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by Thomas Wm. HAMILTON



Ra was very tired, and just a bit bored: A thousand years of creating a new sun every day, followed by the questionable relief of only having to do the job every other day for 25 centuries. Ra greatly appreciated the help from Apollon, even if he was Greek. And on days when Apollon was off and Ra worked, Apollon sometimes entertained with his music. Ra had little personal talent for music, but he was still able to appreciate it. And Apollon's tortoise-shell lute produced some sweet sound.

But Ra was getting tired of the day on day off repetition. As he turned over the job to Apollon, he said, "Would you like to have a new schedule? Maybe two days off between working?"

"Ah, my Egyptian colleague, tired are you? Well, yes, I would delight in less work and more time to play my lute and attend to my cattle herd. My rascally younger brother often disturbs the herd. Are you volunteering to work more?"

"May all the gods of all the pantheons forbid! I propose we find someone to join us in our labors."

Apollon nodded slowly. "A--if I may say so--bright idea." Ra groaned. "How would you find us a third partner?"

Ra thought for a moment. "I suppose we should seek out someone from a nation other than Egypt or Greece."

"Definitely. In fact, I would say neither Europe nor Africa."

"You have your cattle, and I have my falcon. Do we need someone with any kind of similar association?"

"I don't see the point. My cattle are more of a nuisance when I have to work. I know you're proud of your falcon, but isn't it really more decorative than anything else? I mean, my dad has an eagle, but it doesn't do much for him."

Ra scowled. "The falcon is one of my attributes. But this is irrelevant to picking a new partner. Alright, we pick someone with no concern for their associations. How about hobbies, such as your lute?"

"Would you mind another musician?"

"I enjoy your music. Egyptians used to sing hymns to me, so I have a taste for fine music. But let's select a musician who uses a different instrument, just for variety."

"It's not just a matter of selecting. He has to have the talent and be willing. I wouldn't agree to a partner who was reluctant."

"I know what you mean. That could be worse than the disaster that resulted the time you let your kid do it."

Apollon winced at the memory. "Anyhow, let's each of us use our days off for a while and search for a suitable new partner."

Ra and Apllon did not experience time the same way lesser beings did, and thus each produced many hundreds of new suns in their turns before again discussing finding a new partner. Apollon raised the subject. "So, Ra, I sought out what I had hoped would be a suitable new creator of suns to join us."

"Indeed? and who might that be?"

"Very far to the east of Greece or Egypt lies the end of land, beyond which is a chain of islands ruled by a emperor who claims to be descended from the sun."

Ra snorted contemptuously. "Even if true, that does not make them more qualified."

Apollon shook his head. "Clearly no emperor would surrender his throne to do the work we do, but I thought one of his subjects might be interested. Unfortunately each that I approached either thought he was going mad or else feared insulting the emperor, and drew a knife to eviscerate himself. After a few, I had not the heart to approach more."

"I believe I have had more success, looking not east, but west. Beyond the western ocean is a new civilization, and liking the idea of another musician I have invited one to be examined by us."

"Excellent. Please introduce him."

Ra gestured, and a man with somewhat wild hair appeared. He blinked in surprise. Apollon addressed him. "I understand you claim to be a musician. What if any instruments do you play?"

"I'm mainly a piano man, but I play the banjo, guitar, and sing pretty good."

Apollon smiled. "May I hear a bit of your singing?

"A capella? I usually accompany myself on the piano or whatever."

Apollon murmured to Ra so the man could not hear, "I know not these strange instruments, piano or banjo or guitar. Odd and barbarous sounding names. How can I test his musicality if I cannot provide what he needs?"

Ra shrugged. "I brought him; I'll bring his instruments." He gestured, and the man jumped a foot in the air as a piano, banjo and guitar all appeared next to him.

With some hesitation he picked up the banjo, and began singing. Apollon looked perplexed but pleased. "This is a new style of music to me, but not unworthy. Would you be interested in joining us in our work?"

"Ummm. Just what is that, and what's in it for me?"

Ra assumed his most commanding appearance. "You would work every third day to bring a new sun to the world, Each of us would be doing the same on the other two days. Days you are not doing this you would be basically free, but would be expected to provide some musical entertainment once in a while for the one working that day. And you would become effectively immortal."

"Now how the ding dong do you make a new sun?"

"We've been doing it a long time, so it will be no problem for us to teach you."

"Immortal you say? And only work one day in three. That's the best sounding gig I ever been offered. I'll be allowed to drink a bit when not working?"

Ra and Apollon spoke together, Ra saying, "I oft enjoy a good barley beer", while Apollon said "You may join me for the fine wines of Europe."

"My kind o' guys. Start the lessons. By the way, you got names?"

Ra and Apollon each introduced themselves, and the man said, "You can call me Jerry." Apollon winced and muttered something about "more barbarous names", but Ra seemed to think this was an almost ordinary name.

For more hundreds of days Jerry labored as a progressively more adept apprentice, learning how to make a new sun each day. Finally there came the day when he was allowed to make his own new sun, without help or interference. As the new sun rose over the eastern horizon and spread its light over the land, Jerry sat down at his piano, and sang, "You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain/ too much dark drives a man insane/ you broke my will, but what a thrill/ Goodness, gracious, Great Ball of Fire!"


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