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Goddess of the Hearth

by Maryetta Ackenbom



Bio: I've been writing short fiction for several years, usually the light-hearted kind, but I hope that the reader of my stories can find something valuable in them. I also mentor an on-line creative writing class. My favorite quote is, "I like myself best when I'm writing."

 
“Hello,” she said, as I stood at the door, dumbfounded, “I’m the Goddess of the Hearth. May I come in to your hearth?”

“Uh, we don’t have a hearth.”

“No? How do you cook, how do you keep warm?”

The lady was in earnest. But her ancient idea came dressed in a becoming modern business suit, dark green with pinstripes. Golden pearls held back her golden locks, and even her almond-shaped eyes bore golden specks. I wondered at her audacity in inviting herself into a man’s house.

I scratched my head. “Are you from this century?”

“Actually, no. The Earth Mother sent me, oh, some 500 years ago.”

Ah, looney. I need to humor her. She looks harmless.

“No, I’m not looney, but I am harmless. Please don’t humor me. Just show me your hearth, or whatever you use nowadays for cooking and to keep warm.”

My mouth dropped open. She read my thoughts! But I came back with, “Lady, you don’t want to be the goddess of an electric cook stove, or a central heating unit.”

“Maybe not. I can tell neither one of those options is attractive.”

“Right.”

“Well, where do you gather as a family? What takes the place of the hearth, that you think is so old-fashioned?”

Hmm, gotta be careful here.

“Yes, please do be careful. As I said, I am harmless, but I am also sensitive. Please don’t insult me.”

“I think you’d better come in.” I stood aside to let the attractive young goddess enter.

“That’s what I asked for in the first place. Now, I’m thinking there’s a central room where the family gathers when everyone is at home.”

“Right. It’s right here, to your right.”

“What redundancy! Aren’t people taught to speak properly anymore?”

“Probably not, by your standards.” Oh my, I was beginning to believe her! “By the way, what’s your name?” She walked ahead of me, appearing to glide in her golden sandals. 

“Vesta.”

“Oh, of course it is. And before that it was Hestia, right?”

She turned to me. “So you do know something! Are you an historian?”

“Well, Vesta, I have read a lot of mythology.”

“Mythology! Is that what you think of us? What an insult!” Her lovely face screwed up to resemble a prune.

“Look, I’m sorry, that’s the way things are nowadays.”

“Lead on!”

In the living room, my wife’s chair and mine faced the television. Our daughter Jenny usually sat on the couch, or went to her room

“Ah, so this is your hearth. Does the box warm you?”

“It can, if you get close to it. But that is not its main function. Here, I’ll show you.” I searched for the remote, taking a few minutes to find it while I tried to sort out this weird scene in my mind without being too judgmental—remembering all the time she could read me.

I pushed the power button and a picture came up on the tube. Vesta jumped back.

“Oh! That hearth has a lot of power!”

“Some, yes, but like you, it’s harmless.” I smiled at her.

“It talks to you?”

I had the sound turned down pretty far, but I could hear the mumble of the announcer’s voice. I turned it up a little.

“Amazing! Wait until I tell the Earth Mother about this!”

“Are you sure she doesn’t already know? Aren’t you goddesses still around nowadays?”

“Well, no. We stayed in a time when we thought we could still be of some use to the world. Earth Mother sent me as, you might say, a dove, to see if I would come back”

I eyed her warily. “There’s an ancient story of a flood . . . and a dove.”

“Yes.” She did not appear to be interested. “By the way, where is the mistress of the hearth? Is she gardening?”

“No, she’s at work—at an office downtown.” Was I going to have trouble with this? I’d just gotten my neighbors used to my working at home while Julia did the nine-to-five.

“And, my good man, what do you do while your poor wife slaves at some mill somewhere? Who takes care of your children?’

“Hey, wait a minute. Things have changed, lady. I work here at home. I’m an artist, and a good one, too. We only have one child--”

“No!”

I thought she was going to faint. I continued, “and she’s in school right now, but she’s seventeen and can take care of herself.”

“Seventeen! Why should she have to take care of herself? Isn’t she betrothed?”

“Not that I know of.”

“That’s a peculiar answer.” She looked around her, perhaps searching for the nearest exit.

“By your standards, my dear Vesta, we are peculiar people. Perhaps you’d like some tea while you ponder all this.” By God, or goddess, I was believing her!

Vesta dropped into a chair and shut her eyes. I took that as a “yes,” and went to the kitchen.

“Where are you going?”

“To another part of the hearth. To get your tea.”

“No, wait, you can’t. Don’t you have a servant?”

“Another peculiarity. Maids earn as much as my wife does. I do the ‘servanting.’” I spoke from the kitchen, not too far away, while I heated water for tea. I thought I’d better have some, too. Chamomile, that should calm us down.

When I came back with a tray and two cups, I thought Vesta had fallen asleep. But she looked up when she heard me put the tray down.

“I’ll pour. Where’s the teapot?”

“No pot, it’s already in the cups. If you think it’s strong enough, pull that little string and the tea bag will come out.”

“That’s enough. I have had enough. I am going to report to Mother Earth we had better all stay in the century she so wisely picked long ago.”

Vesta rose and stalked out the door, leaving me with two cups of rather strong chamomile tea. I drank them both.

 


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