Medusa had big hair – on purpose, of course. What would you do if a dozen of the nastiest snakes you ever saw were growing out of your head? You couldn’t just put on a wig. The only solution was do your hair up like that Married With Children lady – Peggy Bundy, and try to keep them quiet.
Your job choices were fairly limited too. Maddie had worked as a dancer. It seemed like a good gig for a while. Everyone thought the snakes were part of the act, until a drunk conventioneer got his hand punctured trying to touch one. Dumb-ass. She had to get out of there quick.
The circus would be an obvious choice, right? Not the respectable circus, though the way they treated animals wasn’t so respectable. But not a circus that wanted your social security number. A carnival circus that paid in cash. You kept that to yourself, and they didn’t ask questions, if you did your job. She tried it, but there was no hiding the real deal from the other geeks and freaks. Real freaks make the posers uncomfortable.
Too much explaining, and the change was too small, so she hit the road, doing a bit of wet work on the side. That’s right, she killed people for a living. She never claimed to be a saint. That was for other people. And not by turning them to stone – the stone thing was bullshit. Men liked looking at Maddie. Women too. They liked it so much that getting close to them wasn’t hard.
The hard thing was the clients. If you moved around a lot and you weren’t reliably easy to get in touch with, and if you had pretty much one modus operandi, you started to either find work scarce and unreliable, or you drew too much attention to yourself. Maddie was shit with firearms, and she didn’t like knives, ever since a close run-in with a large one back in the old days. Percy – what a dick. He was like the Ike Turner of the Golden Age. “Cut you like a bitch,” was how he put it, only in the vernacular Greek, of course.
“That blade was adamantine like my vibrator is platinum,” Maddie said to the mirror. Then, “I look fine.” The whole stone thing was bullshit. Maddie hated that rumour. It’s what Ike – Percy said after he couldn’t make any more time with Maddie. “That bitch so ugly, her face turn you to stone.” You heard that all the time back then. It was like calling some girl a double bagger.
But it gave her an idea, which is how she landed the latest gig. Maddie had a part time arrangement for bachelor’s parties – you could keep the guys out of your hair, if it was in the contract – Mormon bachelor parties were all right – you just had to work in Utah, which was kind of boring. They didn’t even drink – just that sparkling grape juice and non-alcoholic beer. Some of them didn’t feel right even about that.
Her job was to jump out of the cake. Suitably clad in a remarkable facsimile of Princess Leia’s gold bikini, and if something with stripes dangled loose from her perfect do, she’d play it off like it was part of the act. Serpents were suggestively phallic, after all.
Maddie smiled, admiring her sleek body. “Better than my sisters. Poor things are real uggos.” She always had a touch of vanity, but never like everyone back home said. “Call me Dorothy, click my heels, and off I go.” She ran for the cab. Cab drivers in Utah weren’t like in New York. There, they never let you down. Nothing was too strange, and if you tipped well, not too well, their eyes were mostly on the loot. In Salt Lake, the driver was always pretending not to eye you in the mirror, and they had fuzzy areas in the glass between front and back seats, obscuring vision, right where your breasts would be.
OK, not really, but Maddie liked to keep her sense of humour. It made things just a bit more bearable. It’s not like she’d been laid in like a thousand years or so.
Maddie made it to staging at the Manago downtown, and found out the cake had actual frosting. Jeez Louise, these guys really weren’t very experienced at this. She climbed inside, trying not to get lard and sugar in her hair – the girls didn’t like that kind of thing – you gotta catch and feed them small house pets now and then. She didn’t have time to duck into Pets-mart, and Betty Crocker would just piss them off. The lid was tricky, but Maddie held it in place while they wheeled her up to the room where some poor, clean cut sap was about to swear marital allegiance in a day or two, and take his place among those aiming for future godhood.
She knew all about gods and demigods, Maddie did. Apotheosis they called it, back then. That was Greek for bumping up a notch. You marched into Zeus’s presence on Olympus – got carried, actually – and they said “well done, join the club” or something like that. Not that Maddie ever got in, but you know how country clubs and college societies work. Secret handshakes and all that. Or you take Percy, he started out half way to godhood, so he wanted her to say. “Oh Percy, you’re half a god!” All the time she had to shout that during sex. What had she been thinking? Demigods do freaky things in the bedroom, but they’re so full of themselves. Maddie had low self-esteem back then.
They wheeled her in on a cart. Everyone knows it’s not raised flour in that cake – it’s the flower of youthful girl flesh. Get a last look while you can. Don’t touch or I’ll bite your hand. Maddie mumbled words like that inside the prop to keep her mood up. Truthfully, she’d felt a little depressed off and on lately. It was all the moving from place to place, she guessed. And then after the ritual teasing and prodding of the groom, she’d be chosen, no eliminations, no red rose, and with a knock on the box (she laughed as she lifted the lid, thinking of a gob of frosting on some dummy’s suit sleeve), she’d burst through the top, red locks tossing in loose coils before falling all around her bare shoulders.
Maddie shook her moneymaker – you had to learn to talk like that – guys that paid girls to pop out of tarts and pastries weren’t the most creative conversationalists. Maddie shook her tassels. Princess Leia didn’t have tassels, but they added effect and Maddie ‘don’t do whips and chains’ – she made that clear to Ike the first time he asked. Percy. Not Ike, Percy. She had to quit calling him that, or she’d never be able to listen to Tina again without getting mad at the world. Those old records were the best. The new stuff – Nickelback? Are you kidding?
Maddie made a good show of it. She blew kisses at the boys. She giggled, and squinched up her boobs, and pretended to drop things so she could bend over a lot. She danced, and she showed off her swimwear, and the nice thing about parties for the Church set was they didn’t want you to go on for too long. Worked them into a sweat, and then what would you do? She never had one, but she figured even a demigod had to be better than one of the Elders.
She was just about to climb back into the cake for the grand exit, where they wheeled you out like Miss America in a parade car, waving at them, with more air blown smacks and smooches – Maddie liked to sneak a little air-tongue into it as well. You pouted and feigned disappointment to be passing onward to other things. Instead she saw something familiar. It was just a glance, as she wiggled and turned, shaking her body across the floor, and then there he was. It was Percy. No longer Tina’s Ike, it was her Percy. He had said that. “I’ll always be your Percy.” He hadn’t meant it in a kind way.
She saw he had the razor. It wasn’t going to be good. Tight quarters, and hard to run, big round frosted box and a lot of clapping men in her way. Who claps at a bachelor party? Mormons, that’s who. It was like the hokey pokey or a limbo party in there, and Maddie wasn’t going to make it out alive. She’d bleed out the last of her life in a shitty, overpriced hotel, dressed in something that would embarrass a porn star.
The Olympians used to run naked. She thought of stripping, both to get out of that godawful bikini, and also maybe set the Mormons running around in confusion so she could escape in the libidinous chaos. But Percy was already pushing through the other suits. At least he’d trimmed his hair. He looked like shit before, trying to make out like Viggo Mortensen, and coming off more like Chad Kroeger. Some guys just don’t have the chops for it.
The girls are what saved her, of course. You’re practically naked, surrounded by a lot of disgruntled Republicans, some of whom are probably packing serious heat, but they’re likely to back the bros long enough for Ike-Chad-Percy to do his thing, and all it takes is a swipe of his wrist and you’re one dead princess. She dove for the cardboard frosted cake, hoping to shut herself in long enough, but she slipped on Dummy Shirt Sleeve’s discarded wad of icing, and went face first into the frosting.
That really pissed off the girls. Twelve angry serpent heads shooting out all at once, with French vanilla grins, spitting venom and tongue and clamping on anything they could find. “Nobody gets out alive.” That’s the line from a movie that went through Maddie’s head. It was like wet work on a grand scale, but gone horribly wrong. There were screams. There were gunshots after all, and there was the figure of Percy standing over her with his cutter, seemingly acting in everyone’s defense. One guy even shouted “you don’t bring a barber’s blade to a snake fight” or some shit like that, and Maddie just knew she was going to get “capped” by a bunch of Ladder Day Zeuses spraying the girls with lead.
Instead, the girls got Percy in his tenderest spot, as Maddie bent her head forward to duck. All twelve of the girls latched on. You never heard Ike sing “Proud Mary” like Percy let loose those howls. The girls were ‘rolling and turning and working for the man nice and rough’. And Percy was singing along. Tina was always the real talent, of course. That girl wouldn’t quit.
Thing is, if there’s one thing that’ll make a bunch of right wing men back up, it’s a sight like what was happening to Percy’s balls. You could have cried out “this is Sparta!” as the blood flew, and Percy was apparently a bleeder. Hands went over eyes, men groaned and flew out of the room, more than one losing their fake beer in the hall, and Percy – well eventually he went down in a heap and Maddie was up and tucking her hair back into place as best she could.
She knew which way to run from the wobbly, fifteen floor ride in and down the hall from the service elevator, and Maddie was a sprinter. By then, the men were convinced the snakes were still in the room and Maddie was doing what any girl should. A couple of them staggered along behind her, but she hit the >close< button and the doors shut out her brave clients, giving her a minute to put herself right before she or the shit hit the lobby. There wasn’t much to do, but check herself in the polished reflection from the door, and adjust the gold getup for a dignified but brisk walk across the hotel carpet to the exit. Security were already being dispatched to the top, and Maddie needed to be out and gone, which was what she was.
Percy always said he’d get her one day, that he’d never let her go, but that was over. The girls left a zero chance for survival, even for one of Zeus’s kids. Probably be pissed off about his boy, if he was still around, but Olympus was a cool 6,000 miles from Salt Lake, and Maddie would be going the other way. She’d never work in Utah again. Maybe San Francisco. She could just pass for a creative dread head down in the Mission District if the girls behaved. She’d stop at Pets-mart on the way. After the way they took care of her, they deserved a treat. One for each of them. Percy couldn’t have been enough to fill them all the way. Only half a god is what he was, true enough.
Note: This story teller has nothing against Mormons, and is just as likely to poke fun at any religion, fraternity, or good ol’ boys club that seems to fit the story. If Joel Osteen’s grinning Jack Skellington head had been called for, that’s what would have been served. Maybe next time. Meanwhile, this is for [Tina].