Working in Ink
The Golden Dawn of Tarots
Gustave Dor' (1832-1883): The Most Popular Illustrator of all Time
News for August
License To Inspireby Shannon Wolff
“Oh, give it up already,” I muttered and rolled my eyes. “There isn’t a single word in the English language that really rhymes with orange. You have to change the verse.”
I honestly didn’t know why I was bothering. The idiot at the desk had stopped listening to me half an hour ago. He’d done fine on his own for about ten minutes, but had spent the last twenty minutes or so in this futility. I’d been trying to enlighten him on the matter for about fifteen minutes, but he’d continued to remain oblivious. That’s the problem with being non-corporeal, it can be all but impossible to get someone on the earthly plane to hear you, much less listen.
“Come on, Mickey,” I cooed in the songwriter’s ear -- as though I thought he’d really pay any attention. “This is an easy fix. All you have to do is change the verse from ‘the sunlight turned Katie’s hair golden-orange’ to ‘Katie’s hair turned golden-orange in the sunlight’. There’s lots of words that rhyme with light. You can then say how the two of you kissed as the sun vanished from sight, or how you later danced all night, or something. Though, Katie’s hair really is more of a strawberry blond.”
My terminally uninspired songwriter merely sighed and reached for the same dog-eared rhyming dictionary he’d been thumbing through for the last twenty minutes. Oblivious as ever. Some days it just doesn’t pay to be a muse.
“Clorissa,” called the last voice I wanted to hear just then.
“Uh-no.” I moaned. My supervisor, Rena, materialized before me. Well, materialized enough for me to see her; Mickey was still clueless. “Now what?”
“You’re being recalled.”
“Why? Because you’ve failed to inspire this mortal within the allotted time.”
“But he’s being impossible! He’s trying to write too much with his head and not at all with his heart. How am I supposed to contend with that?”
“That’s hardly an excuse. Now, report to my office while I brief your replacement.”
I wanted to argue my case, but I knew it’d do no good. If anything I’d only be digging myself into an even deeper hole. So I just growled under my breath as I faded out of the mortal world and into Rena’s office.
Now, in my experience, when most mortals think of muses one of two things come to mind: Either some drop dead gorgeous vixen who’s way out of our would-be artist’s league, and probably doesn’t even know he’s alive, thus causing him to pine away for her while writing odes to her beauty or something; or one of the nine muses from Greek Mythology. I happened to work for one of the latter. Well, sort of. You see, over the centuries the nine original muses had become more like division heads, and I worked under Erato, the muse of lyrics. Way under Erato. I was what you might call the low entity on the totem pole. And, as such, being recalled in the middle of an assignment couldn’t possibly mean anything good. To put it frankly, I might soon find myself looking through the job listings of the Mythological Times.
Fortunately, I didn’t have long to dwell on my possible unemployment. No sooner did I start to wonder if Rena had a newspaper lying around than she materialized behind her desk and shot me a stun look.
“Mickey giving you trouble to?” I asked in faux innocence as I dropped into a chair and resisted the urge to prop my feet up on Rena’s desk.
“Whatever problems you had with Michael, I’m sure Daphne can handle him.” Rena said matter-of-factly as she smoothed a few hairs that had managed to escape her tight bun.
I fought back an annoyed huff and rolled my eyes. A lot of people around here considered Daphne to be a pain in the neck. Others had a lower opinion. I fell in the latter category. I’d tell you exactly what my feeling towards her happened to be, but it’s unbecoming of a muse to use that kind of language as it tends to indicate a lack of creative thought.
“So, what am I in for this time?” I sighed, silently hoping Mickey was giving Daphne as much trouble as he’d given me.
“This is serious, Clorissa. Michael was the third assignment you’ve failed this month, and he should have been the easiest yet.”
“Come on. The guy’s writing a love song for a girl he won’t even be with next month.”
“Oh, is that a fact? Has one of Cupids’ assistances been gossiping around water cooler again? Or are you part oracle?”
“He doesn’t have a picture of her on his desk, can’t remember what color her hair is, and I’ll bet you five coppers he doesn’t know her eye color either. I give it until next week.”
“How long the relationship last isn’t our concern. We are here to inspire, if you have found that task ill-suited to your taste, then I would suggest you transfer to another branch. Preferably before you fail another assignment as doing so--”
“Will result in a loss of my license and credentials and I will be looking for another line of work,” I finished in a mumble. As you may have guessed, this wasn’t my first time in the hot seat.
“Well, as you are familiar with the consequences, then I won’t waste our time. I suggest you report to dispatch for another assignment, and don’t make me recall you again.”
I rolled my eyes and wasted no time in leaving Rena’s office, thinking to myself how being a muse was much more fun before everything became so regulated.
It used to be that you wandered around on the earthly plane and if you came across a mortal in need of inspiration you inspired him -- or at least tried to. Some cases, like Mickey, were just hopeless from the start. No amount of effort can overcome an inability to listen, which would probably be why he would end up loosing Katie. But now, inspiration had become a little too... bureaucratic. Now it’s all, get an assignment, go inspire, come back and wait for another assignment -- and don’t even think of setting foot in the mortal world without a license and an assignment. It had sucked all the fun out of being a muse.
Then again, what should I expect? A couple of Hades’ boys thought this system up.
“Sorry, no new assignments right now,” the dispatcher said apologetically as his goat hooves clicked loudly on the floor. “Try again in about an hour.”
“Just my luck,” I muttered under my breath, wondering if maybe I should transfer.
“Rough day?” chirped a far too cheery voice behind me.
“You could say that, Dion.” I sighed and turned to face one of Cupid’s assistances.
If anyone else had chirped up just then I probably would have ended up muttering some of those words that ill become a muse. But since Dion happened to be an old friend of mine, I let it slide. Next thing I knew I was joining Dion on his break and telling him all my problems... Just like old times.
“That’s the problem with supervisors.” Dion sighed and stretched his arms over his head. “Once they leave the field they forget all the little unwritten rules.”
“Tell me about it,” I muttered in agreement and propped my elbows up on the table. “How can Mickey possibly write a love song for Katie if he’s not really in love with her?”
“Don’t get me started. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve had to listen while some would-be Casanova warbles through some half-hearted slop while trying to romance the wrong girl.” Dion clicked his tongue and shook his head. “Too bad we’re not allowed to partner up any more. Now those were legendary romances.”
“Be careful what you wish for. If I loose my inspiration license I’ll have to transfer to another branch. It might just be yours.”
“Nonsense, you’re a muse. You should be inspiring great songs and ballads, not playing supernatural matchmaker. Besides, I’ve seen you’re aim.” He lightly plucked his bowstring. “Need I say more?”
“I’m a muse who’s going to loose her license if she blows her next assignment,” I protested, sinking deeper into self-pity.
“Maybe you should try to salvage your last assignment instead of worrying about your next one.”
“How? Daphne’s on the case now and even if she wasn’t Mickey’s not really in love with Katie.”
“Was your assignment to inspire Mickey to write a love song, or to inspire Mickey to write a love song about Katie?”
That caught my attention immediately. Truth be told, I hadn’t actually read my assignment slip. I’d gone on the dispatcher’s word, and he’d told me to inspire Mickey to write a love song about his girlfriend, Katie. Our dispatcher was a good enough guy, but he didn't always interpret the assignment slips correctly. I wasted no time digging the slip out of my pocket and smoothing it out on the table.
Assignment No. 95326895-93085631269-9643532
Inspire the mortal Michael Jones to write a love song.
So the song didn’t have to be about Katie.
“Well, I need to get back to work. And I’m guessing you do to.” Dion smirked as he got up and stretched.
“But it’s not my assignment anymore, it’s Daphne’s,” I protested, but got to my feet all the same.
“She won’t have anymore luck than you did. Mickey’s not in love with Katie, and you’re the one with the assignment slip.”
“How does that help me?”
“You’re a muse. Be creative.”
And with a wink he was off.
Irksome as Dion’s farewell was, he did have a point. Right about then Mickey was probably giving Daphne a serious headache. I tried not to enjoy the prospect too much. I could probably just step in and whisk the assignment away from her without much protest. Of course, she’d have to protest some out of professional pride, but she’d more than likely be glad to turn the whole mess back over to me. And, since the song didn’t have to be about Katie, all I’d have to do is get Mickey thinking about his dream girl. Yeah, I could work with that. The song could have sort of an I-know-Miss-Right-is-out-there-and-I-can’t-wait-to-meet-her kind of vibe. I doubted Katie would be too thrilled, but they were going to break up anyway. Unless, of course, I was wrong and they really were in love. But I liked to think some of Dion’s instincts had rubbed off on me over the centuries.
“Clorissa,” gasped a frazzled voice behind me.
“Daphne?” I turned around to find Daphne looking just as frazzled as her voice sounded. “What are you doing here?”
“You’re right, that mortal is impossible! The guy’s all head and no heart. How he ever managed to get a girlfriend in the first place is beyond me. You got to take this assignment back.”
“But Rena gave it to you.” Hey, I still had to make this official.
“I’ll handle Rena, just take the assignment back. You still have the slip, right?”
“Great! You go inspire that mortal and I’ll tell Rena about it.”
“You know this is going to blemish that prefect record of yours.”
“After a half an hour with that guy I really don’t care, just take him back.”
“All right, I’ll take him back; just go sooth things over with Rena.” I sighed a little too lamentfully, but Daphne was too stressed to notice.
I had to repress a smile as Daphne made to complete fool of herself trying to run off to Rena’s office while thanking me over her shoulder. As soon as she was out of sight, I stopped trying and smiled openly. I had my assignment back; my only problem now is Mickey’s thick skull.
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