The way Izzy imagined, it was like this:
It was the type of house that most would avoid. The lawn grown wild, paint chipped off, shutters falling loose, and inhabited by three elderly sisters. The thunder god, Zeus climbed up to the porch, avoiding a broken step, and rang the bell. It didn’t work, of course, so he knocked. He could see the piles of yarn heaped against the inside of the windows, shutting out the world. At last, he could hear one of the sisters make her way to him from within. The door creaked open.
He had more to fear from the sisters than most, but the time had come when he couldn’t avoid seeing them any longer. There were too many protests and he was expected, as president of the Mt Olympus Neighborhood Association, to confront issues, such as they had with them. Being president was not all parades and beauty pageants; you should know. He’s always understood that, which accounts for his long reign, going on, what, three thousand years.
The thunder god’s heart tripped a little when he saw a callused hand reach by the jam. Yet, when the door swung open it revealed, not an old crone, but a young woman, pregnant about nine months.
“By Jove, it’s you,” she said, forcing as warm a smile as she could manage. They had a long and close association, and rivalry, back in the old days. They’d fallen out of touch, however. She hadn’t heard that he preferred again to go by Zeus.
“I’m here on official business of the neighborhood association,” he boomed, loud enough to substitute bombast for genuine supremacy.
“Come in then. My sisters are in the back.” She extinguished her smile with a callous scowl.
“I hope you don’t mind the mess,” she said.
“As a matter of fact, Chloe, I do mind the mess,” he rumbled. “That’s why I’m here. There’ve been many complaints.”
She didn’t say a word in reply, but led him down a narrow channel between piles of yarn to the back of the house where the sisters had a workshop. The breeze from their passage and Zeus’ rumbling stirred up clouds of dust that set him to sneezing. Great hurricanes hurried out of his nose, only to stir up more dust, resulting in more sneezing. The god’s mighty blasts might’ve brought the whole house down, solving the neighborhood’s problem, only the piles of yarn must’ve held it up.
“Excuse me,” he sniffed. “Do you have a tissue?”
“No, but you can blow your nose on this,” she said as she handed him a skein of yarn.
He emptied his nose and Chloe took a seat by an old spinning wheel and got it turning. As she produced a fiber, a second sister cut it at varying, arbitrary lengths and a third gathered up each strand into a skein and threw it on a pile
“Chloe, Morticia, Moira,” he declared. “I’m here on official …”
“Yes, we heard. Haven’t we paid our dues?”
“It’s not about that. There’ve been complaints.”
“There are always complaints,” said Morticia as she snipped with her scissors. “We’ve learned to ignore them and do what we think best.”
“Yes, well, there have been complaints, and I happen to agree with them.”
“Well, for one, you’re violating a zoning ordinance by having a, eh, factory in the middle of a residential area.”
Moira exclaimed, “Everyone agrees they need our services, but no one wants us in their backyard. Well, we’ve got to be somewhere.”
Chloe added, “We’ve been doing this for an eternity and we’ve been doing it right here. While you’re retired, we still have work to do. More work than ever, in fact. There are more people than ever and someone has to do what we do.”
“You don’t have to tell me,” The Cloud Gatherer conceded, “there’s still a need for fate.”
They had agreed, when mortals entered the scene, that someone had to decide when a life should end. Each mortal couldn’t do it for his or her self, they’d all want their lives to go on forever, like the gods’, and there wouldn’t be any room for new people. So Morticia decides. Then, every woman wants a baby, but not everyone can have one. Furthermore, each baby can’t decide what his or her temperament is going to be like because they’re born with their temperament, so Chloe decides. Moira is needed because not everyone can be born in the best places, to the best parents, so she decides their lot in life.
“So, you see,” Chloe continued. “This factory, as you call it, is necessary, whereas your retirement community is not.”
It stung, being superfluous. It seemed that everyone, except for some right-wingers and terrorists, had turned away from the gods. It bothered all the divine on Mt Olympus that they were forced into an early retirement and they knew that The Fate Sisters were behind it.
Zeus admitted, “We’re all probably a little jealous of you, but seeing as though you have so much work, couldn’t you at least relocate? It’s clear you’re running out of room in this facility. You could move to larger, more modern quarters.”
“We can’t afford to,” said Moira. “We have a lot of work, but no one pays us anything anymore. No one believes in The Fates and we don’t get any bribes or reverence. Everyone believes in Free Will, Economic Determinism, Karma, or Grace. They collect the tributes, but we still have to do the work. Go see Genetics; they have more than enough money to fund our expansion. Then we’ll leave your retirement community.”
Being the supreme father of the gods, he knew he wouldn’t get anywhere with Genetics.
He said, “If you have to stay here, at least clean it up. I’ll grant that you don’t make much noise and you don’t pollute the environment, but this place is a firetrap. Look at the mess you make.”
“Fate is messy,” said Chloe. “We can’t help that.”
Fate was messy and had created untold suffering, for which people then blamed the gods. The neighborhood association wouldn’t let Zeus rest until he went to persuade the sisters to take care of the suffering so they could go back to enjoying their retirement.
“Just clean it up as you go. Go through these piles, sort it all out, and make some order out of it. Take up knitting.”
“It wouldn’t be good for us to get too close to our work,” she explained. “We can do what we do only because we are impersonal and don’t know these people.”
The Fate Sisters have never been like the other Olympic gods. Inhuman, impersonal, inaccessible, and compassionless, they’ve been more a machine than spirit, more a bureaucracy than deity. They’ve often been tempted, but they’ve never been worshipped. They never could be worshipped, for they are heartless officials, unmindful of the consequences of their actions.
“In that case, get someone else to do it. Hire a janitor,” Zeus looked around at the mess, “or a whole crew of janitors.”
“I know what we can do,” said Moira. “I’ve been wondering what to do with this pile; none of them seem to fit in anywhere.” She pulled a fragile length of fiber from that pile and held it up. “This one will be a janitor.”
“That piece of string?” he asked. “What can that do?”
“It doesn’t matter what he or she is made of. A person will do anything, put in the right circumstances.”
And so, thought Izzy, the Fates appointed janitors to take care of people and their suffering and get the gods off the hook. Maybe he’d be one of them.
© Keith R Wilson – 2010