“I’m down for a little weekend getaway,” they all agreed.
They boarded a ship called Halkyone. Nobody knew the name meant Water Leaker in Persian. The gang was lackadaisical about the voyage, thinking of it more as a toga party cruise. But the morning after they set sail, they awoke with their ship lodged on a sandbar. Everything was quiet at first and they began to hear the meow of a million kitties. They’d landed on Catlypto. When they heard a rumbling noise approaching, they picked up brown rocks on the beach to have something to throw at any would-be-attackers—until they realized that the rocks weren’t rocks, because the beach was just a giant litter box.
A thundering herd of kitties leaped out of the jungle, charging at them full speed. Zotikus, thinking quickly, pushed the juggler in front him and jumped on the shoulders of Maximus. The men cowered, prepared for the worst. Then the kitties stopped dead in their tracks, lovingly circling the visitors, rubbing their furry bodies against the visitors’ furry legs.
The kitties led them into a multi-level cat condo the size of the Acropolis. Andromeda and Morpheus sat on a throne, nibbling catfish. They were joined in one Siamese cat body with two differently gendered heads.
The wild kitties made the visitors their slaves. For three months they had to catch fish, fill kitty bowls, carve scratching posts, make squeaky toys and provide round-the-clock belly rubs.
Zotikus approached the rulers one day and told him-her that he and his colleagues would like to thank all the island kitties for their hospitality by making them a great feast.
The kitties taunted and hissed at the slave boys as they slinked off to prepare the meal.
Unbeknownst to the kitties, Zotikus loaded the meal with catnip. As the kitties’ purrs floated in the air, the visitors planned their escape:
Zotikus pulled out a small pan flute he had whittled out of a piece of driftwood. He began playing. The kitties became quiet, cocking their head in amazement. They followed his sweet song as he marched into the jungle. Leading them up the mountain, he brought them into a cave he had discovered while looking for coconut milk. The moonlight seeped through the opening as the sound echoed beautifully off the walls. In awe, the kitties sat and listened.
Zotikus stopped playing and said, “whoever plays this flute will possess the strength of Zeus and the agility of Mercury.” He then threw the instrument into the middle of the room, can causing an all out kitty brawl as they scratched and clawed each other for the flute. A few moments later, Zotikus ducked out and he and his friends rolled a boulder in front of the cave, sealing the felines in.
As they sailed away, settling in for a long catnap, faint, rhythmic, high-pitched cries could be heard coming from the mountain.
Zotikus’ mind drifted to his beloved Kaliope. He wondered what she was doing right now. He imagined her spit-polishing her Aphrodite bronze mask, as she was a Colossus of Rhodes scholar.
They had now been gone for over a year and needed to get supplies. They had no idea where they were or even what ocean they were in. There was only enough food for two more days but more importantly, no booze. Things were looking dismal. The next day they took a vote to see that, when the time came, who would be eaten first. Everyone agreed that the world could survive without a mime. Even the mime agreed, although he didn’t verbally say so.
Fortunately, Apollo took pity on them and decided to guide them to the nearest port. He had a side bet with Zeus that these clucks would somehow complete their mission.
“Sweat here! Get your pure Spartan sweat here!” the Cyclops called out from the downtown square. Intrigued, the boys decided to try some.
“What does this stuff do?” Zotikus asked.
“Makes a woman love you,” said the one-eyed man. “How would you little pigs like to try some?” the Cyclops asked.
“Why not?” Maximus snickered.
“I’m sure it can’t hurt,” Zotikus chimed in.
The mysterious peddler smiled then splashed some on the crew. Zotikus and his colleagues became dizzy and their heads spun and their bodies changed into goat-like centurions. They were stunned as they examined themselves from head to hoof. Zotikus trotted in a circle and thought: My fiancée is gonna be a little upset behind this one.
The new centurions sat in a bar drinking Sambucca contemplating what they were going to do next.
“I think I got fleas,” Maximus snarled as he gnawed at his back.
“We are not returning to Athens looking like half-ass goats. My beautiful little pita bread will kill me,” Zotikus whined.
In the back of the room, an old drunken woman leaned over the table and whispered, “Down below is your answer, through the fires in the Temple of Surely,” she blurted and then galloped out of the bar on all fours.
The goat men gave up and headed to the Surely Temple several miles away. Inside, they found a young, redheaded hetaera dancing in front of an altar singing, “On the Good Ship Lysagorapop.”
“How do we become men again?” Funicious snapped at the little girl.
She giggled and pushed him into the fire, where he vanished. They all stood there in disbelief.
“What the…” one of them mumbled.
Suddenly, from the flames they heard Zotikus’ voice, “Come on in, fellas. The fire’s just fine.”
The other three Greeks inched up to the fire, giving each other a “hell no” look. But before they knew it, the little girl kicked each one of them in the butt and they landed in the fire.
They galloped down a long, darkened tunnel until they reached the river Styx; they knew they were in trouble and this was no grand illusion. They goat-paddled across the water. A screech owl whizzed by their heads scaring them half to death. Emerging from the darkness, a large cave entrance appeared; the half wits entered. They pushed past souls who were heretics, violent, frauds and similarly treacherous beings. It was ugly, frightening and hellatious. Maximus never made it through.
In front of them were two large metal doors. Inside, fire encircled the room and in the middle were two thrones, inhabited by Hades and Omarosa, who was holding the magical emerald scepter they needed. The king of the underworld looked up at the visitors. He took a drink from his horn then shot a wall of fire at them, singeing their coarse goat hair, creating a putrid smell.
“Who is it that disturbs the dead?” Hades blurted.
“It’s just little ole me, Zotikus and my friends,” the trembling man replied. “We just wanted to swing by and perform a little comedy show. We figured you could use a few laughs down here.”
“I’d like that,” Hades said. “How ‘bout you, honey?”
“I guess,” Omarosa deadpanned.
“Well, what the hell, let’s see what you got, kid,” the beast snipped as he settled into his chair.
Funicious’ mind raced. Stepping forward for his audience of two, he began sweating and it wasn’t because of the flames.
“It’s great to be here at the…Underworld,” he began. “The fire really brightens up the place. It’s hot down here.” I said, “It’s hot down here.”
Hades, catching on, huffed, “How hot is it?”
“It’s so hot even the flames want ice water,” the comedian said, laughing at his own joke.
Hades jawed tightened.
“Before I wrap up this laugh fest,” Funicious continued, “Please remember, to do is to be. Socrates. To be is to do. Aristotle. To do be do be do. Sinatra.”
That’s when Hades reached his breaking point. “I thought you were a comedian!” he screamed.
“Kill him,” Omarosa demanded.
“Wait! Wait! I do impressions,” Funicious pleaded. “This is Atlas. ‘Help me, help me; I got the world on my shoulders.’”
“Is that it?” Hades shouted, taking a drink from his horn and shooting a wall of fire at Funicious, who now stood there blackened and charred.
“Wow, when you die at the underworld, you really die at the underworld,” Funicious wheezed as he crumbled into a heap of ashes.
Sadly, Zotikus had only his mime friend left. He grabbed Efimia and they raced towards the exit as Hades literally breathed down their necks.
On the way out, Zotikus snatched the magical scepter in Omarosa’s chair. He whacked Efimia three times in the butt and poof, the mime became human again. Then the mime took the scepter and whacked Zotikus in the butt three times and poof, he was back to being human again, too. Hurrying, they slipped the scepter through the door handles just before Hades was about to barrel through and finish them off.
Outside they found a horse lingering in the streets. Without a second thought, the pair leaped on its back.
The next thing they knew they were soaring in the air. Turns out they’d stolen a winged horse.
The wind whisked through their hair as the horse climbed higher and higher. Excited, Zotikus laughed out loud, while Efimia moved his mouth as if he were laughing. Just as they relished the view, the horse’s feathers began to fly off. Little did they know the horse’s owner had glued them on with bees’ wax to sell it to some unsuspecting dupes. The sun was now melting the cheap concoction and they began to descend. Zotikus screamed, Efimia did, too, but super quietly.
Back on land, Zotikus got a piggy-back ride from a marathon runner who had told him that the only reason he was carrying a torch was because his mother-inlaw’s oven had gone out. Zotikus told him the only time he would run twenty-six miles for his mother-inlaw was if she needed a lift to catch a ship bound for another continent. They both laughed.
Zotikus was now seven years older than when he left Athens. On the way back, the ship was almost sunk in a raging hurricane. Just when the coast was clear and smooth sailing lay ahead, the ship was attacked and sunk in a Spartan naval battle. He was picked up by a passing boat where he was slapped and beaten and thrown in the hold below, chained and forced to row for three years.
Eventually, the tenuous Greek escaped by using the catapult on the ship. He sailed through the air and then banged into the walls of Tyre. At least he was alive with his two feet on the ground and his dislocated shoulder. A Good Samaritan lent him a pet ostrich, which Zotikus rode back to Athens.
The gates were locked because of the Peloponnesian War, and no one was allowed into the city. Using his acting skills, Zotikus pretended to be a Corinthian Fuller Brush salesman to gain entry. Denied, he spent the next six months building a wooden, hollow donkey. Then he spent another four months pushing it up to the gate. He hid inside the mule vessel waiting to be taken in. After two more months, the huge jackass was allowed into Athens. But once inside the gate, Zotikus realized that he had built the thing with the latch on the outside and had to spend another month chewing himself out of the belly of the beast.
Home at last, with a few splinters in his gums, Zotikus hailed a taxi-chariot. It wouldn’t be long before he was reunited with his Kaliope, his amazing fiancée. On the way, a cabbie sporting a gold tooth asked, “Hey my good man, you want a nice present? You want to buy some perfume from Crete?
Zotikus’ mouth dropped as he realized that he’d forgotten all about the perfume he’d been sent to get and could’ve saved 10 years if he had just run into this local guy at the beginning of his journey.
“How much?” Zotikus sighed.
“Only eighty-five drachmas.”
“Sure. Why not?” Zotikus replied.
“Okay, you wait here, my good man,” the cabbie told him as he pulled over near a Troys-R-Us. “I’ll be right back.”
Out of sight, the cab driver pulled out a beautiful decorative ceramic bottle, dipped it in the polluted river and filled it with the funky water. He emerged with a beaming smile holding out the little container. “Only seventy-five drachmas,” he said.
“Really,” Zotikus was amazed. “You even saved me ten drachmas.”
“Of course,” the cabbie smirked. “You special friend.”
Zotikus paid the man and then rode back to the palace.
“It’s Zotikus,” he reminded his future father-in-law.
“Yes, well I’m sure the queen would have loved it—if she hadn’t died last year.” The king said as he opened the bottle, took a whiff and then dabbed some on his neck. “Hmm,” he said, “that is some goooood stuff.”
The king smiled then whirled around and threw the bottle against the wall.
“Too much aroma?” Zotikus gasped.
“It’s not about the perfume, you Greek geek!” the king bellowed. “I sent you on this mission to discover if you really loved my daughter.” He put his arm around Zotikus’ hairy back and laughed. “Now I know your heart is true.”
“So, where is she? Zotikus asked, his heart pounding in his chest. “Where is my sweet little Kaliope?”
“You missed her.”
“Very much,” said Zotikus.
“No, I mean you missed her by about two hours,” the king said with a sigh.
“Excuse me?” the perplexed Greek exploded.
“She was worried, so she hopped on a ship to Cypress to look for you. Is that love or what?”
Articles in the Andy Madadian Issue; Senator Harkin — The Deaf President Movemen; Ashley Fiolek — From Pigging Out to Nutrition Classes; Humor — Part II of the “Greek Geek” Adventure; Candida — The Hands She Was Dealt; Derek Paravicini — He’s Got the Keys to the World; Geri Jewell — Next Exit, Joy; Seizure Dog — She Nose When; Long Haul Paul — What the Farkle?; China — Wang Kun Overcoming Obstacles for Art; Sharjah’s — Sheikha Jameela bint Mohammed Al Qasimi; Accountability — Employing People with Disabilities; ANDY — Music + Charity = Millions of Fans; QJMC — Team Quincy Jones Spreading Music’s Roots; Morgan’s Wonderland — An Accessible Fun-der-land; DRLC — The Blame Game in Gun Control ; ABILITY’s Crossword Puzzle; Events and Conferences…