Argus and Hermes drink wine

“I seem to have lost my harp.” Hermes settled down on a boulder next to the giant resting there. “Could you keep an eye out for me, Argus?”

“If I could catch you, you foul freak, I’d tear that smirk from your face and cast it to the Heavens. Maybe there it would entertain us with its specter’s grin.” Argus Panoptes lounged, as he could, beneath a silver-leaved olive tree. He shifted his bulk to glare at the upstart god Hermes. “Do some good and fan me a breeze with your sparrow’s wings, eh?”

Zeus’ spy pinched his lips and beckoned for the many-eyed giant’s wine-pouch. “Give us a draught Argus, Helios, he’s relentless today.”

Suspicious, yet congenial, Argus passed over his bota. “The heifer, she gets lonely. Perchance you could play us a tune, invite the local children to come and cheer her up.”

Hermes coughed after his extended draw. “Why… Why that’s an excellent idea.” The messenger pulled from his satchel his cherry wood instrument.

“Found your lyre did you?”

“Ah, well, when I fly, I get so caught up…”

“Play. Something lively.”

The winged god passed back the pouch of wine, magically refilled, and began to stroke the strings of the horseshoe shaped harp. Argus squeezed the bag, filling his mouth again and again. He allowed a dozen eyes to settle closed while the many others scanned the rock strewn landscape, always keeping the white cow in sight.

Soon, children began to arrive and dance to the music. Sathena, the nimblest of the group, came up to wonder at and touch the giant but Hermes waved her off. “Let him rest. His job taxes him so.”

Hermes’ music slowed and sleep eventually came to Argus. The children wandered off and the spy gained his chance.

Batcave, North Carolina

Nestled in the hills of Appalachia North Carolina, in a town called Batcave, an abandoned summer camp sat since the ’50s, waiting for our reclamations group. Our six cars and a van pulled into the gravel lot and with blades and shovels we cleared our way through the brush to the camp hall. The director had the key and opened the padlock.
The double doors swung wide and we tramped through the great-room. At the back, on an eating table, sat a chessboard, pieces arrayed in play. On another table a checkerboard and near it three hands of cards lay face down. A finger scratched on every surface left a track in thick dust.

In the kitchen, pots still sat on the stoves, crusted grey-black foodstuff cemented in the bottom. Every floorboard creaked. Every light bulb hung dead when the director and a worker powered up the generator. The rest of the room we swept and cleared and cleaned. Those game tables we left, in reverence, at the time.

Tuckered from the work, we ate from our coolers and spread sleeping bags in the hall. No one slept much. Outside, we left the bramble covered staircase that led to cabins and the gymnasium for tomorrow. Around one am, some of us awoke to hear the unmistakable sound of basketball being played in the huge hollow gym. The sounds of children calling and laughing in the cabins echoed down to our ears.

The next day, with blades drawn, we secured the stairs, chased the copperheads away, and made the upper area. The gym door was cracked open and those of us who’d heard the game, yearned to look inside. Windblown dust covered the floor in an even, unbroken, unblemished layer. No ball marks, no footprints.

In the cabins we found beds, fouled from the weather and age, but with covers thrown back, shoes still slipped beneath. On the dresser, books and half written letters to home sat waiting. We backed out from each one, hesitant to disturb the sanctity of the setting.

We spent two weeks reclaiming that camp. Every night we heard the games. And although we tried to spy the children at play, we never saw them. The chess and checker games may still be sitting there, waiting for the children’s return.