“Olympos Bowling Alley” by M.W. Fowler
Tuesdays were Sons of Mortals Night. Percy was captain of the Oracles, and he always walked in a quarter to seven strutting like a Titan. His leather bowling ball bag was buffed to a golden-brown mirror and dangled in his right hand. Everyone he passed had the same unhinged jaw expression when they saw their reflection in his bag. They knew what awaited, a thunder that threatened that of the gods’, pins that dropped as if they were loosed from the hair of every woman in the room with one sweeping motion—no virgins remained in Olympos.
And that ball, a clear orb with the head of a gorgon inside. My gods, the hellish scream she seemed to make as she rolled, rotating, curving across those waxen lanes.
In Olive Branch, everyone went to see Percy play his fate.
“Damn them all!” he yelled when he got the rare gutter ball.
The gods excused his insolence, knowing the part they played in his game. Our game. None, though, knew Percy the man, not like I did.
One night, when the cicadas were at the height of their mating season, Percy and I lay in the bed of his truck and necked for an hour or so out back of Olympos. When the cicadas lulled, we heard the thunder inside Olympos—smallish in Percy’s absence. Percy played with my hair, spreading it out with his fingers until it was a curtain to the moon and the night was momentarily all black.
“What do you want to do with your life?” I asked him.
He wove his fingers under his head for a pillow and stared at the stars.
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” I said, staring at his nose that had been broken once by a beast of a man who tried to take Percy’s nachos at the bar, “you’re amazing. You’re meant for more than this, more than Olive Branch.”
“We’re doing something great here. Listen,” he said, pointing to Olympos. Silence, then the pins fell. Cheers. “Don’t you want to stay here?”
I answered yes, but the truth was, even then, that I wanted to leave Olive Branch forever. Its world was so small, and I was surprised Percy wanted to stay since he was so big in it. I guess that it was something to him, something his construction job didn’t give him. Olive Branch was like that, full of the plain, the lame, and snake-headed gorgons. The gorgons were the worst, and everyone in town feared being bitten.
“I don’t carry them,” Percy said once. “Snake bite kits, I mean. I don’t carry one.”
He was the only one in town who didn’t, so he really didn’t need to. I never told him that. And it wasn’t until years later that I learned the real danger was in turning to stone. My mother gave me the news over the telephone. Percy was dead.
“They found him face down in the concrete,” my mom said. “He was laying the foundation for the new movie theater.”
I held my breath as my mother finished the conversation. Her voice was a drowned chorus as I tried to imagine what Percy had seen. Selfishly, I wondered if he had thought of me as he transformed. No one, I knew, would ever know what he had seen.
“We’re all becoming relics here,” my mother said. “You’re the only one who had enough sense to get out alive.”
“Mom,” I said.
It was all I could say.
Shortly after Percy died, Olympos closed. I suppose there wasn’t much to hope for, no mortal thunder left in Olive Branch to threaten the gods with, and so people stopped going. Some people will tell you different, that it was the movie theater opening, but I don’t see how those two things are any different.
M.W. Fowler received his M.A. in Writing from Coastal Carolina University. He has worked as the assistant fiction editor of Waccamaw, and his work has appeared elsewhere in Otis Nebula (forthcoming summer 2012). He is the author of Ezra Sound: How I Became a Giant. He was born in Myrtle Beach, S.C.