a cement pour for a bridge footer or two feet past the edge of a skyscraper ledge. As he was in such a hurry to get me on my way, they’d already set the drop data and I was just going to have to take my chances.

As it turned out all they got wrong was the elevation, by about 12 feet, which wouldn’t have been as big a problem if the roof below me had been solid. Crashing through the rotted out ceiling, I lucked out in that there was a sofa directly underneath. I kind of felt bad about bleeding all over it, but I wasn’t here for a courtesy call or errand of mercy. Someone, apparently this time the God of War, had showed up someplace they didn’t belong. In doing so he created a ripple in time and that’s where I come in.

I call ’em ripples but they’re actually shock waves rolling forward through time. The Gov started monitoring them began back in ‘011. The Machine was commissioned and set up right after the Freedom of Speech Riots. Designed to keep track of any ripples powerful enough to significantly alter the present, a crew of experts was assembled to deal with any that occurred. Targeted to register any instance of regression popping up over the past fifty years, when an event is detected, a fixer, that being me, is sent back to rectify the situation.

To some it might seem a little paranoid to monitor the past, because it certainly does to me, but hey, it’s a job! Just to bring you into the loop, in the year of our lord, 1996, freedom of speech was de-constitutionalized as a result of the Oakland Ebonics Controversy. This was accomplished by an organization I refer to as the Prude Patrol: AKA a descendant committee of the Warren Commission calling themselves the Life Improvement Society, or LIPS.

Somehow they managed to push through legislation banning expletive language, un-sanctioned sexual congress, the use of drugs as stimulants and pretty much everything else recreational. I hear they’ve got their sights set on improper attitude as their next campaign. Anyway in ought 11, a bunch of college students at Kent State University decided to start protesting in the hopes of rescinding the FOS ban. Riots ensued, the National Guard was called in and shots were fired on a bunch of kids armed with obscenities.

Maybe you heard the underground hit by the Rock Band ‘Mayday’ before they were all arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment for seditious behavior. It was titled Thirty-four Bled in O-high-O.

“What the Hades are you doing on my couch?” A booming voice out of nowhere intoned.

“Having lunch. Care for a bite?”

“What’s that in your hand?” The voice further demanded as it was joined by a winged head popping out from behind a computer terminal. .

“Only the best damn tortilla in this world’s miserable future!”

“A tortilla?”

“Yep and I’m willing to share. You’d be Mars then?”

“Call me Ares and hand it over. Here, hold my helmet.”

I passed him the tortilla wondering how someone of his stature could have missed out on something so grand.

“Zeus this is good! Where do you get them?”

“From the Runs, but they don’t exist yet.”

“So you’re from the future?”

“Uh-huh.”

“And here to stop me I suppose?”

“That depends. What is that you’re doing?”

“I call it Warcraft of the World’s End. Like it?”

“Cool game, but this technology isn’t available in 1969. Where’d you get it?”

“I’m a god, remember?”

“Oh, yeah. Well look Mac…”

“Ares!”

“Yeah, whatever, listen up. The LIPS is onto you and has sent me to set things straight. Now as I see it you’ve got two choices; head on back to Greece or Rome or where ever in the past you came from or I’m gonna have to take you in.”

“But I was just about to head to the Catskills!”

“The Catskills! What on earth for?”

“Max Yasgur’s dairy farm of course.”

“Ares, you’re not making any sense.”

“Woodstock! Three days of peace and music! An Aquarian Exposition! You telling me you never heard of it?”

“I’m something of a historian and an event like that would’ve stuck to me like gum to a shoe sole. Never happened!”

“Well that’s what I’m here to change. You can try to stop me if you want, but the National Guard’s already on its way there and we don’t have much time.”

“Okay. Say I’m curious. What’s your plan.”

“Aphrodite’s going to be there.”

“As a performer?”

“No jackass, a distraction. She’s going to cast a love spell on everyone within a ten mile radius.”

“No shit?”

“None what-so-ever.”

“Well this I gotta see!”

“I should warn you that an event like this could change the world.”

“Eh, the world as it stands kind’a sucks anyway. Let’s get goin’.”

I stuck pretty close to Ares on the first day, but skipped out on him around one a. m. I headed down to the skinny-dipping pond as Arlo Guthrie was finishing up his set. Not that I was worried about losing him in the crowd. All I had to do was keep an eye out for the helmet.

Besides, the girls were all free and friendly; maybe Aphrodite’s work, maybe not, but after a kid with long blond hair hit me with a tab of what he called Purple Haze, I didn’t really care about anything except keeping the party going.

Chasing psychedelic butterflies, peace signs cartwheeling through the sky and unshaven girls with flowers in their hair, I confess I got lost in the spirit of the festival. The music slammed, the rain fell and overall it turned out to be a hell-of-a lot more fun than billed.

I didn’t catch wind of Ares again until the final night. Some amazing kid named Hendrix was strumming and chewing up his guitar while doing an unbelievable rendition of the old national anthem. It was the damnedest thing I’d ever heard, except maybe for the moaning.

I guess the god of war finally caught up with the goddess of love inside a sound van. Neglecting to reduce the gain on the volume control, they were having at it in an echoing roar. The booming track of their heavenly passion actually seemed to work perfectly fine with the screeching of electric guitar strings.

If the band was as celestially zoned as everyone else in the place, they probably thought they were responsible for it as well.

After tripping out to acid rock for almost a three day stretch; as the LSD wasn’t hard to find, I was finally on my way to crashing and could tell the difference. However, being the courteous fellow that I am, I didn’t have the heart to disturb them until they’d finished.

“So what now Ares?” I asked opening the door to the van. “Damn Aphrodite! Ares didn’t tell me you were so F’in hot!” I finished with my mouth hanging open.

Smiling at the compliment, all the while trying to piece her toga together, I couldn’t help being just a bit envious of Zeus’ misbegotten boy.

“We’re heading back to Thebes. Going to hang out with Dionysus for a while. He’s got a party going on that should last a century. For a snoop you’re not really such bad company. Want to come along?”

“It sounds like a good time, but I’ve got some work to finish here. I let you guys start something and now someone’s going to have to see it through. If I don’t see you again it’s been a delight Aphro-baby. Anytime you’re in the neighborhood feel free to drop in. And Ares?”

“Yes mortal?”

“No need to condescend hot shot. I just wondered if you’d patched things up with your dad?”

“He’s a terrible grouch when Hera’s on his ass, but I’m going to tell him that LIPS has got his number. That ought to convince him to take an extended hiatus. Keep it real man. Peace out!”

The chuckle that followed was an accompanying echo to their sparkling after-image. That was it. Ares vanished from 1969 with the dazzling goddess of love at his side.

Needless to say, our actions wreaked havoc with things to come. My job as a time fixer? Never happened!
LIPS? Uh-uh, no such thing. With the false credentials I created using the computer Ares left behind, I took an associate professor’s position at Kent State. When the inevitable engagement arose, in spite of my best efforts towards preaching non-violence in civil confrontations, four students still wound up dying for their cause. I guess some points in history defy being omitted and growth can be such a painful thing.

SS Matthews

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