TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods #12

Meanwhile, the celebrity deities were having quite a conversation.   Zeus said, “Well, I’ll be.  The last time Hera took this much interest in anyone, it was Jason and his Argonauts, and that was to pursue her own interests.  I had no idea she was so upset over Europa.”

“Ah, a woman scorned.,” Isis replied.

“I thought I’d bust a gut when Bill started flirting with Hera,” Mercury chuckled.

Zeus exclaimed, “Who did he think he was?”

“Take it easy,” Isis warned. “Don’t throw any thunderbolts.  He was just nervous and couldn’t think of anything else to say.”

“No offense, Zeus, but Hera wasn’t all that appealing. She was about one half step up from a bag lady and smelled twice as bad,” Mercury chuckled.

“Don’t be disrespectful.  She is the queen of Olympus,” Zeus reminded him.

Isis countered, “But she’s got a great sense of humor!”

“Maybe,” Zeus sniffed, “but I think this was beneath her dignity.”

Sitting on Demeter’s couch, Hera snorted, “Beneath my dignity?  I bet he’s not thinking about my dignity when he makes those puppy dog eyes at Isis.”

Demeter said, “Well, it’s after five.  That’s means it’s happy hour and I’ve worked up quite a thirst.”

 After a couple of martini’s the goddesses were glad to see the contestant’s train pull up to Dortmund, but even more relieved when Bill, Jane and all their luggage were standing on the platform.

Bill said, “I’ve got to find a phone. Let’s just hope they’re at the hotel.”

 He picked up one of the bags and Jane said, “What are you doing?”

“I was going to move everything a little closer to the station.”

“But there’s a bench here.  Just leave me be.”

“There’s bench down there too and it’s in the shade.”

“Maybe so, but I can’t carry myself one inch further, much less a piece of luggage.”

“Come on, I’ll carry the luggage.  I’ll even carry you.”

“Well, if you carry the luggage, I might make it.”

“That’s my girl.”  After transporting the luggage to the shaded bench, Bill sat next to his wife with a concerned look on his face.  “Are you going to be OK?”

“I don’t suppose they’d have a Dr. Pepper in the terminal.”

“Probably not, but I’ll see what I can find.”

Bill was gone for awhile, but he came back empty handed.  “I can’t believe this!!  These guys are crazy.  They wouldn’t take American money.”

“Well, this isn’t exactly a gateway city.”

“I could have understood if it were just coins, but I offered one guy a $10 bill for a can of Coke.  He just said, ‘nein.’”

Jane shook her head, “Thank you for trying, but you did get Ludgar didn’t you?” Bill nodded.  “How long will it take for someone to get here?”

“Actually he didn’t say.  There was a lot going on in the background.  You know they’re having the rehearsal dinner.”

 Not much happened after that.  The celebrity deities recapped the highlights of the journey up to that point and Demeter poured some more martinis.

Then a small car careened into the Dortmund parking lot. Two men got out and scanned the platform.  Bill jumped up and waved.  “Are you Ludgar’s friends?” The driver shouted.

Bill nodded and started gathering luggage.  Jane would have picked up a bag, but Bill said, “Just get in the car.  These guys can help me.” It wasn’t that easy.  Only two bags fit in the trunk.  The rest had to be placed around the passengers in the car.  Even the driver had a bag in his lap.

Hera stood. “Well, it’s been a fun day, but I need to get home.  I need to have something ready when Zeus comes home for dinner or I’ll never hear the end of it.”

Demeter saw her friend to the door and watched as Bill and Jane arrived at the 5 star hotel in Bad Laar.  Tammy saw them come through the door and greeted them, introducing the few guests who’d lingered at the rehearsal dinner.  She finished up by saying, “I’m afraid there’s not much left on the buffet.  Should we order you something?”

Bill assured Tammy they weren’t at all hungry and Jane’s eyes bored holes into him.  Jane fell onto a nearby sofa and tried to make small talk, but she was barely coherent.  Bill went off with Ludgar to get his key.  Then he returned with bellhops to carry the luggage. Demeter turned off the scrying bowl.

TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods #10

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Mercury faded as the contestants filled the screen. Bill took the phone and put it between his head and shoulder.  He dug into his pocket, pulled out a slip of paper and began dialing.

 “It’s ringing!” He announced, and then said hello, but it was clear he couldn’t understand the answer.  He kept repeating, Ludgar, American and English, each time a little bit louder.  Then he broke out in a smile and a real conversation began. Bill joked as if Ludgar were in the next room.  Jane clapped her hands and did a little jig.

Bill handed the phone to his wife, “You’re better at instructions.”  She grabbed a random sheet out of her bag along with a pen and wrote furiously, tears of relief brimming above her lower lid.  After a warm farewell, she hung up.  Bill immediately grabbed her up into a bear hug.

Zeus said, “I wonder what Hera did.”

“I can’t imagine,” Isis replied, “but whatever it was, it was exactly the right thing.  We’re on our way to a wedding.”

“Should I go ask her,” Mercury wanted to know and Zeus quickly assured him that it wasn’t necessary.

Demeter and Hera watched the contestants wander through the terminal, following the signs to the train station, confidence exuding from every step they took.  The confidence disappeared when the clerk didn’t recognize the German town they named.

Bill asked, “Didn’t Ludgar tell you what train to take?”

“He gave me a list of cities we’d have to go through, but I couldn’t get them all written down and I can’t read most of them.”  She stared at the list as if it could help.  Then she smiled.  “Dusseldorf!  He said we’d have to go through Dusseldorf.”

That made the ticket clerk smile, too.  He stated punching buttons and asked for their credit card.  As he handed the tickets through the window he said, “But you’ll have to hurry.  The train leaves soon and the next one is tomorrow.”

The contestants looked at one another in surprise and then back at the ticket clerk.  He pointed toward an escalator and said, “Down there. You’ve got five minutes.”

Grabbing luggage willy nilly, the pair ran off to the escalator and hopped from one moving step to the other.  Quickly checking a sign above the train tracks, they bolted off towards their train.  They dragged their luggage onto the train and the door closed behind them.  Seconds later the train started moving.

Hera said, “Let’s go get some lunch.  I want to try that new place at the mall.”  Demeter grabbed up her handbag and the goddesses headed out the door.

A couple of hours later, they returned and their shopping bags proved they’d done more than eat lunch.  Hera tossed her purchasses on the sofa and headed to the powder room.  Demeter disappeared into the bedroom. When Demeter returned, Hera already had the scrying bowl tuned to Jagged Journeys.

Hera turned down the volume and said, “You’re not going to believe this!  There’s been a train wreck!”

“Are the contestants hurt?”

“It wasn’t their train, but now their train is sitting idle on the tracks.”

“Did Eris do this?”

“No, and it wasn’t Bacchus either.  I promised him his grape crops would be ruined by rain for the next ten years if he so much as thought about pranking these contestants again.”

“Do you really think Zeus would do that?”

“Probably not, but Bacchus doesn’t know. Besides, their points are way up over one thousand.  They lost a few in Amsterdam, but not many.”

“Should we try to help them?”

“Short of carrying them on our backs I’m not sure what we could do right now.  The wedding isn’t until tomorrow afternoon.  Surely they won’t be stuck there all night.”

“So, should we make the cookies for the bake sale?”

“I guess so, but put you’re thinking cap on, because we may have to rescue them, yet.”

The goddesses made their way to the kitchen and soon flour was flying.  After an hour’s delay the train lurched forward and the contestants were once again on their way to Dusseldorf.  From time to time one goddess or another would stick their head out of the kitchen to check on the contestants’ progress, but the conversation on the train was pretty boring.

Eventually, several paper plates of assorted cookies were wrapped in plastic and set on the dining room table.  The goddesses plopped down on the sofa just in time to hear Mercury say, “Well, Zeus, the train is just out outside of Dusseldorf.  They must disembark, buy tickets for Dortmund and catch another train to get to Tammy and Ludgar.”

“That’s nothing compared to what they’ve been through,” Isis assured him.

“That may be so, but three days into this ordeal, they’re not thinking as clearly and they’re very irritable.  We’re drawing up to the first stop in Dusseldorf…Oh no!  What are they doing?  Bill and Jane are getting off the train with all of their luggage.  This is a commuter stop.  They should stay on the train.”

“This isn’t good.” As they stepped off the train the judges took their points down to seven hundred and twenty nine.

TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods #11

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Jane said, “I don’t think we’re supposed to be here.”

“Neither do I,” Bill said.

“What do we do now?”

“I don’t know,” Bill said, setting down his luggage.  Jane put down the pieces she was carrying.  Then they saw a train coming toward them, so they picked up all the pieces again, but the train zipped past them without stopping.    Down went the luggage again.

“The sign says Dusseldorf and then something else after that.  Maybe we were on a commuter train and the one that passed us was an express,” Jane ventured.

“That makes sense.” Bill made a full circle, looking in every direction.  “I don’t see anyone.”

“Do you think we should go find someone?”

“No.  I don’t want to leave you alone when I don’t know where we are and I don’t want tote this luggage all over the place.  Let me think about this.”

Demeter said, “Look Hera, the judges are giving them more points.”

“Well, they made a pretty bad mistake, but they’re recovering well.  Let’s go help them.”

“They’re not up to a thousand yet.”

“They will be by the time we get there,” Hera assured her, “We’re going to need some costumes.”

Standing just out of the contestants’ line of sight close to a nearby building, Hera caught Mercury’s attention.  He shook his head no and held up a finger. “Smiling towards the scrying screens he said, “Oh nothing, I just saw some locals, but I have to agree with you, the contestants have been pretty smart to stay put.  Oh look, the score just reached one thousand.”

The goddesses stepped from behind the building and headed towards the platform, but Demeter was sure no one would recognize them as deities.  Hera outfitted them as stout middle-aged women in non-descript black dresses, black hose and black shoes.  Just for good measure she’d found a pair of dresses rank with sour body odor.

 Hera greeted Bill and Jane in German and the contestants both smiled and nodded.  Jane asked, “English?” The goddesses shrugged.

Bill greeted them in Arabic and both goddesses started chattering away in the same language.  Jane stood by looking more than amazed. Bill said to his wife, “They’re going to help us.”

“Are they Egyptian like you?”

“No and I can’t understand everything they say, but I understand enough to know we’ll be OK.”

 As a train pulled up to the platform the goddesses motioned for the contestants to follow.  They each grabbed a bag as they climbed on the train.  Everyone found a seat and Bill kept up the banter, teasing them and even flirting a bit with Hera.

Arriving at the main train station, weighed down by luggage, the foursome got off the train.  Hera motioned for Jane and Demeter to stay with the luggage as she grabbed Bill’s arm and took him to the ticket window.  With much conversation and arm waving, the tickets were purchased.  Bill and Hera ran back to the other two and started grabbing up luggage.  Demeter and Jane grabbed up the rest and soon all four were running toward some stairs.

With Jane straggling behind, Bill jumped into one of the cars of a train and tossed his luggage away. He turned around quickly to catch the bags the goddesses threw towards him.  As Jane huffed and puffed up to the door, Bill drug her, still weighted down by her load onto the train.   Demeter and Hera gave her a shove from behind.  The automatic doors barely missed her. The contestants stood toe to toe, looking wide eyed at one another, as the train pulled away.

Before either contestant said a word, the goddesses were back in Demeter’s living room cackling like the witches they’d appeared to be in their black German garb.  On the face of the water, Jane said, “Is this the right train?”

Bill said, “I hope so.”  Both contestants melted into hearty laughter.  The other passengers on the train gave them wary looks, but that just made them laugh harder.

Gathering up their luggage and stowing it around a pair of seats Jane asked, “Did you get a whiff of those two?”

“Oh my god, did I ever!  I thought I was going to throw up.  That’s why I stayed ahead of them on the way to the train.”

“And left me to bring up the rear.  I nearly fainted when we reached the stairs.  A strong breeze carried the smell right into my face.  I actually stumbled and didn’t think I could get up.”

“I’m so sorry.  I didn’t dare turn around.”

“If we’d been one millisecond later, you’d have left me.”

“I’m sure those women would have helped you.”

“We didn’t even speak the same language!”

“They were really nice though. They would have figured something out. They wouldn’t have left you stranded.”

“I’m glad you think so.  Are you sure we’re on the right train?  This is the second time today we’ve hopped on a train at the last possible second.  If we do it again, we could end up in Berlin!”

About that time a uniformed railway employee showed up and held out his hand.  Jane said, “Dortmund?” The ticket taker nodded.  Jane smiled and Bill found his tickets.

TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods #9

Demeter was miserable as she watched.  It was apparent Jane was carefully pondering her response and Bill was convinced his next flight was back to Dallas.  Jagged Journeys’ celebrities argued the pros and cons of Bill’s point of view, but Demeter turned down the sound and watched Jane’s face.  When Jane put down her fork, wiped her mouth and pushed away her plate, Demeter turned up the volume.

First Jane complimented Bill on the soundness of his logic. Demeter grinned and nodded her head.  “I have to confess,” Jane continued, “if this were my decision, I wouldn’t even have to think about it.  Travel is my favorite thing in the world and I have a free round-trip ticket to Europe.  Even if I couldn’t get to the wedding, I’d spend a few days sightseeing before I came home.”

“Brilliant”, Demeter thought.

Then Jane continued, “But this isn’t just my decision.  It’s us now, not just me, but I do think there are good reasons to consider making the trip.”  Demeter nodded as Jane made a sensible, non-emotional argument for continuing the journey.  Jane concluded by saying, “All that being said, you’re the boss, the head of the household, what you say goes.  I will agree to whatever you say and that will be the end of it.  The state of our marriage is of the utmost importance to me and if you decide we’re not going to go, then we’ll go get a flight home and that’s that.”

Jane folded her hands and put them in her lap.  Demeter shouted at the scrying bowl, “NO! You should have threatened to hound him for the rest of his life if he didn’t take you.”  For a while Bill didn’t say anything and neither did the show’s deities.

Finally, Bill said, “Damn.”  After a pregnant pause he added, “If you’d tried to fight me on this, I would have given you hell and forced you to go back to Dallas.  Now I have to take you to Europe.”

A huge smile spread across Jane’s face and lit up her eyes. She threw her hands into the air and shook them as if her team had just won the game – and in a way Demeter thought, it had.  

The next morning Hera came over to Demeter’s and arrived just about the time Zeus announced, “Good Morning!  Thank you for tuning into Jagged Journeys.  I’m your host, Zeus, Greek god of sky and thunder.  On the air with me is Isis, my lovely Egyptian co-host.  Where in the world are Bill and Jane Sadek today, Isis?”

“In just moments their plane will land in Amsterdam.  The weather is beautiful and it promises to be a great day for our travelers.” Isis was so happy about it that she almost sang her commentary.

Then Zeus asked her about the scoreboard. The look on Hera’s face made Demerter think the queen might start snarling, but she only said, “You might know he’d be interested in scoring.”

Isis continued sweetly, “Well, as you know, it was just about midnight when they boarded, so they got their usual one thousand points, but they didn’t need them.  The food service was delicious and they went right to sleep.  They haven’t lost or gained anything, since.”

“Well, they’ve made it across the Atlantic.  I wonder if they’ll be in time for the wedding.”

“The wedding isn’t until tomorrow, so they should.  With a little luck they could make it in time for the rehearsal.” Isis was clearly rooting for the humans.

“Then let’s see what Bill and Jane are up to,” Zeus said, “Can you hear me Mercury?”

“Yes I can, Zeus.  Bill and Jane have already made their way to the luggage carousel and found their luggage.  In fact, they’ve found their way to an area filled with phones and are trying to figure out how to use them.”

Zeus screwed up his face and asked, “Did you say they are trying to figure out how to use the phones?”

“Yes I did,” Mercury confirmed. “The phones here are not exactly Ma Bell.  The basic phone is fairly straightforward, but Bill and Jane have no Dutch money. They have to figure out how to use a credit card.”

“Come on now.  They should just swipe and dial.,” Zeus complained.

“It’s a little more complicated than that.  There are several slots on different parts of the phone kiosk and none of the instructions are in English.  You might say, ‘it’s Greek to them.’” Then he said, “Hey, I see Hera.”

Demeter glanced over to the sofa where Hera had been sitting and sure enough, Hera was gone, but almost immediately she was back. “What did you do?” Demeter asked, but the queen just smiled and nodded at the scrying bowl.  “Okay fine, be mysterious,” Demeter continued, “but next time, take me with you.” 

When Mercury mentioned Hera, Isis’s face brightened, but Zeus’s wore a thunderstorm.  Before either could comment Mercury confirmed what Demeter already knew, “Uh oh, almost as soon as I saw Hera, she disappeared.”

Behind Mercury, Jane held up a receiver and yelled, “I’ve got a dial tone!”

TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods #8

The image of the travelers, on the screen behind Isis, spread out to fill the face of the water.  Demeter watched Bill sign a piece of paper. Then, a uniformed airline employee released the luggage and the contestants located an open space in the terminal to heap the bags. Jane dug out the largest bag, opened the top and pulled out a manila folder.  Spreading the folder open on the floor, she grabbed up a folded card.  A perplexed look crossed her face as she scrutinized it.

There was a moment or two of quiet and then Bill, his impatience showing, asked, “Well, where are we headed?”

 “It looks like you’re going to have to use that phone number. I can’t read this thing,” Jane said, holding the card out to him.

“I can’t call right now. It’s the middle of the night over there. Besides, international calls are expensive.” He snatched the card out of her hand, looked at the front of the card and shook his head in disgust. “What do you mean you can’t read it? It says Tammy and Ludgar plain as day.”

“Open it.”

Bill whipped it open and made a face, “What’s this?  There’s no Mr. and Mrs. Whoever stuff.”

Jane took back the card, “Well it starts out with a poem, but then the print gets smaller.” Jane squinted at the card.  “I can just manage to make out most of it, but I can’t read the name of the city at all.”

Bill grabbed the card back, holding it in several positions, “I can’t even read the poem.  Too many curlicues. And why is the print so light.”

“I think it’s grey ink.”

Zeus and Isis broke in to discuss the problem and decided if Tammy were playing the game, she would have had all kinds of points taken away from her.  Behind them Bill launched off on a tirade about anyone being stupid enough to send out an invitation people can’t read, but Jane turned her attention to the other pages in the file.  She glanced over one page after another as Bill went over to a stranger and asked if they could read the invitation. When the stranger was stumped, Bill returned and continued his rant.

Finally, Bill ran out of steam and Jane said, “I’ve gone through everything she sent us.  There’s nothing in there to tell us where the wedding is or what hotel we’re staying at or where his parents live.”

“Wait, I think his parents live right across the street from the headquarters of Ludgar’s company,” Bill said, obviously proud of himself for remembering.  He continued, “In fact, they sold the land for the original factory to the guy who started it.”

Jane smiled widely, “So, where’s that?”

Bill screwed up his faced trying to remember.  Finally, he admitted, “I don’t know.  I’m sure Ludgar’s mentioned it, but it’s just a small town somewhere.”

“Well, you could call his office back and ask them.”

Bill shook his head, “I’m not calling them again. They’re probably closed by now anyway.”

“It’s just now five.  Someone might pick up.”

“That receptionist wouldn’t give me the time of day and I’m not going to talk to his assistant again.”

“Yeah, but the city where the headquarters is?  Someone else might give it to you. You don’t even have to tell them who you are.”

Bill’s “no” indicated the discussion was over.

Jane sat on the floor next to the luggage and dug through the open bag. After choosing a few items, including a toiletries bag, she said,   “Well, at least I can go change my underwear.”

The deities discussed the couple’s options as Bill dug through another bag.  When Jane returned, Bill stalked off with his toiletries bag.  Jane repacked the erupting luggage and closed the biggest suitcase.  When Bill returned, Jane tucked his items into another bag and shut it.  The folder went into her carry-on this time.  Bill suggested they store the bags while they had some dinner.  Then they could discuss what they would do.

The deities were divided about whether this was a good idea or not.  “They’ve already shot their budget,” Zeus pointed out. “Storing the luggage is just more money down the drain.”

Isis countered, “Well I think it was a smart move. It’s still hours until their flight.  Imagine dragging through the airport with all those bags.  It’s about time they had a decent meal.”

“Their breakfast was decent,” Mercury said.

“And it was how many hours ago?” Isis asked.

 The judges agreed with the male deities and subtracted some pointes, but Demeter saw things the same way as Isis.

As the deities continued to discuss the merits of the contestants’ activities, the screen followed Bill and Jane to the luggage storage area and on to a restaurant.  After ordering their meal, Bill presented a compelling argument for calling it quits and going home.  Jane was mulling over her response when the meal was delivered.  She suggested they eat their meal and let her think about what he’d said.

TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods #7

Demeter was worried about the contestants, too, but she had to run some errands.  When she returned several hours later, she checked out the scrying bowl, but it was late afternoon before another update was offered.

Mercury summarized the day’s activity, ““Bill and Jane spent the morning strategizing about luggage.  The only irreplaceable items were the invitation and itinerary, so they brainstormed about how to overcome that obstacle.  Bill ended up calling information and getting the number to Ludgar’s office, but whoever answered the phone wasn’t being at all helpful. “

Isis asked, “So it was a dead-end?”

“It was until Bill remembered the name of an employee he’d met once during a visit to Ludgar’s office.  Turns out the employee is now Ludgar’s assistant and remembered Bill.  She didn’t have much besides a phone number for Ludgar’s parent’s, but it was enough.”

“Enough for what,” Zeus wanted to know.

“Enough to take the score above one thousand.   When Hera learned about it, she called Bacchus and berated him for pulling that dirty trick last night.”

Zeus asked, “How did Hera find out about the points?  We haven’t had any updates and she didn’t ask about it when I was home for lunch.”

“I have to admit; I took advantage of the lull and visited her,” Mercury said with a sheepish look on his face. “I didn’t want to interrupt the program in progress, so I just whipped over and filled her in.” Sounding a bit more confident, he continued, “You know, she did tell us she wanted to help this couple.”

Demeter recognized the set of Zeus’s jaw.  Somewhere in the world, a thunder storm was washing away a village.

“And then she called Bacchus?” Isis prompted.

Mercury nodded, “He was at home suffering from an awful hangover.  At first, he didn’t remember anything, but when Hera got through with him, he was ready to do whatever she suggested.  Good thing, too.  Otherwise, that luggage would have been lost for weeks and the paperwork alone would have been a nightmare.”

Demeter shouted to the scyring bowl, “Brava Hera!”

Zeus was still visibly miffed, so Isis continued, “Really?  Where was the luggage?”

“In another airline’s baggage area.  Bacchus got one of his worshippers to find it.”

That got Zeus’s attention, “He still has worshippers?”

“Not in the traditional sense of course, no temples or sacrifices, but they do drink together,” Mercury explained, “Anyway, Bacchus whispered a suggestion into the baggage handler’s ear and convinced the handler a bottle was hidden near the spot where Bacchus dropped the bags.”

“Good move,” Isis said.

Mercury continued,” When the handler found the bags instead of a drink, he didn’t want to do all the paperwork; so he just threw the bags on a luggage carrier and drove them over to the other airline.”

Zeus said, “Do our contestants know they’ve been found?”

“Bill and Jane have called the airlines from a pay phone every half hour,” Mercury said, “They’re on their way to get their luggage right now.”

“Well then, Bacchus certainly redeemed himself,” Isis said.

Zeus added, “Maybe so, but I think Mercury should be penalized for going to see Hera.”

“I’m not a contestant.  If you can throw storms at them, I can deliver messages.  It’s part of my responsibilities.”

“Well, you could have gone straight to Bacchus.  I mean you’re both Roman gods.  You had no business going to my house and talking to my wife!” Zeus was incensed, but his fury tickled Demeter.

Isis interjected, “OK guys. Let’s see what our contestants do with the luggage now that they have it.”

TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods #6

Demeter was up early the next morning, unwilling to miss any Jagged Journeys developments.  When Zeus signed on he asked Mercury for an update.

“Good Morning, Zeus, Isis.  A lot hinges on the next few minutes.  Jane’s in line at the counter and whatever she finds out will determine the fate of this trip.”

Isis wanted to know about the weather.

“A glorious day in New York,” Mercury reported. “It’s hard to believe the storm even happened, but the airport is busier than usual.”

“Did you follow Bill and Jane to their hotel last night?” Isis asked.

“Yes, I did. The taxi driver charged them an exorbitant amount to go to Long Island and when they arrived at the motel, the check-in clerk heaped a pile of surcharges on to the quoted price.  The isolated hotel didn’t have any food service after 10 PM and nothing was open in the area – not even pizza delivery.  The motel did have some vending machines, but they weren’t working.”

Zeus said, “Sounds like they ate some more cookies from the carry-on bag.”

“That’s right,” Mercury continued, “And in the near dark, because only half of the light fixtures had bulbs and half of them were burned out.”

“So much for no surprises,” Zeus interjected.

“Even the TV was substandard.  Only a couple of fuzzy stations and no volume control.  And the bed was uncomfortable, too.” Mercury added.

Zeus asked, “What about the luggage? Did the hang-up bag have anything useful?”

“Only formal attire for the wedding ceremony and the carry-on’s were pretty useless, too.  Primarily, electronics and shoes.”

With an unattractive eagerness, Zeus asked if they argued, but Mercury said, “Not exactly, but Bill did give Jane a lecture on packing.  She gained back some points for avoiding a fight.  Finally, they both took showers and got into bed with nothing but their birthday suits and two thousands points on the board. Which was a good thing, because the score’s seesawed all over the place this morning. Bill got on the phone and chewed out half the lost luggage department. Then Jane earned a boatload of points for cajoling Bill into giving her a shot at it. She ignored the luggage problem and called Tammy’s travel agent. He found a place for them on a flight to Europe – not to Frankfort, but at least on the right side of the pond.”

“And now Bill and Jane are in line at the airport, so everything turned out OK,” Isis said.

Mercury replied, “Not exactly.   The travel agent told them to go to the airport immediately, but Bill wanted breakfast first.  Then he dilly-dallied around trying to avoid another $85 taxi fare.  The judges have said that if Bill and Jane actually get on a flight to Europe, they’ll be awarded points for arranging to share a shuttle, but if they end up going home, they’ll lose all their points.”

Zeus said, “I only see Jane in the line.  Where’s Bill?”

“Well, he’s wandering around the terminal. The guy in front of Jane is not getting good news,” Mercury said, “They told him there were no seats on any flight, even in first class.  He offered the lady a bribe, but it backfired.  He might be stuck in New York for a really long time.”

The screen honed in on Jane as she stepped up to the counter, “Hi, I’m Jane Sadek.  Leif Schwartzkat, our travel agent, said you were holding tickets for us…to The Netherlands.”

The ticket clerk brightened, “Let me see what we have Ms. Sadek.  How do you spell your last name?”

“S-A-D-E-K.”

“And how many are in your party?”

“Two, my husband Bill and I.”

“If your travel agent is right, then…Ah, we do have them.  May I see your identification?”

Isis exulted, “Zeus, did you hear that?  Our travelers are bound for The Netherlands!”

“That’s good news,” Zeus agreed.

“Not good enough,” Mercury said, “They don’t know where to go when they get to The Netherlands. The wedding invitation and trip itinerary are in one of their missing suitcases.”

Isis said, “Surely Bill and Jane have a phone list or something with them.”

“Not so much as the groom’s business card. Since they expected to connect with Tammy in New York, they thought their paperwork would be safer in the suitcase,” Mercury explained, “They discussed it over breakfast.”

“Let me make sure I understand this,” Zeus said, “Bill and Jane are supposed to fly The Netherlands, but they don’t know where the wedding will be”

“That’s right, Zeus.  They’re supposed to catch a train, but they haven’t got a clue to where.”

“How did this happen,” Isis lamented.

“Well,” Zeus said, “all mortals are capable of making mistakes.  In fact, many of our fellow Olympians have made errors of judgment.”

“Are you speaking from personal experience?” Isis asked the king of the gods.

Zeus admitted, “I’ve made my share of mistakes, Isis, just like you.  Hera and I have our difficulties, but no one’s ever kidnapped her and sealed her in a box – you know – the way Set did Osiris.”

Isis turned a few shades of red, “You’re right, Zeus.  Mistakes can happen to the best of us and they are certainly costing Bill and Jane right now.  They’re down to 545 points.  They’ll soon be at the mercy of our pranksters.”

TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods #5

“You’re right, Isis,” Mercury agreed, “What a comeback!  I almost can’t believe it and I’m right here watching it!  Jane looks like a new person.  They must have had a lead pipe in the restroom and she decided to use it for a backbone. Look at her grab up her carry-ons and lead Bill to the ground transportation area.  And her attitude is a tonic to him, too.  This is an amazing couple.”

Jane stopped at an accommodations board and picked up the handset.  Demeter watched her press buttons, but as Mercury had predicted there was nothing available. Demeter wondered what she could do to help them out.

Suddenly Mercury said, “OMZ! You’re not going to believe who’s here.”

“Someone’s come to help?” Zeus asked.

“Well, I think so.  Your wife’s here.”

“Hera?”

“Do you have another one?”

“Of course not! I just didn’t know she watched.” Demeter leaned forward, wishing Hera had invited her along.

Isis warned, “This may not be good.  There’s a chance Hera doesn’t realize we’ve passed midnight. She could think they’re prankable.”

“I’m concerned too, Isis,” Zeus admitted, “She may be my wife, but she’s not always helpful.  What happens if Hera pranks them even though the score is above one thousand?”

“That’s never happened,” Isis said, “Our judges would have to make a ruling. The game might be over.”

Hera, wearing a divine cloak of invisibility, walked up next to Jane and began to hum in her ear. Bill took the handset from his wife and began to try more locations.  Jane pursed her mouth and squinted her eyes.  Then she began hum.  Suddenly she was singing 1-800-HOLIDAY, Holiday Inn’s radio jingle.

Jane found a payphone and dialed the number she had just sung.  Bill stood by as she said, “I don’t care how many of the hotels are full. Your job is to tell me the closest one with a room.  Then I can decide whether I want it or not.” The co-anchors and the correspondent began to clap as Jane reserved a room.

Mercury said, “What a save!  The numbers on the tote board are spinning.  I’m going to talk to Hera before she disappears back to Olympus.” He flew to Hera’s side, “Yoo hoo!  Queen Hera!  Wait a moment!  Our audience is dying to hear from you.”

“OK, Mercury, but make it quick. I’ve got to get back to a Mah Jongg game.”

“I will, Your Highness.  I just want to tell you what an amazing play that was.  What prompted you to come to the rescue of Bill and Jane?”

“You’ve heard about the Europa incident, haven’t you?”

Looking very embarrassed Mercury said, “Well yes. It’s the buzz of Olympus, but what does that have to do with Jagged Journeys?”

“Well, as I played Mah Jongg with a few friends, the scrying bowl was on in the background. When Zeus bragged about his storm for the umpteenth time, I thought he needed someone to take him down a peg or two – and who would be better at it than me.” She smiled sweetly to Mercury, “May I say a little something to him?”

“Of course, Your Highness

“Good night, Honey.  Nanny nanny poo poo.  This couple won’t be turning back if I can help it.”

Demeter began to laugh out loud.  No wonder she put up with Hera’s incessant whining.  Zeus signed off quickly, letting the audience know there wouldn’t be any more coverage until the next day.

TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods #4

Demeter fast forwarded to live scrying and served dinner. Throughout the meal, Persephone kept up her litany of complaints, so the mother was glad to finish the meal and close the door on her whining daughter.  After cleaning up the kitchen, she plopped down on the sofa with the latest copy of Gods’ Magazine to see what the celebrities were wearing.

Before long, Zeus was back. “Hello, it’s Zeus.  Our lines are so overloaded with calls the circuits have jammed. Please bear with us while we make repairs.  In the meantime, here’s the latest from Philadelphia.”

“Thanks,” Mercury said from the screen behind Zeus. “Just a few moments ago, the flight attendants herded everyone back to their seats.  The plane pulled away from the gate and quickly taxied to the runway.  Then immediately, the pilot cut back on the engines.   That’s when tears came to Jane’s eyes.  Moments later, the pilot revved the plane again and began picking up speed for takeoff – but it was too late. Jane was all in.  I don’t think Bill realizes she’s crying.  He’s reading and she’s turned toward the window.

“Crying costs points,” Zeus reminded the audience.

“Even if she knew, I don’t think it would make any difference.  She’s only human,” Isis lamented.

Demeter went to clean her face and get ready for bed.  She was tired, but there was no way she’d be able to nod off until she knew whether Bill and Jane made it to their next flight.  It wouldn’t take long for them to get to New York.  Then she could sleep.

She was back on the sofa when Zeus said, “Hello weary gods and goddesses.  Welcome back to Jagged Journeys. It’s nearly midnight in the States and our travelers have just landed in New York.  How are things going, Mercury?”

“Not very well.  They’re just beginning to deplane and they’ve lost a lot of points, even though it was a very short flight. Hunger’s making them edgy and fatigue is taking a toll,” then Mercury said, “Oh no!”

On the screen Eris, Greek Goddess of Chaos, Strife and Discord, drove a baggage cart and had Bacchus as a passenger. The deities conferred with the real baggage handlers and made up some excuse for being there, even though their cart was from another airline.  The real handlers nodded in agreement.  The mischievous pair started selecting bags as they came off the plane. The selections seemed random, but Demeter noticed they didn’t miss a single one of the Sadek’s bags.  Then just as they started to drive away, Eris let out a sinister cackle and tossed a hang-up bag back onto the conveyer.  A close-up of the tag proved it was Bill and Jane’s.

Zeus asked, “Why this turnaround for Bacchus, Mercury?  He helped them in Philadelphia.”

“It seems to me he’s had a few drinks since then. He may not even realize these are the same passengers,” Mercury explained.

“Could you tell where they’re headed with the luggage?”

“No, it was too dark. I didn’t know those luggage carts could go so fast!”

 The scene changed to the baggage claim area and Demeter thought it ironic the hang-up bag Eris tossed away was the first piece of luggage out of the chute. Bill grabbed it and put it with the carry-ons. Bill continued to look hopefully at every bag that came around. A few steps away, Jane hung on to a pay phone. As the conveyor rolled to a stop a collective groan rose from the crowd. Not one of them had gotten more than a portion of their luggage off the flight.

Zeus observed, “Eris and Bacchus didn’t take enough bags to disappoint all these people.  The airline must have routed some of the bags to the wrong flight.”

“Mercury, has Jane reached anyone?” Isis asked.

“She’s on hold. She spoke to several people without getting much information.” On the screen, Mercury disappeared and Bill dragged their small pile of luggage over near the phones.  She covered the mouthpiece and asked where the rest of it was.  He just shook his head.  Before she could ask more questions, she returned her attention back to the phone. Then she slowly hung up the phone, shaking her head.

Mercury re-appeared and said, “I just flew over to the other airport.  The flight pulled away from the gate while Jane was on the phone with someone in the terminal.  There’s no way they can meet up with their friends on this side of the Atlantic.’

Jane headed to the ladies room and Bill waited by the phones. Demeter thought he was probably too tired to do anything else. Just then an airline employee came out and announced to the crowd the luggage mess wouldn’t be resolved until the next day. There weren’t enough personnel on hand to take all the claims before the airport closed. The man handed cards to whomever wanted one, including Bill.

“What are they going to do, Mercury?” Zeus asked. 

Mercury replied, “What can they do?  The way your storm tore up the skies, every hotel room in the area is full. There are no rental cars and only a few taxies.  Who knows if they would even be allowed to sleep in the terminal? This was the last flight in for the night.”

Zeus preened, “It was one of my better storms, wasn’t it?”

“No doubt a…” Isis began and then asked, “Wait, what time is it?”

“The clock just rolled to midnight here,” Mercury said.

“Then start adding points to the tote board,” Isis said, “because we’re gonna have listeners out there who want to help. Just look at Jane!”

TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods #3

The harvest goddess hated how long it took humans to get from one place to the other.  Why couldn’t Zeus just arrange for them to pop back and forth like the gods did?  While the plane was in the air, she decided to start dinner, her daughter, Persephone, would be joining her.  The rest of the togas could wait until the contestants were in New York.

She tossed a salad and put a casserole in the oven.  Fresh strawberries were in the fridge and she had banana sorbet in the freezer.  As she set the table she heard Zeus say, “Hello gods and goddesses.  Welcome back to Jagged Journeys.”

Mercury reported things on the ground were as crazy as they were in the air.  Jane thought she was missing a limousine ride and welcome party, but all the flights were so mixed up the bride threw her plans to the wind and ferried guests around in taxis.  Jane’s complaints lost them a few points, but her ability to pull everything from playing cards to snacks out of her carry-on kept their score almost even.

Isis reported, “All told, our contestants are ready for some help at one thousand fifteen points, but there’s not much we can do while they’re in the air.”

“That’s the way this cookie crumbles, Isis.” Zeus said and then asked, “Mercury, any hint of an arrival time?”

“Unfortunately Zeus, things look better to the passengers than they actually are.  There’s one of those breaks you promised in the weather, so they’re looking out on a clear sky in New York; but, the plane is quickly running out of fuel. I heard in the cockpit that if we don’t land in the next few minutes, they’ll have to go somewhere else.”

Isis said, “How disappointing!  Where will they go?”

 “No way to know ahead of time, Isis,” the Messenger God replied, “but now it’s official.  The pilot just announced the flight’s rerouting to Philadelphia.”

When Persephone arrived, she caught Demeter in front of the scrying bowl, “Good grief Mother, are you reduced to watching reality broadcasting?”

“Oh hush.  Just because you live in the underworld is no reason to be such a downer. It’s Jagged Journeys.  Don’t you want to see what your father’s doing?”

“You know I haven’t forgiven him for that whole pomegranate thing.”

“I can’t believe you.  That wasn’t his fault.  Zeus sent Hermes into Hades after you. Then you turned around and ate the pomegranate.” 

“That’s what I mean. There’s always some kind of trick with him. First he sells me off in marriage to that necrophiliac and then there’s the pomegranate. Why couldn’t he just leave me alone?”

“You know I was frantic about you when you disappeared. He immediately regretted the marriage contract and that’s why he sent Hermes.  What’s a big brother to do when his little sister is so upset?”

“Well, most big brothers don’t have daughters by their little sisters – or by their daughters either.  How is Aunt Hera, by the way?”

“You quit being sassy.  Things were different back then. You and Hera sound just alike.”

“Fine, what’s daddy up to now?”

Demeter giggled a little and said, “Mommy, too, in this case.”  She aimed the remote at the scrying bowl and backed up the action. “Watch this.  The passengers were redirected to Philadelphia, but the terminal was being remodeled, so everything was boarded up.”

When Demeter found the frame she wanted, Zeus was saying, “So they haven’t eaten anything all day besides airline peanuts and cookies from Jane’s carry-on.  How are they going to get anything in a closed terminal?”

“Actually, a divine team has pulled together for this rescue,” Mercury said, “Artemis, Greek Goddess of the Hunt, Demeter, in her role as Goddess of Barley, and a Roman god, Bacchus, are going to help our contestants.  Bacchus is posing as a pushcart vendor in a neighboring concourse and the two goddesses provided the food.”

Persephone complained, “I can’t believe you wasted your harvest on this sort of thing.”

“Watch what happens!”

In the gate area, Bill said to Jane, “Look at these lines.  I’ll never get to call the office.”

“You should have brought your cell phone.”

“Are you kidding?  The roaming charges are ridiculous and it wouldn’t do us any good in Europe, anyway. They have a different platform.”

“I bet someday you’ll be able to use your mobile phones wherever you are, but what should we do now?  I have a sugar high from all the cookies and I’m still starving.”

“Well, we’re going to be stuck here for awhile.  We might as well see what we can find.”

As the humans wandered through the empty terminal, Jane repeatedly voiced her concern  the flight would take off without them, but Bill forged on through the forsaken hallways.  Eventually they happened on to the pushcart where Bacchus was arguing with another customer. 

 The contestants could barely contain their joy at the sight of food.  Bill got in line and Jane guarded their pile of carry-ons, but he came back with only one hot dog and a soda.

“One hot dog?  I’m starving,” Jane complained.  “This is barely an appetizer.”

“Honey, it cost nine dollars!”

“For this? A dry hot dog and a lukewarm Pepsi?”

“We’ll be leaving soon and surely we’ll find something to eat in New York.”

“You’re right. We can’t blow the budget before we even get out of the States,” Jane mumbled through a mouthful.

“That’s my girl.  Let’s see if the line for the phone is better,” Bill said, taking the hot dog from her. They wolfed down the food and headed back to the gate.

Persephone started to say something and Demeter waved for her to stay quiet.

“Our judges are having a difficult time with this segment of the game,” Isis said, “Some believe Bill and Jane should’ve stayed near the gate, as they were instructed.  Others want to give them points for finding Bacchus’ food cart.  Looks like Jane’s willingness to cooperate has helped. They just added twenty-five more points.”

Zeus said, “Kudos to Bacchus and the goddesses for coming to the aid of our travelers.  Wasn’t he a scream in that apron? I’m really going to have to give him a hard time at the next org…uh, I mean symposium.”

“Look they walked right up to the phone without having to wait.  Who are they calling Mercury?” Isis asked.

“Their first call was to their home phone.  There were several messages from Tammy, most of which were upbeat, but the last one didn’t sound very hopeful.  She left a phone number for them to contact in the morning, if they don’t make the flight to Germany.

“What a blow!  How did they take it?”

“Without blinking they dialed information and got the number for the transatlantic airline. Their flight is still delayed. See how they’re glowing with hope. Not much to do now, except wait.”