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Story 2

Rhonda Eudaly

Rhonda Eudaly has contributed to 4 Star Stories in the past and has never failed to please. Check out her story "Knock Down, Drag Out" on the Stories Archive page. With "Queer Eye for the Dead Guy" she scores once again.

The gods on Mount Olympus are living in (somewhat) peaceful harmony, enjoying the status quo, until two twin minor gods decide to shake things up with a frenzy of interior decorating.

 

 

Queer Eye for the Dead Guy

By Rhonda Eudaly

     "Why? Why? Why me?" Hades slapped his palm against his forehead in time to the questions. "I became the god of the Underworld to get away from those two! How could Zeus do this to me? I haven't done anything to him... . lately."

     "You know what this place could use?" A highly chipper and bubbly voice echoed through the reception area.

     "Besides a good scrubbing? Did you see that River?" A nearly identical voice answered. Both voices giggled.

     Hades vaulted off his throne and frantically scanned the room for an escape route. He had too many choices, too many doors. One headed to Tartarus. One was the gateway to the Elysian Fields -- which few people realized was actually a small town in East Texas. The third door led back to the Rivers and the Gates to Hades. The fourth led to Hades's personal living quarters. Unfortunately, most of the chambers in this part of the Underworld were made of stone, so there was no telling exactly from which route the voices came.

     "Hades! There you are!"

     He froze -- something most thought impossible in the Underworld -- as the two annoying, minor gods approached from the Rivers. He turned and forced himself to smile through clenched teeth at the immaculately coiffed and attired twins. "Debris. Detritus. What can I do for you?"

     "Do?" Debris cocked his head, puzzled.

     "For you?" Detritus echoed. They looked at each other and laughed. "Oh, my Olympus, no."

     "It's not what you can do for us, dear Hades." Debris made a grand sweeping gesture. "But what we can do for you."

     "Oh, yes, Hades, Zeus sent us just in time. This place needs a complete makeover. It's so... so. "

     "Last Millennium?"

     "Exactly."

     "Do you have to do that?" Hades demanded, rubbing his temples.

     "What?" the twins chorused.

     "Do that weird twin speak, finishing each other's sentences thing," Hades said hotly. "It's giving me a headache."

     "Your headache is probably because the Feng Shui in this place is all wrong!" Debris flung his arms out to include the whole room.

     "Or it could be the dust." Detritus flicked a linen handkerchief and dabbed his nose. "It's a more common and insidious an allergen than most people know."

     "Give us a week," Debris said. "You won't recognize the place, and you'll feel better. We guarantee it."

     "What are you going to do?" Hades enunciated every word.

     Detritus puffed out his chest. "We'll do for you what we did for Olympus. For Zeus. It'll be fabulous. You'll love it. Just think of how much better this place will be with a few potted plants!"

     "Throw pillows!" Debris's eyes glittered. "Can't you see this place with big, colorful throw pillows?"

     "Pillows? Why do we need pillows?" Hades's headache bloomed brighter, bordering on migraine.
     "And you know, a nice light wash on the walls would really brighten up this dreary room." Debris completely ignored Hades and his gestures grew more flamboyant as his excitement rose.

     Hades ducked more than once to keep from getting socked in the jaw. If anyone was going to be hit before all of this was over, it wasn't going to be him. "Though something to throw might not be so bad." No one heard him.

     He finally cleared his throat. "Excuse me, what about me? Don't I get a say in this? It is my Underworld after all."

     "Darling, why would you want a say?" Detritus asked, without looking at him. "You had your chance. Now it's our turn. Zeus decreed, and we must obey."

     "You have got to be kidding me." Hades rubbed his temples a bit more. There was a vein in his forehead starting to throb. "I've got to do something about this headache."

     "We'll be here." Debris pulled out a tape measure. "There's a lot to do."

     "That's what I'm afraid of," Hades said as he fled to his quarters. He could still hear them.

     "You know what Iím seeing here, Debris?"

     "I think I know where you're going, Detritus."

     "Curtains!" they chorused.

"Persephone!" Hades bellowed.

#

     "Well, they did say you wouldn't recognize the place," Persephone said uncertainly a couple of days later.

     "It hasn't been a week yet." Hades raked aggravated fingers through his hair. "What else could they do?"

     "It's not that bad, Hades, and I think the cushions on the thrones are nice. I didn't like sitting on cold stone all the time. It was hard on the posterior. And if you don't stop pulling your hair, you're going to go bald."

     "But this? This isn't so bad?" Hades yanked his fingers out of his hair and gestured at the River Styx. "Just look what they did to Charon and Cerberus! At least they have the decency to look embarrassed."

     "Yes, Master," Charon picked at the gold-trimmed sleeve of his new white uniform.

     "Well, it's a bit classier than that old black shroud," Persephone tried to find the bright side to things. "Welcoming, even."

     "Welcoming?" Hades voice rose in volume and timbre at the thought. "We're not supposed to be welcoming! No one's supposed to want to come here -- not even the ones who make it to the Elysian Fields!"

     "Well, Charon does look like a refugee from the Love Boat; maybe that'll scare some souls off."

     "There is that," Hades grudgingly admitted. "But what about poor Cerberus? Look at him."

     The Hellhound guardian hung all his heads in shame, his serpent tails tucked between his legs.

     "What's wrong with him?" Persephone asked.

     "He's been groomed! They've put bows around his necks," Hades stormed while pacing the banks of the Styx. "And what did they do to his tails? Have they molted? How's he supposed to turn back unwanted souls looking like that? Wait, what are you doing?"

     Persephone looked up from scratching Cerberus' ears. The Hound had rolled over on his belly with all his tongues hanging out in pure doggie pleasure. "What? I'm sorry, honey, but I couldn't resist. He's cute!"

     "Oh, for Olympus' sake!" Hades threw up his hands and stalked off. "I'm going to have words with those neatniks. Where are they?"

     "I think they were going to tackle Tartarus today, dear."

     "No! Not Tartarus!"

     Hades took off through the Underworld at a dead run.

#

     "This has got to go, don't you think, Detritus?"

     "Oh, absolutely, Debris."

     Hades slid to a halt and couldn't hide his complete horror as his jaw dropped open. The brimstone smell was gone. So were the open pits of lava. He couldn't hear one scream of everlasting terror, not one whimper of unending regret. "What's going on? Your changes to The Elysian Fields were one thing. The Fields are supposed to be nice. Souls are supposed to strive to go there, but this is Tartarus. What have you done? Where's the fire? Where are the tortured souls?"

     "Oh, all that stuff had to go," Detritus said with a flick of his wrist. "It was all garbage, and trust me, we know our garbage. Renew. Recycle. Reuse. Resale! We made a bundle in that rummage sale over in the Elysian Fields. Those good souls know a bargain when they see one."

     "Though to some people, we do unearth treasures," Debris added. "Did you know you had a full collection of world dictators down here? You could make a fortune on the collector's circuit. On eBay alone."

     "Oooh, eBay? Not eBay. It's so passť." Detritus tapped his chin while he thought. "I know! Craigslist! We could unload some of the picked-over stuff that way."

     "That's a fabulous idea! Detritus, you're brilliant."

     "Why thank you, Debris. I thought so myself."

     "Why can't you just leave everything alone?" Hades finally lost his temper.

     "Where did we put those Asian wall hangings?" Debris asked. "Those would so go in this space. Those bloody battle scenes would be perfect in here."

     "Battle scenes, Debris? I don't think so. Take a look around you! This place doesn't want more blood and gore. It wants contrasting themes. Flowers. Bunnies. Puppies!"

     "You know, Detritus, you may be right. Some nice fluffy kittens, maybe. What do you think of chihuahuas?"

     "No, not chihuahuas. They can go feral, you know."

     "That would be bad, but I see flowers."

     "What are you...? How...? Chihuahuas? Bunnies? Flowers?" Hades couldn't make the words come out. "This is Tartarus. It's not supposed to be...  Excuse me...  I have to go... "

     Hades didn't see Persephone when he stormed into their quarters. She looked up from the basket she was rummaging through when he started banging around. "Problems, dear?"

     "I need something for a headache. Then I need to talk to Hermes. Zeus has to take them back before someone dies."

     "That's nice, dear. I assume Hermes won't be staying for dinner," Persephone said absently, bouncing a ball in her hand and heading for the door.

     "Not unless you want him under foot for the rest of time." Hades finally focused on the ball. "What're you doing?"

     "Cerberus wants to play."

     Persephone closed the door behind her, cutting off Hades frustrated scream.

#

     Hades slumped at the table with his head in his hands.

     "Dude! That must've been some party. You should've invited me, man."

     Hades dragged his head toward the young voice, glaring at the messenger god.

     Hermes took a step back and lifted his hands in surrender. "Whoa, dude, sorry. Guess it wasn't a party. Wassup?"

     "I need you to get a message to Zeus. I need him, now."

     "No can do, Hades." He looked around. "Something seems different. Have you done something to the place?"

     "Why can't you deliver my message to Zeus?" Hades asked.

     "He's gone to ground. Mortal ground." The messenger god looked around puzzledly. "Hera's in one of her Moods. Dude, what's different?"

     "Great. Just great. It's going to mortal ground that puts Hera in those Moods. Now what do I do?" The god of the Underworld slapped his forehead repeatedly with the heel of his hand.

     "Dude, why're you doing that?"

     "Because if I bang my head against the wall, it would leave a bloody mess, then I'd never get rid of them."

     "Get rid of whom?"

     "Debris and Detritus."

     "Oooohhhhh." Hermes nodded knowingly. "Enough said. I wondered where they went. I'll do what I can, man. But you know how Zeus gets when Hera's in one of her moods."

     "Why do you think I took on the Underworld instead of staying on Olympus?" Hades shuddered picturing Hera's tantrums.

     "I hear you, man. I'll see what I can do."

     "Thanks."

     Hermes was on his way out when he looked back. "By the way, who're the serious babes I saw coming in? Usually I get a bunch of grief from the Furies, but I didn't see them, just some hot chicks... "

     "No! Not a makeover on the Furies! They didn't!" Hades took off at a dead run. "That's the last straw! Find Zeus before I do something drastic!"

#

     Hades paced on the edge of the mortal realm the Gates when he saw Zeus coming. "It's about time you showed up. Didn't Hermes tell you it was urgent?"

     Zeus shrugged. "I came as soon as Hermes found me. And you know if he can find me, Hera's not going to be too far behind. She's still in the breaking-things mood, and that usually means me. So let's make this quick, okay?"

     "Hera's not the one you need to be concerned about, it's me."

     "What're you talking about?" Zeus asked.

     "Debris and Detritus. You have to take them back. Now."

     "Oh, come on, what's got your chiton in a twist, Hades? They're good kids. Besides, they're good at what they do, and they were getting bored. They've done all they can with Olympus. I had to do something before they started trashing things just to have some garbage to deal with, though with Hera, there's almost always something in pieces."

     "So you sent them here? Without warning and without asking? Gee, Zeus, I know you're in charge and all, but wasn't that a bit harsh? I haven't done anything to you... lately. Just wait till you see what they're doing with the place. It's not the same anymore." Hades dragged Zeus into the Underworld with him.

     Debris and Detritus were oiling the hinges on the Gates of Hell when the two major deities found them.

"No!" Hades rushed forward, totally forgetting Zeus was with him. "You're going too far this time! You can't oil those hinges!"

     "Why not?" Debris and Detritus asked together. Debris looked particularly puzzled. "What's wrong with a gate that doesn't squeak from all the rust and corrosion? A well-oiled gate is a long-lasting gate. And who says the Afterlife has to be an unpleasant experience?"

     "I do!" Hades shouted. "I say so! I have a particular ambience set up down here, and you're ruining it!" He turned to Zeus and gestured madly. "Back me up here, Zeus. You have to take them back to Olympus with you. They're driving me crazy."

     "Maybe they have a point?" Zeus shuffled uncertainly. "I never really did like the noise those gates made. It was an awful lot like that fingernails-on-a-chalkboard sound."

     "That was the point!" Hades was losing ground. "You have to see what else they've done. This is no longer the Underworld mortals have come to know and fear."

     Hades took Zeus on a thorough tour of the "new and improved" Underworld. The god of the Underworld felt his rage build to epic proportions as he discovered further changes. Debris and Detritus had been busy while his back was turned.

     "You should do something about your anger issues," Zeus said as they toured Tartarus. "That vein in your forehead is about to burst. And trust me, the results aren't always that pleasant."

     "But look at this! There's no fire, no brimstone!"

     "Well, wasnít that all hot and stinky anyway?" Zeus looked at the twins. "What did you do with the fire and brimstone?"

     "We have all that routed into the saunas now," Detritus said proudly. "All those renewable, reusable resources were going to waste. And if the immortals don't set the example... "

     "Gah!" Hades couldn't get any words out. "What's going on with the souls doomed to Tartarus? You never told me what you did with them. Where are they? It's too quiet in here."

     "Oh, we've put them on a rotating schedule. The noise was just awful, all that weeping and gnashing of teeth. Just awful. Had to go," Detritus said. "So we've taken care of that. The souls are either in the HDTV theater watching endless reruns of Gilligan's Island or being the animatronic children in the Small World ride at Disney World. They were just cluttering up the place hanging out here, anyway."

     Hades screamed.

     "There goes that vein again. I hope you do better with whatever comes out than I did. Athena's a real handful. And those weapons and armor of hers really hurt." Zeus rubbed his own forehead as he looked around some more. "I don't see the problem here, Hades. It seems like they're doing a great job getting this place clean and organized. Olympus has been a paradise since they got done with it."

     Hades felt his eyes go so wide, he thought they'd pop right out of their sockets. "You've got to be kidding. How many times do I have to say it before it gets through to you people? This is the Underworld! It's not supposed to be a paradise. Why is this concept so hard for people to comprehend? I thought it was pretty clear!"

     Hades thought his head was finally going to explode, until he realized Zeus wasn't kidding. He grabbed Zeus' arm and dragged him out of Tartarus. He didn't stop until they were in Hades' receiving room where he had to blink in the brightness of the lights.

     "Why in the Underworld is it so bright in here?" Hades demanded at the top of his lungs.

     "Oh, that would be the lights reflecting off the Hell's Bells," Debris answered.

     Hades whirled, not realizing the twins had followed them. "What did you do? What. Did. You. Do?"

     "We polished the Bells, and it's about time, too. It doesn't look like they had been cleaned since the beginning of time. Now, they're shiny new."

     Hades turned to Zeus, eyes flashing with psychotic rage. "Get rid of them, Zeus! I'm telling you, if you don't, I'm going to commit deicide! Put them among the mortals if you have to, but get them out of here!"

     "Come on, Hades, I don't see the problem here," Zeus said.   

     "I'm getting really tired of repeating myself, Zeus! The Underworld is supposed to ugly and dirty and nasty. We have an image to maintain, and it's not this! The poster boys for scrubbing bubbles don't have any place in my realm! How are souls supposed to abandon hope if the Gates have flowerbeds around them, and the Guardians of the Underworld wear ribbons and bows?"

     "Well, you don't have to be so mean," Detritus said in a huff. "We were just doing what we were born to do! Weren't we Zeus?"

     Hades didn't wait for Zeus to answer. "Get rid of them, Zeus, before I go totally insane, and I don't think this world is prepared for that!"

     He saw the possibilities whirl through Zeus' eyes and finally click. "That would be worse than Hera on a bad day wouldn't it?"

     "Think every bad monster movie ever made from every culture gone crazy at the same time, live and in person," Hades's calm, even tone was scarier than his shouting. "Teenagers running in high heels, the pointless screaming, going through obvious doors with death behind them, stupidity running rampant... "

     Zeus waved him down. "I get the picture, Hades. You've made your point." He turned to the twin deities. "Pack up your squeegees, boys, we're going back to Olympus."

     "But we're not through here!"

     "Oh, yes, you are," Hades lunged for their necks. "One way or another, you're out of here!"

     Zeus grabbed Hades before he could reach the two lesser gods. They looked at him in uncomprehending horror. Then as they realized their peril, they broke and ran.

     Hades herded all three unwanted guests out of the Underworld ten minutes later. Just as soon as they were out of sight, he sighed deeply in relief and turned back. He took great pleasure in slamming the gates closed behind him. His first step on the road to normalcy was to rip the ribbons off Cerberus's multiple necks. The Hellhound thumped his tails gratefully, leading Hades to scratch behind one set of ears.

"I have to admit you do smell better." Hades stopped and shook his head. "No! I'm not going to find the good in this."

Hades let Persephone rub the tension out of his shoulders and temples when he finally went to bed that night. When he was just about to drift off to sleep, he heard her say softly, "You know, a housekeeper's not such a bad thing. Maybe we can get them to come back once a week or so."

Hades sat bolt upright, screaming.

#

 

 

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