The flight of the goddessss

                      for Ann

The first big event of the cricket season, 
the annual match between Wotan’s eleven
and the Bugbears, was always a hard-fought game,
and Wotan was feeling apprehensive.
He’d been top god for a good many years 
on his small semi-fictional island
in the northern temperate zone,
and he relished it, but in recent seasons
he hadn’t had too much success.
He worried about his batting average
and the constant flow of younger talent:
a leaner, meaner brand of god was questioning his leadership,
and losing this game would be disastrous for his image.
So he consulted Loge, asking 
whether perhaps they could find a way
 of giving luck a helping hand,
nobble a batsman, slip in a ringer? The god of deceit 
 gave it some thought and came up with a scheme:
"Slip in a ringer?   We’ll slip in two 
There’s a couple of giants, twins I think,
mighty sloggers both of them,
you’d have heard of them, but they live in a place
called Darkestoak Bay  way out in the boondocks.
I doubt they’d even be on the phone.”
Try pigeon post, or pony express."
(Loge was known for his biting wit, or so he said.)
But Wotan was doubtful: many giants, he pointed out,
believed in magic and refused to play against the Bugbears.
But Loge replied, “These guys aren’t hicks, 
they laugh at talk of casting spells
on cricket bats and all that stuff.
I didn’t tell them about the ways
I know of tampering with a batsman,
persuading him to get himself out.
I’ll write a book about that one day.” 
Rumour said that Loge nourished his own sly dreams:
he wanted to write a big best-seller
and get exposure on the talk-show circuit.
    So they invited Fafner and Fasolt - those were their names -
who said they’d be pleased to come and play for Wotan’s boys
for all the beer that they could drink, after the match,
“Cos it isn’t worth while to come all the way 
from Darkestoak Bay way out in the boondocks
for anything less than all the beer
that we can drink, that’s what we think.”
Well, that was okay, and the giants came,
(“Three hundred kilos on the hoof.” marvelled Froh,)
they made short work of the Bugbears’ bowling,
amassed a mighty score, and Wotan's eleven won.
The Bugbears complained, but they always did,
and no-one cared much about that,
and mighty Baldur went out of his way
to congratulate the brothers.
During the match he and Loge 
had talked at length. It was clear to them that Fafner and Fasolt 
would greatly strengthen the batting line-up
   if they were available: as Baldur put it,
"We can't expect them to come all the way from Darkestoak Bay
every weekend, but they might like to come
from time to time." In both their minds
was the same thought: the Nibelung fixture.
Every year, at the festival of the lady,
came the great game of the season,
and this year's result was in serious doubt.
As a general rule the Nibelungs
are on the small side and hate competition, 
and rather than train, left to themselves,
they much prefer to sit around
in their forties French style bistros
smoking weed and digging jazz
in an existentialist haze,
although their parents must have warned them many times
that reading Sartre stunts the growth
and wearing shades makes you blind.
It was a lamentable tale,
the cruel transformation of
this bunch of happy hedonists
under the whip of the tyrant Alberich
into the cricketing machine
that Baldur feared.  So now the hero
praised Loge's foresight, but the wily trickster
had other matters on his mind. He reminded Baldur 
that Blei and other malcontents
were loudly disparaging Wotan's leadership,
suggesting it would be a good thing
if he stepped down, for his batting average
was sure to improve if he gave up the captaincy.
In Loge's judgment, deposing Wotan
could only lead to a nasty split.
He also knew that mighty Baldur
would remain loyal to his captain.
This he explained quite carefully
and at some length, but honest Baldur
refused to believe that any plotting was taking place,
saying Loge was a terrible cynic.

Then, after the match  at the ritual booze-up,
the giants once more distinguished themselves
with a deeply moving performance
of the duet from The Pearl Fishers
in honour of Freia, the goddess of love.
She was delighted, and sat at their table
the rest of the evening, listening to tales
and traditional airs from their native boondocks,
with occasional duets from Verdi,
the sombre bass and noble tenor
mingling in vows of heroic friendship
and the haunting folksongs of Darkestoak Bay.
At the end of the evening, she told them both 
how much she’d enjoyed their company,
and hoped they would meet again one day.
    And that might have been the end of the matter,
except that the giants, when they woke next morning,
found they were enjoying a serious thirst
and had to take in beer.  Of course,
they felt it only right that Wotan
should go on picking up the tab.
“After all”, as Fafner argued,
“it’s after the match.”  “Right,” said Fasolt,
“and we ought to try some tourist attractions.
Now, there’s this place, the Charles Dickens pub,
it ‘s the foremost tourist Mecca of the west,
it says so in the flyer here…”
And once installed in the pub they agreed
that it wasn’t worth while to come all the way
from Darkestoak Bay way out in the boondocks
for just one day, they hadn’t had a break
for quite a while, the beer was excellent, and free,
why, they might as well stay a while in town, try different brews,
invite Freia out for a drink.
see if they could get a game…

When Loge came to deal with the giants,
he found them sitting in a cosy bar,
fragile Freia tiny between them,
talking of the folklore of the golden age,
marvelling at the survival in modern times
of quaint beliefs and customs long thought extinct,
and the talk had turned to the fabled Sasquatch,
which, the giants claimed, was neither mythical nor extinct,
but a hitherto undiscovered species.
The god of deceit came straight to the point:
“Don’t let me break up the folklore fest,
but you guys ought to be ashamed.”
Freia, of course, wanted to know
what her protégés had done,
and when she heard how Fricka had screamed
when she learnt that the giants were charging their drinks
to Wotan’s account, she was greatly amused,
and the giants laughed, but looked rather sheepish,
and promised to pay for their own beer in future.
“But it would have been nice to see Fricka’s face”
said the goddess wistfully.
Loge, of course was greatly relieved:
although he had counted on Freia’s presence,
still, giants are notorious
for every sort of evil tempered nastiness,
and his cunning offered him little protection
in a bar-room brawl.
So, ordering a round of drinks, he settled down 
to gossip about absent friends,
explaining to Fafner and Fasolt
the results of their little joke.
Since Fricka kept control of finances,
she had soon found out what was going on,
and made an appalling scene with her husband, 
sulking and shrieking alternately.
That hero of the cricket field,
under the lash of his scab-tongued spouse
became a tissue-paper tiger,
a god of wax and blubber.
He in his turn yelled for Loge,
explained that it was all his fault
and fired him off, (“Like a gun?” asked Fafner.)
to deal with the giants as best he could.
The god of deception was thoroughly vexed:
“Am I supposed to be Wotan’s gofer?” he complained,
The giants, however, turned out to have
little sympathy for Loge’s woes.
They wanted to discuss with Freia 
an expedition they were planning 
to the farthest boondocks, to look for Sasquatch.
“The truth is, they are out there somewhere.”
insisted Fasolt, “they’ve seen the tracks.”
“Don’t tell me you believe in Sasquatch.” said the sceptical trickster,
“it’s just a myth, like unicorns.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about unicorns,”
Freia advised, but Fafner and Fasolt
talked eagerly of real proof, 
a fisherman who had seen a shape
 big as a grizzly,
a confirmed sightings, near Gumboot Gulch, 
footprints…but Loge was surly:
he didn’t like it when his opinions were ignored.
“There are no Sasquatch,” he observed.
“Okay smartass, if there’s no Sasquatch,” …
Freia paused, “Why then” said Fasolt,
“everyone will be surprised when we find one,
and the place to look, is out in the boondocks.”
“…and we’ll sail away” (sang Freia,)
“the very next day, to Darkestoak Bay,”
and bass and tenor joined with her
soaring soprano, to general applause.
Loge pulled a sulky face:
being a purist, he disapproved of crossover,
but Freia told him to lighten up.
“These gods have got no sense of humour,” Fasolt observed.
“Just what I’ve always said,” added Fafner
“Now, giants do have a sense of humour,
I was just thinking how funny it is,
Wotan sending Loge to do his dirty work.
After all, we might have been a bit offended
when he sends his - “ “Representative,”
said Freia.  “You guys are sportsmen,
but Wotan can’t take a joke.  As for my sister,
she takes herself too seriously,
and feels she has to be a sort of role model,
goddess of marriage, home and budget.
She gets uptight about women’s rights,
I feel she takes too narrow a view,
even from a strictly feminist perspective.
Then when Wotan goes out whoring
 after strange goddesses,
she gets her own back by sapping his confidence.”
“Did you know” asked Loge, “she bought him a book,
a self-help manual, Getting in Touch with your Inner God.”
“No!” said Fasolt.  “Yes, and told him
he needed it to inflate
his dwindling prestige.
Same old trouble, same old strife” the god continued,
”her views on female-male relations,
at least as she expresses them, in public anyway,
are definitely, I should say,
I say, this wine is rather good.”
      Later in the evening they were joined
by mighty Baldur, who again 
congratulated Fafner and Fasolt, but he was blunt.
"It's a good thing for you that the Bugbears
have no spin bowling. You're all the same, you big fellows,
you like the fast ones..."
"I've heard it all before", said Fafner,
"it's a scientific fact: the faster they are,
the further you hit them.  End of problem."
"Or from another point of view," Fasolt mused, 
"the slower they are, the harder you hit them."
Baldur smiled and changed the subject.
"Loge says you don't believe
in magic?"  Fafner gave a snort.
"That's not what I said, anyway.
It's Loge says there's no such thing,
but then he would, wouldn't he?
Stands to reason, that's his craft.
You don't suppose we'd  fall for that?"
Baldur nodded. "Some folk think 
the fact that under the laws of cricket
it's forbidden, shows it must have once existed."
Fafner replied:The thing about magic
is that when it happens, you know it's magic
because it's impossible."
"Have you ever faced good spin bowling?"
asked Donner, who had just come in.
"Donner, you are a brainless lout," said Loge, vexed,
but Baldur continued. "As to magic,
whether or not it does exist,
no sportsman would ever stoop so low
in any circumstances.  No," he raised a hand,
"I know I'm desperately old-fashioned,
and people laugh at me, but it's true.
If he does, he's no sportsman."
Freia thought about this a little,
 and asked whether Baldur had really meant
that Amazons and Valkyries might stoop to witchcraft? 
 Baldur blushed, the giants frowned,
and Grimgerda the Valkyrie
looked particularly grim,
but all the rest began to laugh.
"Still, Fafner's right," Freia added,
"Real magic has to be
invisible, umpires aren't fools."
"Magic is simply future technology," Loge claimed.
"So how are we ever to explain Breyten Paulse?"
Fafner asked.  "It's totally
impossible, what he does,"
and Loge soon found himself
involved in a deeply technical talk,
trying to explain to the sceptical giants
the distinction between genuine magic 
and consummate art. Fafner contended
that careful study frame by frame
of videos of Breyten Paulse
showed he was certainly
casting some kind of spell
on his bemused opponents.
"Or maybe he flickers in
and out of existence
fifty or sixty times a second
on a subatomic level, like a quark,
so you can't put a hand on him,"
Loge contested this, pointing
to Georgie Gregan as a proof
that genius is just as good as any magic.
"All the best strikers are hypnotists,
they mesmerize the opposing goalies," 
argued Blei, while a learned godding
compared Brad Friedel's penalty saves
to the path of a photon, which can go both ways,
and chooses, after the event,
which way it went.  Everyone had
a favourite example, and the conversation
became confused, with much discussion
of illusion shields, electron fields,
levitating strikers and
many other hypotheses,
each less persuasive than the last.

Later that evening, as the giants were performing
Offenbach, Loge asked Freia
whether she really intended to join them
on their trip.  “Of course I do,” the goddess replied,
“I haven’t had a break for quite a while,
 it’s just the sort of thing I need.
It would be worthwhile to go all the way 
to Darkestoak Bay way out in the boondocks
to meet a Sasquatch, don’t you think?”
My sister won’t like it, but that’s too bad,
she says giants are uncouth,
vulgar proletarians,
it’s snobbery and prejudice.
She’s so keen on the family godhead,
she tells me I set a bad example
for impressionable demi-goddesses.
Now, these guys are a lot more fun
than Donner and Thor.  Did I ever tell you, 
when I was a little girl
my dear brothers never took me anywhere, 
always quarreling over the hammers,
always busy beating up rocks and starting storms,
the noisier the better.”  She heaved a sigh.
“I liked the rainbows at the end though,
they always shone such lovely colours,
musical colours, just like this wine…”
    Loge waited till they were leaving
to ask one final question:
“So what do you think the neighbours are all
going to say when you go off
with a pair of giants?”
Freia gazed at him in silence
for a few seconds, and then she smiled.  “Ah, Loge, Loge,
you do so love to give advice,
you ought to take up counselling.”
Over the years, the trickster had spent 
a great many hours trying to think up
a snappy come-back to one or another of these remarks, 
Freia’s koans, as he called them,
and all without the least success:
so now he replied, 
“And you would have made a great spin bowler"
and said goodnight.


Fricka’s bureau of investigation, fully equipped
with state-of-the-art technology,
was widely regarded as being inferior
only to Loge’s ravens
in the field of intelligence gathering 
and analysis, and Wotan’s efforts
to avoid his wife were entirely futile.
He was run to ground on the banks of the Rhine
by a cousin and warm supporter of Fricka,
a goddess know as Decibel,
who swiftly returned him for retribution.
When he got back he appeared astonished:
“Was it me you were looking for?” he began.
“Why do you pretend to be so stupid?” asked Fricka.
“I don’t mean that you aren’t stupid,
but you always claim you don’t understand
what’s obvious to the meanest intelligence.
Freia’s gone, and soon we’ll all be gone,
waste away, and all to feed your vanity.”
(“Has anyone seen Loge:” murmured Wotan.)
“Oh yes, go on, blame him, that’s right,
and she never listens to a word I say,
goes off with a pair of tattooed giants,
and you’re supposed to be top god,
and you say Loge
like popping a pill,
and hope everything will be all right."
(“Hasn’t anyone seen Loge” Wotan was asking),
“and he leads you by the nose..."
“Did Loge go off with them or not?”
asked Blei.  Everyone looked at Wotan,
but it was the furious goddess of marriage
who answered, “Of course he did,
bold as brass, not a care in the world, 
on the best of terms, in broad daylight.
And where were you, and what were you doing
on the banks of the Rhine?” continued Fricka,
turning on Wotan, who smiled the smile
of a senior god with a clean conscience.
“I was listening to the Rhinemaidens,
they were making bitter lament,
and they do that sort of thing so well,
I simply had to stop a while,
they get upset when no one listens…”
“What’s their bitter lament to me?”,
Fricka screamed for eleven bars on a high B flat,
boxed the ear of a handy godling,
and threw herself on her sulking-couch 
moaning softly, “They get upset
when no-one listens, they get upset…”
“I suppose they’re still lamenting about,
well, about him,” said Decibel quietly,
The story was fresh in all their minds,
how Alberich had acquired the power
that drove his wretched Nibelungs:
the chilling bargain he had made,
renouncing love to harness fear, instituting
“Dwarf of the week” or “Dwarf of the match,”
punishments for the worst performers
“to encourage the others” as Alberich explained.
And in sober fact this had made the surviving Nibelungs,
a very difficult team to beat.
    Many blamed the Rhinemaidens:
Blei made no secret of his view
that such a little thing for them
would have meant so much Alberich.
“They led him on deliberately, one after another,
they laughed at him and said he was ugly.
I’d say myself it served them right,
they were supposed to guard the gold
not  tease law-abiding dwarfs with nothing on.”
“Who had nothing on?” asked Coco,
who was following closely.  
“None of them, from what I hear” said Decibel.  
“Just water, maybe.” 
“Well, you can’t enpect the Rhinemajdens
to wear bikinis, they’d look silly,
but why was Alberich skinny-dipping?” Coco asked
“So you went to charge him maybe?” answered Blei.
‘’You mean,” sneered Blei, “that Alberich
“was breaking some sort of local by-law?  
 “Do youthinkhe ought to be summonsed?”
But Freia needed more attention.
“What are we to do?” she cried,
“Look at me, I’m a total wreck,
I’m getting old, I know I am!
How could this happen to gods like us?
we’re guaranteed to be immortal,
and she’s gone off with those two lowlifes,
those freeloading layabouts,
tracking down mythical beasts…”
she peered furtively into her mirror. 
“I don’t think they are mythical, dear,”
began Wotan, “they’re just a species
we haven’t discovered up till now,
or maybe it’s just that they’re extinct,
lots of species become extinct, look at dragons…”
The reference was unfortunate: Fricka interrupted
“It’s their tattoos I can’t abide,
ugly blue dragons all down their arms.
Somebody said it’s their totem animal,
what’s that got to do with it?
We don’t tattoo the family crest 
where it can be seen, in our family,
we keep it out of sight,
decently, where it belongs,
and what’s the good of a totem animal
that’s extinct?”  The fashionable goddess
giggled, and asked inanely
“Did you never peek at your father’s tattoos?”
but Fricka allowed no disrespect.  “How dare you ask
a thing like that?”  Affronted, she turned her attention to Wotan,
“will you stop talking about species that become extinct,
you’re nothing but a memento mori.
And where is Loge?”  None of those present
seemed to want to break the silence
and bring on a fresh outburst from Fricka, till finally,
“So what are we going to do?” asked Donner
adding hastily as Fricka glared,
“if you guys just want to go on abusing
Loge, that’s okay, but I feel blue,
but I guess that’s okay too.”
“What’s wrong with you?” snapped Fricka,
“You’re drivelling.  Are you getting senile?”
“Well, Loge’s interested in extinct animals,”
said another fashionable goddess,
who was promptly squashed by Fricka.
“Nonsense, the Sasquatch is a myth,
and Loge knows it.  He must know
what happens to us without Freia.”
Then Wotan said, greatly relieved, “Here he comes now.”
The trickster had entered unobserved 
and was staring at the dismal group incredulously:
    “What’s the matter with the gods
and goddesses, this lovely day?
Can I believe my eyes?
Surely this is a dream?
You look so glum and heavy-hearted,
are you unhappy, Froh?
Why, Decibel, so quiet?
No more pretty chatter?
Why so pale and grey, Blei?
You’re dropping your hammer, Donner,
the weight’s too much, your arms go limp,
you’re all of you changing, blurring and fading, you all appear
dull, and disillusioned and old.
Have you dyed your hair, Fricka?
I think those grey flecks rather suit you.”
The goddess of marriage ignored the jibes
of the cynical trickster.  “Where have you been?”
she asked with an air of long-suffering patience.
“Oh, didn’t you know?  Your spies haven’t told you?
I went with Freia and the guys
to Darkestoak Bay.  Have you ever been there?
It’s an interesting place
with an ideal climate, and a rather attractive
folkweave lifestyle, and then we went
to look for Sasquatch, but we didn’t find any,
and they all three send their regards;  I’m to tell you
the weather’s been great, they’re having a really wonderful time, 
and Freia says she’ll see you at Lammas.”
Fricka howled, “:Lammas?  That’s weeks and weeks,
surely she’ll be back before that?
How can she do this to her family,
with vulgar giants with tattooed arms?”
She paused for breath vengefully,
“And this is lofty Loge then,
sent off like a talking postcard, 
mailed back to bring love and kisses
from Freia and the boys?” Loge scowled,
but Fricka went on,
“And what were you doing
plotting with retarded oafs to bring about
the downfall of the race of gods?”
Now Loge smiled, “Hey, paranoia!
What is wrong with you today?
Who is plotting against the gods?
I’ve been away a couple of days,
I needed a break, and looking for Sasquatch 
is relaxing, you know there’ll be no surprises.
So where’s the plotting?”
    Fricka kept her temper.
“Why do you always pretend to be stupid?
You know perfectly well what the trouble is:
Freia’s garden’s the only place
that the golden apples grow,
--or have you found another supply?
Is that what you’ve got up your sleeve?
Why didn’t you say so?”
Loge smiled his weariest smile,
“And without her apples you’ll fade away,
lose your immortality,
goodbye to your eternal youth,
get old and wrinkled, is that it?
Fricka, I’ve told you so many times,
it’s superstition, pure B. S.,
and worse than that, it’s unscientific.
In this modern day and age, can you still believe
in golden apples?  Have you eaten 
all the ones you keep in store?
Or does Freia have to serve them 
with her own fair hands?
“Mighty Baldur, who had said
nothing until now, looked up.
What do you find to talk about
with giants, Loge?”
Wotan, who had been hovering timidly,
asked, “But Loge, what can we do
to get Freia back?  I’m not blaming you, 
even though you did bring the giants here
all the way from Darkestoak Bay…”
“Even so, you’re blaming me?  challenged Loge”.
“Well,” said Wotan.  “Yes”, said Fricka,
“so what are you going to do?”
“I’ll think about it.”  answered Loge,
(“He’ll think about it, dear,” said Wotan.)
“but what do you expect from me?
I don’t tell goddesses what to do
unless they ask for my advice.”
“You got us into this,” cried Fricka, but Loge went on,
“You misunderstand my function,
Loge the cunning, honest as a lawyer
and selfless as a banker, is that what they say?
I’m just a brain, I don’t give opinions
unless I’m asked.  When you don’t want to hear,
you call me a liar.”
“Temper, temper,” said Fricka sweetly.
“Telling a god the truth to his face
is hardly cricket,” protested Blei,
“You like to get up people’s noses,
don’t you Loge” sneered Decibel,
“getting people pissed off with you,
does it turn you on?”   
    Loge shrugged.
“Well, you asked for my advice
I’ll think it over, is all I’m saying.”
But Donner persisted, “All right then,
if it isn’t the apples, if it isn’t Freia,
what is wrong with me?  I look around, 
the light is grey, worn, used-up, the air is thick,
exhausted, and I’m bored and listless,
why do I feel it isn’t worthwhile
to call up thunder, it gives me a headache.  
I feel like the fat guy in the commercial.
Is there something wrong with the sunshine?
Something noxious in the air?”
“The lot of you look like a bunch of opera singers
out of work and still in costume.” observed the trickster.
“So what about you,” Blei complained,
“What makes you special?  Why aren’t you ageing
like the rest of us?”
“In the first place I’m not superstitious,
so it’s not so bad for me”
answered Loge.  “Apples are apples, and then,
I wasn’t one of her favourites.
Freia wasn’t too free with them
when I was around, so I never got hooked…”
(”The fact is she never invited you to play in her garden.”
said Decibel spitefully,)
“but what you are guys going to do?
You’re already beginning to see
 each other as you really are.
Without Freia it’s a different world
for you.  And I prefer to live
without illusions.” He walked away,
leaving behind a gloomy silence.
Donner and Thor, the thundergods,
had a running demarcation dispute
which had lasted forever.
The two were hypothetical twins,
each claiming prior rights
in the generation of active weather,
and their rivalry had brought about
the deeply untrustworthy climate
of their small semi-fictional island,
there was not enough room,apparently,
for these fraternal enemies:
each appeared to take up sky
the other needed: their frequent disputes
brought unpredictable changes
as they countermanded each other”s orders.
Suggestions pf division of powers, or taking turns,
were greeted with derision and deafening thunder,
Many people found this disturbing,
and regular meetings were convened
to discuss what might be done,
though it was generally acknowledged
that not much ever gets done about the weather.
When the brothers were not at loggerheads,
the cricket season was respected,
and rain allowed only at night,
but the rest of the year was notorious
for quarrelsome fronts, like unwelcome in-laws,
turning up without warning from odd directions,
and bringing more weather than anyone needed.
The situation had been aggravated
by the recent arrival of Riesel,
a small but rather powerful raingod.
He was not a native of the island,
but had lost his way on a moonless night,
and blundered in from a TV show by Douglas Adams.
He found the topography ideal
for generating his favourite kind
of localized relentless drizzle,
and, introduced to the Rhinemaidens,
he had soon become Flosshilde’s protector,
often joining her and her sisters
in a cosy collective dip
in the waters of the Rhine,
a tributary of the Nimpkish.
Interviewed by Channel 6,
he was upbeat on the joys
of the island lifestyle.
“I’m never going back,” he told her.
“I found living in a TV show
oppressive, to tell the truth.
I felt typecast, I didn’t really
feel fulfilled. Limousines,
trendy nightclubs, luxury,
up-market dates with glistening lips
and melting eyes - they’re not sincere,
it’s not what it’s cracked up to be.
No, give me simplicity!
On TV I got zero action,
standing around on a tacky set for hours on end.
Here I live the life of Riley,
senior gods to tease,
Rhinemaidens to protect,
getting out in the heart of nature,
really dense cloud cover,
folkweave cuisine...’ Honeytongued Riesel
paused and smiled his boyish smile,
“And you”re certainly the prettiest channel
I ever watched.” Channel 6 -
Chanel, as she liked to be called by her friends and viewers -
lapped up the blarney and twitched her thong:
this was the kind of guy
who always raised her ratings.


( To be continued… )