Joe Avery Meets Cupid
Charles C Cole
Cupid had curly blonde hair and smiling eyes that could light up a room! Round and jolly like Santa as a youngish man, like a five-foot tall cherub.
“I don’t understand,” I began. “Your message to my receptionist was vague. I help clients find things. What exactly did you lose?”
The light went out in his eyes. “Must I say it, Detective? My mojo.”
“You’ve lost the ability to make people fall in love?”
“I can still start the fireworks: new lovers obsess, skipping sleep and meals. It’s really quite thrilling! But it doesn’t last. Two weeks later, tops, they’re worried about the next tropical storm or bills that need paying. Maybe someone’s out there on my heels, undoing my work as soon as I’m out of sight. I need answers. If it’s me, I’ll retire. I’ve had a good run, giving the human race a spark here and there, the urge to rise above the mundane. The motivation to be better.”
“Let’s not make any hasty changes,” I said, always good advice. “Could someone have gotten hold of your bow, replaced it with a fake?”
“I don’t use a bow,” he said. “It’s all here!” He held up a stubby index finger. “The bow was a gift, a metaphor for my tactics, from a grateful king. Stopped a war that time, though I’m usually accused of inciting them. Someone saw me fooling with it, play-acting at a party, and a myth was born.”
“It’s a loaded question: Can you think of anyone who’d want revenge for circumstances you were involved in?”
“Half the world! My influence may have led to a duel or two, but you humans have been so sold on free will and manifesting your own destiny, nobody’d suspect a magical love-maker. What do I do?” asked Cupid.
“What you’ve always done. I’ll stand back and watch. If your new lovers are as distracted as you make it sound, they’ll never notice me. If there’s another force at play, another demi-god disentangling their two hearts, hopefully we’ll see that as well.”
“Sounds so simple. I should have come sooner.”
“You’ve been making humans fall in love for hundreds of years. Was it ever complicated?”
“Never. Your kind practically swan-dives into the challenge. The more preposterous, the better!”
We met at the park the next morning. The place was quiet at that hour. Cupid had a table set up for a chess match. “It’s all about preparation,” he said. Before I could sit, we heard approaching hooting and cheering.
A faery the size of my hand, Tina by name, who I knew from a prior case, was chasing panicked bumblebees in a training exercise similar to tag. She was good. Until she followed one into a bush and tumbled out the other side directly into the open serving window of a snack truck!
“Out of my ice cream!” shouted a male voice.
The window slammed shut. The truck rocked. We heard grunts and groans. The side door opened. The seller had ice cream all over both forearms, but he managed to hold onto the faery by an ankle.
“Get your hands off me! It was an accident, I said!” screamed the faery. “I have rights! I hate humans!”
He ignored her, which bothered me. “What a mess!” he said, stepping into a fountain the kids loved. He let her go and rinsed himself off. She hovered nearby, pouting, indignant, with her arms crossed, but eventually joined him, albeit more delicately.
“I’m sorry,” said Tina. “It was crazy there for a minute.”
“I didn’t know what was happening! It was so sudden! Hope I didn’t hurt you. You’re like a beautiful, living work of art. So fragile! I mean, wow!”
“That’s the start,” whispered Cupid.
“You did that?!”
“The more preposterous, the better!”
We returned the next few days. The new couple made amends and spent hours quietly talking. Kids lined up for ice cream, but business was taking a pause. Meanwhile, I lost every game of chess. “Looks like you still have it,” I said.
Cupid was quiet, observational, looking for indications of tattered magic. We didn’t have long to wait.
We arrived late one day. The man-half of our experiment was tossing out big tubs of ice cream in the general directions of a large trash receptacle.
“Such a waste!”
“Problem?” I inquired.
“Nothing tastes right! I must have messed up! I’m so stupid!”
“Where’s Tina, if I may ask, the faery? Your new ‘other half!’ You two made a great team! I was impressed!”
“She’s better off with her own kind! She’s so beautiful, smart. I’m just a klutz! One minute, she’s my soulmate, the next I’m the bane of her existence! We’re so different!”
Back at our chess game, I whispered to Cupid: “Do you do that often, mix humans and faery-folk?”
“It’s a new world!”
“Just wondering if the same thing happens with your human-human connections.”
“Humans have practically given up on love for a point system. I can’t compete.”
“I wouldn’t be in business without folktale creatures. Most times, I’d rather hang out with them than humans. My receptionist is the best thing to happen to me, but I don’t think we’re ready for more.”
“Don’t get me wrong, we can never have too much love. Humans are excellent at struggling, competing, doing. Faery-folk are amazing at expressing themselves without guile, being. The reason we’ve gotten along so far is we respect each other’s differences.”
“You’re bringing me down, Detective.”
“When it works, you’ve got the best job in the world. Even when it doesn’t, you see hope the rest of us are blind to. Maybe, eventually we’ll catch up.”
“What about you, Joe? You want more love in your life?”
“Too busy, but thanks,” I said. Maybe I was exaggerating a little.