I stumbled through the woods, the
concierge’s warning an echo in my head. “Otis.
Be careful. The statue of Orpheus is...well, it’s been known
to change those who touch it.”
I’m familiar with the story. For those of
you who aren’t, Orpheus, son of Apollo and Calliope...the
latter being the muse of eloquence, was an ancient Greek hero
reputed to charm anyone and anything, including plants and
rocks, with his lyre and song. He had even introduced writing to
the Greeks. His amorous strings and joyous songs attracted many
women, especially the Wood Nymph Eurydice, and they fell madly
in love. On their wedding day, she was bitten by a venomous
snake and died. Orpheus’s grief and sorrow played out in the
saddest music ever heard by humans and gods. Finally, with the
help of his father, he descended to the underworld to beseech
Hades to release Eurydice back to him. He played his lyre and
sang so sweetly all hell stood still, and Hades agreed to
reunite the lovers, but with one stipulation.
She could follow him out of hell, but he
could not look back at her until they both reached the light of
the living world. If he did, he’d lose her forever. Along the
way, Orpheus could not hear her footsteps behind him. He became
worried and doubtful of the gods, and yes, just as he entered
the light he did look back, but too soon, the fool, only to see
her vanish into the darkness, quick as the flutter of a
hummingbird wing. The moral of this story, according to the
gods, is that the future is always forward. You can never go
You cannot put the genie back in the
You cannot close the lid on Pandora’s
You cannot hang out with the Boys of
You cannot touch the statue of Orpheus.
Perhaps I should attempt to explain my
problem from the beginning. I have an ex-wife. Emily. We’re
still friends, though. I should have listened to her. She told
me my new lifestyle would eventually bite me on the ass. And she
was right. Oh, God, was she right. No, not about putting the
genie back into the bottle. Something worse. Keeping too many
Leave it to your ex-wife to be right about
your new girlfriends.
Writers have rituals like every other
artist. Some of us take these rituals to the extreme. I know one
gentleman who wears bunny slippers when he’s writing. I have
chosen to relinquish any credit to fluffy-eared pumps, and
instead, only drink coffee from a specific mug, the one Emily
gave me when I sold my first short story.
But when it comes to waking up our muses,
we writers must look desperate to those who know nothing of how
our minds work. We will try anything short of sacrificing
chickens...though, if you’ve read Stephen King, you may expect
that sort of behavior out of his mind. I typically settle for
something a little less macabre.
Case in point, I once decided to inspire my
muse by kissing the Blarney Stone. Rumor has it that those who
do receive the Gift of Gab. What’s writing if not putting to
pen what’s spoken? I wanted to French kiss that rock. I wanted
to caress its curves and whisper sweet nothings to it. The
problem with these amorous plans is that the Blarney Stone is at
the top of a castle in Cork, Ireland.
I made the trip, and the only gifts
bestowed were chapped lips and a head cold from walking up what
seemed like forty stories of icy steps. I must have been insane
to think standing on top of Blarney Castle in the dead of winter
was a good idea. That northern wind blew through the threads of
my Texas coat like it was thin as a wife-beater. As I said,
writers get desperate at times.
But let’s get to the meat of my problem,
as this is where the story truly begins. I’m sure my editor, a
grouchy ol’ fuck named Hank, would question why I didn’t
start the story here, but I feel some more background is in
order. Let’s rewind some.
I got lucky on a self-published novel, and
a two-book deal subsequently landed on my desk. A pre-edit draft
was due in six months, and I had nothing written down. Not a
plot. Not even a premise written out as a complete sentence. I
needed to light a fire under my muse’s ass, and right quick.
Cork, Ireland, had been a bust, so I decided to find my
inspiration at the wellspring itself, where muses run wild.
As I had said... Desperate.
I wandered around Muse Heaven for two
weeks, visiting every tourist spot in the guidebook that had
anything to do with muses. Two nights before I was to leave, I
sat down with my tablet and stared at the blinking cursor. I
tapped the backspace key as many times as I’d tapped all the
other keys combined. I finally said, “Fuck it,” and went
down to the bar. The bottom of a beer mug was the only place I
hadn’t yet searched for inspiration.
I ordered my typical, a dark porter, and
sat at a corner table. My empty email folder told me everyone
was asleep back in the States...including Sherry, my agent. I
figured she was too busy to drop me a line. Only active and
consistently published writers paid the bills and right now, I
The waitress came over, and we talked for a
few minutes. Actually, I whined about lacking inspiration, and
she smiled. She went back to work, and when I lifted my glass
off the table for my final gulp, I found a folded napkin under
it with the name ‘Orpheus’ written on it in a woman’s
handwriting. There was also an address near Kavala. I looked for
my waitress, but she was gone. When I enquired, the bartender
denied that a waitress was on duty that late. I knew he was