(This story came from a writing workshop exercise where participants were given an hour to retell a fairy tale or myth.)

Persephone wasn’t picking flowers and singing at the edge of the creek. She was burning her doll’s hair and using the ash as kohl for her own eyes. It smelled bad and she liked it, so sick was she of the sweet smelling perfumes that dotted her windowsill, which her mom had gotten someone to make from lilac and jasmine and tuberose. It was another sunny day and Persephone was sick of the sun. She longed for storm clouds and howling winds.

Maybe she could conjure them. After all, she was a daughter of Zeus, and he was always throwing thunderbolts around. She sat up straight. I wish, she thought. No. A wish was too passive, too demure. I desire. No. I Command. She closed her eyes and felt roots connecting her to the earth, as though she were one of the trees her mother so lovingly tended. She felt energy surge up from beneath her, and when it seemed as though sparks could fly from her fingertips, she spoke aloud.

“ I command passage to the underworld.” A deep chasm split the earth before her, and she bowed her thanks to whatever elements had assisted her. After that, she didn’t hesitate. She didn’t think of her mother even once.  She entered the chasm, which she knew would be her tunnel to the realm of Hades.

             Away from her mother’s beautiful garden, it didn’t smell like flowers, but it didn’t smell like burnt doll hair either. It was a new smell, and Persephone liked it, although it made her heart skip a beat. As she descended deeper, thin souls reached out to her, pleading with her in voices she couldn’t hear, asking her for things she couldn’t understand. Not yet. She brushed her fingers through the souls’ diaphanous bodies and though she could not be sure,  it did provide them with some relief. The dark walls of the cavern glimmered a color she’d never before seen in nature. The closest thing she could equate it to was the night sky, but it was as though all the stars had multiplied and smeared themselves around before hiding in each crevice. Persephone continued on. She didn’t know where she was going, but her body seemed to know.

             At the end of a long hall stood a god before a black throne. This was Hades, brother of Zeus and Poseidon. But unlike her father, Hades was young looking, and handsome. He too had black kohl rimmed around his eyes. He was taken aback by her presence.

             “Girl? What are you doing here? You aren’t dead, that much is clear. But only Hermes can travel through the worlds.”

             “Looks like I can too,” Persephone said. “Doesn’t it?”        

             “Well…” Hades looked her up and down. “I mean…okay. I guess, because you’re here. But I’m sorry to tell you, you cannot return to the earth. No one ever returns from this realm.”

             “I’m pretty sure I can do what I want,” Persephone said. “But maybe I will stay down here, for a little while.”

             “No one ever chooses to stay in the underworld. Why would you do such a thing?”

             “I like it here. I like you too.”

             “I’m your uncle.”

             “I don’t think things like that matter in ancient Greece.”

             “Really? How do you know so much?”

             “I read a lot.”

             Hades thought for a minute. “In that case,” he finally said. “I’m in need of a wife. A wise one, such as you. You would help me rule the underworld. You would become my queen. You would have everything you ever dreamed of. All the riches you could imagine. Will you consider it?”

             “I’ll consider it,” Persephone said. “I have some conditions. I don’t want the souls to suffer. I want someone to erect a statue of Medusa holding Perseus’ head. My mother drives me crazy, but I would miss her too much to stay down here all of the time.”

             “I’m sure we can work something out,” Hades said. He couldn’t take his gaze off his beautiful wife to be, nor she him. They embraced consensually, and then they went into his chambers where they made love beneath his pomegranate scented sheets six times. 

The Kid Place

The Kid Place

The kid place was Dunsmore Park, where older girls I didn’t know threw darts into the sky and yelled at me when one of the darts hit the ground beside my foot because I’d been in the way and could have been killed. That pretty much sums up childhood, I think, a constant attempt to get it right, even though something so small as standing on the wrong square foot of grass could mean a dart to the head, and resulted in being told, once again, that I was doing it wrong.

At Dunsmore Park there was a hierarchy of girls and for some reason I felt safe being a little sassy, something I never would have attempted at home. A preppy teenager told me I had “an attitude problem” and though I dared not let her see how much it meant to me,  it felt like a compliment because in reality I was too complacent, too meek and small to have any kind of attitude at all, much less a problematic one.

I remember waiting in line at the drinking fountain at the bottom end of the park. When it was my turn the boys would taunt, “Save some for the fishes.” I was always so thirsty, even then. 

Atlas of a woman

Cranial Zone
Symptoms: Phantom headaches
Cause: unknown, pain began immediately following tubal ligation
(see Childbearing Zone)
Diagnosis: NDPH (new daily persistent headaches, a blanket diagnosis meaning chronic daily headaches of unknown origins)
Attempted treatments: (including but not limited to: Acupuncture, Allergy testing and immunotherapy, Amber jewelry, Bowen, Cardio, Chiropractic, Cranial Sacral, Elimination diets, Eye doctor, Flower essences, Herbs, Massage, Medical intuitive, Meds, Medical Marijuana, Meditation, Neurology, Shaman, Tinctures, Yoga
Duration: Upwards of six years.

Mental Region:
(Why is the chin called the mental region?)
Symptoms: initial pain, supposed but not remembered
Terrain: white scar tissue, thin, thread-like
Cause: 5 yr old subject climbing stairs at mall, looking back at ice cream shop, trauma to mental region by sharp curve of stair
Treatment: Stitches (6?), ice cream, telling of story (1001 Dalmatians) by Mom.

Mountainous Zone
Diagnosis: too big
Treatment: Breast Reduction
Terrain: Mostly smoothed out with some thin white scarring
Ability to nurse children: V good
Ability to run, ride bikes, dance, not slump, not wear bras only found at Fredericks of Hollywood: excellent.

Chest Region (Upper East Side) (left)
Diagnosis: Collapsed lung
Cause: Driver side of car T-boned by woman running red light
Treatment : Insertion of chest tube
Follow-up: removal of chest tube
Terrain: Squishy, flabby bit of skin size of coin slot

Abdominal Zone
Diagnosis: Burst appendix
Cause: No one knows and perhaps never will
Treatment: Laparoscopic appendectomy
Coincidence: David Letterman’s appendix bursts nearly simultaneously (exaggeration: possibly slight but also possibly significant.)
Terrain: very pale scar, 2”

Childbearing Zone
(Birth Canal)
Diagnosis: Tearing of rectovaginal septum (lining between rectal and vaginal cavities)
Cause: Soon-to-be-born child supporting her black brothers and sisters in a salute
Treatment: Episiotomy, followed by stitches to put rectovaginal septum back together again
Drugs: None.
Terrain: Unknown. Can’t see it. Probably gruesome and Frankenstein-ish