by Elizabeth O'Brien
Maybe the mortal world begins with three lesser gods—Aphrodite, Goddess of Love; Eris, Goddess of Chaos, and Ares, God of War—plunked down as babes on the same clover-and-buttercupped hill to wait while the great sticky ball of a mortal world is being assembled of dirt, water, breath, fire, and whatever else the universe holds in secret.
They are beginning to bore of their little games when Eris, youngest of the three, muses, "Maybe someone should be in charge." She looks from one to the other; the expression on her face wouldn’t melt butter. "Surely it should be one of you."
Aphrodite and Ares agree immediately—clever Eris—but who?
The question is soon a debate. Debate becomes argument, argument becomes fight, fight becomes brawl. Love is everlasting, but war is eternal, love is precious, but war is noble. Back and forth, and maybe in the heat of the scuffle, Aphrodite and Ares stop noticing Eris anymore. They miss how she leans back slowly. How she smiles.
Now, she thinks, lying in the buttercups, the fun begins.
As a poet who moonlights as a fiction writer (and vice versa), I love to play with words like "maybe," words that seem to hover within the language, not entirely one thing or another. The adverb maybe, and the related verb phrase may be both suggest that something is possible—but they only suggest it. This uncertainty is the perfect little trigger for a story about Eris, the Greek goddess of Chaos, whose party crashing (as Greek mythology tells us) would begin the dispute between Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite that eventually led to the Trojan War.
Elizabeth O’Brien is the recipient of a Minnesota Emerging Writers’ Grant through the Loft Literary Center, and the James Wright Poetry Award from the Academy of American Poets. Her work has appeared in many magazines, including New England Review, The Rumpus, Tin House, Wigleaf, Ploughshares, and AWP's Writer's Chronicle. Her first chapbook, A Secret History of World Wide Outage, is forthcoming from Diode Editions in 2018.