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1979: Albert's (in Omaha) is lit!

Monday, April 13, 2015

What I Did for Love

I was fairly relaxed that morning, just lying in. Nowhere I had to go that early in the day, nobody expected anything from me. I wasn't aware of just how relaxed I was until my quiet was shattered by the melodic tones of Venus, calling my name as she might call a cat.

"Oh, BACCH-us!" she said, completely ending a dream in which I was floating happily down a great purple river of finely aged grape juices. I looked around unhappily, quickly determined that there was no river, and closed my eyes to try and go back.

"Bacchus, honey, open your eyes! It's morning. Don't you want to see your sweet Venus?" I peeped once and closed my eyes again. Normally, the Goddess of Love is a sight for sore eyes, but that morning, my eyes were actually sore, and no sight was sweet enough for that. "No," I said, ungraciously, then remembered my manners. "Please go away."

"Bacchus, I've just seen the sweetest little man, and I'd like to meet him, just for a little while, and you're just the one to help me do it."

Now I was awake. Not 100% awake yet, but enough that I knew I wasn't going to be sleeping again anytime soon, so I might as well just open my eyes and face the revoltingly bright, cheerful Olympus morning and my demure torturer. "What," I asked in the loudest voice that didn't make my head throb unpleasantly, "Would make you go away, Venus?"

"Speak up, darling," she said brightly, "And it'll help if you point your face in the general direction of my ears. Up here." She pointed helpfully. I suppose it was my fault she always wore that tunic of hers, and gave the impression of always wearing trick underwear, when in fact... how can I put this? ...she didn't.

"WHAT DO YOU--" My voice hurt. I tried again, letting clear enunciation carry the burden instead of volume. "What. Do. You. Want. Venus?" That was better, but my lips didn't care for it. There's no satisfying everybody.

She started explaining, in the patient tones of a high-school boy's dream substitute teacher. "I saw the most adorable little mortal, Bacchus. In the water. And I thought, well, wouldn't it just be sweet if I could go down and give him the nicest night of his life?" Her tone was fairly dripping with ambrosia. Now, I'm not normally an ambrosia man, but there's no denying it has its appeal, and it was certainly reaching me, in spite of -- or maybe because of -- my weakened state.

"Well, what do you want -me- to do about it?" I said, then realized that I had as much as given in to her. At least, that's how she would interpret it, and I was beginning to think that if I just agreed with her, she might leave me alone so I could look behind my eyelids for that river of grappa once again. "Why don't you just go down there yourself?"

"Well, you see..." she said, hesitantly, slipping around behind me at the same time, "there's just this little difficulty." With as much smoothness as, say, the god of oil, she had raised me to a sitting position, and started rubbing the knots and frays out of my neck and upper back. She raised her voice a tad to be heard over the involuntary sighs and groans I didn't know I was making. "He's the sweetest thing, but he's just a little bit of a stick in the mud." She leaned in closer to whisper in my ear, and I could feel her pressing against my back. Hangover or not, I was starting to feel like I could do great things.

But I knew that if I agreed right away to her little assignation, she'd stop persuading me, so I continued to protest. "You don't need me to help you," I said, leaning back just ever so slightly. "You know you've got what it takes. If you set your mind to it --" I tilted my head up and back to look up at her, which practically put me in her lap. "-- you could make a High Priest jump over the altar."

"Well, to tell the truth, that's almost what I want to do." She wrinkled her nose conspiratorially at me. "He's not quite a High Priest, but he's a Bishop, and his church is just so stuffy! You have no idea what things are like down there nowadays!" I just shrugged. I knew that people still pressed the grape, they still drank when they could, and the little world below us still turned as it always had. "So what I want you to do, Bacchus-kins (I'm afraid this is the closest translation I can render for her endearment in terms that make sense to you.), is to go down there and get him just a little teeny bit... you know."

"Swacked," I said. "Spifflicated. Falling-down friendly."

"Tipsy," she said. "Just so I can talk to him and he won't be such a prune."

"And why, my sweet Venus, should I do this for you?" I asked, quietly.

"Well," she said, idly touching one of the leaves I was wearing, "after all, I am well aware of your love of feminine beauty."

"Yes," I admitted, "I do have an eye for the fairer sex."

"And I know that you would just be so sad if your sweet little Bacchantes all started saying, 'Not tonight, Bacchus! We have a headache.'"

I looked up at where she was still beaming sweetly at me. I shaded my eyes from her brilliance, feeling a headache of my own forming behind a spot between my eyebrows, and realized that my forehead was knotting itself. Like it or not, there was wisdom in her words. "I'll see what I can do," I said.


It was late when I returned. She was waiting up for me, and I could see the threatening shadow of a snit clouding her fine features. "And just where have you been?" she demanded. The ambrosia had been replaced with icicles, but at the moment, I didn't care.

"I've been plying your little Bishop with the fruit of the vine, as you asked, dear cousin."

"And did that take you the entire night? Is he made of the stuff of Hercules?"

"No, not Hercules. I plied him, and got him just ever so slightly tipsy, as you asked." I put a certain emphasis on those last three words. "And, as you desired, he became less stern, less unbending..."

"And why did you not summon me, so that I could enjoy his company? I was all ready for him -- I even dressed for him!" Now that she mentioned it, I could see she was wearing a black robe, such as a choir singer in the Bishop's church would wear. If I'd been in a better mood, I'd have found it fetching.

"He was in the mood for different game, my Lady."

"What ever do you mean, different game?"

"I mean that I have spent the last two hours evading the drunken affection of a Bishop on earth. As he drank, he kept leaning to me, telling me the most tedious details of his life. I know enough about it now that I could be a Bishop myself, if I ever decide to leave here and set up shop on Earth below! And with the fourth drink, he started to pursue me. Around and around the cathedral that wretch chased me. I should have just flown away, but the cavernous place was so large, I got lost..."

"Oh, my! Who ever knew he was so inclined?" Venus pretended shock, and pulled the front of her robe a few inches with her fingers in ventilation, as if she was contemplating a faint. "Well, I certainly can't hold you responsible for that."

Emotions chased themselves across her fair face. Her cold anger gave way to warm embarrassment, then that was replaced with wide innocence -- one of her best effects -- and finally, she inclined to me and gave me a look of forgiveness. "You have done your best," she said, graciously. "Though I am disappointed, you will find I am still generous.

"Your little followers -- the ladies, I mean -- will be as warm to you as ever. Now you must excuse me. I go to change my garments and rest to overcome my sorrow at this turn of events."

And she was off. Generous as always, she had allowed me to do what I would have done anyway, and all I had to pay for it was to waste an entire day drinking sherry with a lascivious clergyman when all I wanted was to sleep. I watched her walking away in those satiny robes and knew what I would dream about.