Thanks for being a newsletter subscriber! I wrote this story while I was taking up Ray Bradbury’s 52 Stories in 52 Weeks Challenge and ever since I’ve wanted to write a series surrounding the Greek Muses… This story really inspired The Muse Chronicles!
Hope you enjoy it!
Mel fed the parking meter some quarters and hurried down the sidewalk. The large black leather attaché case thumped against her back with each stride. After checking her watch, she kicked up her pace a notch.
When she reached the bookstore, she rounded the corner and punched in her entry code into the number pad. The red door clicked as the lock opened. She yanked open the door and stepped into the shadows.
Today was going to be a big day for UMA. Today was the day they started a new marketing campaign. Zeus could leave them stranded in the mortal world, but he couldn’t stop them from working.
She flipped on the light switch, bathing the empty conference room in florescent light. The long walnut table was flanked by nine high-backed leather executive chairs; soon to be filled by her sisters.
Mel placed the bag at the head of the table and carefully withdrew her weeping mask. With the emblem safely resting beside her place at the table, she pulled out her laptop and the projector. While she tested some power point slides up on the wall of the conference room, her sister, Calliope, came in with her writing pad.
“Hi Mel. This is an exciting day isn’t it?”
“I hope it will be.” It was tough for Mel to stay positive. It went against her nature as the muse of tragic poetry, but she did her best to overcome it. It was difficult enough to get dates with a name like Melpomene, but wrap that up with an obsession with tragedy, and she could be a very lonely muse. “Do you have all the business projections for Les Neuf Soeurs?”
“I do.” She nodded with a smile. “This is going to be huge! I can’t believe we didn’t think of it sooner.”
Mel smiled. Cal was the muse of epic poetry, so being realistic wasn’t really her strong suit. The sky was the limit with Cal.
Down the hall, Mel heard humming. “Sounds like Era and Terp are on their way.”
Erato and Euterpe were the muses for music and lyrics. They almost always traveled together, and usually people heard them coming.
“Good morning Cal,” Era said in a bright shining voice, adding as she turned, “Oh hello Mel. Do you need any help with the projector?”
“No, it looks like I’ve got it all figured out. Do you two have the marketing materials ready?”
Terp set down her double-reed aulos beside her place at the table. “Yes, we’ve got them all ready to go. I even came up with a theme for our commercials.”
Picking up her recorder-like flute, Euterpe started to play. Era sang along to part of the melody just as Poly and Psi walked in. Without missing a beat, Polyhymnia joined her sister Era and harmonized the lyrics. Psi smiled and added to the music with her lyre, while jigging around the room.
Mel glanced at the cacophony of art improvising around her and shook her head. This was why none of their plans ever worked out. They were muses for the arts, not for business.
How were they ever going to get anything accomplished with her sisters dancing and singing?
She looked down the table at Cal and sighed. Calliope was busy writing out every detail of her sisters’ arrivals, no doubt painting the scene like they were about to embark on an epic quest.
Mel checked her watch. The last three sisters were late. Not that Mel was surprised, but after all these centuries, she thought this time it might be different. She sighed, envisioning the tragic end to their beautiful idea. It was all she could do to suppress the urge to throw up her hands and cry. Surely it wouldn’t turn out as badly in reality as it did in her head.
Laughter interrupted her wallow in the pool of self-pity. Thalia popped through the door along with Clio and Nia. Thalia was the muse for comedy and she lived up to her title. The poor girl remained so playful and prone to uncontrollable laughter that she’d been mistakenly committed to an asylum twice. Since then, Urania, although she preferred Nia, moved in with her to help keep the mortals away.
Nia was the muse to the stars. Not celebrities, but the stars up in the sky. She always had her compass close by and could find the way home from anywhere.
Clio trudged to her place at the table, ignoring the dancing, singing and laughter that surrounded her. Mel envied her sister. Clio, muse to history, was happiest reliving the past, which made getting her to notice the present challenging at best.
“Hi Clio,” Mel said eyeing her sister’s scrolls. “You remember why we’re meeting today, right?”
Clio nodded. “We’re going back to Olympus.”
“What?” Mel frowned.
Clio smiled. “Just kidding. Thalia’s trying to help me with my sense of humor.”
Mel shot a glare at her giggling sister. “Perfect.”
She walked around to the head of the table and cleared her throat. “Excuse me. Can we get started?”
The music and laughter gradually died down as the muses placed their emblems onto the tabletop. The walnut conference table glowed with power. Mel smiled and went on. “After selling off some of our relics and vases, we made the down payment on our new building. I hired the architect and Nia will be working with him to design our new theater, Les Neuf Soeurs!”
All the muses applauded, but the phone interrupted their ovation. Mel frowned and lifted the receiver to her ear.
“UMA can I help you?” Mel rolled her eyes. “No. This is Unemployed Muses Anonymous. She’s not here. Really.” She paused. “I understand. No problem.”
She hung up the phone and looked up to find all eight sisters staring at her. “It was another one of those Uma Thurman calls.”
“Oh,” was the unison reply.
Mel clicked through the power point, explaining the business plan to her sisters. All of her numbers were very conservative, more due to her nature than any business experience, and her sister muses did their best to fill in their portions.
Cal stood up and presented her epic projections for ticket sales, and Erato and Euterpe sang the new commercial jingle for the radio spot they bought. Of course appluse broke out at the end of their little ditty. Years of unemployment hadn’t lessened their skill for music and lyrics.
Then Poly and Psi provided a list of potential theater groups who could use the new facilities. Psi did her best hold still while they presented, but being the muse of dance made it almost impossible for her to keep from wiggling.
Thalia and Nia sat at the other end of the conference table doing their best to focus. If their plans worked out, which Mel had many doubts, then they were the two muses who would be running the office. Mel watched them, sighing inwardly when she realized they weren’t taking any notes. By the end of the power point presentation, Mel wanted to scream, but that wasn’t unusual, just another perk of being the tragic muse.
She closed her laptop and looked over at Clio. “Are you ready to bring the history of Les Neuf Soeurs to life for us again?”
She nodded and rose up from her chair with a scroll in hand. Clio was tall and willowy with a porcelain complexion that rivaled the smooth marble of their statues. Brushing her long blond hair behind her shoulders, she took a deep breath.
“Our theater will allow patrons to travel back in time, to Paris in 1776. Les Neuf Soeurs, or in English The Nine Sisters, once helped to inspire free-thinkers like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. These great men encouraged France to help aid in the American Revolution. Without the inspiration we provided, this country might not have existed, and with our help again, this nation will find the inspiration to heal the wounds that ail it. While the government cuts funding for the arts, we will inspire them to look to art for answers. After all, life still imitates art.”
She rolled up her scroll and made eye contact with each sister. “We will no longer need UMA. We will no longer be ignored or forgotten. Our gifts will once again be respected, honored and revered.”
The conference room erupted in enthusiastic applause.
Mel raised her hand, quieting her sisters. “I have one more thing to add. A surprise.”
“A surprise?” Calliope made a note in the meeting log. “I love surprises.”
Mel opened the conference room door and all the muses gasped. A tall chiseled man with olive skin and a mop of dark brown hair stood before them. His features were perfect and his smile would make any mortal woman fall under his spell.
“Good morning, Ladies.”
Nia frowned. “Ploutos. What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be polishing Zeus’ sandals up on Mt. Olympus?”
He raised a brow. “Melpomene invited me to this meeting. As the god of finance and fortune, she thought I could offer you some support with your business plan.”
Nia’s jaw dropped. “Mel, you didn’t.”
“I did,” Mel replied. “Can’t you see? This is a great idea, but we’ve had millions of great ideas! It’s what we do. We’re muses. Look around this table, sisters. Following through on a business proposal is not our strong suit.”
Mumbles and grumbles rose up around the conference table as Mel gave Ploutos a nervous shrug. She felt failure’s hot breath on the back of her neck, but did her best to hold it off. He kept his shoulders squared, and his posture calm and confident as he sent her an encouraging smile and a wink.
Finally Clio stood. “I’m not thrilled about accepting help from the snobs on Olympus either, but judging by our past endeavors, his business expertise could make all the difference.”
Mel couldn’t believe her eyes as her sisters started to nod. “So, are we all in agreement? We’ll let Ploutos help us make Les Neuf Soeurs a reality?”
After the unanimous vote, the muses collected their emblems and said their goodbyes. Mel stayed behind, packing up her laptop and the projector. Once everyone was gone, she smiled up at Ploutos.
“Thank you for helping us.”
He took her hand and pulled her into his arms. “You don’t have to thank me. It’s a great idea you all came up with. Insane given the state of the economy right now, but it just might work.”
She grinned and leaned up to kiss him. He hummed softly against her lips and pulled back with a smile. “You still didn’t tell them we’re dating.”
Mel shook her head. “Baby steps.”
“Think they’ll ever like me?”
“Probably not.” He raised a brow and she smiled. “Coming from me, that’s a definite maybe so.”
He laughed and picked up the laptop and projector. “I never imagined the muse of tragedy would make me so happy.”
“Not so crazy. Money and tragedy often walk hand in hand, right?”
Mel turned off the lights and locked the door to UMA headquarters. Ploutos took her hand as they walked back to her car. She couldn’t hold back her smile. For the first time in centuries, it felt good to be a muse again.