Friday, January 11, 2013

Charon Falls into the Styx

A crotchety old man stands on the shore of the river Styx. While waiting for the ferryman he takes off his tie. Then he takes off his suit jacket. Next his shiny shoes, slacks, black socks, and pressed shirt. Tighty whities fall to the mud and are stepped out of. He always hated being dressed like that. Why didn’t they bury him in his overalls, like he’d asked?

Charon emerges from the fog in his creaky wooden boat. To the old guy’s bemusement, the ferryman glances down at his shriveled hoary pecker and begins to snicker. His head falls back in a hoarse guffaw, black hood sliding off a hairless dome. He laughs so hard he loses his balance and falls backwards off the boat and into the river, his oar flying straight up. Spitting hot water out of glowing teeth, he doggie paddles back to the boat and clambers on, still laughing. Bright tears streak down his sunken pale cheeks as he picks up the oar. The geezer scowls. That is not very professional, he thinks. This guy must be losing it. He is not fit to be a psychopomp.

Charon squeezes water from his cloak as the boat scraps bottom. Between a few rogue chuckles he motions for the naked man to step aboard. The old-timer complies and stands opposite the ferryman. For a few moments neither speaks. Finally, Charon solemnly holds out his upturned hand, trying his best to suppress more laughter. The man narrows his eyes in disapproval, lifts a flat, wrinkled butt cheek and pulls out a gold coin from the crack of his ass. He leans over the boat, dips the coin in the water a few times, and offers it to Charon, who takes a step back.

“Keep it! Keep it!” the ferryman laughs, dropping the oar to grab his heaving sides. “Please!”

And for the second time in all eternity, Charon falls off his boat and into the river Styx—only this time, he is sucked beneath the waves. His cloak rises to the surface where the geezer pulls it from the water and wraps it around his grim bones. Cries of suffering arise in the distance. Sneering, the old man picks up the oar and waits.

First published in the October 2012 issue of Bards and Sages Quarterly.

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