Fiction · 01/08/2020

Shortly Before Eris Comes Blowing Up Your Party

“It seems that Zeus was preparing a wedding banquet for Peleus and Thetis and did not want to invite Eris because of her reputation as a troublemaker.” — Principia Discordia

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Before Eris plucks the apple up and bowls it down the hall of emerald and ruby, saffron and butter, where the joyful bacchanal is unfurling its green tendrils dripping nectary without her, uninvited, SNUBBED, she stands by the table, gazing at the brimstone-and-chaff woven fruit bowl. She considers: Quince? Peach?

But no, apple is the most storied branch of the genetic tree. The apple’s flesh holds such lore: Eve versus snake, America the great, and every drunken founder collecting hard fists from ground fit for growing nothing else. No — the apple alone will do.

Before the fruit, she had sacked cities at a tender age. Brought home jewels, severed limbs, drams of rare liqueurs and spices. Carved tusks, desiccated ears, tatted lace, elderflowers, onions, and rhubarb pies. Two decapitated heads: one shot with arrows, the other stabbed through each socket and the bone-handled knife still in there good, mouth oh’ed open in terror — a little light shopping you know girls will be girls will be wars will be wars.

Hours before apple turns wedding into war and bloodbath, she wraps her sisters’ thrones in poison ivy: a little prank. She seeds the vegetable beds with honeysuckle and casts zebra mussels — fishy wicks with sticky teeth — down the sink drains, bubblebubble. No Harm Done rarely satisfies idle hands. Trouble pants ever after.

She lunches on a hotdog with pickle, mustard, and scorpion. Ketchup and kraut (no bun). Watches all her favorite movies back to back: Cannibal Holocaust, Passion of the Christ, Ichi the Killer. She despises men their arrogance, often so unearned, but remains pointedly misogynist, for men have always, will always, serve her best.

Too smart to be good, Eris finished school loathed by every teacher, though her science project was a twister built from rage and thin air, A+, and her zeal for dodgeball unmatched. She then turned up in Zeus’s conservatory to inquire politely where her place in line for the throne might be: Zeus, with his garden shears nipping tails from his comets, gave her a firm answer at once. She did not like it.

What use order, when the smartest of the bunch is last in line? She knew it was a spitter, too small and tart for eating. Still, she would harvest what grew and put it to use.

Or maybe it’s really the apple to blame? Nested prim in the kitchen bowl, a weapon disguised by juice and sugar, all sweet cheeks, kisskiss. Who lies in wait where a wee impulsive goddess may happen by, but one who longs to be picked up and taken for a ride? Is not the fruit buried within useless flesh? But an apple is a pome and a pome only an accessory fruit. Follow the seed up the stem from whence it came, through the crumpled flower’s center, which bloomed from the tree that grew too from a seed, in the soil of the mountains above Almaty. Old Kazakhstan’s apples have come rolling down and out ever since.

In the minutes before, she tears the king bloom from an apple blossom and tucks it, pink and white, behind her ear. Puts on sunglasses, blue lipstick. Her diadem zips with silvery electricity, she snaps herself in the mirror: a girl who looks to kill. Insta-heartheart, always yes Eris this or darling Eris that, but not to get what she truly wants, petted precious baby sister. Her eyes are hemlock and shrapnel.

She steps up to the temple doorway and announces herself in pealing screams, setting the marble floors ringing, majestic columns quivering, the garlanded hall splitting nearly open.

Everyone stops short, looks up, wondering who has arrived. Here she is, apple in hand. Ready to roll.

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Elizabeth O’Brien lives in Minneapolis. Her writing has appeared in New England Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Rumpus, Wigleaf, The AWP Writer’s Chronicle, and elsewhere. She is the author of A Secret History of World Wide Outage, a chapbook published by Diode Editions.