Today’s (yesterday’s?) post is a day late, so please accept this short, short story as an apology.
The Judgment of Alexander
Alexander didn’t hear them arrive because he had just turned his blender on high. He flexed his triceps as he waited for the machine to do its work. Nice. He poured the thick protein shake into a large glass and took a long drink before turning. When he saw the three beautiful women, he jumped, and would have spilled some of his precious muscle milk, if he had not already downed half the glass.
“Who are you people?” he asked, staring at the women who had appeared on the opposite side of his kitchen island. They belonged in an ad for a teen TV show, each a caricature designed to seduce a different sub-demographic: the toned athlete, the fashionable blond, and the young professional in a blazer, complexions and hair flawless.
“Oh, you know who we are, Alexandros,” said Blazer, tucking her straight black hair behind ear, revealing an over-sized peacock feather earring.
“I think you have the wrong house. My name’s Alexander, not Alexandros.”
“Come on,” said the athlete, ignoring his protest, “Let’s do this.” With a snap of her fingers, an apple glimmered gold against the black island counter top. The three goddesses stared at it.
Goddesses. The realization was immediate, like a lightning bolt of bad news, yet he had no idea where it had come from. He took the apple from the counter and read the tag that he had not noticed before: For the fairest. He remembered this story. The apple of discord was in his kitchen, waiting for distribution. Crap.
“I’m going first,” Athena said.
“You went first last time,” Aphrodite said.
“Deal with it. If you give me that apple, I’ll help you lead your football team to victory at States,” Athena said.
“No, he wants to be student body president, I can see it in his biceps,” Hera said, “And I’ll even throw in prom king!”
Alexander interrupted them. “Prom? Football? How old do you all think I am?”
“You mean this isn’t your parents’ kitchen?
“No. This is my house.”
“I’m impressed,” Aphrodite said. “Since you’re a little older, maybe you’re looking for a lovely lady to settle down with? I can promise you the most beautiful woman in the—”
“Not into girls,” he said. Did they even do their research?
“Oh. Ohhhh. Then how about the most beautiful man in the—”
“Why is it always someone beautiful? Why not kind, or emotionally available with a stable job?” he said.
Hera opened her mouth, but Athena cut her off. “Maybe there’s a body building competition you’d like to win? I also do crafts. Ever wanted to try knitting, but didn’t want to put the time and effort into learning?” She sounded like a bad infomercial.
Hera cut in before he had a chance to respond. “You must have a job then. A promotion might be nice.”
These women reminded him of the drunken dregs in college bars at closing time, throwing themselves at whoever called them pretty.
Still, he needed to get out of this. He didn’t need to be a mythology buff to know what he had to do. He considered his options. Refusing judgment meant three angry goddesses, but choosing someone left only two.
Don’t do it, urged a voice inside his head. That voice was right. This buck needed to be passed. For the fairest. Where had he heard that before?
I’ve got it. “I’ll be right back.” Alexander returned a minute later holding a mirror.
“This enchanted mirror will show you who is the fairest. Whoever it reflects gets the apple.”
“If this is just a normal mirror…” Hera said, trailing off. Yet she positioned herself front and center. Athena rolled her eyes and stood next to her. Aphrodite joined them. Alexander turned the mirror and when they all saw their reflections, they glared at him.
“Looks like you’re all the fairest. I really can’t be expected to decide. You should all just take the apple.” He turned to clean up the cutting board behind him on the counter.
“We can’t. There’s one apple and three of us,” Hera said.
She was right. There was an easy solution to this.
Without hesitation, he grabbed the apple and his knife. The knife slid through easily, which was a relief. He hadn’t been sure it would work, and in order for his plan to have any chance, he needed to slice it with ease. After three precise cuts, the apple was in perfect, golden thirds. His months of meal prep and exact apportioning had paid off. Somehow, he had actually been training for this moment. He handed each goddess a fragrant and juicy slice.
Hera examined her piece in wonder, and Aphrodite sniffed hers, uncertain, touching it with the tip of her tongue before wrinkling her nose in disgust.
“Ugh. Don’t eat it, ladies,” she said.
It was Athena that worried him. She knitted her brows in thought.
“Alexandros—” she began.
“Whatever. Alex, do you by chance have a kitchen scale? You seem like the kind of guy who watches his macros.”
Oh crap. He glanced involuntarily at a bunch of bananas, only for a split second, but it was enough. Athena hung the bananas on the fruit hook, revealing his scale. She moved it to the island counter top.
“Don’t you all want to see who really won?” Athena said.
Their backs straightened with pride and the competition was back on. Hera grabbed a small bowl from the cabinet behind her. She had to be the only person to look for a bowl in his house without opening every cabinet and drawer. She turned on the scale, placed down the bowl, and hit tare. The scale read zero grams.
“Me first,” Athena said. She placed her slice in the bowl. “Thirty one grams.” Aphrodite and Hera double checked to confirm the number.
Aphrodite was next. “Thirty one grams,” she said. She sounded disappointed.
Finally Hera placed her slice in the bowl. “Thirty…” She frowned. “That’s it, thirty.”
“Looks like Aphrodite and I tie this time. Sorry, Hera!” Athena was downright gleeful.
Hera never looked away. She glowed with anger. Alex cringed. She had ruined lives for less. She raised a hand to smite him when a male voice bellowed from upstairs: “Check the knife.”
Alex looked at the knife on the cutting board, and something sparkled in the light streaming through the window. He plucked the golden seed from the blade and dropped it into the bowl. As soon as he heard the plink, the number on the scale changed.
“Thirty one grams!” Alex said. “Looks like you’re all the fairest!” He sighed audibly with relief. Crisis averted.
“Who was that?” Aphrodite asked.
“No one.” He didn’t want to get anyone else involved in this mess.
The three women darted upstairs, Alex right behind them. A muscular man stepped out of the bathroom, towel around his waist. He put even Alex, buff as he was, to shame.
“Zeus?” Hera said.
“It’s not what it looks like,” Zeus said.
She turned to glare at Alex, glowing with rage again.