Daphne and Apollo

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I’ve come to love the silence. When I was human, noise always meant Apollo was around. With him, silence was in short supply. Even his smile was loud.

We met in the pool. That’s not a euphemism or anything: I was a competitive swimmer. He claimed he was training with Coach Gattis, but I wouldn’t have put it past him to have nabbed an extra pair of swim trunks from an open locker.

When I finished my laps, I put my hands up to my forehead and wiped the chlorinated water back from my face. I opened my eyes and his white teeth gleamed in front of me, like glare reflecting off the sea.

“You’re Daphne. Hi,” he said, offering me his hand to shake. I’ll admit I was attracted to him at first. The shadow of beard that circled his full lips. The sheen of his dry hair— he obviously hadn’t been swimming. The oyster shell necklace that perfectly set off his olive complexion.

I ignored his hand. “You’re in my way.”

“That is unfortunate. I suppose my best course of action, then, is to extricate myself from your path.” He turned away from me. A midday sun shone bright between his shoulder blades. He grabbed the ladder with both hands and flexed his biceps, then he slowly stepped up, revealing a slick, black Speedo with a small thunderbolt pattern. He turned his head to the side, slant of nose, jut of chin. “You didn’t ask, but I’m Apollo. I’ll see you around, girl.” His laughter filled the natatorium like someone playing a vibraphone.

I know. Ridiculous.

For the next few weeks, he’d catch up with me either in the pool or in the parking lot of the gym. He always started with flattery. Lame stuff that still felt good, even though the lines were obviously practiced. One day he said “I’m going to start calling you Sharpie, ‘cuz you extra fine.”

“Dude. If that’s the best you got, you need to recalibrate your suavé.”

“I can’t help it, luscious, that swimmer’s body of yours drives me wild.”

“You have to know by now that I’m training for Rio.”

“Rio?”

“The Olympics. You know, 2016? The only relationship I’m looking for right now is with a gold medal.”

After that he wouldn’t let up. I guess he thought I’d challenged him and he wasn’t the type not to accept. Every time he saw me he’d tell me about some new girl he was seeing. Then he’d say something like, “You know, I wouldn’t have to bore you with these stories if you’d just give me a chance. I’d treat you like a goddess.” Why couldn’t he just accept that I wasn’t interested? After about a month of that syrupy crap, I asked my dad to step in.

Dad came to the gym and cornered him in the locker room. Told him to leave me alone. Most guys would step off after that. My dad’s pecs stick out in front of him like the prow of a ship. Plus he has this goatee that flows from his chin like a river, biker-style. But Apollo just shook his head and said, “I can’t. She’s the only one that got away.”

The next time I saw Apollo he convinced me to go down to the basement for a steam. Once inside, he gave me a laurel branch made of gold. Told me it was his promise to quit playing games. He seemed sincere when he slipped out of the wood-tiled room, so I didn’t listen for the click of the lock.

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27 thoughts on “Daphne and Apollo

  1. Doubtless the first time that any of the Greek gods was told “you need to recalibrate your suavé” – I always got the impression they rather prided themselves on their suavé 🙂 Very deftly juggled between the myth satire, with so many memorable lines.

  2. Nate, that was one smooth story. Effortless to read. I, too, loved the way you wove mythology into present-day settings. “Thunderbolt pattern”, “prow of a ship”, and “syrupy crap” were my favorites.

    Fine job!

  3. What a great reimagining of their myth! Love the swimming pool setting. And I adore your version of Apollo – all swagger and no substance. Fantastic take on the prompts, Nate! 🙂

  4. I love your modern take on this legend – so so clever, especially the ending! Your weaving in of the father, Daphne as an athlete, and of course the charming Apollo is all so expertly done. My favourite little details are the laurel branch and the wood-tiled sauna, though.

    1. I didn’t know until I first read this myth that Daphne is the reason Olympic athletes received wreaths of laurel when they won because it represented escaping the gods. I’ve always thought that was amazing!

  5. Brilliant. The way you played with the myth (and simultaneously did the fairy tale in reverse?), the descriptions of the characters, modern but still mythical. The loud smile, perfect, and Apollo’s laughter “like someone playing a vibraphone.”

    1. Thanks very much, Jennifer. I don’t think I told it in reverse. He stalks her, then she prays to her father to turn her into a tree to escape him finally. I just swtiched the responsibility of becoming a tree from her father to Apollo.

      1. Oh, I meant the Grimm’s tale in reverse–there, the woman breaks an enchantment turning the tree back into a man. (see the Rackham illustration)

  6. Wait. What? I think I’m being a little slow here. But WHAT? What happened then?! Tell me more! I absolutely adore what you’ve done here, the imagery is perfect and I don’t know if it’s just me, but I just visioned Finnick Odair (Hunger Games) as Apollo all the way through.

    1. I hadn’t thought of Finnick, but he fits perfectly. A maniacal Augustus Waters from A Fault In Our Stars is who I had in my mind. The myth ends with Daphne asking her father to turn her into a laurel tree so she can get away from Apollo. So I was hoping leaving the story where I did suggested that Daphne’s body died and her soul continued to live in the sauna.

  7. SO clever! And what a perfect choice for the prompts this week. I loved her father’s beard flowing like a river, and the implications of the ending. There’s more than one way to trap a woman inside a tree…… Your descriptions of Apollo were wonderful – I especially liked “Even his smile was loud” and “He turned his head to the side, slant of nose, jut of chin.” Wonderful writing, Nate!

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