by Ellen Perry
That summer evening when Athena came to town is one I’ll not soon forget. There I was, minding my own business out watering the hostas beside my front porch at twilight when of a sudden I heard some wings flapping, looked up and saw an owl perched in my Bradford pear tree. Just a little old owl! Then here came this shadowy lady up my walk that at first I thought was my neighbor in her nightgown and curlers, carrying a big lid – what in the world? – and the stick she used to measure her oil. But then I remembered Heloise was recovering from surgery, bless her, and wouldn’t be out this late. Straightening her helmet, the strange lady said to me, “I took a wrong turn at the olive tree.” “You sure did, hon,” I said, setting my watering can down at just the moment this robed visitor set down the spear and shield I could see clearly now, leaning them against the porch railing. Then, the bright-eyed lady said, “My name is Pallas Athena, goddess of war, wisdom, and reason, defender of cities and civilized life. I have grown weary of tending to Odysseus and decided to travel to your dimension because – quite frankly – Americans in 2018 need me more.” Lord, Delores, I thought to myself. Maybe you better quit taking that little nip of whiskey after supper.
I left my watering can and motioned the goddess to come with me, feeling the need of a sudden to sit. Over my shoulder I watched her, a little wary, I’ll tell you. Who wouldn’t be? But she seemed harmless enough, so I said, “Well, Miss Athena, you got that right about the state of America.” I led her to the porch swing where I’d done a good bit of thinking lately about the fix we were in. “We’re pretty bad off,” I told her. “Crazy stuff going on all the time, terrorists running around loose, people being awful to each other. I can’t even hardly watch the news anymore it’s got so bad.”
Athena settled herself on the swing while I poured us two tall glasses of pink lemonade from a pitcher I kept on a table nearby during the warm months. “There is but one concern,” she said, waving away the drink. I set both glasses aside, and we watched the full moon rise over Heloise’s house. I looked at her again, and she must have seen my nerves was bad. She motioned me to sit beside her. “I’m really here,” she said, and let me touch her armor and robes, which I did real gentle-like. “Are you ready?” she asked me then. I nodded. “I sense that the Morrigan has already arrived,” she said. “The Morrigan?” I asked, confused. Preacher Don never covered any of this in his sermons. And then right when Athena was telling me about the Celtic battle goddess, a wild bunch of crows came tearing over the pasture, screaming their heads off, and to my great surprise I could understand their song: Too late, too late, for reasoned wisdom, now the time for blood has come; we will serve our mistress gladly, she with Fate spare only some. “Only some,” Athena said, and I watched as them crows flew north and still farther north, I knew somehow they’d come to roost in Washington, way up north where I’ve never been.
“I’ll take that lemonade now,” said Athena. And when we both had our glasses we touched them together. “Covfefe?” she asked. I laughed. Then cried a little, shivering as the night closed in on us, feeling the Morrigan stirring flames of fury in every American heart, even my own heart she stirred and I wanted to fight somebody. “Too late, too late,” I shouted, as if the crows could hear me. I was crying harder now, but Athena finished off her lemonade in one long drink and put it down smiling. She was off the porch and beyond my reach before you could say Jack Robinson. Picking up her shining spear and shield again, she laid them beside my white rose bush. Through my tears, she was, of a sudden, nothing more or less than the bright light thrown from the street lamp, but in a voice I fancied sounded kin to my own, I heard her say, “Hush now, Delores, the women will save us.”
A native of western North Carolina, Ellen J. Perry’s academic interests include 17th- and 18th-century British life and literature, Restoration drama, and Southern/ Appalachian culture. Her story "Milk, Bread, Soft Drinks" was awarded First Place in Fiction by the Bacopa Literary Review. Ellen enjoys teaching her amazing college students, working on projects related to women’s rights activism, and playing with her stylish cat, Ms. Coco Chanel. For more information please visit http://ellenjperry.com.