Jane Arness had conquered nursing school, laid waste to three long-term relationships, one of them with a woman, and successfully peddled some of the largest tracts of Panhandle real estate and all of this within four years.
She built a monument of respect in the feminist community by using board memberships in non-profits and charity organizations and college museums as her brick and mortar. Life with a forced smile had long ago become a pairing she disliked. She wanted to smile without having to raise with ropes and pulleys the corners of her face to please some sterile sack of guts whose rudeness nearly outweighed her need to extract large sums of money from it for the greater good. Her sanity she placed squarely on the shoulders of Hatchet and Poole and their willingness to take a beating if she felt like they needed one.
Poole lit the pipe and inhaled and handed it to Jane who was giving Hatchet a concerned stare. She’d just privileged him with another speech on his lack of employment and how handouts from the state weren’t going to last if the Feds didn’t get their shit together. It was the kind of speech she had repeatedly given Hatchet when they first met. When they were an item. An item that didn’t last long. She eventually told him that he was just too much of a man for her, a line he still found entertaining and brought it up on the slightest hint that it might be relevant to the discussion, usually on the topic that Poole called Jane’s attraction to bearded ladies.
Have you met Delilah Moody? Hatchet asked her. You’re changing the subject. Maybe she’s a part of this subject that you haven’t considered. You’re an idiot. Then let’s really change the subject; tell me a story. You’re stoned. Phryne, he said, tell me about Phryne. Why do you wanna hear a story about Phryne and why would I tell you one? Who’s Phryne? Poole sat up in interest. She was a courtesan. Remind me what’s a courtesan. It’s a high priced whore, Hatchet told him. Phryne was a very rich and very powerful prostitute and musician and entertainer and advisor in ancient Greece, Jane said, she was so beautiful men would offer her fortunes to spend one night with her; she ducked out of a blasphemy charge by showing her tits to a jury. That’s not much of a yarn, Jane. Fuck you, Hatchet. Poole wanted more, She showed her tits in court and that’s what got her acquitted of blasphemy? Yup.
Now wait a minute, Hatchet bent upward out of his prone position on a bench on Poole’s porch. Wasn’t it her lawyer—sorry—the man defending her, who resorted to exposing her tits? That’s generally what most people assume, yes. And he was a client of hers too, wasn’t he? Yes, he was; why are you so wrapped up in Phryne? Tell me a story, Jane; you never tell me stories, anymore; you used tell me stories all the time.
Tell it like a Disney story, with introduction, fudge the facts.
I’m bored, Jane!
Long ago, in ancient Greece, while wives were treated as slaves and locked in home and servitude—that doing it for you?
You’re getting there.
… certain disciples of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, were called hetaerae and were free citizens of Greece. Aphrodite loved one of the hetaera, a woman called Phryne for her bright olive skin, loved her so much that she allowed Phryne the most beauty in all of Greece. Phryne even wore a veil in public so that the sight of her stunning face could not be enjoyed freely by anyone who just happened to see her in the streets or mingling in all the grand places that most women weren’t allowed to go. She modeled for statues that were titled in various ways with the name of the goddess Aphrodite herself. Phryne had acquired such a fortune that she once offered to pay for the rebuilding of the walls of the city of Thebes after Alexander the Great had torn them down. Now, although the leaders of Thebes told the city that they could not endorse the work of whores, their real reason for refusing Phryne’s offer was the huge sum of money she had bargained them to get the job done. Well, one day, while Phryne bathed in the Kifisos River, the King of Lydia came riding by on his horse and nearly fell when he caught sight of this beautiful naked woman. He knew instantly that she must be Aphrodite’s favored hetaera. The king appeared on the banks of the river and she sunk to her eyes so as to protect her assets. She knew of his reputation and she knew he was a lout. And now that she had seen him and been compromised by him, she found him even more loathsome. You there, Phryne! the King of Lydia called out. I want to buy your body and your heart for the night! I refuse, she told him. How can you refuse me? I refuse you, she said, Now go away! I will pay triple your regular price. I still refuse. I will pay ten times your regular price! And I still refuse. There must be a price, Phryne! You can have any sum you want, Phryne! She shivered in the water thinking of the highest price she could imagine. Tally all the gold fleeced in one year from your golden river Pactolus and I want five times that amount. To Phryne’s disgust, he accepted her offer and he swept her from the water and took her to his house in Athens and ravaged her until the dawn. When the sun came through the window, she wrapped herself in the blankets and demanded her pay. He opened the window to the street where a cart filled with treasure sat waiting for her. I can easily pay you any price, Phryne, because I can just go home and levy a tax on all my people that will compensate the coffers of my land for our night together. I am a king, after all. Phryne stormed out into the street. She looked at the cart loaded with gold and precious stones and then looked down at her body wrapped in the sex-soiled sheet and she began to cry. Why are you crying woman? a voice asked. I have grown so dirty that even this amount of violence cannot wash me clean. Beautiful, Phryne, the ragged voice said, how could one as beautiful as you ever be as dirty as that fiend? the sun, too, shines into cesspools and is not polluted. She looked up to see the famous destitute philosopher, old man Diogenes, sitting in the gutter, in the shade. His words had touched her heart so deeply that she made passionate love to him right there in the street.
Where is my Phryne, Jane? I’m not done, jackass. Where’s my Phryne, Jane? What makes you think you deserve her? I’ve paid my dues. Even with all the feminist undertones in this story, all you can focus on is Phryne giving it up to some homeless old man in the street? you’re a sad shallow man, Hatchet; you’ve totally missed the moral of this story; stupid girls give themselves to you all the time. But she gives it up for his brain, Jane; that’s the moral of the story. Oh, I see, now we’re back to Delilah; you’re not brown enough for that girl, Hatchet. Wait, Poole interjected, what happened to the trial and the tits? He didn’t let me finish. So finish. Nope, loverboy here just ruined my mood. You suck. She’s never gonna fall for your bullshit, Hatchet. What bullshit? She’s never gonna fall for it, not for you or any man. You know something I don’t? Everything you don’t know, I know. I know you’re smarter than that, Jane. Smarter than you at least.
Buy Skitz O'Fuel's novel That Night Filled Mountain
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River of Blood, a novel about anarchism, atheism, racism, violence, family, and corruption.
Short stories like Finding Romulus' Rome, The Blood, & The Weapon are FREE in the Books section.
Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.