February Thaw was chosen to be the cover story for this 2nd e-collection because Symbols are a Percussion Instrument was just too long. Sometimes it's art. Sometimes it's craft. Sometimes, it rains. (Bonus points if you recognize what I'm quoting here.)


As I recall, the editor of Olympus wanted stories where we wrote the ancient gods living in a modern world. I'd already done exactly that in Summon the Keeper, but was willing to rise to the challenge of doing it again. Differently. The great thing about the ancient gods is that once you've done the research and accepted all the mythic information as fact, you realize that the Power and the Presence are just window dressing; they're really nothing more than a highly dysfunctional family.

February Thaw

Scuffing across the rec room floor in a pair of well-worn fuzzy slippers, Demeter, Goddess of the Harvest, pulled open the door to her small wine cellar, took a bottle of wine from the rack and held it up to the light. A Tignanello, 1990; lovely vintage. Most of the family didn't think much of Dionysus but she rather liked him. Not only did he do very nice things with the grapes she provided, but, in his other guise as God of Theatrical Arts, he saw to it that she got complimentary tickets to all the big shows.

She'd seen Cats a dozen times before the novelty had worn off.

Tucking the bottle under her arm, she scuffed back to her chair and settled into the overstuffed cushions with a satisfied sigh. One thumb popped the cork – there were perks to being an immortal goddess after all – and a moment later she settled back with a glass of wine in one hand, the television remote in the other.

Demeter loved winter. Not so much because she had nothing to do after the rush of planting, tending, and harvesting, but because her house was her own again. She could eat what she wanted, she could drink what she wanted, she could wear what she wanted, and, most importantly, she could watch what she wanted. During the winter, she wore stretchy fabrics and watched absolutely nothing with socially redeeming value.

"I admit it," she announced to the fat, disinterested tabby sprawled in the middle of a braided rug. "I was an overprotective mother. Well, what do you expect? I was a single, working mom. He was never around. Still..." She took a long, contented swallow of the wine and turned on the first of the afternoon's talk shows. "...if I had it to do over, I'd give them a nice set of salad bowls and my blessing."


Having just taken another drink, Demeter choked.

"Mom? Where are you?" Fashionably high heels ringing against the worn carpeting on the stairs, Persephone descended into the rec room to find her mother dabbing at the stains on her turquoise track suit with one hand and trying to fish a tissue out of the box with the other. "Mother! Honestly!" She shoved a tissue into Demeter's searching fingers. "It's the middle of the afternoon!"

Wiping at the wine dribbling out her nose, the goddess glared up at her only daughter. "What," she demanded, "are you doing here? There's two more months until spring."

"Two more months?" Persephone repeated, volume rising with every word. "Two more months? I couldn't stay with that man two more minutes!"

While she had every intention of being supportive, Demeter couldn't help looking a little wistfully toward the muted television as she asked, "What did he do?"

"What didn't he do?" Throwing herself down on the sofa, Persephone ran a slender hand through corn-silk blonde hair. "He leaves his socks and underwear on the floor, he never gets any exercise..."

Just why the Lord of the Underworld, who was not only slender bordering on downright skinny but also an immortal god, needed to exercise, Demeter had no idea.

"...he spends all his time playing poker with Minos, Rhadamanthys, and Aeacus, and he lets that stupid dog up on the furniture."

"Sephie, these don't sound like reasons for you to leave a god you've been married to for millennia. In fact, they sound an awful lot like the things you complain about every spring." She leaned forward and patted her daughter's knee with one plump hand, trying to sound more sympathetic than she felt. "What's the real reason you're here when you shouldn't be?"

In the silence between question and answer, the cat wisely got up and left the room.

"We had a fight."

"What about?"


"What, again?"

"This was a different fight." Persephone's face crumpled. "Hades doesn't love me anymore!"

Picking up the box of tissues, Demeter moved to the sofa beside the weeping goddess. "Of course, he loves you, sweetie."

"No, he used to but now he doesn't." She blew her nose vigorously. "And I'm never going back to him."

"Never?" Demeter repeated. She reached for her wine.

Outside the cozy, country cottage, the snow – currently, the goddess' preferred symbolism of her time off – began to melt.




"Is that what you're having for breakfast?"

Demeter sighed and paused, fork halfway to her mouth. "What's wrong with my breakfast?"

"Eggs, sausages, and home-fries? Not to mention toast and beans? Mom, you've got enough bad fats in front of you to kill you, and trust me, I know what can kill you." Before Demeter could secure it, the plate was whisked away. "I'll make you some whole grain porridge, just like I do in the summer. No saturated fats, plenty of fruits and vegetables; we'll get that extra weight off you in no time."

"Sephie, I'm the goddess of the harvest, I'm supposed to be ample. And trust me, dear, you can't get ample on fruits and vegetables."

Persephone shot her a glittering smile. "Isn't that a bit of a contradiction?"

"I've learned to live with it."

A sheet of snow slid off the steeply raked roof and landed on the burlap wrapped foundation plantings, crushing them under the wet weight.




Demeter stared into her whole wheat pita stuffed with alfalfa sprouts, humus and god knew what else because the goddess certainly didn't. "I wonder what Hades is eating right now."

"I don't care."

"Probably something greasy and bad for him."

"I know what you're trying to do, Mom, and I appreciate it, but my marriage can not be saved." Persephone bit the top three inches off a raw carrot with more enthusiasm than was strictly necessary. "After we eat, I've got a new low-impact aerobic workout that I want you to try."

"Sephie, I usually rest in the winter."

"If you mean you usually spend the winter in front of the television, well, that's not resting."

"It's not?"

"It's vegetating. And you won't have to do it this winter because I'm here. Think of it, we'll have such fun. Just like we do in the summer."

"Oh, I'm thinking of it,sweetie..."

Out in the garden, a confused iris stuck its head above ground.




"I'm going for a walk, Mom. Do you want to come?"

"No, dear. I thought I'd..." Demeter racked her brain for something that her daughter couldn't object to. "...chop up some vegetables for a salad."

Persephone sniffed disapprovingly. "How can you stand being stuck inside on such a beautiful day? You're not like this in the summer."

"It's not summer, Sephie."

"Hades and I walk all over the Underworld in the winter: through the Asphodel Fields, along the Styx, and back home to Erebus by way of the Lethe. We walk..." The second sniff was much moister. "...and we talk and then, later, we curl up in front of the fire."

Encouraged by the longing in Persephone's voice, Demeter dared to suggest that her husband probably missed her very much.


"Maybe you should just talk to him."



"You don't understand, Mother."

Demeter smiled tightly. "That's because you haven't told me anything, dear. If I knew what the fight was about, maybe I could help."

"It's between Hades and me, Mother." Throwing an elegant sweater over slender shoulders, Persephone opened the back door. "I'm going for my walk now."

"Put on a coat, Sephie."

"I don't need one."

Glancing over at the calendar, Demeter sighed.




A few days later, standing in the kitchen making a cup of tea while Persephone went through her winter wardrobe and got rid of everything comfortable -- as Queen of the Underworld, she favoured haute couture – Demeter stared out the window at the bare lawn and wondered what she should try next. Nothing she'd said so far had made any difference; although she cried herself to sleep every night, Persephone was not going back to her husband and that was that.

"There's a robin on your lawn."

Sighing deeply, the goddess dumped an extra spoonful of sugar in her cup and turned to face the man sitting at her kitchen table. "I figured it would only be a matter of time before you showed up."

Zeus squared massive shoulders and laid both hands flat on the table top. "Spring seems to be early this year."

"No shit. What was your first clue?" The head of the pantheon was still an impressive looking god and certainly well suited to populating Olympus, but in Demeter's opinion, he'd never been that bright.

"In fact, spring appears to have arrived two months early."

And he had a way of making pompous pronouncements that really ticked her off. "Persephone's had a fight with her husband and come home."

"I can not allow the seasons to be messed up in this manner." Folding his arms, Zeus leaned back in the chair, grey eyes stormy. "Send her back."

"It's not that easy..."

"Why not?" he demanded. "You're her mother."

Demeter smiled and stood. "You're her father. You send her back." Pitching her voice to carry to the second floor, she headed for the rec room, ignoring Zeus' panicked protests. "Persephone! Your father wants to talk to you!"

She kept the volume on the television turned low so she could listen to the ebb and flow of the argument. It seemed to be mostly ebb. A very short time later, quick, angry footsteps headed upstairs and slow, defeated ones headed down.

"Well?" she asked.

"She said, no." Zeus dropped onto the recliner and dug both hands into the luxuriant curls of his beard.

"She said, no?" Demeter repeated with heavy sarcasm. "The Father of Heaven unsuccessful with a woman?"

"She cried, Demi. What could I do?"

"Did you ask her what was wrong?"

He looked indignant. "You told me they had a fight."

Demeter sighed. "Did you ask her what the fight was about?"

"What difference does that make?" His full lips moved into what was perilously close to a pout. "She has to go back and I told her so."

In spite of his many opportunities for practise, Zeus had never been, by any stretch of the imagination, a good father. More of a realist than most of the pantheon, Demeter recognized that they were all in part responsible for that. He'd been the youngest in a wildly dysfunctional family and they'd all indulged him. She'd been just as bad as the rest of their siblings, but she'd long ago stopped indulging him where their daughter was concerned. "Well," she said dryly, "that was stupid, wasn't it?"

All things considered, he took it rather well. Thunder rumbled in the distance but nothing in the immediate area got destroyed.

"Demi, it can't be spring yet. When it's this early, it screws everything up."

"Zeus." She leaned forward. She would've patted his leg except that he took physical contact as an invitation and this was not the time for fertility rites. "I know."

"What are we going to do now?" he sighed.

Demeter grabbed her favourite lamp as it blew by on the gust of his exhalation and placed it on the floor by her chair. "We?"

Heaving himself up onto his feet, the ruler of Olympus had grace enough to look sheepish. "Deal with it, would you, Demi?"

She sighed in turn. "Don't I always?"

Having sloughed off responsibility once again, Zeus grew more cheerful and his step lightened as he headed for the stairs. "You should visit Olympus more often. We miss you."

"No, you don't. Whenever I'm there, Hera and I fight then you go off and do one of those swan, shower of gold, quail things and we all know how that ends up – Hera blames me since she can't seem to blame you, I get ticked off and crops fail over half of the southern hemisphere. Better I just stay here."

He threw her a brilliant smile. "I miss you."

"No, you don't." In spite of everything, she couldn't help adding, "But it's sweet of you to say so."

At the bottom of the stairs, he paused and half turned back to face her as another thought occurred to him. "Oh, by the way, what's Iacchus up to these days?"

"How should I know, I'm only his mother." Her son was a great deal like his father. "If you see him, tell him to call."




"Sephie, what are you doing?"

Persephone rubbed at a smudge of dirt on one peaches and cream cheek and looked up at her mother, her other hand continuing to vehemently, almost violently, poke seeds into the ground. "Planting radishes."


"We've got the year off to an early start." She frowned, suddenly noticing the jacket and boots. "Where are you going?"

"Eleusis," lied the goddess. "For the Mysteries."


"You've got the year off to an early start," Demeter reminded her. "We've had to make a few changes because of it." The Eleusinian Mysteries had always been a convenient way to ditch a grown, and often disapproving, daughter for more, as it were, fruitful company. Being Mysteries, they never had to be explained. Patting Persephone fondly on one shoulder, she continued down the garden path. "I won't be long."




"Evenin' yer Ladyship." Boat at the dock, Charon rested on his oar as Demeter approached. "Haven't seen you in these parts since the wedding."

"I try not to interfere in the lives of my children." She glanced down at a full load of the dead. "Do you have room for one more?"

"Well now, I'd have to say that depends."

Demeter sighed and rummaged through a change purse full of breath mints, jiffy pots, and wildflower seeds, finally pulling out a coin. The ferryman reached for it but she held it back. "When we reach the other side."

"Good enough, yer Ladyship." Reaching down, he grabbed his nearest passenger by the head and tossed him overboard. "Fool already paid me," he explained as he held out a hand to help the goddess over the gunnel.

It was a quiet trip across the Styx. Charon didn't encourage chatter and Demeter had a lot on her mind. Not far from the landing, she frowned, suddenly unable to ignore the tormented screaming any longer. "Is it just me or are the cries from Tartarus louder than they should be."

"They're louder," Charon agreed. "He's been depressed since she left. Makes him cranky."

The newly dead, sitting shoulder to shoulder on a triple row of uncomfortable benches, shuddered as a group.




Stepping out onto what was essentially land – it squelched underfoot a great deal less since she'd recommended they have it tile drained – Demeter braced herself.

"Down, Cerberus! Down! Good dog." She scratched the centre head behind the ears as the other two stretched around her body and snarled at the disembarking spirits. When one or two hung back, Charon smacked them with his oar. "Oh for pity's sake," she snapped, "he won't bother you if you're supposed to be here. Who's a good boy? Who's Demeter's favourite puppy?"

Tail whipping from side to side, the tapered back end of his body moving back and forth in time, Cerberus drooled happily on the goddess' feet.

Glad she'd worn her wellies, and beginning to realize why Persephone didn't want the dog up on the couch, or on anything else that couldn't be hosed down immediately afterwards, Demeter gave all three heads a final scratch and started toward the Asphodel Fields. Winter or not, she didn't intend staying in the Underworld for too long. Cerberus bounded along beside her for half a dozen steps then the wind shifted and he took off downstream, howling, snarling, and barking furiously.

Pulling her jacket more closely around her, she hurried along the path toward Erebus trying to ignore the grey and boring landscape and the incessant twittering of the undistinguished dead. Although a few of those who'd known her in life waved a limp hand in greeting, most ignored her.


"Greetings rich-haired Demeter, awful goddess, lady of the golden sword and glorious fruits."

"Hello, Orion." The ghost standing on the path before her, the son of Poseidon and the gorgon Euryale, had been the handsomest man alive until he'd taken up with Artemis and run afoul of an over-protective Apollo. As she'd often thought it unfair the way the Olympian powers fell, Demeter smiled kindly on her nephew. "Still hunting the shadow deer?" She nodded toward his bow.

"The hunt is all I have." He paused and then continued ponderously, "The Queen is gone early from Erebus."

"Yes, she is, isn't she."

"She has returned to your hearth?"

"Oh, yes." My cold hearth, the goddess added silently. And I still don't believe gas fireplaces give off unhealthy fumes.

Orion nodded. "Good. I am glad she is safe. Do you now descend to see the Lord Hades, your brother?"

"Not exactly," Demeter told him tightly. "I descend to see the Lord Hades, my son-in-law."

The hero's eyes widened and his Adam's apple bobbed in the muscular column of his throat. "Oh," he said, and stepped off the path. "Look, uh, don't let me get in your way, Aunt Demi." He faded back toward the trees. "And, uh, if there's anything I can do, don't hesitate to call."

Picking up her pace again, Demeter rolled her eyes. Honestly; men. Even dead ones. And Hera wonders why I never married.




There were gardens down the middle of the wide avenue that lead to the palace. In spite of the inarguable presence of the pomegranates, Demeter hadn't expected that. If they'd been in place during the wedding, she hadn't noticed them, but then as mother of the bride, not to mention sister of the groom, she'd had other things on her mind.

All the flowers were black – except for one corpse-lavender rose she was fairly certain she'd seen in the upper world – and the beds had been edged in giant uncut diamonds. She could see her daughter's taste in the design. Persephone had always loved order. A closer look and she realized the flowers desperately needed dead-heading and everything wanted water. Sighing deeply, Demeter reached under the lip of a black marble fountain and turned on the irrigation system.

"This is her garden," said a gardener, who'd been standing so quietly she hadn't noticed him. "His Majesty said we weren't to foul it with our touch."

"Hades said that?"

"Yes ma'am."

Demeter smiled. This might be easier than she'd thought.




The palace was a mess.

Demeter had no idea how it could have gotten so bad in only eight days. Then she remembered how it had gotten at her house in those same eight days and tried to be less critical, although it wasn't easy.

The servants, drawn from the ranks of the dead, huddled confused and insubstantial in corners. She could feel them watching her hopefully as she passed. Well, with any luck, their ordeal and hers would soon be over.

She found the King of the Dead in a small room he used for a den, slumped in a chair, mournfully eating peanut butter straight from the jar. His clothes were wrinkled, he didn't smell very good, and it looked like he hadn't shaved in about three days.

He looked up when Demeter came in, too far gone in misery to be surprised. "Have you come for her things?"

"I've come for an explanation."

His gesture took in the drifts of potato chip bags in the immediate area as well as the chaos in the rest of the palace. "She's left me, Demi."

"I know that, you idiot. Where did you think she'd gone?"

"To you?"

"That's right. To me." She kicked a pizza box out of her way. "And do you know what happens up above when Persephone comes home to me?"

"The upper world is not my concern." If he'd intended to sound regal, he didn't quite make it past petulant.

"This time it is, because it's spring up there." Demeter's voice grew sharper as she put both fists on the back of the couch and leaned toward her son-in-law. "And it's not supposed to be spring for another two months! I want to know what happened and I want to know right now!"

A single tear rolled down alongside Hades' aquiline nose. "She's left me, Demi."

Even the most gentle goddess had a line that shouldn't be crossed.

When the dust settled, He Who Has Many Names picked himself up off the floor and lowered himself gently back into his chair. "You blasted me," he said, shaking his head in disbelief, slightly singed black hair falling over his eyes. "In my realm. In my palace. In my den."

"That's right. And I'm going to do it again if I don't start getting some answers that make sense."

Scratching at the stubble on his chin, Hades sighed. "We had a fight," he said in a small voice.

"What about, and don't say pomegranates because I know that much."

"But it was about pomegranates, Demi. I had the tree cut down."

Demeter took a deep breath and counted to ten. "What tree?"

"The pomegranate tree." When she made it clear she needed more information and what the consequences would be if she didn't get it, he went on. "You remember back when I was courting Persephone..."

The goddess snorted.

A patch of colour stained the son of Chronos' pale cheeks. "Yeah, well, do you remember how Zeus said she didn't have to stay with me if she hadn't eaten anything?"

"I remember."

Hades took a hint from her tapping fingers and began to speak faster. "Well, as it turned out she'd eaten those seven pomegranate seeds. Anyway, we worked all that out years ago and I thought we were happy, but in the midst of a small disagreement about saturated fats, one of the servants put a bowl of pomegranates on the table. She said I was trying to run roughshod over her feelings just like before and I said I wasn't, then, to prove it, I had the gardeners cut down the tree."

Demeter stared silently down at him. "The tree that bore the fruit Persephone ate from to become your bride?" she asked when she finally found her voice.

"Well, yeah, but..."

"You putz! For her that tree was a symbol of your union and you got miffed and cut it down to prove a point."

"I didn't want her to be reminded of less happy times," Hades protested indignantly.

"Did you tell her that? Of course not," she went on before he had a chance to answer. "No wonder she thinks you don't love her anymore. That you regret marrying her."

"How can she think that?" He started to pace, kicking accumulated flotsam out of his way with every step. "Persephone is the only bright light in my world. While she's here with me, she rules over all. Without her, I dwell in darkness. I adore her. I always have and I always will." Face twisted in anguish, he turned toward the goddess. "You've got to talk to her, Demi. You've got to."

"Oh no," Demeter shook her finger at him. "I'm not the one who has to talk to her. You go up top right now and you tell all this to my daughter."

Hades stopped pacing so suddenly Demeter thought at first he'd walked through some spilled chip dip and glued his feet to the floor. "I can't."

"You what?"

"I can't go up top. It goes on too far." Glancing up at the ceiling, he looked beyond it to the arcing dome of rock that covered the Underworld. "There's no roof."

"Don't start making excuses, Host of Many, Brain of Pea," Demeter snarled. "You went up there to get her originally."

"That was a long time ago."


"I've got agoraphobia."

"So stay out of the marketplace. Or don't you want her back?"

"I want her back more than anything!"

Not more than I want to get rid of her. "Then get off your skinny butt and do something about it. And speaking of getting off your butt, why is this place such a pig sty? You've got servants."

"Persephone always dealt with them. I don't know what to say."

"She's with me half the year." Which was quite long enough. "You can't possibly live like this for all that time."

"She always leaves lists." The King of the Dead bent down and pulled a piece of cold pizza out from under the sofa cushions. "Very precise lists."

Demeter sighed. She knew she was enabling his helplessness, but she couldn't have her daughter return to this mess. "Would you like me to take care of it?"

"Could you?"

The goddess put two fingers in her mouth and whistled. Almost instantly, as though they'd been waiting for a signal, a crowd of worried spirits wafted into the room. Demeter waved at the mess. "Compost this crap," she told them.

Hades frowned as the mess began to disappear. "I'm pretty sure that's not how Persephone does it."

Remembering that his argument with her daughter had started over saturated fats and fully aware of what side of the issue Persephone came down on, Demeter looked more kindly on him than she had. "You're probably right.




"Did you have a nice Mystery, Mother."

Demeter stuck her heel in the boot-jack and pulled off her left wellie. "I planted a seed, time will tell if anything comes of it."

"I hate it when you've been off talking to your priests," Persephone sniffed. "You get all obscure." She patted a pile of paper before her on the table. "While you were gone I worked up a plan to redecorate the kitchen."

"But I like my kitchen."

"Our kitchen. It's hopelessly old fashioned. The microwave still has dials."

"I only use it to reheat tea," the goddess protested.

"The kitchen in the palace has all the most modern equipment. Very high tech."

"Yes, well Hades is God of Wealth," Demeter muttered. "He can afford to get every new piece of junk that comes out."

Persephone ignored her. "And we'll have to get some servants." She smiled brittlely at her mother's aghast expression. "Mother, we're goddesses. Cook-outs and things are all very well in the summer..."

Demeter had long suspected Persephone regarded the seasons spent with her as an extended visit to Guide camp.

"...but it's not something we should have to live with year round."

"Sephie, when you're with me, it is summer year round."

"That's no reason why we shouldn't have servants. We can add on a wing out back." Rummaging through the pile, she held up a sheet of paper. "I drew a sketch. What the...?"

Both women stared at the paper, trembling like an aspen leaf in Persephone's hand.

Suddenly concerned, Demeter reached for her daughter. "You're shaking."

"No, I'm not." A mug fell off its peg and crashed into a dozen pieces against the floor. "The whole house is shaking."

"Earthquake?" Demeter folded her arms. "When I get my hands on the god who's doing this," she growled, "he'll get a piece of my mind and boot in the backside!"

"Not now, Mother." Grabbing the goddess' shoulders, Persephone pushed her toward the door. "We've got to get outside. This whole place could come down any moment."

"If it does," the goddess promised, "I'm going to be very angry."

They'd got only as far as the porch when the lawn erupted. Four black horses, nostrils flared and eyes wild, charged up from the depths of the earth pulling behind them a golden chariot. In the chariot, stood Hades, ebony armour gleaming, the reins in one hand, a black rose in the other.

Demeter had to admit the rose was a nice touch.

His eyes beneath the edge of his helm almost as wild as his those of his horses, Hades turned toward the cottage. "Persephone, this time I do not pull you from your mother's arms but implore you, for the sake of love, to come home with me."

"Very prettily said. Almost classical." Demeter poked her daughter in the hip. "Well?"

Persephone tossed her head. "You cut down my tree."

"And I have caused another seven to grow in its stead. One for each of the seeds you ate so that you can see how much my love has multiplied."

"I ate?" Persephone repeated, her voice rising dramatically. "You fed them to me."

"I only offered them to you," Hades protested. "You ate them."

Her chin rose. "I didn't know what it meant."

"And now you do." He opened the hand that held the rose and, like drops of blood against his pale skin, were seven pomegranate seeds.

Persephone gave a little cry Demeter wasn't quite able to interpret, but her eyes were dewy and that seemed a good sign.

"Please come back to me, Sephie. The Underworld is empty without you. All my wealth is meaningless. I'll stop spending so much time with the guys. I'll cut out saturated fats. I..." The horses jerked forward. Muscles straining, Hades brought them back under control. "I love... Damn it, you four, stop it or I'll feed you to the dog! I love you, Persephone."

Could have been a more polished declaration, Demeter acknowledged but not more sincere. "Well?" she said again, this time with a little more emphasis.

"But spring...?"

The goddess smiled, trying not to let the relief show. "Spring can wait two months."

With a glad cry, Persephone ran forward and leapt into both the chariot and Hades' arms. Finding no hand on the reins, both of the god's hands being otherwise occupied, the team did what horses always do under similar, if less mythic, circumstances. Hoofs striking sparks against the air, they bolted down toward their stable carrying their two oblivious passengers back to the Underworld with them.

The last Demeter saw of her daughter and her son-in-law, they were feeding each other the pomegranate seeds and murmuring things she was just as glad she couldn't hear.

"Happy endings all around," she muttered, and added as she went to work tucking the spring growth back into bed, "I have no idea how Aphrodite puts up with this kind of nonsense day in and day out."

With Persephone back in the loving arms of her husband, it didn't take long for Demeter to return the season to normal, although she felt a little bad about the radishes.

When Dusk approached, the goddess wandered down to the rec room, opened a new bottle, and poured herself a glass of wine. The house was blessedly quiet. Even the cat had returned from wherever he'd hidden himself.

Slippered feet up on a hassock, she picked up the remote. Maybe she'd heat up a frozen pizza for dinner.

The lawn was a disaster. In the spring, the actual spring, it would have to be rolled.

It seemed a small price to pay.

Outside the cottage, it began to snow.