Monday, February 14, 2011

The Bow and Arrow of Love

There is something to be said for waking up alone in the middle of one's bed, arms and legs akimbo without regard. Claire Rogers has, for most of her adult life, spent her nights and mornings just this way. Being a prophet has its downsides, least of which is the permanent impact on her social life.

She finds it difficult to date when there's the possibility she might be called upon by God to convert a handful of atheists at any point in time. The minion in graduate school understood her plight - he had a similar one of his own - but the reality of the situation was simple: he was a minion, she was a prophet, and had they carried on seriously they might have both ended up without a job. She's ashamed to admit that she hasn't gotten laid since. It's starting to wear on her.(1)

These are the thoughts that run through Claire's brain as she lays in bed and stares at the pockmarked ceiling of her apartment in Detroit's only safe neighborhood. She needs to get out of bed and head into work but she can't bring herself to do it. The women she works with have planned a Valentine's Day luncheon and Claire knows there will be decorations and obscene amounts of heart cutouts in shades of pink and red.

"I think I'd rather lie here and wilt," she says to her empty bedroom. Her alarm clock produces a shrill ring as a rebuttal to her argument and she claps a hand down over it, silencing it effectively for the moment. She has ten more minutes to come up with a valid reason for staying in bed. "I could call and say I have the plague or that I'm allergic to candy hearts."(2)

There's a knock on her window and she sits up, hair sticking in every direction but down. Another series of knocks, these more insistent than the last. She frowns when she realizes where they're coming from - the window across the room - and she bolts out of bed. Even before she rips the curtains open, Claire has an idea of what's knocking on her window.

Cupid stares at her, cherubic face grinning like a maniac on cocaine, and he raises a little pudgy hand and waves at her. "Can I come in?" he calls through the window.

"Oh fuck off," she says and closes the curtains.

* * *

Cupid follows her to work, hovering over her car. She's pretty sure she's the only one who can see him, which just makes it all the more wonderful.(3) She parks in her designated space at the library and throws her bag out the window as a decoy. There's a thwap and a swish and a red tipped arrow lands in the center of her leather briefcase.

"Sonovabitch," the little bastard says from above her car.

She closes the window and gets out, locks the door behind her. It'll take him two minutes to reload - he still hasn't quite gotten the hang of the new bow and arrows Venus gave him for Christmas - and Claire can sprint from the parking lot to the front door in less than a minute, even in heels. She grabs her bag on the way past it, pulls out the (invisible) arrow, and heads for the library.

"Come on Claire!" Cupid calls after her and she can hear him fighting with the bow and arrow. There's another thwap and this time, instead of hearing an arrow, she hears him cry out in pain. "Ow! Seriously!?"

Claire starts to giggle mid-stride and she nearly wipes out on the ice at the bottom of the front steps. She pauses to look behind her and regrets her decision. Cupid's managed to get the arrow into the bow and he's pulled back the string.

"It's just a love arrow!" Cupid yells.

"And Hell is just a sauna!"

He lets go of the string and the arrow flies toward her. She ducks and it lands in the solid wood door of the library with a loud thud. She waves at the little monster and heads inside, safe once more.

* * *

"Did You sick Cupid on me this year?" she asks, her voice hushed in the hopes none of her co-workers will hear her and think she's crazy. "Are You that desperate to get me married off?"

God scoffs on the other end of the phone line.(4) "Please. If I wanted to marry you off, I'd do it myself and without the subtly of Cupid."

"A pudgy white dude in a diaper with wings is not subtle. It's the opposite of subtle."

"Maybe Aphrodite's meddling."

Claire sighs. "For the hundredth time, Cupid belongs to Venus. You're thinking of Eros."

"I can't keep the Greeks and Romans straight, Claire. There's too many of them and, quite frankly, they all look alike."

" realize that's maybe just a little racist..."

"Look, I'll talk to Venus - and Aphrodite, just for the hell of it - and see what's up." There's a pause and Claire suspects something may, in fact, be up - but not with the Roman and Greek side of the equation. "Or maybe the fat bastard is just doing it because he's bored and your name came up in conversation."

Claire narrows her eyes at her empty office. "Is that an admission of guilt?" she asks.

"What's that, Claire? You're breaking up..."

The line goes dead and she pulls the phone away from her ear, glares at it. There's a knock on her window and she growls in frustration. She pulls a pen out of her desk, grabs a piece of paper, and hastily writes a note.(5) She then strides across the room purposefully and slams the paper up against the window. When she thinks he's had enough time to read the words, she pulls it away and motions for Cupid to fly away.

"Well you didn't have to be so mean about it," the little man says, his voice muffled by the window glass. He sniffs and flies off.

Claire feels the weight of guilt settle on her shoulders and she sighs, slumps into her chair defeated. "That little bastard made me feel bad about yelling at him," she says. The guilt puts on a little extra weight. "Sonovabitch." She lowers her forehead to her desk and bumps it against the hardwood a couple of times, for good measure.

* * *

He's sitting on the hood of her car when she leaves work later that night. He looks tired and he's using his bow to prop himself up. Claire's footsteps falter when she sees him and she sighs.

"Go ahead," she says. "Just hit me with the damn arrow and get it over with."

He shakes his head. "I ran out of arrows a few minutes ago. Eros will have to get the rest of the sad singles tonight."

Claire frowns. "We're not all sad, you know."

Cupid perks up at this. "You mean you're not unhappy with your single status?"

"Who told you I was?"

He blushes, visible even in the dimness of twilight. "God might have mentioned it once or twice."

"Ellie meddles where She's not necessarily needed." She unlocks the driver's side door of her car. "I'm sorry I threatened you."

He waves her off. "No apologies needed. You didn't want to be struck with an arrow and I was being stubborn. I have a feeling we averted disaster."

Claire nods. "Go home and be with Psyche," she says. "That's what today is all about, right? Spending time with the one you love."

Cupid nods, floats off the hood of her car. "I can't promise Eros won't try anything," he says. "So you might want to say indoors for the rest of the evening." He waves and disappears into the ether of the Detroit evening.

* * *

God is uncorking a bottle of very expensive, very old, red wine when Claire walks into her apartment. She holds the bottle up with a smile.

Claire points at Her. "You're busted," she says.

God's smile fades and She sets the wine bottle down on the countertop. "I take it you managed to avoid the arrows."

"Indeed. I had a short conversation with Cupid just after I left work this evening."

God affects an indiferent air as She pours the wine into glasses. "Did you?"

Claire smiles in spite of herself. "Do me a favor and stop meddling in my love life. You're terrible at it."

"Says you."

"Says everyone." God hands her a glass of wine and they clink their glasses together. "Thanks for caring, though," she says.

God's smile reappears. "Kind of My job."

(1) Even her mother has noticed, from a thousand miles away.

(2) This is not a complete lie. She isn't actually allergic to the candy hearts, but instead to the sayings imprinted on them. For example, when her boyfriend of six months during her sophomore year of college told her he loved her, she broke out in hives and hyperventilated. It was the easiest break up she ever had.

(3) Sarcasm definitely implied.

(4) There's suprisingly good reception from Earth to Heaven, but only a handful of people know God's direct line. For good reason, too. The religious zealots get on Her almight nerves even without knowing Her direct line.



  1. "I can't keep the Greeks and Romans straight, Claire. There's too many of them and, quite frankly, they all look alike."

    Best thing ever.

  2. I love the mental image of Claire dashing across the parking lot between arrow-reloads. :D

  3. Alicia - I'm quite proud of that one! :)

    Mo - She dashes far better than I would. I'd probably trip, land on my face, and end up with an arrow stuck in my ass.