Bereft of inspiration, I climbed Mount Olympus in search of the elusive muses. I intended to ask them why they had been slacking and none had visited me in a long time. Unfortunately the reasons became obvious the moment I entered their temple.
It was a mess. Pizza boxes littered the floor. A discarded pair of stained knickers sizzled fitfully in a torch sconce and cacophonous noise seemed to echo from every chamber.
Calliope was sprawled on the soda, eating doritos out of a bowl precariously balanced on top of a ragged – and salsa stained – copy of Homer’s Odyssey. Her hair was ratted, her onesie stank and the bags under her eyes could have graced a pedal bin. She didn’t even notice me come in, her eyes were fixed on her cinematic flatscreen, glazed as she worked her way through another True Blood boxed set, chewing away like some some quadriplegic ruminant. She wouldn’t speak and waved me away when I tried to get her attention.
Clio was in the study, huddled over a brass laptop, her fingers a blur on the keyboard and the mouse. She was surrounded by print outs and dog-eared, poorly printed paperbacks. Just in looking at her desk I could see grammatical and spelling errors on the spines of several of the books. Every part of the study walls was covered in post-it notes and pieces of string, tacked to the walls with pins – save a gigantic ‘I want to believe’ poster. She, at least, noticed me. She span her chair around to face me and giving me an amphetamine stare from beneath her tin-foil stetson.
“The Titanomachy was an inside job! It couldn’t be otherwise. Zeus and Kronos were in cahoots to get rid of Uranus. The tablet accounts are inconsistent. I’m not saying it was aliens, but…”
I backed out and shut the door.
Erato and Euterpe weren’t there, the former had a note on her door that said she was at the Bacchus Club (a rap-battle with Minerva), the latter was taking a long holiday after failing to get chosen by Will.I.Am on The Voice.
Melpomene wouldn’t come out of her room. She was crying, dying her hair and carving sad poems into her thighs with a craft knife – all at the same time. It was very messy, very sad and she threw cushions at me and slammed the door when I tried to help.
Polyhymnia wasn’t allowed to talk to men, apparently. I caught a glimpse of her, veiled and robed but I guess she didn’t have much to do since her conversion to Islam. Singing isn’t allowed, which meant she was reduced to the role of a ghost-in-negative. Even Procol Harum was haram I guess.
Terpsichore, half buried under a pile of dead glowsticks, was so out of her mind on ‘special K’ that she could only dribble and twitch. I couldn’t tell if the CD she was playing was scratched – and skipping – or was meant to sound like that.
Thalia was in the garden, furiously scribbling in her notebook. Waist deep in torn-up scraps of paper, but at least she was working.
“Hey Thalia, how’s it going? I could use some comedy ideas if you have any going,” I cleared away some of the scraps and sat across from her, ever hopeful, ever optimistic.
“Awful,” her eyes were as mad as any of the others and there were red patches at her temples where she’d been tearing out her hair. “Everything offends somebody and if it doesn’t offend somebody it isn’t funny. Do you have any idea how hard it is to make an inoffensive joke? I mean… there’s crap ones but I’m the goddamn motherfucking muse of comedy! Not knock-knock jokes or bad puns.”
I wasn’t coming back to her without a bottle of Tia-Maria or some chocolate, so I made my excuses and scurried away.
Urania was on the roof, staring into a great brass mirror. I didn’t even open my mouth before she shushed me with a dismissive wave of her hand. “I’m still working through the Hubble data and we’re discovery exoplanets at an unprecedented rate. How am I supposed to inspire a humanity whose knowledge of the universe outstrips that of the gods? Go away! I have to catch up!”
That was that.
Wending my way down the mountain I passed others on their way up in their search for the muses and I didn’t have the heart to tell them their quest was as pointless as mine. The view from the top was, at least, somewhat inspiring and the lesson learned – that sometimes you just have to do it yourself – was worth learning.
The word mines were waiting.
Dedicated to the many ladies who have inspired or supported me in the past, the present, or in the future to come. Also me dear ol’ mum.