To the Fairest

• Flash fiction inspired by a very very old story •

To the Fairest

 

I adore parties. It pains me I’m never invited. I go anyway.

After hours flirting in the looking glass, draping skirts into waterfalls, stacking silver bangles and bronze, wrestling the serpentine knots of my hair to a pin, how can I stay away? Why not wear black to weddings?

Mama says I never will be invited, not unless I learn to behave. Where is the fun in that? I want to zest things up. I want to give everyone an event to remember. It’s a gift I have. Mama never goes to parties, what does she know? She sits in the dark.

Even a funeral can be teased into an amusing little beehive. One has only to whisper the wicked secrets of the dead where they lay like a buffet. Never neglect the juicy bits the living played, those ones in the parlor tippling sherry glasses, shaking their heads at this woeful loss. Murmur “the dead man diddled neighborhood children while his wife closed the door and tiptoed away.” Or turn to the child and observe such grief appears excessive when the corpse was not, in fact, his biological father. Surprise! If the mother is in attendance, ensure she is able to overhear your whispered confidence.

Timing is an art. Consider stagecraft. Played well, the event will crackle with electricity, ignite mourners stacking sliced beef and scalloped potatoes, kindle the bereaved company resigned to another dull and pious dirge.

The food served at a funeral is always superior to the rubbish served at a wedding. Women totter into the kitchen carrying hot covered dishes and then slip out the back door to sneak a smoke. Men loiter tinkling solemn tumblers of scotch while undressing deviled eggs and fried chicken. Wedding food might as well be paste plated atop ribbons in the bridal color scheme.

Weddings are my favorite parties, though not for the food. When guests arrive, they are already quarrelsome with fully half spoiling to steal the spotlight from the bridal couple. After the special songs, the readings, and candle lighting (always the same special selections), the crowd elbows to the hosted bar to throw down a few shots before endless dinner speeches. All that is needed is a spark. I’ve never been invited to a wedding. I go to them all.

The finest wedding was ages ago. I was not on the guest list. I went anyway. I wasn’t allowed across the threshold. My way was barred by several burly brutes refusing to let me enter the wedding hall. They seized me out back as I tried the secluded garden path to the festivities and marched me out. No matter. I have a gift.

That special day, it was a gift of a dainty apple. It was wrought of gold, most tastefully formed, quite tempting for a goddess. I stole it from the nymphs myself. Through the narrow crack of the doorway, between the legs of the burly brutes, a small matter to roll the little dumpling inside and will it to rest at the feet of the lovelies. Once the prize was noticed, they scrabbled for it like beggars, until one held it aloft and read the inscription to the assembled company: Kallistei–To the Fairest. She claimed it for herself.

Zeus was wise, or cowardly, though these qualities often occur yoked together in a king. He refused to judge the contest. He would not choose which goddess deserved my golden apple. Zeus sent the Messenger to present the dispute to the shepherd boy of Troy, letting Paris decide among the three goddesses. Of course, I followed; of course, I watched.

Hera, with cow-eyes and womanly shoulders, was a favorite to win. Athena, with bronze breasts and sharp chin, was never seriously in contention. Smirking Aphrodite, wheedling her long golden hair around a coy finger, offered the best bribe. It always comes down to the kickback, doesn’t it? Shameless, she promised the boy another man’s wife: Helen, Queen of Sparta, the most beautiful woman ever born, or ever will be. Oh, ships will be launched, I knew.

I longed for this war, swift and hot like summer thunder, more than a thousand weddings. For a stolen apple, a thousand ships; it was a bargain. The bridal couple could never foresee this dark bloom on their wedding day–their son dying on the plains of Troy from an arrow shot by this same shepherd boy. It’s not the apple. It’s stagecraft.

I adore parties.