“I Am Not Amused?”



Part One:  A Super-Market Encounter.


Clark had only a handful of groceries.  He always looked for the cashier with the shortest line because he never knew when some crisis might call for him to make a quick exit.  He noticed that a woman was starting to check-out with only a half gallon of milk in her hand.  As he got in line behind her, he almost wished that she had more items which might give him an opportunity to strike up a conversation with her.  She was modestly dressed and her clothing was worn but well cared for.  She had an incredible figure but there was something else about her … something familiar.  He couldn’t get more than a glimpse of her face.  His X-ray vision wasn’t particularly useful at seeing someone’s face from behind and there was nothing reflective in front of her that would serve to allow him to use his other vision powers to get a good look.  He just hoped she would turn his direction for a moment before leaving the store.


The cashier told the woman, “That will be a dollar nine, ma’am.”


The woman said, “It was 95 cents when I was in here two days ago.”


The cashier said, “It was on sale two days ago, but today it will be a dollar nine.”


The woman handed the cashier the dollar she had been holding and then began to dig through her purse.  She found six pennies and handed them to the clerk.  She told the cashier, “That’s all I have on me.  Do you have one of those “if you need a penny cups?”  I’m only 3 cents short.”


The cashier said, “This isn’t the welfare department.”


The woman asked, “Would you take these ear rings instead of the 3 cents?  I paid $40.00 for them 7 years ago.”


The cashier said, “This isn’t a pawn shop either.  If you don’t have the money just leave the milk here.  You’re holding up the line.”


The woman burst out crying, “My son … I need some milk so my son can have some cereal!”


The cashier motioned for a security guard but before he could come over Clark slapped five twenty dollar bills down in front of the cashier and said, “This milk and whatever else this lady might want is on me.”


The woman turned to Clark and said, “Thank you, Sir, but I only need 3 cents.”


Clark got a startled look on his face and said, “You’re M. Harrison aren’t you?!”


The cashier laughed, “Her?  M. Harrison?  M. Harrison is one of the best selling authors of all time.  But M. Harrison is a MAN!  I read all his stuff.”


Clark ignored the cashier and said, “Ms. Harrison, I’m Clark Kent.  We have the same publisher.  We’ve shared an elevator a time or two, but we’ve never spoken.” Emma Harrison’s hands flew to her face.  She began crying again and ran out of the store.  Clark turned to the cashier and said, “Ring up my groceries and leave them in a shopping cart by the door.”


The cashier asked, “But what do I do with the change?  You gave me a hundred dollars and you probably only have twelve dollars worth of food here.”


Clark said, “I want all the change in pennies and I want a pile of them left at each register in case this ever happens again.”  Clark picked up the carton of milk and rushed out of the store to find Emma.  She was easy to spot.  She stood trembling at the door of her car trying to get her key in the lock but her hand was shaking too badly.  Clark walked up to her and said, “You forgot something.”


Startled, Emma jumped, but she wouldn’t look at Clark.  She turned his direction, reached for the milk and quietly said, “Thanks again, Mr. Kent.”


Clark said, “It’s Clark, Ms. Harrison.  You know, there is no reason to be embarrassed.  I often find myself without ready cash available.  I couldn’t count the number of times I went flying off to get somewhere in a hurry only to discover that I didn’t have a penny on me.”


Emma said, “Thanks for offering me an easy out, but I won’t lie about it.  I’m broke.  I’m so broke that my son goes hungry.  I’m working 3 part time jobs and writing constantly to fulfill my contracts but it’s never enough.  NEVER!”


Clark said, “Well, I’m the strong, silent type.  I’m a great listener and I’d be able to handle anything you might care to unload.  Plus I’m a very resourceful fellow.  I might be able to help.  Why don’t I take you out for a meal and you can tell me what’s wrong.”


Emma at last made eye contact.  She had a sharp look and a flash of fire in her eye.  She said, “Don’t think that I don’t know who you are.  You are a reporter for the Daily Planet.  What a great story that will make, “Author M. Harrison living in poverty one step away from living in her car.”  Thanks but no thanks.”


Clark said, “This is totally off the record.  You can’t even imagine the things I have witnessed and not reported.  I got became a reporter as a way to help people.  Have you ever read a word I’ve written that would hurt an honest, hard working person like you?”


Emma let a few more tears flow as she answered, “Well, if you knew me you might find that I’m not as honest as you imagine.”


Clark said, “The offer stands:  A free meal;  an invitation to get what’s bothering you off your chest;  a promise of confidentiality AND the possibility that I might be able to help.  And I will help you if I can.  I’ve read all your published works as well and they’ve helped me make some tough decisions.  So just consider this a returned favor.”


Emma said, “I can’t.  My son is waiting for me at home.”


Clark said, “He’s invited too.”


Emma said, “I do appreciate it but you really can’t help me, but thanks for wanting to.”  Emma managed to get her key into the car door.  She jumped in and turned the key in the ignition..  The car refused to start.  She tried again and again, but it was no use.  She put her head down on the steering wheel and cried.


She barely noticed Clark open the door and pull her out.  Soon her head was on his shoulder as he held her in his arms.  Clark whispered in her ear, “What does your son like to eat.  I’m a really good cook.”


Emma mumbled, “Pizza, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs and peanut butter and jelly.”


Clark said, “I’ll walk you to my car.  Then give me a minute to get my groceries and we’ll go pick up your son.”






Part Two:  After Dinner Conversation


Emma said, “Clark, when I listed Sean’s favorite foods, I didn’t expect for you to make them ALL!”  I hope you have some Pepto-Bismol too, because I never saw him eat that much in his entire life.”


Clark said, “You might need some too.  My Mother’s spaghetti sauce recipe is famous in some parts, but who knows what effect it might have when eaten in that quantity.”


Emma said, “I normally don’t eat like that much in front of a man until I know him really well … and I don’t know anyone well enough to eat the way I just did in front of them.  I feel like a real pig.”


Clark said, “Well, I have raised a few pigs in my time and I have never seen one eat like that.  You must have been starving.  I’ll take it as a complement that you were relaxed enough with me to do what you needed to do.  Well, now that you are both fed and Sean is having a blast playing games on the computer in my bedroom, I hope that you’re willing to tell me what your problem is and allow me to help you.”


Emma said, “I wasn’t relaxed in front of you – I was oblivious to you.  I was desperately hungry.  But now that I’m fed, I’m thinking more clearly … and I think that no one who is rational would believe my story.  It is probably better for me to keep my mouth shut and let you think that I’m just a bad money manager than to tell you my story and have you question my sanity.”


Clark said, “I have seen things you would not believe on almost a daily basis.  “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Harrison, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”  Not to name drop, but when you hang out with Superman, you get an expanded sense of reality.”


Emma said, “This is like Déjà vu.  I’ve had this conversation about a larger reality before and then had my nose rubbed in it for 6 years.  I had forgotten that you know Superman.  By any chance, have you met Wonder Woman?”


Clark said, “Diana …?”


Emma said, “You know Wonder Woman on a first name basis?!”


Clark said, “Oops.  Well, ….”


Emma said, “It’s OK.  I know someone too – someone straight out of mythology.  He would be correcting me now:  “history” not “mythology.”  Since you know Womder Woman, maybe you could believe my story.  All I know is that if the situation were reversed, I wouldn’t believe me.”


Clark said, “Try me.”


Emma said, “Do you have any wine?  A glass would help calm my nerves and loosen my tongue.”


Clark answered, “I believe I can oblige you there.”


Clark brought back a chilled bottle of red wine and a glass.  Emma said, “When did you chill this?  The fact that you are this prepared has me worried.  Maybe I should go.”


Clark said, “Relax.  I have a trick for fast chilling a bottle.  If your story is good enough, there is chance I might show you. – a slim chance but a chance just the same.”


Emma sipped the wine and said, “Oh that feels so good.  Don’t let me have too much of this because I have a low tolerance for alcohol.  I guess it’s story time.  It all started six years ago.  Sean was three.  His father was never really part of my life and has no interest in Sean or me.”


Clark said, “His loss.”


Emma said, “Thank you.  I bet if he knew that I am M. Harrison he would be back here trying to get a piece of the action.”


Clark asked, “Is that why you let people think you’re a man – why you don’t make personal appearances or have a photo on your dust jacket?”


Emma said, “I don’t want my name or photo on my books because I’m a phony.  I told you that I wasn’t as honest as you might think.  My books are the result of a … collaboration of sorts.  Without my helper, I can’t put together a decent sentence.  He reminds me of that constantly.  But we’re getting ahead of the story.  You said that you’re the silent type.  We’ll get through this quicker if you save your questions for the end.”


Clark said, “I’m all ears.”


Emma stared at Clark for a moment as if in a trance and said, “Ears?  It was the eyes and the lips that I noticed … OH!  Excuse me.  The wine.  Where was I?  Yes.  Sean and I were very happy only I didn’t realize how happy until I look back at it now.  I collected degree after degree by kept landing secretarial jobs because most careers would have kept me away from Sean more than I could allow.  But what I really wanted to do was to pursue my passion – writing.  My boss … what did I call her … Oh, yeah!  “Bosshole.”  She took credit for everything I did and wouldn’t even admit to herself what I did for her.  I felt trapped.  I didn’t know what trapped was.  Compared to my life now, I had much more free time and lived comfortably on a modest income.  I worked crafting my first novel in the evening after Sean was in bed for the night.  I finished it and submitted it to Galaxy Publications.  I got a letter back that said that my novel wasn’t quite right and that no publisher would touch it.   But the letter spoke of my potential and encouraged me to submit a second novel.  When I did, the second novel was rejected as well, but the publisher noted great improvement and asked for a third novel.  He said that if I continued to improve as evidenced by the second novel, the third would most definitely be worthy of publication and the start of a modest writing career.  I sent in a third novel.  The rejection letter said that I had obviously peaked at a sub-standard level and should definitely not quit my day job.  The letter went on and on.  I didn’t want to read what it was saying but I couldn’t help myself.  By the time I had read the last line, all my self-confidence was gone.  I knew that I was destined to be a secretary for the rest of my life.  The very next day, I got a strange letter with an invitation to dinner.  You see, Clark, you we’re the first to invite me to dinner at a low point in my life.  When you hear the rest of my story, maybe you’ll understand why I was reluctant to accept your invitation.”


Clark asked, “Who sent you the letter?”


Emma answered, “My Muse.”






Part Three:  Emma’s Tale – An Amusing Offer



Emma found the letter among her normal bills.  It stood out for two reasons.  It was in a lime green envelope and it had no postage on it.  Curious, she opened it quickly and read:


“Emma Harrison, Please do me the honor of joining me for a magical evening.  Do not pass up the opportunity to make your dreams come true.  You can be the great writer you want to be.  You can just lay back and let me do all the work if you chose or take a more active role in our partnership.  Join me for dinner and hear my proposal.  This is your one great opportunity.  Don’t pass it by and live with regret for the rest of your days.”


The letter went on to describe when and where they were to meet and how she would recognize him.  The letter hit Emma’s trash can as soon as she got in her apartment door.  But before long, she retrieved the letter and made arrangements for someone to watch her 3 year old son Sean.


The next evening, she met with a man who introduced himself to her as William.  No last name … just William.  He was a quite ordinary looking kind of fellow.  She had imagined meeting a Don Juan but William was more of a Don Knotts.  He certainly wasn’t her type … but whose type he might be was a mystery to her.  Still somehow, most people find a way to couple up.  Her time just hadn’t come yet and it certainly wasn’t going to happen with William.  He seemed nice enough.  He was well-dressed well-spoken and he looked as if he bathed on a regular basis.  She could certainly pass an evening with the man.  She was somewhat starved for social interaction.  She wasn’t comfortable with the people around her at work and she hadn’t had an adult conversation in quite a while.  This could actually be a fun evening if she allowed it.  She reminded herself that looks weren’t everything.  Most men were too put off by her good looks to dare approach her.   At least William had the guts to contact her, had found a way to get her attention and had taken the trouble to learn that she was more than a secretary.  Any man that noticed that she had a dream … not just a dreamy figure, needed to be given some credit after all.  She actually started hoping that this would be a bit more involved that a simple sales pitch.  After exchanging greetings and a few polite words, William insisted that they go ahead and order their dinner.  After the waiter left their table, William asked Emma, “Would you prefer small talk while we wait for our dinner or would you like to get right to the heart of the matter?”


Emma said, “Let’s get to it.  I’m curious and more than a little nervous about what this is all about.  I normally don’t respond to invitations from strangers, but it’s not like you asked me to meet in some place isolated and dangerous.  We are in a fine dinner club in a respectable area of the city.  And, years from now, I don’t want to wonder what I might have missed by staying home.”


William said, “You would have missed out on becoming what you could be … with a little inspiration.”


Emma asked, “Are you here to inspire me, William?”


William answered, “Most certainly.”  Emma chuckled.  William continued, “Oh Ms. Harrison, I am serious -- deadly serious.   Are you at all familiar with what some people call mythology?  I am wasting time asking because I already know that you are from the references to it in your writing.  I just need to turn the conversation this direction for the sake of efficiency.”


Emma said, “OK.  Now I have questions.  Only a few select people have ever read my writing and you aren’t one of them.  How do you know what I refer to or don’t refer to when I write?  Secondly, why do you say “What some people call mythology?”  Mythology is … mythology. “


William said, “I am quite familiar with your work.  Once someone is chosen, I focus in on them and know what they have written, are capable of writing and are thinking about writing.  I know you will not believe that for the moment so let’s put that aside for now.  As to why I don’t like the term “mythology,” permit me to ask you another question.”


Emma said, “Go ahead.”


William asked, “Are you at all familiar with Wonder Woman – her nature and where she comes from?”


Emma answered, “Yes.”


William said, “I find it amusing that, when people find convincing evidence that contradicts their view of the universe, they keep that information in a separate portion of their tiny brains so that they can maintain the view of existence that they are comfortable with.  They ignore what they know to be true and cling to the false but comforting beliefs that they hold dear.  Mortals!  Back on track:  if Wonder Woman exists … and she does … and if her story isn’t a fabrication … and it is not … then “mythology” is actually history.  Using the term “mythology” belittles the truth.  A great writer must have a grasp of the truth even if he or she writes about the absurd.  Let me qualify this:  “history” is written by the winners.  It is a distorted truth enforced by those in power, so it is at time not even remotely accurate.  Likewise, Homer was a blind witness to events who liked to tell tall tales.  The truth was large enough that no exaggeration was necessary and Homer had friends on high that would give him an accurate accounting of events, but for some reason, mortals feel the need to embellish.”


Emma said, “I believe you said something about us getting to the heart of the matter.  What does what you are telling me have to do with me?  Why did you invite me here this evening?”


William said, “You, my dear girl, have hit the lottery.  I have been called to task of late for being neglectful of my duties.  After centuries, the most important and fascinating work can get quite tiresome.  I was told to get the ball rolling and pick someone.  The gods like stories as much as mortals do, but they are getting bored with the current group of story tellers.  Athena was going on a rant just the other day about a sponge with square pants and how low the arts had sunk.  One of my powers is to find someone that I can inspire to greatness.  Out of all the possible candidates, I have chosen you.  Some already had more talent, but I decided that if I have to inspire someone, she might as well be someone who is relatively good looking.  My choice was given approval by the powers at be, so I am supposed to begin working my magic on you without delay.  It won’t be easy for me to make a greta writer out of you, but if you have the hunger to be a successful writer that I sense you have, we can do what needs to be done.”


Emma said, “Are you trying to convince me that you’re a muse?”


William answered, “Well it’s easier to believe that I’m a muse than to get the world to believe that you are actually a writer.  But it is within my power to make you one.  Your knowledge of the history of Olympus was one reason I chose you.  Today, most people think Hermes is Miss Piggie’s boyfriend.”


Emma laughed and said, “Did someone from the office put you up to this?”


William said, “I can prove what I’m telling you.”


Emma asked, “How?  Are you going to disappear in front of my eyes or are you going to float around the room?”


William said, “My powers are limited and specific.”


Emma said, “Too bad, I was hoping you’d disappear.”


William said, “Certainly not before I pay for your dinner.”


Emma said, “Touché.   So give me your so called proof.”


William said, “If you offer me a little co-operation this evening, you will get your novels accepted for publication within the week.”


Emma said, “Right.  I will have done what you ask tonight and a week from now, when what you promise doesn’t happen, I look up “William No Last Name” in the phone book and demand you keep your end of the bargain.”


William sat back into his chair and looked up at the ceiling and began reciting Emma’s first novel word for word.  She let him continue five minutes before interrupting him by saying, “How could you know what I’ve written?  No one other than me and someone at Galaxy Publications has read my novel.”


William grinned and said, “How indeed.  I know you and your work because you were selected for the gift I can bestow.  If you do what I say, you will be published and there will be an unlimited demand for your writing.   What I offer you is extremely rare.  There are very few in my line of work and most of them are female.  And, normally, I would NEVER buy a dinner for someone I inspire.  I am the one granting the gift and my services are supposed to be sought after.  Normally, I would require a lot from you up front, but for you I am willing to work magic beyond the normal scope of a muse.  In a sense, I will inspire you retroactively.  I ask for very little of you now but, be warned, as you profit by my gift I will expect you to make more of a contribution to our partnership.  That is the nature of what I do.  You can’t expect a car to travel without fuel.  Likewise, I need what I need in order to do what I do.”


Emma said, “The million dollar question is, what do you expect from me tonight?”


William answered, “Hmmmm.  You may earn a million dollars eventually from what we do tonight but I wouldn’t expect more than … let’s say, $10,000.00 this week.”  Emma laughed.  William sneered at her and said, “To answer your last question, you must dance with me.  Two hours in my company – three tops.  That should be enough for now -- barely enough but enough to begin the process.  I have had a long hiatus so I am rested enough to do a lot without much –assistance from you.  This is all quite tedious but necessary, I –assure you.”


Emma said, “This is about the lamest pick up attempt of all time.  I must admit to being flattered that you would go to such lengths just to dance with me.”


William said, “I must admit that you are one of the loveliest mortals I have encountered this century.  And, since in earlier centuries, the idea of bathing hadn’t caught on, this may be one of my most pleasurable experiences with a mortal woman.  Still there have been thousands of women over the years and a few affairs with goddesses, so this business is little more than a bore and a burden to me of late.  I’d not bother at all if there weren’t pressure from above to stimulate new talent.  Believe me, the lightning bolt stuff is by no means a myth.  The boss doesn’t take it lightly when a member of his staff fails in their –assigned duties.  And I am certainly not one of his close –associates or favored few.  But consider this:  if after a single night of dancing with me you, find that I was lying to you, what would it have actually cost you?  Look at what you have to gain.  I can make put everything you write on the top best seller list.”


Emma gave William a coy grin and said, “Well, I haven’t been out dancing in years.  I really wouldn’t mind.”


William said, “Oh, dear.  I was half hoping that you would refuse.  I’ve committed myself to a great expenditure of energy with promise of very little in return.  Well, at least the boss should be satisfied that I am following orders like a good little soldier.  Very well.  Our food is here.  Let’s eat and then we can do what we must to get you published.”






Part Four:  Emma’s Tale:  Dirty Dancing.



The evening progressed.  Emma enjoyed her meal and found that William could be charming in an arrogant kind of way.  She was worried that he really believed the things he said and might be dangerous, but the hint of possibilities and the unknown was awakening a part of her that had been lying dormant for a while.  She had spent her pregnancy alone and isolated.  After that, evening meals involved whatever she could hold in one hand – first she was breast feeding later she was trying to keep Sean’s food on a tray while she stuck something in her mouth.  Evening conversation involved baby talk and children’s books.  “Pat the Bunny” served its purpose and was certainly a best seller, but it wasn’t as stimulating as adult conversation.  She was seriously concerned that living in baby land would change her day to day vocabulary enough to affect her writing.  Maybe it already had.  Maybe that’s why her work wasn’t good enough to get published.


Now Emma’s concerns moved to something more immediate.  This was not some discothèque.   She would be slow dancing with William.  Her mental image when she had agreed to this was of Fred Astaire, but what if he couldn’t stay off her feet.  She thought “Please, please, please let him know how to dance.”  But her concerns were misplaced.  When they did take to the dance floor, she was pleasantly surprised.  William wasn’t at the level of professional ball room dancers, but he was easily the best dancer that Emma had ever shared the floor with.  She found herself looking at him more and trying to see him differently.  It felt like she had been alone so long.  Was she just too particular?  Maybe a man like William would make up for his looks in his devotion to her.  Then her mind snapped back to the things that William had told her.  This man was either crazy or a con artist of some kind … unless he actually was a muse.   Wonder Woman DID exist, so maybe the rest of it was true as well.  And how could he recite her story like that?  She told herself, “Emma, Emma, Emma!  Don’t talk yourself into having a relationship with this man!  Don’t get so desperate that you’ll wake up next to HIM with another child inside you.  You don’t want to make THAT mistake again.”  Then she felt badly because as much as she regretted her affair with Sean’s “sperm donor,” she NEVER regretted having her precious son.  She would never wish him away, no matter what.


Her thoughts were interrupted by a hand squeezing her butt.  Her mind stopped drifting and she noticed that William had slowly managed to get closer to her than a pair of panty hose that was three sizes too small.  She started making a conscious effort to keep air between them but it was a constant struggle.  For a man who claimed to be disinterested in what he was doing, his hands were doing a thorough job of exploring all areas between her kneecaps and her shoulder blades.  Emma started cursing herself for agreeing to this.  He seemed harmless and civilized but this man was an animal.  Finally it was close to closing time and William lead an angry Emma back to their table.  She had suffered though it some how.  If William wasn’t actually a Muse, she would have to plan a slow death for this man in her mind and play it out again and again to give herself a degree of release from her rage.  He would probably feature prominently in whatever she wrote next.


William looked at Emma and seemed either oblivious to her angry leer or to not care how she felt towards him.  He said, “I’m glad that’s over.  That should be adequate to get the ball rolling.”


Emma said, “YOU’RE glad it’s over!  I’m probably black and blue all over.  You’re lucky I haven’t used a precise kick to send your balls rolling!”


William said, “There, there dear, it was quite necessary I –assure you.  And by the end of the week, you will be handsomely rewarded for all my hard work.  Before this fine establishment closes and we get put out, allow me to explain what has happened and what will happen next.”


Emma said, “I’m already put out.”


William said, “Well, before this is over, you will be putting out a lot more.  Believe me.  And please let me finish what I have to say or what we just did will be all for nothing.  You should go home and start on your fourth novel immediately.  The inspiration that will stem from tonight’s activities will make it hard for you to get all your ideas down as fast as they come to you.  Perhaps you should just make an outline for the next 10 or 12 novels at this point.  I leave those details up to you.  I have done you a great favor – something I have never done for anyone before.  I have used my powers to revise your first 3 dreadful novels.”


Emma said, “What did you do to my novels?”


William said, “First let me explain something.  You are not the same person you were before we danced.”


Emma said, “I know.  I’m bruised and I’m angry.”


William said, “I care nothing for your body and your anger will fade quickly.”


Emma said, “Don’t count on that!”


William said, “Please, stop with the interruptions.  Maybe you don’t really want to be a writer.  Well, it’s a little late now!  I have altered the clarity and depth of your thinking processes.  Once you get over your hormone stimulated tantrum you will find that your mind is sharp and inspired.  If you were given the opportunity to re-write those three novels now, you would write them entirely differently.”


Emma said, “No, I wouldn’t!  I don’t care if anyone else likes what I wrote, those stories meant something to me.”


William said, “If I could provide you with a copy of the novels as you wrote them, you would not recognize them now.  Your perception has changed.  The way they read now is an expression of what your inspired mind would have created.  You will not believe me for the time being, because when you look at the novels tonight, they will appear unchanged to you.  My gift to you was to save you the frustration of going home and seeing with your new insight what **** you wrote the first time.   You would have destroyed every copy of the novels that you could get hold of and started over.   Had you gone through the effort of a re-write, the results would have been identical to what I have given you on a silver platter.   You needed a demonstration of my power and I didn’t want you to have to wait to get published.   Every printed and digital copy of your novels has been altered.  Anyone who read it won’t remember doing so.”


Emma said, “This is what I get in return for you groping me mercilessly for 3 hours -- bunch of BS?!   I can’t believe I put up with it.  I should have stayed home tonight.  I am such an idiot!”


William said, “You WERE an idiot but soon you will find that people love and admire what you write.  As to the “groping,” it was an unfortunate necessity – a part of the process.  It wasn’t bull excrement at all.  We needed to be more connected for my power to work through you.  I promised you proof.  This is how you get it.  Go home and print out the novels.  In the morning, mail them to the same person at the same publishing house that rejected you.  You will not be questioned about why you re-submitted the same novels.   The person will not remember ever getting anything from you before.  This time you will not get a rejection letter.  You will get a phone call from the publishing house.  They will desperately want to publish your novels without altering a single word.”


Emma said, “You actually DO believe this, don’t you?  I thought you might be conning me, but now I’m convinced – convinced that you are one sick man!  You need help.  You really do!”  William just sat back in his seat and grinned from ear to ear.  Emma got up and stormed out of the club and headed home.


A few hours after going to bead and still unable to sleep, Emma Harrison got up and began printing her novels.  While they were printed, and between times when she needed to feed more paper into her printer, Emma composed a cover letter to go with the novels.  She found a letter from the man who had rejected her manuscript and addressed a box to the attention of Paul Domer at Galaxy Publications.  When the printer had at last completed its task, Emma put each novel in a three ring binder, put them into the box and taped it up.  She said “Idiot” to herself and staggered back to bed to try to get a few minutes sleep before the alarm would wake her for another day of thankless work.







Part Five:  Emma’s Tale:  Perhaps I Was Myth-Taken.



A few days later, Emma got a call from someone who announced himself as Paul Domer from Galaxy Publications.  The hair on the back of her neck stood up and she suspected that this was a cruel trick.  Paul Domer was the man that had at first encouraged her to submit more work for consideration then had told her that she should stop trying.  The call from him was what William had promised would happen, but she had convinced herself that William was a nutcase.  William had known too much information about her and her writing.  Perhaps he somehow knew who had read her novels at Galaxy Publications and was faking this call.  She said, “William, is that you?  That phony baloney accent won’t fool me.  Did you think I could be fooled into letting you get your hands on my *** again?!”


Paul Domer said, “Madam!  I –assure you that I am with Galaxy Publications.  I am far more interested in your writing ability than your … buttocks.  If you must, go to our website or the phonebook, call our offices and ask for me.  I’ll wait for your call.”


Emma said, “DON’T –ASSUME THAT I WON’T!”  She slammed down the phone and said, “That rodent!  Trying to fool me!  If he ever gets near me again, I’ll puke!”  She paced her apartment for a while then said to herself, “Maybe I’ll order a pizza.”  She began thumbing through the phonebook and said,  “I wonder if there is a “Galazy Pizza Palor.”  Hmmmm.  No.  Guess not.  Hmmmm.  Galaxy Publications.   What would it hurt.”  Emma dialed the number.  She told the operator, “Please connect me with Paul Domer.”


The operator said, “Mr. Domer is a busy man.  May I tell him who’s calling?”


Emma said, “My name is Emma Harrison.”


The operator said, “OH!  Ms. Harrison, he told me to keep his line clear in case you called.   I’ll connect you immediately.”


Paul Domer said, “Thank you so much for calling me back.  I showed our CEO Bob Winchel some excerpts from your submissions and he would have my head on a platter if I couldn’t convince you to come meet with him about signing on with us.  I haven’t been home in two days.  I couldn’t stop reading your novels once I started.  There is something simply magical about them.  I’m hungry, I’m tired and I need a shower and a good night’s sleep.  But I can’t go home until I know that you can come in sometime tomorrow so we can get these books of yours printed and to the bookstores.  Are you working on any more stories?  Please say that you are!”


Emma asked, “Is this legitimate?”


Paul Domer said, “Yes.  Certainly.  You don’t need to believe me.  Just come in.  Bring someone to review the contracts if you wish.  I shouldn’t say this, but play hard ball with Mr. Winchel.  He wants you and he wants you badly.  If you have a large purse, bring it.  You may need it to carry home the money he’ll throw your way.  I am thrilled that you sent your novels my way.  I haven’t read such works of genius since … since I can’t remember when.”


Emma asked, “You didn’t read anything JUST like them … let’s say … 3 weeks ago did you?”


Paul said, “Certainly not.  I would have remembered.  I haven’t had anything but the most amateurish trash in as long as I can remember.  Sometimes, I try to find someone even passable and encourage them … hoping they will improve.  But it never seems to work out.”


Emma asked, “Does anyone read some of the submissions for you?”


Paul answered, “What comes to my office is read by me.  I don’t trust anyone else to make judgments for me.  You will come in won’t you?  Please!”


Emma said, “It will be my pleasure.  I’m sorry I gave you such a hard time.  I thought someone was trying to trick me, but I guess I was mistaken.”


Paul said, “Think nothing of it.  And you are mistaken -- the pleasure will be all mine.  Thank you so much for agreeing to come.”


Emma said, “Go home and get some sleep.”


Paul said, “Thank you, I will.  Goodbye.”





The next day, Emma was walking down the street in a daze.  She had an advance check for $10,000.00 clenched in he hand and she had plans for that money.  Today, she loved the world and everyone in it … well, maybe not everyone.  She was sure the boss would have words for her when she got back from her extended lunch hour.  Emma didn’t like confrontation.  Even though she knew that she was soon destined to get out of that job, she still dreaded every run in with “bosshole.”  Her mind shifted back to the loop it had been stuck in since she was handed the check.  She mumbled, “Wonder Woman is real, so why can’t there be muses as well?  And if muses exist, I guess William could be one.  I wonder if I could trade him in.  They couldn’t all be that … annoying, could they?  If I have to dance with a muse to be inspired, why couldn’t I get one that looked like that dreamy hunk in the elevator at Galaxy Publications?  Even behind those glasses I could see that he had the most gorgeous eyes … and those lips!  Emma, at least be honest with yourself!  It wasn’t only his face you were looking at.  If I wasn’t thrown off balance by getting this check, I would have invited him out for dinner and maybe back to my place.  Honesty!  I wouldn’t.  Maybe someday.  For now there is only one man in my life – Sean.  Two, if you could my Muse – yuck!  No, he can’t be a muse for Christ’s sake!”   She stopped and opened the check so she could read the numbers again.  She mouthed the words, “Ten … Thousand …  Dollar and No Cents.”  She told herself, “That’s right, I have no sense, but I have $10,000 dollars, a contract and … a muse!  I can’t believe it!  I must be dreaming.”  Then out loud she shouted, “Somebody pinch me!”   Emma jumped in surprise when a street vendor did as she asked.  He gave her a toothless grin as she rubbed her butt to make the pain go away.  The pinch helped bring her back into focus.  Emma rushed to the bank and hoped that the street vendor was a muse and had just inspired her with some excuse for being so late getting back to her Job.






Part Six:  Emma’s Tale:  The Price of Success.



That evening, There was a knock at Emma’s door.  There stood William with a self- assured smirk on his face.  He asked, “Do you believe me now?”


Emma said, “I don’t know what to think.”


William said, “It’s just like I told you.  Mortals cling to the beliefs they are comfortable with despite the proof they have that their way of thinking is wrong.  I believe I have given you at least ten thousand reasons to believe me … and there is much more where that came from if we continue our –association.”


Emma said, “Ten thousand, huh.  How could you possibly know that?”


William said, “How indeed?  And I knew it before it happened, didn’t I.  Of course, that amount was the least you could have gotten.  I hoped you would get more but once I factored in your lack of self-confidence, I knew it would be ten thousand.  Don’t be surprised about what I know.  It is my business to know more and I will come to know you intimately … better as time passes.  By the way, that lack of self-confidence is justified.  You have nothing without me.  To be fair, I couldn’t create anything myself.  I need someone to inspire just as you need me to take you to the greatness that awaits you.”


Emma said, “So why are you here now.  What do you want?”


William said, “I am here to preserve what we have accomplished so far and to continue to advance your art.  I have to stay close to you to keep the magic alive.  If I stay away too long, your successes will all fade away.  Things that happen fast can un-happen fast.  For you, this will be a lifetime commitment unless you chose to retire at some point in time.  Don’t worry though.  I plan to be in this for the duration.  A mortal’s life is so brief that this task will seem to be over in a relatively short period of time – 60 to 100 years.  But at this moment I must say that I am exhausted!  I did so much for you after having had barely more than a couple hours of contact with you, that I am completely drained.  We had better rectify that situation by getting back to work immediately or the work will come un-done.”


Emma said, “So, you want me to put on my dancing shoes?”


William said, “You won’t require any shoes or anything else this time.  No other muse would believe you if you told them what I accomplished by merely dancing with you.  And I swear you to the strictest silence if you should ever meet another of my kind.  If they even find out that I paid for your meal, I would be laughed out of Olympus!  Muses are courted and given tokens of affection.  As a rule, we NEVER pay for anything.  Our talents are priceless so we shouldn’t ever be caught giving it away for free.  So, in the future, you can take me out to eat and we can dance if you chose but, in order to truly inspire you, we must be more intimately acquainted.”


Emma said, “You mean, I have to date you,  take long strolls in the park with you, have deep and personal conversations with you, … ?  What are we  talking about here?”


William said, “No.  Think MORE intimate … more physical.  But don’t worry, it’s impossible for me to get a mortal pregnant even if I wanted to.  This is the way a muse works.”


Emma shouted, “You’ve got to be ****ing me!”


William answered, “Precisely … although I would never have put it that crudely.  We need regular, intimate contact of all kinds.  Like I said last time, I have been with thousands of women and a few goddesses so this means next to nothing to me.  It’s just part of the job description.  This time I treated myself by choosing someone who is considered beautiful by mortal standards, but your beauty will fade and I will continue to do my duty.  In time, people will look at us and accuse you of robbing the cradle.”


Emma finally over came her shock enough to speak and said, “You must think I’m nuts!  NO WAY!  Get away from my door and don’t ever come anywhere near me again!”


William said, “You’ll change your mind soon enough.  They all do – sooner or later.    Mary Shelly took a month before she decided that she wanted what I had to offer.  Unfortunately, bad blood between me and her husband’s muse made me cancel out on our arrangement after a few short months.”


Emma said, “Now I know who inspired the Frankenstein Monster!”


William said, “Good!  I knew you would see the truth of the matter eventually.”


Emma said, “Even if you were a muse, I wouldn’t prostitute myself for easy success.  I’ll just work harder at my writing and someday people will appreciate the stories I tell.”


William said, “You’re mistaken.  They won’t.  Without me, you’re nothing.  Face reality.  EVERYONE prostitutes themselves to some degree.  I’m asking very little in return for what I’m offering you.  And I can tell, you miss being intimate with a man.  That is not my true function but I can meet that need as well.  It might keep you from wasting your future by falling into a meaningless relationship based on loneliness and lust.  Work at writing as hard as you like.  All your sweat won’t overcome your basic lack of talent and inspiration.  You are deluding yourself if you think you can do it on your own.  You have no idea how bad of a writer you really were before spending a couple hours in the arms of a god.”    


Emma said, “You don’t REALLY know me.  If I had listened to everything I was told I couldn’t do, my son would be raised by someone I don’t even know and I wouldn’t have my college degrees.  I don’t care if you come for Olympus, you can’t tell me what or what not to do!”


William said, “Maybe you should have listened.  Look at where you work.  What good did your degrees do you?”


Emma said, “The things I learned gave me self confidence.  I know how to learn and how to take tasks to completion.  Everything I went through is now part of me – it wasn’t lost or wasted.  And I LOVE me even if no one else does or ever will.”


William said, “Oh you will be loved – by millions.  That’s more than what any one man could give you.  And the part that you will miss by forsaking mortal men for your art – that part I can provide for you without any risk of pregnancy or disease.”


“GO AWAY!”  She slammed the door and mumbled, “Nutcase.”






Part Seven: Emma’s Tale: The Dream Unravels

Emma tried to put her encounter with William behind her by digging deeply into her pile of work at the office. Sometimes she could calm her state of mind by letting herself become a machine – by getting a rhythm going and losing herself in a tedious work –assignment. She had started working into the lunch hour when her boss reminded Emma that she was expected to stop at the Laundromat during her lunch break to pick up the boss’s dry cleaning. Her rhythm interrupted, her bad mood returned. Oh the joy of being on the lowest rung of the ladder. She didn’t even have the benefit of a job description as the basis for refusing to run personal errands her boss.

The lunch hour was soon over and Emma returned with her arms full of her boss’s party dresses – each one probably worth more than one of Emma’s bi-weekly paychecks. Emma became suspicious when the boss thanked her warmly for running that errand for her. A thank you was an unusual event meaning that there was probably something about to happen that was bad enough to even tug at what served as her boss’s conscious. She hoped that maybe there was another reason. Maybe the boss’s husband had taken pity on her last night and put her in a better mood. More likely, he had come by for a nooner because she hadn’t been pleasant at all that morning. That fit because the boss would want her away from the office if her husband were coming around. Or it could be that she was having a closed-door session with one of the latest trainees bucking for a promotion. As she approached her desk, the reason became obvious. Her first guess was correct: it was the boss’s conscious. There were a couple empty boxes waiting for her on her desk and a security guard was sitting in a chair nearby. She had been fired. The security guard was there to see that no company files, equipment or supplies got put in the boxes when Emma packed her personal possessions. He would also be there to keep her under control in case she got out of line. She stopped at a co-worker’s desk and asked, “Jim, any idea why I’m getting let go?”

Jim said, “It’s a pr-emptive strike. There was a call from your publisher while you were out to tell you that you could pick up your plane ticket anytime today or tomorrow for Wednesday’s flight to California. They said that the book tour would last a month and a half so to pack accordingly. Congratulations by the way. The word spread and the boss realized that you were planning to quit without giving notice, so she made the first move.”

Emma said, “There’s been a mistake. There’s no book tour.”

Jim asked, “Do you have a publisher and is a book in the works?”

Emma said, “Yes, but that doesn’t mean I would quit right away.”

Jim said, “Well, even if you tell them that there isn’t a book tour and they believe you, they know that you’ll leave eventually. The management wants to know that their people will be around until they decide to get rid of them.”

Emma said, “So I’m out either way.”

Jim said, “I’m afraid so. I’ll miss watching you walk by.”

As she carried her boxes to her car, Emma made some mental calculations about how long she could hold out on her advance check. She didn’t want to regret what she had done with half the money, but her sudden loss of income made her very insecure. She tried her best to keep from thinking about her greatest fear. Sean was her only family. She had no support structure. If anything happened to her, Sean would become a ward of the state. One accident and he would be alone in the world. That was a reality that she lived with but forced herself not to think about for the sake of her own sanity.

When she got home, she called Paul Domer about the “book tour” call. Paul said that he would check on it and get right back to her. He told her that there was something urgent that he had to discuss with her anyway. After a few minutes he called back and told her that a new employee had messed up the company files and called her office about another author’s book tour. He made an insincere sounding apology and told her that she had some explaining to do herself. Paul continued, “We were getting our pre-publicity campaign ready because your book was already on the presses. We have a considerable investment made in you at this point. If we put out a book and it doesn’t sell, that’s a calculated risk that is part of the business and factored into our pricing structure. But if you cause a lawsuit or scandal that involves Galaxy Publications, we will not take that lightly. Is there something you need to tell me Ms. Harrison?”

Emma said, “I don’t believe so, could you be more specific?”

Paul asked, “Did you have any … help … writing the book that you didn’t disclose to us?”

Emma paused. She was fairly certain that William was a fraud, but what he had told her would happen did happen. After an awkward silence she said, “No, not really.”

Paul said, “So there was no collaborator, no ghost writer, no one who might have written this for you in its entirety and had you present it as your own?”

Emma said, “No.”

Paul said, “I’m sorry to inform you that your book was pulled from the pressed today at considerable expense. We have discovered strong evidence that the novels you submitted to us as your own for publication were in fact the work of another author. Our accountants are adding up what all this has cost us so far. I believe the figure is well over $100,000.00 already and the accountants are still going at it. Our legal department will be contacting you in an effort to recoup our losses. If they can’t reach a financial settlement with you, they will no doubt press criminal charges against you.”

Emma said, “This is all some kind of mistake.”

Paul said, “And you’re the one that made it. If you are innocent, why did you hesitate to state that the work was entirely your own?”

Emma said, “I was confused. This has been a rough day.”

Paul said, “Expect things to get rougher unless you can come up with the money. Galaxy would rather settle with you then to face the embarrassment of having you in court -- showing us to be easy targets. On the other hand, we can’t let people do what you did and get away with it. If someone else helped you write those novels or wrote them for you and if you can get them to come forward and sign a document that he or she freely gave you the right to use the material as your own, then we can forget that this happened and go ahead and publish the books. If not, you’ll need to find some money or get ready to spend some time in jail. The funny thing is that once your act of plagiarism was discovered, I went back and re-read portions of your novels. Somehow they don’t seem as magical and compelling as they did when I first read them. I question my own judgment in suggesting that we published them in the first place … and my judgment is something that I NEVER question. I am usually very good at picking up on subtleties, but it didn’t hit me until today how you kept asking if I was sure that I hadn’t read novels just like yours before. You were trying to make sure that the real author hadn’t already submitted the novels to me! I’ve never been played like this before. I’ll be the laughing stock of the entire company!”

Emma said, “But, but ….”

Paul said, “You have wasted enough of my time.” He hung up on her.

Emma was in shock. She wandered aimlessly around her small apartment trying to come to grips with all that was happening. Sean seemed to sense that there was something different about his mother and became cranky and upset. Emma held him close and wondered if their time together would be cut short.

The next day, Emma found another letter in her mailbox without any postage on it – this time is a reddish-purple envelope. It read:

“My Dear, there is a natural backlash when we start something and don’t follow through. What was positive becomes negative. My heart goes out to you. I am not the one causing your problems – and they have just begun. You have no idea! This is all just part of the natural order. It is the way of magic. To complicate matters further, my boss expected more of you and me. He can make my life miserable, but the things he can do to mortals that disappoint him -- that is the stuff of legend! Beware! If he doesn’t act too quickly and fry you with a lightning bolt or turn you into a tree, he might notice how fair you are. Whereas I do what I do because it is required of me as part of my job, Zeus has always enjoyed the company of mortal women. But Zeus is more powerful and imposing than me. Maybe you would like that. Maybe you would get a child out of the bargain that could leap tall buildings and divert rivers. But even if that happens you’re in trouble because Hera is very jealous and is worse than Zeus when she takes vengeance. I will help you in any way I can, but you have put me into an awkward position here. But if we simply –assume a different position … together as one … these problems will vanish and success will return like the ocean at high tide. Accept what we have to do. I have had to do this for centuries whether I was in the mood or not. It just becomes a part of your life like brushing your teeth. I can be very gentle with you … or not, if you prefer. And you can use that imagination that I have inspired to envision me as anyone you want me to be. I will give you a few more opportunities to change your mind. If you don’t, I must move on. Believe it or not, there are women that care more about the method I use to inspire them than in being inspired. There are many women starving for affection and attention. If you do decide that you are ready to proceed, stand in your living room window in something pink and sheer at 9:00pm on Thursday evening and I will come right up. Yours truly, William”

Emma crumbed the letter and said, “Never!”

The next day, Emma was watching an author on a talk show discussing a book she had written about the gods of Olympus. The woman was very matter of fact about the existence that the gods lead and how they interact. The woman author’s main source of information was a series of in-depth interviews with Wonder Woman. The details that the author gave were identical with much of what William had said during dinner the night she first met him. When the hour was almost up, the host of the show turned to the audience and said, “Everyone in the audience today will receive a copy of Amy Harriman’s new book “The Bored And Petty Gods of Olympus” courtesy of Galaxy Publications. On tomorrows show, we have a panel of lawyers here to discuss the topic “Is there any justice in the justice system?”

The phone rang but Emma let her answering machine record a message. She listened as she heard a voice say, “This is Paul Domer with Galaxy Publications. Just to give you a head’s up so you have time to make arrangements, the accountants arrived at a figure of $182,000.00 that you have cost Galaxy. The good news is that that figure includes the $10,000.00 advance check that we gave you so you don’t have to add that on as well. For your sake let’s hope that the lawyers don’t tack on anything for breech of contract or loss of revenues or anything else … but they are known to do that. It probably won’t matter anyway if you can’t afford it. I just hope you look good in prison attire … on second thought, you might not WANT to look that good to the other inmates and the guards. On the bright side, you might have a good prison novel in you when you get out. We wouldn’t publish it but someone might … especially if you get help writing it like you did last time. I did save you some good news though. I told my wife about your situation. She is well off … she has rubbed it in that it’s her money not mine and I DID sign a pre-nuptial agreement …. Anyway. We can’t have children of our own. She would be very interested in visiting you to see your son so she could decide if she might want to adopt your son when … if … you go to prison. So, you see. You may not have to worry about your son at all. My wife will probably call you in a couple weeks when she gets back from the fat far … the health spa. Good day.”

Emma listened to the message a few times and then burst into tears. She wandered into the bedroom and stared at Sean sleeping in his crib. She felt drained and wanted to be unconscious for a while. She opened her chest of drawers to get a fresh pair of pajamas and something pink caught her eye. She fingered the lacy fabric and continued to weep as she weighed her options. Somehow in her heart, she had come to the conclusion that William was indeed a muse. It was no longer hard to picture him as something not quite human. Still, she wasn’t ready to face what she had to face. She had no one to talk it over with – no trusted friend to give her advice. The people she had considered her friends showed their true colors when she refused to even consider aborting her baby or giving him up for adoption. She had never felt so alone. The only person that might want to talk to her now was … William. Sometimes you tolerate someone who is rude because the only other option is to be alone. And there are times that you just can’t stand to be alone. Emma slammed the drawer shut then remembered her sleeping son and ran to his crib. He shifted, looked up at her, smiled and then fell back to sleep. Still fully dressed, Emma went to her bed and fell into it face first. She hugged her pillow tightly to herself. After a while, she was able to sleep.




Part Eight:  Emma’s Tale:  The Lost Supper.”


On Thursday morning, Emma went to the state liquor store and asked the clerk’s help in picking out some liquor that is good for making her feel numb, then she took Sean to the park for a while.  She told him, “Honey, you are going to spend tonight with Mrs. Wilson.  You’ll have fun.  You see, your Mommy did something stupid.  She decided to try to find a new life where she could speak her own mind and be admired for it.  Now I don’t even know what ideas are mine and which have been planted there by that nasty little man.  I never realized how good my life was until I had to face the possibility of losing it.  Now I’m in trouble with the law and the universe itself.  I messed with forces that I didn’t understand and lost myself in the process.  The gods themselves will come after me if I don’t pay their price.  I don’t care any more about recognition or money or if anyone ever reads a word I write.  All I care about is keeping us together.  That’s it.  That’s everything.  I’d run away with you if I could but I know that Zeus could easily find me.  And if William is right … and he’s been right about everything so far, bad luck will follow me everywhere I go even if Zeus doesn’t seek vengeance.  I’d do anything for you, Honey.  ANYTHING!  I just hope that someday you won’t think less of me for it.  God knows, I think little enough of myself right now.”


Emma came home to her empty apartment.  She began putting Sean’s toys away.  It was quiet.  So VERY quiet.  She turned on some music to try to drown out her thoughts.  As much as she dreaded this evening, she wanted it over with.  Her nerves were giving her the shakes.  She decided to start cleaning to pass the time, but time seemed to stand still.  She emptied her cupboards of snack food and began munching away as she cleaned.  Finally she decided to start trying some of the alcohol to see how it made her feel.  She had never been able to handle the stuff very well.  She tried to decide whether to have a pepperoni or sausage pizza.  Failing to come to a decision, she cooked both … and ate both.  She continued to eat a bit and drink quite a bit until 7:30pm.  Then she showered and shaved and powdered and primped.  She didn’t want to give William any reason to reject her.  She thought that maybe if she looked good enough to him, the night’s activities might come to an end … pre-maturely.  But despite outward appearances, she had no idea what kind of stamina a god might possess.  She almost became ill when that thought struck her.  She pulled out her pink night gown and sewed some of the loose trim back in place.  It was a little worn and probably not as shear as William probably intended, but she could claim that she honestly thought that it was revealing enough and hope that he believes her.  She sat on the edge of the bed for a long time and tried to convince herself that she was grateful to William or that she liked him or that she could learn to enjoy his company and perhaps love him in time … but she found that as hard as she tried, she only became more resentful of what was expected of her.  For once in her life, she prayed that her parents we’re somewhere where they could watch over her.  She felt so ashamed that she wanted to crawl out of her own skin.


At 8:45pm, she stood trembling at the window and waited.  At 9:00pm there was a knock on the door.  There stood William smiling from ear to ear.  Emma resisted the strong urge to punch him in the nose and slam the door.  William said, “You look even lovelier than even I could have imagined.  Most goddesses on Olympus would die of envy if they saw you as you are right now.  And they may be watching.  They love to observe.”


Emma felt very exposed and looked around nervously.  When she glanced down at William’s attire, she noticed a large bulge in his pants and gulped hard.  Her knees felt weak and she wanted to run but she stood as if rooted to the floor – unable to move at all.  William brushed closely by her letting his hands move over her as he went by.  Emma tensed even more and felt movement in her stomach.  William said, “Nice place, but it smells of strong disinfectant.  You didn’t have to clean for me.”


Emma said, “I didn’t do it for you.  I can’t stand having germs in my apartment.”


William said, “Normally, I would suggest a slow, casual evening of exploring each other and getting to know one another leading up to an evening of unbridled passion.  But you seem nervous and full of anticipation.  Been a while for you, hasn’t it?  So I suggest that we go right to the bedroom and begin our work … unless you prefer we do it somewhere else.”


Emma said, “The bedroom.  I prefer the bedroom.”


William said, “Tonight is ladies choice but I have plans for later that will keep things interesting between us.  My friend Cupid sent something along with me.  A little of this substance in your drink and in twenty minutes, you’ll be in desperate need of what I am offering you.”


Emma said, “No. No.  I don’t need to be any more passionate about you than I already am.  I can handle it without Cupid’s help.”


William said, “Well I am looking forward to you handling it.”


Emma turned quickly so that William wouldn’t see the expression of disgust that she was trying to keep off her face.  She headed for the bedroom and felt William’s fast fingers touching her from behind.  Her stomach was in a full rumble now as she turned around beside the bed and faced him.


William took off his shirt to reveal his sunken, hairless chest and bulging stomach.  Then he shrugged his suspenders off his shoulders and let his trousers drop to the floor.  Then he pulled down his boxers and a balled up pair of socks rolled onto the floor.  William blushed and said, “I wondered where those had gotten to.”


As he advanced towards Emma, she saw that William wouldn’t be nearly as imposing as she had feared.  She thought that she might not even feel anything at all.  But when he touched her arms she felt a definite surge … in her stomach.  She pushed past William and ran for her bathroom.  She leaned by the toilet and accidentally dropped its cover shut as she kneeled and began to vomit.  When she finally stopped convulsing, she was drenched.  She stood and looked at herself in the mirror.  She was a mess.  She turned and stepped into the shower but then she paused.  She suddenly felt inspired.  William had touched her.  Maybe that was all it took.  She was a story teller.  She decided to use her muse-given gift to her advantage … to at least delay the inevitable for a day or two because she certainly couldn’t do what William demanded tonight.


Emma walked slowly out of the bath room.  William came towards her but then backed off.  He shouted, “For God’s sake, go clean yourself!  Just leave your clothes in the bath room.  They’ve served their purpose.  And gargle with something!”


Emma said, “What’s the point?  I have a nervous condition.  This happens whenever I try to get intimate with someone.  Why else would I have hesitated to make love with a god from Olympus?”


William said, “Well, how much could you vomit in 2 minutes?”


Emma said, “You’d be surprised.”


William said, “You can’t control yourself for that long?”


Emma said, “I’ve tried.  I can’t.  With you, I would be bound to lose control.”


William said, “Go!  Clean up like I told you to.  There are other positions where your problem wouldn’t matter.”


Emma said, “I wouldn’t suggest it.  I get spastic colon too.”


William said, “Well maybe you could ….”


Emma said, “The last man I tried to give pleasure to in the way I think you are about to suggest needed stitches.  I got so nervous that I went into convulsions.  Maybe, being a god, you don’t have to worry about getting injured down there.”


William said, “How did you ever manage to have a child if you’re like this?”


Emma said, “I was fine before Sean was born.  When Sean’s father insisted I abort Sean and left me when I refused, I developed abandonment issues.”


William said, “Well tomorrow, don’t eat anything and I’ll come back and we’ll try again.  I don’t think you having dry heaves while we’re doing business will bother me that much.”


Emma said, “If I know you’re coming over, I’ll eat compulsively.  I can’t help it.  Check out all the wrappers in my kitchen trash can if you don’t believe me.”


William said, “Then I’ll show up unannounced.”


Emma said, “That can’t work.  How would I know when to eat and when not to?  I’ve got to eat sometime.  And I have to plan in advance to make arrangements for my son.  I won’t have him here while you are.”


William said, “Why not?”


Emma paused.  She had better not insult him.  She blurted out, “I tend to get very noisy during ….   He’d get upset and start crying.”


William said, “He’ll be crying a lot more if the bad luck sets in.  This is a serious matter.”


Emma said, “Please.  I want this to work.  Isn’t one of the gods a physician or something? Can’t one of them help solve this issue.  In the meantime, we could dance again.”


William hesitated and then said, “I told you that I’m not on good terms these days due to taking such a long vacation from my duties.  If I can’t handle my –assignments without –assistance, I’ll get a bad reputation.  Dancing.  Dancing?  DAMN!”


William glared at her in disgust.  He said, “Go get some of that mess off you and clean up that bath room of yours. We gods have keen senses and the stench is making it hard for me to think.  Emma went to the bathroom and began sopping up the mess and rinsing it down the toilet.  At first she felt successful at fooling William but then the ramifications of what she had done hit her full force.  He was going to leave.  The police would come.  Her life and her son’s life depended on her doing what she had to and she had blown it.  Instead of delaying things, she had ended all hope for getting out of this predicament.  She felt so selfish for not just doing what she had to.  Women had endured worse for centuries.  Why couldn’t she have just put her mind somewhere else and gone through with it?  Now all hope was lost.  She felt a wave of despair coming on.  She didn’t want William to see her cry.  But he was calling for her to come out into the bedroom.  What could she possibly do to fix this?


William said, “I guess … I guess … DAMN, I don’t like doing it this way.  The normal way is far less costly for you and I only have your best interests at heart after all.  All it would have taken was some pleasant, intimate time and a few lavish gifts from you as you prospered … as well as a generous portion of your earnings in tribute to me for inspiring you.  It would be selfish of me to suggest that we NOT get intimate because you are not permitted to be with another while our partnership is in progress.  Why should you be denied such pleasure?  It would undoubtedly inspire you to even greater heights than being celibate.  You are so very beautiful.  What a waste!  We will get you treatment for your condition of course so that we can have the relationship we were destined to have.  In the meantime I can’t guarantee the same glorious results that I had hoped for … and it will cost you dearly, but we’ll have to do this the other way.”


Emma said, “WHAT?!  ANOTHER way?  You NEVER mentioned that there was any other way.”


William said, “I didn’t want you to cheat yourself.  Some women are timid about intimacy.  If I had mentioned the other way, you might have chosen it and denied yourself pleasure that you can’t even begin to imagine.  If you didn’t have your unfortunate problem, you would be begging me to come back as often as possible after our relationship had been consummated.  Physical intimacy IS the best method and, believe it or not, you would live for it.  I usually have to threaten abstinence after a while to get my subjects to get out of bed long enough to write anything.  I can’t help it.  I’m just that good.  It’s a gift and a curse I must live with.”


Emma said, “So what is the other way.”


William said, “Gifts and money … LOTS of it.”


Emma said, “I don’t have lots of money … and I don’t even have a job anymore.”


William asked, “How much of the $10,000.00 do you have left?”


Emma said, “Twenty-six hundred dollars.”


William shouted, “WHAT?!  I must never let money touch your hands again.  You will give all your future earning to me and I will dole the money back to you as I see fit.  What could you have possibly spent all that money on so quickly?”


Emma said, “I paid off my credit card debt and junk car, part of my college loans, some of my hospital bills from Sean’s birth… and I was so grateful I gave half the money to the local food bank.”


William shouted, “YOU FOOL!  You owe gratitude to nobody but me!  I will NEVER give you the chance to do that again.  NEVER!  It doesn’t really matter.  You will get a really big check from your publisher on Monday.”


Emma said, “Money FROM them?  They are planning to sue me … or prosecute … or both.”


William said, “Don’t you ever listen to me?  I told you.  Continue our relationship and do as instructed and all these problems will vanish.  We can forego the gifts for now, but I am in the mood for a sports car in the very near future.  For now, you must compensate me for what you didn’t give me in bed.  Just tell me how much you would charge a man to sleep with you if you didn’t have your problem.”


Emma said, “I WOULDN’T!”


William said, “You give that away too?  Aren’t you the charitable one?”


Emma said, “NO!  … Yes.  Well.  I don’t put a price on intimacy.  But I don’t make a habit of putting out either.  It has to be part of a special lasting relationship.”


William said, “Well, I’ll come up with a price for you.  I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and say you would be the equivalent of a high priced call girl.  Give me $2000.00 and we’ll consider that the same as you spending an evening of love making with me.”


Emma said, “But what if I don’t get the money from the publisher?  That won’t leave me much for Sean and me to live on until I get another job.  I have no job prospects and I didn’t see anything in the want ads that will keep the bills paid.”


William said, “You’ll get back ten-fold what you give me.  If I were you, I would be begging me to take all your money.  One evening’s wait for a ten fold return on an investment.  A lot of women would love to be in your nightie right now … sans the vomit.  Whew!  Tomorrow, you will get a cashier’s check.  They will BEG you to take it.  When you get it, endorse it to cash and I’ll come by to get it.  Don’t worry.  They’ll be plenty more money coming our way.  And once we get you the mental help you need … or once you realize that I’m not going anywhere and you have no need to fear that I’ll ever abandon you, then we can begin to inspire you in a way that you’ll enjoy a lot more.  When that happens, you’ll get to keep a lot more of your money, but until then, it won’t be easy for you.  I don’t want to see you suffer.  Now get a shower.  I’ll wait.  Then you can write me a check.  I want you to get a good night’s sleep tonight so you can start on your new novel tomorrow.  You won’t believe how your ideas will flow!”


William turned and left the bed room.   Emma grabbed a robe and went into her bathroom.  She sprayed air freshener, lit a fragranced candle, stripped and quickly finished cleaning the bath room while the water in the shower heated up.  She was in the shower thinking about how lucky she was that William didn’t have the power to see through her fictional problems with intimacy.  She turned and almost fell when she saw William’s leering eyes watching her.  She felt herself getting sick again.  As much as she hated his intrusion on her privacy, she knew that the situation could have been much worse.






Part Nine:  Emma’s Tale:  Reversal of Fortune.



The ringing phone startled Emma awake and made her feel like her head was about to come apart.  She never thought to ask the man at the liquor store about hang over remedies.  She felt around for the phone, picked it up and said, “Is this Mr.s Wilson?  I over slept.  I’ll come get Sean within the hour.”


The voice on the phone replied, “No Ms. Harrison, this is Paul Domer with Galaxy Publications.  This isn’t going to be easy for me to say.  I really don’t know how to tell you this.  I can’t believe that something like this could happen.  I am SO sorry!”


Emma said, “What?  What are you talking about?”


Paul said, “We knew that our new secretary had messed up the files, but we didn’t realize just badly she had confused things.  She called you about Amy Harriman’s book tour thinking that you were her.”


Emma said, “I know.  That cost me my job.”


Paul continued, “She also put three manuscripts marked “declined for publication” in Amy Harriman’s file.  These manuscripts had come to our offices over a few month period before you submitted the 3 manuscripts that I offered to publish.  When we found the manuscripts in Ms. Harriman’s file and they discovered that they were identical to the ones you submitted later, we were horrified.  Today, I called to make sure Ms. Harriman heard about her novels being stolen from me before she heard it from any other source.  She informed me that she only wrote scientific books and had never written or submitted a novel for publication.  We went back and found that you had submitted the manuscripts twice.  How they got past me and rejected the first time is a mystery I can’t begin to fathom.  I totally understand now why you wondered if I had read your novels before – because you had submitted them before.  I feel as if I must have had a minor stroke or something and a part of my memory is gone.  I intend to see a doctor as soon as I get off the phone with you.  I can’t believe I was so nasty to you the other day.  That is not in my nature at all.  Even had the charges been true, I would normally never treat a lady with the lack of courtesy as I displayed the other day.  Furthermore, I did you another disservice.  We normally give a $10,000.00 advance to someone who is having a book published by us.  You have three books being published so you should have been advanced $30,000.00.  A check for $20,000.00 will be waiting for you at the front desk.  PLEASE, please, come take the check.  You have every reason to pull your books from publication here but I BEG you to let us be your publisher now and in the future.  You are a rising star and I want nothing more than to be your faithful servant.  I only hope that some day you will be able to forgive me.  In your shoes, I wouldn’t be able to forgive, but I’m counting on you being a better person than I am.”


Emma said, “It sounds like an honest mistake was made, but it may have been something more than that.  I just ask that next time that you are sure that you are right about something, remember today and temper your words.  Now, it is my turn to take pleasure in hanging up on you!”


Emma knew now that it was all true.  She had a muse and she had entered into a world of magic.  She was now a pawn  -- a vehicle used by the gods to channel great works of literature into the world.  She couldn’t remember anything that she had really written because her memories where false things that had been magically altered.  Her voice had been silenced.  She would do what was required of her – she would write down the thoughts that flowed through her but they would not be hers and she would never take credit for them.  Neither would she profit from them – William would see to that.  She would pay every cent she earned by writing to William rather than ever let him touch her again.  She would live two lives:  one which was focused on her son and one where she would work hard to appease the gods and pay William’s tribute – until the day that William would tell her that she had fulfilled her purpose and release her from her duties.  She would support herself with any job she could get that wouldn’t distract her from her writing.


The day she picked up the check for $20,000.00, she left word that her pen name was to be “M. Harrison.”  No picture or biography of her was to appear on any dust jacket and she would not give interviews.  No mention of her gender or personal details about her life was ever to be made known or she would find another publisher.


Over the course of the next six years, books flowed from Emma at a pace that was rarely known in the industry.  Her works were truly inspired and inspirational.  No one dared ever edit a word of her work – that would be like touching up a Rembrandt.  Movie deals were struck before the subjects of her books were even decided upon.  The books became the subject of a cult following throughout the world.  College courses were devoted to the study of her books.  Yet Emma sought no credit.  She knew that she deserved none of it.  William took everything that the tax man didn’t.  Emma could only manage to earn enough on the side to live in a very modest way.  Her biggest regret was that she couldn’t do more for her son and be more generous to people in need.  She was hurting financially but she couldn’t go for help when her books and movies were earning millions of dollars that she never saw.  How could she prove financial need?  Then with only a dollar and six cents in her purse, she headed to the grocery store to buy some milk so Sean could have some cereal for supper.








Part Ten:  Mutual Friends/Mutual Foe.



Emma said, “Now you understand that I’m not as honest as you gave me credit for.”


Clark said, “Nothing you told me would make me think that.”


Emma said, “I let some people think I’m a writer -- mainly people at the publishing firm.  I know it’s not right but I justify it by remembering the trouble they have given me over the years when I have veered from the path that William set for me.  I know they are pawns in this game just like I am and I should never let anyone consider me a writer.  I’m just a glorified stenographer letting William’s magic work through me.  I don’t want to be a fraud anymore but every time I slow down or stop writing I put my life and my son’s welfare at risk.”


Clark said, “I don’t think of you as a phony at all.  You certainly haven’t benefited from all the work you’ve done and you didn’t enter this situation entirely by choice or fully informed as to the consequences.  Even if you had chosen to let William inspire you, who is to say how much comes from you and how much from William and whether or not in time you would have found the inspiration somewhere inside yourself.  Who is to say that all great writers don’t tap into some source of inspiration … and that you aren’t as deserving as any of them?   Even if you were just a stenographer, stenographers deserve payment for their efforts.    As to being honest, many people today wouldn’t care where their work came from as long as they could take credit for it and get away with it.”


Emma said, “Sometimes I feel cheated that I don’t get anything for my efforts.  In some ways it’s not as easy as I make it out to be.  A story can’t be channeled through my subconscious unless I am able to understand the nature of what the story is about.  I have to know enough about doctors and medicine to channel a medical story or enough about law to write a court room drama.  If I am writing a historic piece I need to know about the time period that the story is set in.  That’s the way it works according to William and I’ve found it to be true.  If I don’t know the facts, they can’t come through accurately in the story.  I have to do a lot of reading and research – almost as much as if I was actually writing the story myself.”


Clark said, “Well, you certainly deserve the freedom to live your own life without the consequences that your relationship with William imposes on you.  And you deserve to have enough income to be able to support yourself and your son considering how hard you work.  We need to focus on coming up with an acceptable way to get you out of your current situation.  When you started telling me about William, I was convinced that he was a con man.  In fact, I was counting on him being human and not a magical being.”


Emma said, “I have no doubts about him anymore.  Every time I resist him, there is a problem of some sort.  People call my publishers and threaten lawsuits over something in one of M. Harrison’s books or claim that someone was injured by re-enacting something from one of the stories.  When I co-operate with William, the lawsuits are mysteriously dropped.  I can’t fight magic.”


Clark said, “Unfortunately, neither can my friend Superman.  But I’m not giving up and neither should you.  Does William still try to make intimate contact with you?”


Emma said, “I’ve always offered him more money or to work harder or to write something more commercial and he backs off.  I even started writing the screen plays for movies made from the M. Harrison stories.  If he has physical needs, he has the money to pay for whatever he might desire.  But he still touches me at every opportunity.  It takes every ounce of will power I have not to slap him silly … and I base characters on him just so that I can have my vengeance on him – at least on a fictional level.  I have triple locks on my bath room and bedroom doors.  It still feels like he is watching me even when he’s not around.  I know it’s silly to think about people looking through solid walls but, if I’ve learned anything, it’s that ANYTHING is possible.  William doesn’t try cornering me as much as he used to.  I’m six years older and the bloom is off this rose.”







Clark said, “Hardly!”  There were a few moments of eye contact and an awkward silence.  Then Clark continued, “Well let me see what I can do.  It won’t hurt to try.  Sometimes a man can do through channels what a Superman can’t do with all his powers.  Financial matters first:  maybe I can get Galaxy Publications to advance you some money to tide you over.”


Emma said, “An advance won’t work.  William always knows when I get money and is waiting there with his hand out.  And Galaxy isn’t able to “advance” me anything anymore because the profits are rolling in so fast that by the time any check reaches me, they owe M. Harrison more than they’ve sent.”


Clark said, “Maybe I can get an advance on my next book and give you the money.”


Emma said, “No way.  You’ve done too much already.  And if William ever found out that I spent time with you let alone took money from you, I would be in a world of hurt.”


Clark asked, “Who do you work with at Galaxy?  Just in case I think of something.”


Emma said, “The man who reads all my books before publication is Paul Domer, but my contacts are mainly with couriers, the legal department and, these days, the CEO Bob Winchel.”


Clark said, “Bob’s a good guy, but I can’t stand Paul Domer.  I like to look for the good in people but in Paul I just don’t see it.  He tried to cut a secret deal with me 7 years ago.  He wanted to act as a literary agent for me on the side.  Basically, he would have made outrageous demands on my behalf as my agent then turn around and approve the requested amounts as an employee of Galaxy Publications.  I had hoped that it was just a test of my character but it turned out to be an indication of his lack of any.  I didn’t understand why Bob put up with him until I found out that Paul is married to Bob’s only child.”


Emma said, “Really?  Well Paul is a mixed bag for me.  He praises me in one phone call then tells me I am washed up in the next.  I thought that he was flighty until I realized that his behavior varied with how cooperative I was being with William.  It dawned on me that Paul was just being influenced by the magical forces involved in my relationship with William.  It’s a large part of what convinced me that William is legit and keeps me working my butt off to keep William happy.”


Clark said, “Well, I’ll either call Bob or visit him tomorrow. and see if there is any way he can give you benefits that William can’t get his hands on – such as expense accounts for you at restaurants and clothing stores.  Maybe he could even pick up your rent as a benefit.”


Emma said, “Wow, I never thought of that.  I really did need another point of view on this whole mess.  Hey, I’m curious about something.  You’ve met Paul face to face right?  I’ve only talked to him on the phone.”


Clark said, “Yes, I’ve had the displeasure of bumping into him on several occasions.  Why?”


Emma said, “I’ve always wondered what nationality he is.  He has a strange voice an talks with some kind of accent that I can’t place.”


Clark said, “Accent?  He has an arrogant way of talking down to people but I can’t recall any accent.  Maybe it isn’t Paul you talked to.  He may have a male -assistant that he delegates his work to.  I’ve never met his –assistant.”


Emma said, “No.  I’ve met his –assistants.  He goes through about one a month.  Maybe he is nervous talking to women and that is what I’m hearing in his voice.  He must be very shy.  He has always avoided meeting me.”


Clark said, “Paul Domer?  Shy of women?  When Paul’s around, it’s the women who are uncomfortable.  He strikes me as a real predator where women are concerned.  Every time I see him, he is making moves on any woman that gets anywhere near him and using any excuse to touch them.  I have pulled him aside on more than a few occasions to give him a friendly warning about it.  He just doesn’t seem to get it.  It’s like he thinks he’s God’s gift to women – though I can see absolutely no reason for him to believe that to be the case.  And he seems to get more self-assured and arrogant with each passing year.  One time there was a group of students from an elementary school touring Galaxy and I caught Paul hanging around some of the girls.  If I hadn’t been able to regain my composure I could have easily put him in the hospital or worse.  By the time I carried him out of the lobby by his tie, the fear on his face and the smell from what he had just done in his pants brought me back to my senses.  I hoped he had learned his lesson but men like him NEVER seem to learn.  I’d like to see him put away BEFORE he gets so arrogant that he acts on his impulses … if he hasn’t already, but that’s just not how the system works.  Sorry to go off like that but I truly dislike that man.”   After Clark took a few seconds to compose himself, he continued, “I’ve got a good guess as to why you never seen Paul.  I’ll bet that Bob has warned him to stay away from you.  You are far too valuable an –asset to Galaxy to risk having Paul’s roving hands send you running to another publisher.”


Emma said, “Well, I’m glad I was spared at least one unwelcome admirer.  But that doesn’t explain his accent.”


Clark said, “Well, he is a hard one to figure out.  Perhaps he uses a fake accent to put on a false front with you … to impress you.”


Emma said, “If that’s the case, it isn’t working.”


Clark said, “But it did arouse your curiosity about him … and a man like that lives for what ever attention he can get.”


Emma said, “If I had had a daughter instead of a son I might have thought all men were like that.  But my son is sweet and gentle … and I’m glad I met you too.  I really feel like I can trust you and that’s something that I haven’t felt in as long as I can remember.”


Clark said, “Once we figure a way out of your situation and you have contact with more people, I think your attitude towards men will improve -- maybe not right away, but in time.”


Emma said, “Time … TIME!  Oh my.  How late is it?  I have to get Sean home and in bed.  He has to get up early for school.”


Clark said, “Wow, it is late!  I’d better get you two home.  But I’ll let you be the bad guy and tell your son that he has to stop playing video games now.”


Emma said, “Not used to being the bad guy, huh?  Well parents often lose when it comes to popularity contests, but it’s part of the job description so I take the bad with the good.  And it is mostly good.”






Twenty minutes later, Clark was pulling up to the front of Emma’s apartment building.  Emma noticed a small man standing by the entrance and shouted, “Oh my God no!  Drive past the building!  Quick!”  Once they were a block away from her building Emma said, “That was William out front of my place.  I’m sure he saw me in the car with you.  He doesn’t allow me to see other men unless it is business related.  I’m really goning to have to pay for this one!”


Clark said, “THAT’S HIM!  That’s your Muse?”


Emma said, “He may be small, but don’t be deceived by his size.  He is a god and he has the power to destroy lives – specifically mine and my son’s.  Brute force won’t work.  So don’t get into a fight with him.  That would only get me into more trouble than I can handle right now.”


Clark said, “A lot of people –assume that I prefer to handle problems by force because I’m pretty big physically, but I pride myself on handling things in a more gentle fashion when ever possible.  And having gotten a good look at your Muse, I know I can handle this quite easily.”


Emma said, “We didn’t get that close to him and you passed him pretty fast.  How could you have gotten a good look?”


Clark said, “Umm.  My optometrist over-corrected my vision last time I got new glasses.  I would have had them fixed but it comes in handy some times.  “The better to see you with, my dear.  Relax, your problems will soon be over.”


Emma said, “I’ve learned not to underestimate William or the powers that work through him.  Please be sure about whatever you intend to do and be careful.”


Clark said, “Well, I’ve thought better of it.  As much as I would enjoy handling this for you, I’m not going to.”


Emma said, “What?  You said you would try to help me … and just now you said it would be easy.  I trusted you!  Are you scared of William?  Why won’t you help me?”


Clark said, “I won’t help you because I know someone that could handle it so much better than I ever could.”


Emma asked, “Superman?”


Clark said, “No, I will send in a staunch women’s rights activist who will take this quite personally.  If I didn’t give her an opportunity to get involved in this and she got wind of it, she would NEVER let me hear the end of it.  And never is a VERY long time!  This is going to be so sweet!”  Clark chuckled and then broke into laugh that made the car shake.


Emma said, “That’s just great.  If William sees the car shaking he’ll think we’re doing something we’re not.  I’ll get the blame but no benefit.  Some man you are!  My life is in the toilet and you sit there laughing. “  Emma sniffed and then shouted, “Well I so glad that you’re amused!”


Clark said, “Oh, I’m amused all right, but you’re not.”


Emma said, “What?  What aren’t you telling me?”


Clark said, “It’s best that I keep my secret for now, but don’t give that man another dime.”


Emma said, “I don’t have another dime or even a penny.”


Clark continued, “Don’t let him touch you or give you any –crap.  Just arrange for him to meet you tomorrow night at 9:00pm at your apartment.  Tell him that the man he saw with you in the car is a movie producer that approached you with a movie offer that is too good to pass up.  Tell him that you will have a very special present waiting for him.”


Emma said, “It won’t work.  He knows about things like that before I do.  He’ll know better.  He always knows … especially when money is involved.  And I CERTAINLY would never offer him a present if I didn’t have one for him that meets his expectations.  I’ve learned to avoid disappointing William whenever possible.”


Clark said, “Oh, William will certainly be getting something that will surpass his wildest expectations.  If he doubts the story about a movie deal, sell him on it.  Appeal to his greed.  If Paul or anyone else calls from Galaxy tomorrow, don’t tell them anything – ANYTHING.  If they bring up the subject of a movie deal, then tell them that you can’t discuss it and hang up.  My friend will be at your door by 8:30 pm.  You’ll probably recognize her.  I’ll be probably be hovering around some where in the vicinity to enjoy the outcome, but I won’t be needed this time.  My friend can handle herself quite nicely without anyone’s help.  This is better than Christmas!  It’s been a long time coming and it’s going to be priceless – PRICELESS!”


Emma said, “Well, Clark, it had better be priceless because I can’t pay anything more than I have already.  I’m trusting you with my life and, more importantly, with my son’s life so I hope you can be counted on when you’re needed.”


Clark said, “Well, I’m famous for being there when I’m needed but, as I’ve told you already, I won’t be.”







Part Eleven:  Bracelets and Bu11sh1t.



At 8:00, there was a knock at Emma’s door.  Emma opened the door to find a stunningly beautiful raven-haired woman in a long trench coat.  Emma found that she couldn’t get a feel for the age of the woman standing in front of her.  She had the glow of youth but a wise but tired look in her eyes that spoke of many years experience in the world.  Her face was classic and flawless and showed no signs of age.  In the moment before she spoke, Emma could have sworn that someone had placed a mannequin at her door because she was too perfect to actually be alive.  When the woman did speak, Emma jumped in surprise that this was a living woman in front of her.  She said, “Are you Emma Harrison?  I’m Diana – Clark’s friend.  May I come in?”


Emma didn’t reply and didn’t really let the woman’s words sink in – she just stared and blinked.  She heard “Clark’s friend” and thought, “Clark must think I’m a real dog if he hangs out with women that look like this!”  Dianna cleared her throat and Emma’s mind snapped back into focus.  Emma said, “I’m sorry.  Would you like to come in and take your coat off?  I’ve made some tea to calm my nerves.  Would you care for any?”


Diana said, “You are kind, but no.  No cup of tea would soothe me at the moment.  Maybe a little later.”


 Diana walked past Emma, let her coat fall from her shoulders and swung in over her arm in a single graceful move.  Emma’s Jaw dropped.  Why did Clark’s friend come here in a body suit?  I wonder how many hours she has to spend in the gym to get an –ass like that!”  When Diana turned and Emma saw Diana’s entire outfit, she thought, “She must have come here from a costume party.  Make a mental note.  NEVER dress like Wonder Woman at a costume party if there is ANY chance that Clark’s friend will be attending.  The real Wonder Woman herself couldn’t look that good!”


Diana said, “Your home is lovely.  …  Are you feeling OK?  You seem distracted.”


Emma said, “I’m fine.  It’s been a long day.  I hope my son stays in his room like he promised.  If he sees you, he’ll never look at another woman the same way again and I’m not quite ready to lose my little boy.  Did you just come from a party ...  or are you going to one after you do whatever Clark wants you to do here?”


Diana said, “Party?  No.  Clark acted like this might be fun.  I plan to toy with this William of yours and make him suffer a little bit before we get at the whole truth.  But this is no party.  I take this seriously – VERY seriously.”


Emma asked, “So why the party outfit?”


Diana said, “These are my working clothes.”


Emma said, “OH!  I get it now.  Duh!  You’re going to try to make William think you’re Wonder Woman.  I wish Clark would have let me in on his plans because you won’t be able to pull this charade off.  William knows Wonder Woman personally … VERY personally.”


Diana said, “No he doesn’t!  But he will.  And he won’t like it one bit!”


Emma said, “What did you say your name is?”


Diana said, “My friends call be Diana.  And I hope we will be friends.”


Emma gulped and said, “Clark said he knew Wonder Woman personally … and he seemed to know her on a first name basis … but he couldn’t possibly have arranged ….”


Diana said, “He could and he did.  When he told me what was going on and that M. Harrison was the person it was happening to, he had to do some serious fast talking to calm me down and keep me from coming over right then and there.  Sorry I’m early by the way.  I couldn’t wait anymore.”


Emma’s knees shook a bit and she couldn’t keep the tremble from her voice when she asked, “You’re the REAL Wonder Woman?  And you know who I am?”


Diana answered, “Most certainly!  I can’t believe I was ever stupid enough to think that M. Harrison was a man.  No mere man could write things that are so powerful and ring so true.  Many men write words that mirror what men already think.  Few can write in a way that shows people that there are other ways to see things.  In your world it was considered the man’s job to provide and the woman’s to nurture.  The man’s work was considered more important, but the woman’s work was mankind itself – providing the love and guidance for their children to be the people they should be.  Women started providing as well, but few women gave up and few men took on the role of nurturing the human race towards a more civilized future.  In your writings, you are molding the minds of men and women to a purer destiny.”


Emma said, “If you visited more super markets and saw how Mom’s nurture their young these days, then you might not have such faith in today’s women but I agree with your sentiment.  I thank you for coming here on such short notice and honoring me by being here and with your kind words, but if Clark told you my story, then you know that anything written under the name of M. Harrison wasn’t really written by me.  Those writing were the work of William’s magic.  The only words I can put on paper are words that he puts in my head.  I am the first to read what M. Harrison writes and I admire the message but I am not the source of it.  I love the words he let’s me channel but I can’t trust my thoughts or what I like due to his influence over me.  But I know that the books I’ve written disgust me because the message that comes through the books has in its source a man without morals or conscience.  He doesn’t feel or believe in or live the words that he sends through me and that’s makes those words a farce and the worst kind of lie and it sickens me that I have any part of the deception.  Every time I read what has passed through me I can picture William laughing at the fools that will buy what he is selling.  Can a liar produce a work of truth without intending to or knowing that he has done so?  Can the message be true when the orator is a phony?  Tell me, because I want to believe that the message is good and a shred of something positive has come from this tragedy that I’ve been living!”


Emma was more than a little frightened at the pure rage on Diana’s face.  She said, “I am known for my strength, but gods help me have strength enough to face this evil man tonight!  Yes the message can be true no matter what its source is.  Truth is truth no matter from whose lips or hand it comes from.  You life is NOT wasted.  Your work was NOT wasted.  It has not been for nothing but your suffering was an unnecessary and criminal act upon you.  Take heart because the truth will be your tonight and you can find a love for yourself that you deserve and have been denied.  I play a game at times called “bullets and bracelets.”  I can deflect anything that anyone shoots at me.  But I would trade them in an instant if someone would offer me a trade for something that would deflect bu11sh1t … because man’s world is so full of it.  Sister, BELIEVE IN YOURSELF!  I believe in you.  Clark believes in you.  The majority of the people who have read your books or seen movies based on them believe in you.  If you simply decided to do so, you could easily be this country’s first woman president.  Do not listen to the lies of men!  Listen to the voice that speaks to you from your own heart.  I pray for the strength not to strike this William down the instant he shows his face at your door!”


Emma asked, “Do you know how to counteract the power of a muse?  If you just make him go away, my bad luck will just start all over again.  I really can’t take being much worse off than I am.  I’m not complaining mind you.  I’m with my son and that’s what really matters, but I need to find a way to provide for him better than I have been.  He doesn’t complain but I can’t stand disappointing him all the time and seeing him go hungry.  He comes home from school and he doesn’t say anything.  But I know that he’s sad and that the kids make fun of the way he dresses.  I keep his clothes clean and mended, but I can’t afford ….  I’m sorry.  I am complaining.  I’m just tired.  The day my son was born, I held him in my arms and promised him the world … but what did I end up giving him.”


Diana said, “Love.  An example of dignity and perseverance under pressure.  You have given him more than you realize and he will want for nothing.  You must take some time and read your own books again. You will find all your answers there.  But let go of all your worries and trust me when I tell you that your troubles will be over before the day is through.  After tonight, I doubt that I could find another person in the entire world who will have as few problems as you will.”


Emma said, “How is that possible?”


Diana said, “Just trust me.  There is only one way that this can end badly for you, so I must have a promise from you.”


Emma said, “What do I have to do?”


Diana said, “Think of your son and your future together.  You are bound to hear things tonight that will make you very angry.  Unless you are a saint, you will be thinking about committing homicide.  Divert your thoughts to your son and a better life awaiting you and him.  If you commit murder, no matter how justified it may seem to you, you will lose your son and your future.”


Emma said, “I don’t think that I’m capable of killing anyone.”


Diana said, “You may change your mind but please don’t.  I have the physical strength to stop you, but I might reconsider and just watch you do it.”


Emma said, “What’s going to happen?”


Diana said, “Let’s just say, it’s time for William to pay his dues … with interest.”






Part Twelve:  Tribute Tally


At 9:00pm, William showed up – punctual as always.  Emma opened the door and stood back for him to enter.  He jumped slightly when he saw Diana sitting on the couch sipping tea.  He let his eyes take an inventory of Diana’s finer features and smiled happily.  He said, “This is more like it my dear!  You are being quite creative – not doubt due to my inspirational influences on you.   So this is my present.  You have decided to pay tribute to me tonight by procuring for me the services of a prostitute dressed like Wonder Woman.  Since I’ve enjoyed the company of the real thing, I’m sure that she will suffer by comparison … but I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth and I do appreciate your thoughtfulness.  I hope you continue to think along these lines in the future.  It is too bad that your condition precludes the 3 of us sharing in tonight’s activities.”  William turned his full attention to Diana and noticed how her coloring had gotten rosier since he had begun to talk.  He continued, “No need to be embarrassed my dear.  Do you intend to tie me up with that lasso or do you want me to tie you up?  If you want to be accurate in your portrayal, I will bind your bracelets together so you will be compelled to do whatever I ask.  Of course, the real Wonder Woman does everything I want her too anytime I ask.  She doesn’t need to be coerced to pleasure me.  So, shall I tie you up or will you bind me?”


Diana said, “Oh, the lasso is for you … most definitely for you.”


William said, “Either way.  I’m flexible … as you will soon discover to your delight.  But I do believe that turn about is fair play.”


Diana said, “I’m glad to here it because there will be a turn of events tonight and your will get what is due you.  But be very careful what you say to be.  I will not be disrespected.  Keep a civil tongue and co-operate or I will have to compel you to do what you must.”


William said, “My tongue is at your command.  Shall the pleasure begin?”


Diana said, “I am here on business.”


William said, “I know dear.  Is Emma going to pay you before or after?”


Diana said, “You are the one that will be doing the paying for a change.”


William said, “That’s not how it works at all.”


Diana said, “I think you don’t have a clear understanding of how things work in your line of business.  That’s why I am here.  To explain the rules to you and to collect … or exterminate.”


William said, “Let’s try a different game.  This is not at all amusing.  Remember your place or you won’t get paid.”


Diana said, “Oh, I don’t get paid.  I’m just the go-between.  Zeus is the one that gets paid – or else!”


William asked, “Who is Zeus?  Your pimp?”


Diana said, “Ooooo!  I wouldn’t let him hear you call him that.  It won’t go easy on you.  I have ignored your comments about me thus far but you are fast approaching my limit … and Zeus is far less tolerant than me – FAR less!”


William said, “Give me any more lip and I won’t go easy on you.”


Diana said, “Zeus wants his cut.  You owe him tribute and it’s years past due.  When a muse collects tribute from the person they inspire, they are expected to pass a share back up the line to Zeus.  Those are the rules.  We might not like them, but we must abide by them or face the dire consequences.”


William said, “I told you, I DON’T LIKE THIS GAME!”


Diana said, “Then why are you playing it?  When you became a muse, you received certain privileges and powers … and certain responsibilities.  You’ve gotten your tribute.  Zeus wants his – NOW!”


William said, “Emma, I told you NEVER to tell people about our relationship.  You don’t realize the forces you are dealing with here – forces beyond my control.  By telling this slut about us and putting her up to this charade, your have risked everything – EVERYTHING!  Emma, you know better than to mess with me.  You know what happens when you do.  I don’t cause it and I can’t protect you from it as much as I might like to.  It is just the nature of the magical forces that allow you to be who you are.  Get over here and get down on your knees and beg my forgiveness before it is too late.”


Diana said, “Emma, stay where you are.  My authority comes from higher up the ladder.  Zeus wants 80%.  He would have settled for half but he’s –pissed.  He doesn’t like to have to remind people to pay up.”




Diana said, “I am who I appear to be.  Not everyone in the world misrepresents themselves.  Some are proud of who they are and don’t re-invent themselves to get respect, love or money.”


William said, “You’re delusional!  I know Wonder Woman and you aren’t her – not by a long shot.”


Diana put her tea cup down on the coffee table and stood up.  She towered over William for a moment before bending down and effortlessly lifting the couch with one hand.  William had reached out to touch Diana as she bent over but had had a rare moment of restraint.  Now he was grateful that he had cut his signature move short.  He gulped hard and said, “This must be some kind of a trick.  You can’t be Wonder Woman.  If you were, you would know.”


Diana said, “Know what, Paul?  She put down the couch, sat down picked up her tea cup and took a sip.”


Emma said, “Paul?  Why did you call him Paul?”


The man trembling in front of them said, “Have her leave the room.”


Diana said, “She stays.  Emma, William is just Paul’s professional muse name.  Isn’t that right Paul?”  The man stood silently.  Diana continued, “You were going to say that if I was Wonder Woman I would know that you aren’t a muse.  But what you don’t realize Paul, is that you ARE a muse.”  Paul shot her a puzzled look but kept his silence.  So Diana continued to speak, “There is an old concept in business that you never officially get a new job at a company until you are actually doing it.  Old school companies don’t give someone a job title until they know that the person can handle the work.  A person who takes on the work and responsibilities of a job and handles it successfully would ultimately be given the job title and benefits that go with it.  Now you don’t get any more old school than Zeus – although he has been studying up on the latest management techniques in the last few decades.  You began calling yourself a muse and performing the function of one.  Muses don’t have their powers at birth, Paul.  They develop into what they are by taking on the work.  But when they accept payment for services rendered, they become a professional and fall under Zeus’s jurisdiction.  You owe him Paul.  You owe him big time.  You have been quite successful with her.  Beginners luck perhaps.  What have you taken in so far, 80 million dollars?  100 million?  Closer to 15 million I’d imagine.  There will be a full accounting but lets just call it 100 million dollars to stick to nice round numbers that are easier to multiply.  So, in 6 years, how much did you let Emma keep?  I bet it wasn’t even $40,000.00 – and usually only to put her up in a hotel on business trips and dress her up for important meetings – mainly just enough to cover some her expenses.  40 thousand is about right isn’t it?  Metropolis rent isn’t cheap, but since you live off others you might not have realized that.  You could have starved your goose and lost the golden eggs.  Eighty percent of 100 million dollars is 80 million dollars.  Let’s just round that figure up to 88 million and I won’t tell Zeus that you called him a pimp.  No, 90 million because I don’t like what you called me.  I normally would take a personal check because not many people would risk giving Zeus a back check … but in your case I’ll make an exception.  Gold bullion would be nice.  Let’s say noon tomorrow.”


Paul said, “I don’t have it.”


Diana said, “Not in your hand but I’m sure you have it in Switzerland.  You wouldn’t put it in your mattress.  Your wife or cleaning lady might find it.  You’ve spent some of your money pretty wildly on wine, women and activities during “business trips.”  But you haven’t spent the bulk of it.  You’re stashing it away for some secret future plan, aren’t you?  Wanted a nest egg in case someone caught on to what you were doing?  A certain investigative reporter friend of mine researched you a bit for me yesterday.  No, you haven’t spent that much relatively speaking.  You’ve bought a lot of property and have quite a portfolio of stocks,  but you still have nearly 100 million dollars stashed away somewhere, don’t you.  You couldn’t change your lifestyle too much or your wife and father-in-law might notice.  Does your loving wife still lavish you with gifts and large sums of spending money?  How much longer would you have played your little game before you ran off and enjoyed what you stole?  Would you have kept working Emma until she dropped from exhaustion or until her and her son starved to death?  You got too greedy Paul.  You played the game too long.


Emma said, “I’m confused.  What’s going on?  William didn’t know he was a muse?  he must have known.  This doesn’t make any sense at all.”


Diana said, “Remember I made you promise to think of your son and your future.  Everything will be OK.  It’s all over now.  Hatred and vengeance could only spoil the wonderful life you have ahead of you.  Emma, it’s time you met Paul Domer of Galaxy Publications.”


Emma said, “Paul Domer is a muse?”


Diana said, “No he’s not.  I just wanted to make him sweat a little bit because of the way he made you sweat.  I act as an agent of the civil authority.  As such I have limited recourse here and have overstepped any authority I have doing what I’ve done tonight.  No, Paul Domer is no muse.  He’s a con man and a predator.  He wanted to control you in every way – to own you.    He tried sexual extortion on you, but what he wanted most was the money.  Isn’t that right, Paul?”


Paul answered, “I won’t say a word.  You can’t make me!”


Diana said, “That’s where you’re wrong Paul.  I can!”  A golden rope lashed out and encircled Paul before he noticed Diana move.  Diana said, “Tell us about what you did to Diana.  How did this all begin?”


Paul said, “I was at work.  I opened a manuscript for a novel that was submitted by Emma Harrison …. “




Part Thirteen: William’s Tale – A Muse is Born

Paul said, “I was sick of all those trite, meaningless, stupid manuscripts that I was expected to wade through day after day. But the manuscript sent in by Emma Harrison was different. Once I began reading it, I couldn’t put it down. The story was so incredibly simple. It takes a genius to distill a story into something so simple and pure that, once you’ve read it, you feel like the story had always been a part of your soul. Everyone knows that there are no new stories to be told; yet here was a new story. It wasn’t a variation or adaptation or combination of any stories that I had ever read – and that’s all I do all day long is read, read, read. And the story was perfectly crafted. It was so true to itself that it feels like it couldn’t have been told any other way. Any attempt to edit it would make it less than it was. I knew that I was holding something in my hands that would influence people’s dreams for generations to come. It was worth a fortune! And I wanted to own a piece of it. As good as it was, I know that most published authors only have one good book in them. The great misfortune is that the publishers and writers try to duplicate the first success and generate many, many books that clutter the bookstore shelves and end up getting remaindered and sold for pennies to try to defray the cost of the paper they were printed on. God forbid that someone should be foolish enough to actually buy and read the putrid things. With this in mind, I wanted to know if Miss Harrison had it within her to generate something as worthy as the first manuscript. I wanted to know whether I was looking at getting a share of the profits of a single book or something bigger – a stake in a lifetime of books of such quality.

I locked the first manuscript in my desk. I wrote Emma a rejection letter that was discouraging enough that she wouldn’t submit her manuscript or any other to a different publisher. But I was careful to give her hope that with me she had a chance of getting published where others would dismiss her out of hand. I knew that any publisher she submitted the manuscript would sign an agreement to publish her under any terms she set. I had to make sure that would never happen. The day I got that manuscript was the luckiest day of my life.

In the letter I tried to sound genuinely interested in her. I asked her to submit another manuscript and told her that I had high hopes and could almost guarantee that it would be published. I also asked for as much biographical data as she was willing to provide on the pretext of having it ready for pre-publication promotions should we publish the next manuscript she sent in. I needed as much information on her as I could get to better know how to manipulate her towards a lucrative deal with me and away from any notion of approaching other publishers or giving up.

It seemed like forever before her next manuscript arrived. It was actually an incredibly short amount of time for the amount of work she had generated – especially considering that she was working more than full time and raising a toddler on her own. It only seemed so long because I was anticipating it so much and scared that I hadn’t played her correctly. I was scared that I may have traded the fortune that the manuscript locked in my drawer represented to me on an impossible gamble – the gamble that Emma would turn out to be one of those rare, prolific, bottomless fountains of new literature that come along only a couple times every decade or two. To my great shock, the second manuscript wasn’t as good as the first – it was much better. I wet myself at the excitement at the fortune I would make, but now I had caught the gambling bug and I wanted to know just how deep this woman’s talent ran.

I dug into the generous amount of personal data she shared with me. She was a devoted mother who would do anything for her son – ANYTHING! That would come in very handy. Her mother died giving birth to her. She blamed herself – maybe not on an adult level but certainly on an emotional one. Her father also blamed her and was very cold and distant. She was on her own at age 16 when she entered college on a full ride scholarship. She didn’t know what she wanted to do so she studied a lot of different fields -- which gave her a solid base as a writer. Her father never acknowledged that he had any pride in her scholastic achievement or showed any other kind of interest in her whatsoever. She earned several degrees but he was able to make her feel that the degrees had as little value as she did. When her father died from a liver failure due to prolonged alcoholism, she turned to a man who was there to comfort her. The day she told him that she was pregnant was the day he admitted to her that he was engaged to marry someone else. He offered to pay half the cost of an abortion and that opened her eyes to the fact that she didn’t really admire the man or even like him – much less love him. Realizing that she would be better off if she never saw him again and that she didn’t want him as a role model for her baby, she moved to Metropolis and got a job as an administrative -assistant-. She had given me so much that I could use to control her! I could keep her ego in check by getting her to buy into feelings of worthlessness but could make her work tirelessly by holding out hope that someday she would be recognized an someone with something to offer the world. She had put on a brave front and worked to over come the obstacles in her life, but she had provided me with the key to keeping her where I wanted her.

I was relatively certain that I could get her to write a third manuscript by wording the letter carefully and using what I now new about her past. I told her that she was very close to making something that I would be willing to recommend for publication. Now I had 2 manuscripts locked away in my desk with hopes of getting a third.

Another manuscript arrived and I was disappointed. It was interesting and factual but a little dry and the writing style had vanished. I thought I must have done something wrong to get her to switch to writing a factual book instead of sticking to the fictional stories that were allegories for life situations we all face. Here was a book about living beings who were more than human and nearly immortal – beings who were mistaken as gods and became the basis of Greek and Roman mythology. I had always been fascinated with mythology but this book reminded me that, in our world today, our concepts of reality needed to be altered. Magical beings exist and walk … or fly among us. This book also had a celebrity interview angle plus a concept about altered realities that hadn’t really been explored. The book could probably make a lot of money for a while, hit the best-seller list and then get forgotten, hit the discount bookstores and then remaindered and sold for pennies. The earlier manuscripts were timeless but this one was a hit and run kind of effort. I was surprised that Emma could write with two such different and distinct writing. I intended to recommend to Emma that she use a different pen name for the mythology book and use her own name on the first two. I also was going to urge her to try to find the spirit and style that was hers in the first two manuscripts and leave the documentaries to the hacks. If she had another great idea like the mythology book, I could sell the concept to another writer for her. She could get some quick cash that way but her time would be better served if she continued to write novels. The mythology book would make money for my father-in-law for a period of time, but it wouldn’t provide the kind of money I needed to get away from my wife and live in a style I wanted to become accustomed to. I began trying to think of a pemn name for Emma and went to scratch her name off the manuscript and make a substitution when I was surprised to see that the name was already different. This manuscript wasn’t from Emma Harrison -- it was from Amy Harriman. I was relieved that this wasn’t Emma’s work and surprised that my two hottest prospects had such similar names. I had no idea at the time how I could turn that similarity into an advantage. I recommended Amy’s book for the fast track so we could get it on the bookstore shelves before someone else came out with a book with the same take on mythology. Amy’s book had all the markings of a one hit wonder. Emma’s writing would rock the publishing world.

Then Emma’s third manuscript arrived and surpassed all my wildest expectations. She proved to me that she could crank out original, exciting books that would alter the way people think and make a difference in their daily lives. But more importantly, the money it would make for me would alter my life. If I could convince her to let me act as her literary agent, I would be richer than my father-in-law in no time – richer than I could have ever imagined before that first manuscript arrived. If she would agree to pay me seven percent of her gross earnings on the books she would publish and the movies that would inevitably be made from them, I would be able to live like I wanted to live and sleep with the best women that money could buy. That is my definition of heaven.

I had tried to work a deal with another writer a year earlier and he had acted like I would be stealing from Galaxy Publications if I worked both as his agent and as the person who green lights manuscripts for publication. That man is a naïve fool. If I were to simply recommend Emma’s books for publication, Galaxy Publications would make untold millions of dollars and what would I get? I would get a $200.00 bonus for discovering her and convincing her to sign with us. That’s it! So I ask, who is the crook in that scenario? Me? I think not!

I bought a new suit, got my hair cut and my nails manicured. I bought some flowers for Emma and marched to her apartment prepared to do the sales job of my life. I was convinced that there was nothing more important to me than getting Emma to allow me to be her agent. I imagined how homely the girl must be to spend all her nights writing. If she had any looks at all, she would be out living life instead of writing about it. So I was willing to grit my teeth and give her the pleasure of sleeping with me if it was necessary to convince her to sign a contract with me. It wouldn’t be much different than my situation with my wife. I was sitting on a bench near the buildings front door. I was there early because I wanted to catch her when she got home from work. Then I saw this woman who made all my priorities change. She was the most incredible woman I had ever laid my eyes on. I wanted this woman. I had to have her. Nothing else mattered. Then I saw her go to Emma Harrison’s mailbox and get out the mail. I knew she was too old to be Emma’s child and that Emma had a son. I thought for an instant that she was Emma’s sister but Emma was an only child. I decided that this must be Emma’s roommate. Now more than ever it was important for me to become Emma’s agent. It would give me a chance to get close to Emma’s roommate. I knew that a woman like that wouldn’t normally let a man like me get close to her. She would consider herself out of my league and never give me a chance. She was like every woman I had ever wanted and been rejected by. I knew that if I could ever get her in bed, she would want me forever. My wife reminds me on a regular basis just how good I am in that department. Being Emma’s agent, I could gain regular access to her apartment. I would have opportunities if she ever broke up with a boyfriend or if she got very drunk and easy to manipulate – or if she got drunk and passed out. I might even have an opportunity to put something in her drink or unlatch the door when I leave so that I could surprise her in bed. I wouldn’t even need to leave the door unlatched. I’m quite handy with a lock pick. But I decided then and there than I was going to have that woman someday one way or another and I committed myself to that goal.

As I prepared to approach the woman, an older woman came over from a nearby apartment building carrying a young boy. The second woman gave the baby to the one at the mailbox and said, “I’ll see you tomorrow morning, Emma.” I was shocked. How could someone that young and beautiful have written such important works of literature? A woman who looks like that would never have to think at all to have everything she wanted. Hell, she’d never even have to get out of bed. Now I really had to have her. A lousy seven percent wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy me. I wanted to be joined to her at the hip forever. I would own this woman body and soul. She was destined to be mine. I was determined that someday soon, we would be in bed together and she would be screaming out my name. Whether she screamed from passion or because she wouldn’t give in willingly would be up to her, but Emma Harrison would be mine. But I knew that it would be another day. To make my dreams come true, I needed a plan – a strategy that wouldn’t fail. I had to spend some time thinking about the things she wanted in her life and what she valued more than her free will. I needed a foolproof way to manipulate her into giving herself to me fully and obediently.

When I got back to work, the first proofs of Amy Harriman’s book were on my desk. As I looked over one of the copies, an idea started forming in my head. But could I get away with it? My first job would be to squash her self-esteem. A literary genius such as Emma deserved to look at the rest o us as if we were fungus. To gain and keep control of her, I had to make her feel that, without me in her life, she was untalented, weak and unable to protect herself or her son from the world around her. Yet, I wanted to be beyond blame for the forces that kept her down and under my thumb. First, I, Paul Domer, had to tell her that her dreams were impossible. Then a second person, a person that I would invent, would offer her a way to get what she wanted – at a price. I would have to make the price small at first and the offer of help seem innocent or harmless. That would entice her into a situation where I had all the power. It would of course be for her own good. Women are basically lazy and if left to their own devices would never achieve anything. I would be the one to make her reach her potential. I would also show her how much pleasure a woman can have by totally submitting to a man’s will. There would be no pretty boys to distract her from her work and keep her from enjoying the excitement that only I could give her.

Once I formulated my plan, it went like clockwork. Paul took Emma’s dream of being a writer away. William gave it back. William would prophesy about what would happen and Paul would make those predictions come true. But timing was critical. I had to work quickly once I showed Emma’s manuscripts to my father-in-law. He wanted Emma signed immediately. I pretended to have no memory of reading the manuscripts when she first sent them to Galaxy. I had the legal department only pay her an advance for the first book so that the twenty thousand dollars that came later would appear to be a miraculous response to Emma sleeping with her muse. I had to make her needy so I got her fired from her regular job -- as I have done so many times over the years that followed. I invented the story about a discovery that proved she had stolen the novels from another author. I told her that the legal department was planning to sue her and that the books had been pulled from the presses when in fact the books were being printed and shipped as fast as Galaxy could produce them. I made up a story about mixed up files to provide an explanation for why we thought she was a plagiarist.

There was only one major miss calculation that kept me from fully realizing my plan. I didn’t know about Emma’s nervous condition that keeps her from having intimate relations. Had I walked out when she told me that sex was impossible, my plan would have fallen apart and I might have been caught. No one would have shown up to arrest her. Her books would have been in the store despite her not being intimate with her muse. I wouldn’t have been able to call Emma and use the file mix-up explanation to cover myself. That would have meant that Emma’s bad luck went away without her being intimate with William. William would have lost all credibility and she would have known that he was a phony. So, on the spot, I had to give her another way to give William his due -- so that she would think that paying William and being obedient to him is what made her bad luck go away. I lost the chance to have Emma submit to me sexually in the immediate future but left the door open for me to get a larger share of the money Emma would be earning from the sale of her books. The money allows me to hire women to meet my needs until my plan is complete and I have Emma in every way.

Another problem provided a hindrance at first but gave me a second chance to have Emma as my own personal slave. Her guilt caused by her believing that she hadn’t written the books herself caused her to adopt a pen name. Book tours coupled with pictures of her face and figure on every book could only have improved sales and revenues. But on the other hand, that would have undoubtedly attracted suitors to court her – which is the last thing I want. The widely held belief that M. Harrison is a man has allowed me to represent myself as M. Harrison in many business dealings. When I retire in a few months, I plan to have a little plastic surgery and spend the rest of my days in seclusion surrounded by people that believe I am M. Harrison.”

Diana said, “So you weren’t planning to make Emma keep writing books for you forever.”

Paul said, “I have had to wait too long to have Emma the way I really want her. The wait has made me desire her more than you could imagine. I promised myself that I would retire when I had reached certain financial goals. When I have 100 million dollars in cash and enough investments and residuals to guarantee 30 million in income per year after that, Paul Domer will disappear and M. Harrison will retire from writing and spent his time with his personal -assistant and mistress, Emma. My projections show that I will reach those goals within 3 months.”

Diana said, “Did you think that Emma would go along with that?”

Paul said, “When Emma writes a movie script and it goes to production, I put her up in a suite in a hotel near where the filming takes place. As script changes are required due to filming problems, a courier delivers notes with suggested changes to Emma at the hotel. Everyone is told that she is M. Harrison’s personal –assistant Emma. Since no one ever sees her leave the place at night and people like to speculate what beautiful women do secluded in a hotel room with their boss, a rumor has developed that Emma is M. Harrison’s mistress. Of course, Emma is alone. She makes the script changes as she sees fir and then has the courier deliver them back to the production company. We have done this several time in the past few years. Emma knows I never bother her in any way while she is working. In a couple of months, we are going out to Las Vegas on the pretext of making script changes to a movie being filmed there. What Emma won’t know is that the hotel is an investment property that I own staffed entirely by people loyal to me that know me as M. Harrison. The first time she tries to leave the suite, she will find that the doors are locked and that she is my prisoner. She will be my bird in a gilded cage. Since the doctors she has seen haven’t cured her nervous disorder, I will not allow her to eat for 3 days before having relations with her. In time she may learn that I will never abandon her and she may not need to fast anymore – her nervous condition will be cured and we can have the kind of relationship I have dreamed of since the day I first saw her. For a desirable woman like Emma to remain celibate so long has been a terrible waste. But at last she will know the joy of belonging to me in every way.”

Emma rushed towards William but Diana held her back. Emma shouted, “AND WHAT PLANS DO YOU HAVE FOR MY SON, YOU SICK ****!”

William answered, “He will be sent to boarding school at first, then possibly military school. He will be looked after … as long as he behaves. But he will be out of our lives. Sean is a distraction and I will require you undivided attention. My pleasure will be your only concern and reason for being.”

Emma was trembling in fury. Diana pushed her back across the room and into a chair.
Emma said, “You were right. I am capable of murder. I could end his life and never live to regret it.”

Diana said, “If you killed him, I would be required to take you to jail by the authority that I have pledged to obey. I would have to testify as to what I saw and you might never see Sean again.”

Emma said, “If I was willing to go to jail for 3 months, how badly could I beat him up?”

Diana said, “I doubt that you could stop if you began hitting him so it’s best not to tempt the Fates. Just like I promised you -- it’s over. Remember what we talked about. He’s taken far too much from you already. You are truly free now if you choose to be. Don’t let hatred poison the time you and Sean have ahead of you.”

Diana walked back over to Paul and handed him a notebook. She said, “Paul, write down the account numbers and passwords for all your Swiss accounts and of any other accounts where you’ve put Emma’s money. Also list the property and other holdings that you bought with Emma’s money. My lasso will enable you to remember the information clearly and keep you from writing down inaccurate or incomplete information.”

Diana went to the kitchen and brought back a cup of tea for Emma. Emma was quietly crying and shook her head to refuse the tea. Diana put the tea down and leaned over to bring her face closer to Emma’s. She said, “You should be happy. Tonight you learned the truth about your Muse.”

Emma said, “But it was so real. I would sit down and my hands would struggle to work fast enough to get the words down as they came pouring out of my head. Is my real muse waiting out there somewhere, and will he be coming to my door sometime soon to demand payment? Because if there was no muse, where did all those books and screenplays come from?”

Diana said, “Oh, you have a muse all right. She’s very powerful and creative and magical. Let me introduce you.” Diana helped Emma to her feet and took her to a mirror on the Wall. Diana pointed at Emma’s reflection in the mirror and said, “There is your muse. You have the power to a-muse yourself – and anyone else who reads your books or watches the movies you’ve written. You are a great writer Emma. Everything you wrote down came from somewhere inside of you.”

Emma looked deeper into her own reflection and the tears flowed faster. She asked her own reflection, “I am a writer? Me? I can tell Sean that his Mom who works … WORKED as a cashier at the car wash is a WRITER!”

After a while, Emma turned back towards Paul. He was still busily writing down account numbers in the notebook that Diana had given him. Emma asked, “What will you do with him?”

Diana said, “I’ll do the only thing I can do. I’ll turn him over to the District Attorney for prosecution.”

A booming voice from the far corner of the room said, “NO YOU WILL NOT!”

The women turned. There stood a beautiful man in a toga that covered one shoulder but left most of his hairless chest bare. He had pale skin and violet eyes. He crouched because if he stood up straight, he would have been twelve feet tall – and the ceiling height couldn’t accommodate him. Over his bare shoulder, he carried a satchel.

Diana said, “Hermes, what business do you have here?”

Hermes answered, “I have come for the pretender so justice may be done this day. Zeus has sent me to fetch him back to Olympus so that he may be sentenced and punished for his crimes.”


Part Fourteen: Godsend

Diana said, “I’m sure that Emma is sufficiently impressed with your size, Hermes. Why don’t you scale it down a bit so we can have as normal a conversation as possible under the circumstances? The wing tips on your hat are making holes in Emma’s ceiling.”

Hermes shrunk to seven foot three inches in height and strolled over to Diana. He asked, “Are you almost finished with the pretender? Zeus expects me back within the hour.”

Diana said, “Still working the mail room?”

Hermes sneered and said, “When you’re the best at what you do it’s almost impossible to get promoted. Maybe in a couple centuries Fed Ex will be up to sufficient speed and load carrying capacity to let me move on to higher pursuits. Until then, the shoes fit so I have to wear them. But my career advancement or lack thereof is not the topic of the moment. Again I ask, are you almost done with the imposter?”

Diana said, “I can’t believe that Zeus decided to get involved in this one since he adopted the “Prime Directive” of non-interference in human affairs several centuries ago. This man should be of no concern to Olympus. He is a human being – or something resembling one. He has not pledged himself to the gods or placed himself in their service so he falls under the human authority.”

Hermes said, “He placed himself under our authority and made himself answerable to Zeus when he declared himself to be one of us. By doing so and acting without sanction against this woman whom Zeus holds dear, he has violated laws older than any human government now in existence. Zeus has allowed you the opportunity to “yank this man’s chain” out of respect to you and M. Harrison [Hermes paused to tip his winged hat in Emma’s direction] … but Zeus is royally –pissed off at what this Paul Domer did in his name and he WILL have his retribution!”

A voice behind him said, “No you won’t.”

Hermes turned and said, “Friend from Krypton! It has been some time since we raced side by side. Surely you didn’t come here to protect one who preys on fair women and keeps food from the mouths of their children?”

Superman answered, “I am an officer of the court and it is my responsibility to see that due process is carried out.”

Hermes said, “Oh, it will be! Zeus will let him talk awhile before finding him guilty.”

Superman said, “That’s not justice. A man is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

Hermes said, “I can walk the streets of this country and see how superior your system of justice is. No one ever has reason to fear in America. No one would dare hurt another or steal from them because justice is true and swift. Is that the case? How dare you criticize the time-tested justice of Olympus when your country has proven ineffective at policing itself and protecting its citizens!”

Superman said, “There is a compromise between freedom and social order. If the government could lock up anyone they decided might commit a crime, then the individual isn’t given an opportunity to make a choice – for good or bad. The people might be protected from each other, but they wouldn’t be protected from the judgment of those in authority – they wouldn’t be free. Until mankind evolves to the point where they hunger for peace and tranquility, any free society will have a problem with criminal behavior. Authority isn’t perfect so we have the jury system to give an accused man the opportunity to convince at least one of his fellow men of his innocence. How can there be justice otherwise?”

Hermes replied, “So you believe that truth is something that can be determined by the vote or 12 or 12 billion? Was the Earth a sphere before this millennium? Because, if put to a vote back then, the ”truth” would have been that the Earth is flat. I understand the difficulties you humans face due to your limitations. But at Olympus, we can watch every moment of this man’s life. Truth is available to us for the asking. It is no guessing game or something based on political agendas. We have seen what Paul has done – to Emma and to other victims that remain silent but scarred. We even know what he would have done given the opportunity and what he will do if his freedom is not curtailed. As always, I find philosophical discussions with you fascinating my friend but I am on a schedule here. You needed worry about Paul. He will have a very long life of service and will bring much pleasure into the lives of the Gorgon sisters. They have been lonely for centuries -- ever since Zeus began his hands off policy when it comes to humans. As long as they are given a choice in the matter, both gods and humans alike are loathe to touch or even look upon the sisters. Poor dears. Paul will be given no choice in the matter.”

Superman said, “I’m sorry. It sounds like a fitting punishment, but I can’t permit you to take him.”

Hermes said, “You need not permit it … but neither can you stop it.”

Superman reached for Hermes but his hand passed right through him. Superman said, “Maybe I can’t touch you, but I can touch Paul and take him beyond your reach.”

Hermes said, “There is nowhere that is within your reach that is beyond mine. But knowing you, you will try it anyway. Go ahead.”

Superman reached for Paul but his hand passed right through him as well. Superman said, “I can’t let you do this!”

Hermes raised a palm towards Superman in a gesture to tell him to stop and said, “Fah-Get-Ah-Bout-It!” Superman stood motionless like a statue. He had a no expression on his face and a vacant look in his eyes. Hermes shrugged and said, “I always wanted to say that. Poor boy scout! Never able to face the inevitable. But that IS one of his greatest strengths -- his uncanny ability to get around the inevitable and achieve he impossible. But not today.” Hermes shifted his gaze from Superman to Emma and said, “Miss Harrison.” Emma should staring at Superman as if she too had been effected by Hermes sell. Hermes repeated, “Miss Harrison!”

Emma was startled back into the here and now and said, “Huh?”

Hermes said, “Zeus likes us all to “multi-task” these days. Life was easier before he took all those management courses at NYU! He asked me to bring these.” Hermes emptied his satchel onto the table where Emma and Sean shared their meager meals together. Hard cover first editions of all of M. Harrison’s books poured out. Hermes pointed at the books and said, “Zeus asked me to see if you would be willing to autograph his collection of your books for him. It is a humble request, not an order. You can refuse with no fear of repercussions. He would never do anything to threaten or harm you in any way. But, the expression about shooting the messenger is a very old one and being immortal doesn’t make a lightning bolt up the backside any less painful. At the very least he would make my life miserable for a very long time if I showed up without your autograph on those books. Please. He’s a big fan. He would have come himself except he is so embarrassed that he didn’t realize what was going on and put a stop to it.”

Emma said, “A god wants my autograph?”

Hermes said, “Not just a god – the CEG!”

Emma asked, “CEG?”

Hermes said, “Yeah. NYU’s influence again. CEG is Chief Executive God.”

Emma said, “Sure, I’ll sign them. Why not?”

Hermes said, “Zeus wanted to apologize for all this.”

Emma said, “He didn’t cause my problems. I fell for a con man … and they say that a con man can’t do what he does if his victim isn’t greedy. I wanted success and recognition too badly and I’m paying for it.”

Hermes said, “Still, Zeus feels guilty and wants to ease his conscience. He wants to do something for you.”

Emma said, “No thanks, I made that mistake before.”

Hermes said, “No you haven’t. It was a man pretending to be a god that caused your problems. Zeus wants nothing from you. Well, he would like to see you keep writing and he really does want your autograph, but he demands nothing of you. He will not come to you later to ask you for a small favor. Love that Godfather movie! Did you write that one?”

Emma said, “No.”

Hermes said, “Please allow him to give you something. A friend accepts gifts and Zeus needs to know that you blame him for the pretender’s actions.”

Emma said, “It all depends what he wants to give me. I can’t accept anything extravagant. A small token of some kind might be OK. I don’t want to feel obligated or worry that he has other intentions toward me. Even though Paul is a phony, I have heard about how jealous Hera can be.”

Hermes said, “Hera’s jealousy is pure fiction. Can you imagine a woman still being jealous of her husband’s activities with other women after being married for millennia?”

Emma said, “Yes I can. And I don’t want to take any more risks that could cast a shadow over Sean’s future or mine.”

Hermes said, “I will have Hera approve of any gift you are given but as to “extravagant” -- that term is meaningless to us. Everything comes to us freely. We do value our time but even that is available to us in abundance. Let me give you an example of a gift that you could have for the asking. The pretender kept you from finding the love that would have been yours under normal circumstances. Zeus could order Cupid to visit any man you choose. After Cupid’s visit, the chosen one would love and serve you all of his days.”

Emma asked, “Any man?”

Hermes said, “Yes.” Emma looked back at Superman and stood transfixed, lost in her thoughts again. Hermes said, “You have chosen well indeed!”

Emma jumped and shouted, “NO! Oh, no! Sorry. I have had someone try to manipulate my feelings and I didn’t care for it at all. I won’t force him or any other man to love me.”

Hermes laughed, “Zeus knows you well! He told me you wouldn’t accept that particular gift and he asked me not to offer it to you. This is one of those times that those management courses paid off. He never used to “ask” me anything but leave it up to my judgment. He used to order me to do things and expect them done precisely the way he asked. I had to see for myself that you could refuse an opportunity to have the Man of Steel become your love slave.”

Emma shot Hermes a look that gave him a cold chill. She said, “You were testing me? Playing a game? Is that what we are to you – playthings? I won’t let anybody, god or man, treat me like that! I’m glad I didn’t sign those books yet! You can take those books and ….”

Hermes jaw dropped. He said, “Forgive me please!” and dropped onto one knee in front of her. He said, “Zeus had NOTHING to do with that. Please don’t take your anger with me out on him. Hermes took Emma’s hand and stoked and kissed it. She felt her nerves tingling as he touched her. Before she knew what was happening, he had slipped a ring onto her finger. Emma felt a wave of intense heat pass through her body. Her body wavered and she felt faint but Hermes’ larger than human hands reached out and held her firmly and lovingly. She couldn’t help but like the feeling of his hands on her and shed a single tear thinking of the hugs her father always denied her. She became more steady and suddenly felt as if she had just gotten up from an energizing nap and was ready to conquer the world. She hadn’t felt like that in recent history except when she was totally into some character in one of her novels. She looked deeply into Hermes eyes and said, “What did you do? What did you put on my finger?”

Hermes said, “If you refused everything else, Zeus insisted that I give you the ring you now wear.”

Emma looked at it and thought her eyes were playing tricks on her. The ring was composed of tiny strands of gold and platinum that appeared to be woven into a tapestry that seemed to move as she watched it. She said, “That is the most beautiful ring that I have ever seen but I can’t ….”

Hermes said, “ You must! Please. Even if you do return the ring you couldn’t undo what it had done for you.”

Emma asked, “What did it do?”

Hermes explained, “The imposter took away six years of your youth. The ring returned 10 and has returned you health to an optimal level. The stress you were under were having hidden but deadly consequences and your malnutrition was causing your body to consume its own muscle tissue and stealing your vitality. If you take off the ring, it will take you another ten years of abuse to your body to get you back to where you were a few moments ago. Only time can undo what has been done for you. If you honor Zeus by keeping his gift and wearing it, your health and stamina will never diminish and your great beauty will never fade.”

Unable to make herself get angry again, Emma pouted a little and said, “You should have asked me before putting the ring on my finger. I’ve earned all my wrinkles and gray hairs.”

Hermes looked puzzled and asked, “What wrinkles? Hat gray hairs?”

Emma said, “Well, they may not have showed much yet, but I earned them. I deserve the respect of my years.”

Hermes said, “Forgive me. I didn’t realize that men of this age had learned to respect women for their signs of age. I will take back the ring and explain the reason to Zeus.”

Emma pulled her hand a little farther away from Hermes and glanced down at the ring again. She said, “Well I don’t want Zeus to think that I blame him for Paul’s deeds – and I don’t want to make him sad by returning his token of friendship – and I don’t want him to get angry about my choice and take it out on you … I could imagine that a lightning bolt would hurt even you … and the ring is lovely ….”

Hermes sprang to his feet and shouted, “EXCELLENT! And the books?”

Emma said, “Consider them signed! I’ll go to work on them immediately.” Emma went to the table and piled the books into her arms and carried them back to he bedroom.”

Hermes smiled brightly and grew a foot – denting the ceiling in the process. He opened a second satchel that seemed to appear out of nowhere. He asked Diana, “Are you through with him now?”

Diana said, “I guess so. That was some list he wrote. He has money and property stashed everywhere – most of it under the name M. Harrison.” Diana gave an involuntary shutter and continued, “The Gorgon sisters, huh? Zeus isn’t showing any mercy this time.”

Hermes said, “No indeed. And the imposter shall live many normal life spans serving their every desire.”

Diana said, “Maybe he’ll learn to like it … in time.”

Hermes said, “Doubtful. VERY doubtful. But at least his lie will be made into a truth. He will be spending many an intimate moment the Gorgon sisters who are after all goddesses.”

Hermes touched Paul’s forehead and Paul fell into a deep sleep. Diana unfastened her lasso from around Paul and reattached it to her belt. Hermes lifted Paul as if he were a statue and tucked him into his satchel.

Hermes said, “The affairs of men still move me to sadness. The Gorgons will make him into whatever kind of lover that they want him to be but he was a pitiful and uncaring lover. He was a confident man mainly because of one thing – his wife truly loved him. She thought the world of him and used every opportunity to tell him how wonderful she thought he was. To her, their times in bed were magical because she was able to give him what he demanded of her and that is what thrilled her beyond measure. Yet he never knew what he had or appreciated her. He thought of her as an unwanted burden – a cash cow -- and longed to be through with her. The other women that told Paul how wonderful he was were people he paid to pleasure him. What else would they say? I will be making many trips in the near future to finish cleaning up the mess Paul leaves behind. First and foremost I will bring Mrs. Domer the gift of forgetfulness and set Cupid on the trail of finding someone that will love her for the wonderful woman that she is. Before I am through, few mortals will ever know that Paul Domer walked the Earth. It looks like I will just barely make Zeus’s deadline. The Gorgons will be happy. Their lonely nights are at an end.” After a few moments of silence, Hermes pointed at Superman and laughed. He asked Diana, “Does this one still think that it’s his silly glasses that keeps his secret identity safe?”

Diana was caught off guard by the comment and threw her hands over her mouth and bent over from laughing so hard. When she could speak again she said, “Yes, the poor dear. It’s kind of mean not to tell him that Hera cast a spell on him to keep people from realizing that he is Clark Kent … but it is just TOO funny to let him think that the glasses are what does it! Shhhhh! Emma’s coming back. Be a gentlegod and help her carry those books.”

Hermies started taking the books and pacing them into the satchel that he had brought them in. She said, “Sorry that took so long. I’ve sat in this apartment and signed tons of books, but I’ve never signed them for someone who knew that I’m a woman before. I signed them all “Emma Harrison” instead of “M. Harrison.” That’s the way they’ll be signed from now on. I read a lot of notes that Zeus had written in the borders and wrote a few responses to those notes. Then I got a little silly and put on some lipstick and put a lip print by my signature in each book. I also wrote a thank you letter addressed to both Zeus and Hera thanking them for the ring. Here’s the letter. Do I need a stamp?”

Hermes said, “No, but I’ll take a hug and a kiss if you’re willing.” Emma blushed and put her arms around Hermes’ neck and held him tight. She tingled all over from being in contact with him. She was so small in his arms that the feeling of being a child and getting a hug from her father came rushing back to her. She got all choked up and kissed him firmly on the cheek but caught herself before she could say, “I love you, Daddy.”

Hermes gently lowered her feet to the floor and said, “I should make Superman love you for his sake, not yours. You are a treasure. I have a confession. Those we’re all Zeus’s books.”

Emma said, “I noticed that there were 2 copies of each title so I kind of figured that out.”

Hermes looked at Emma very intensely and said, “Thank you Emma Harrison. If you ever need me just call my name.”

Emma said, “You know, the picture of you on the side of those flower trucks doesn’t do you justice.”

Hermes brilliant smile returned. He tipped his hat to Emma and then to Diana. He put a satchel over each shoulder and then kneeled again at Emma’s feet. His body began to grow and become transparent until he vanished like a fog.

Superman shook his head and said, “What happened?”

Wonder Woman answered, “Justice … maybe.”

Emma nervously approached Superman and looked at his red boots as she asked, “Superman, would you stay awhile and meet my son? It would be the thrill of his life. He’d never forgive me if he found out that you were here and he didn’t see you.”

Superman reached over, put a curled index finger under Emma’s chin and tilted her face up so that he could look her directly in the eye. He said, “Unless a plane is about to crash or a large meteorite is about to destroy a city, I’d be more than happy to stay awhile.”

Emma said, “Great! He will be thrilled! But before I go get him, could I ask that one of you do me a favor?” Both Superman and Wonder Woman nodded in agreement. Emma continued, “Since both of you are good friends of Clark Kent, could one of you tell him that I still owe him three cents and a dinner and that I insist on repaying my debts.”

Superman said, “Consider him told.”

Emma said, “Thanks. Do either of you know if he’s seeing anyone? I know now that my Muse was a fake, but when I’m with Clark, I still believe in magic.”

Superman and Wonder Woman glanced at each other but before either could say a word, Sean called out from the bedroom, “Mommy! Are you almost done out there because I’d like to watch some TV?”

Emma turned to Diana and said, “Would you mind putting on your coat because he might take one look at you and shoot all the way through puberty in 10 minutes. Tonight’s already been too much excitement for ma and I not quite ready for my little boy to grow up.”

Diana said, “No problem.” She reached for her coat and whispered to her friend, “Well Kal, it looks like Clark has another admirer. Are you jealous?”

Superman whispered back, “Not at all. But did you notice that she looked directly into my face and didn’t recognize me as Clark? Those glasses are really effective!”

Diana fell onto the couch and burst out laughing.

Superman said, “What? Come on, what?”

Diana just continued to laugh and wipe the tears from her eyes as Emma herded Sean into the room.