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Forest for the Trees
© 2004 by William Dean

Inspired by
"Apollo and Daphne" (Detail); (1622-25)
Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Italian 1598-1680)

"Nymph, in thy orisons..."  —Bill Shakespeare

Sun-dappled branches of the laurel spread like lightning-laughter from Olympus in fair Wallachia, the once and future Thessaly.  Here the strangeness of passions twines with the crisping basil leaf of summer and the shadowed talon of Nemesis as no other.  Here the Triple-Goddess, bemused and subtle, thumbs her nose at childish Zeus and baits his crude entanglement with a wink to her daughter Aphrodite.  And so it goes...

Paul shuddered at the sight of the circlet in the glass case; a wind blew down his spine and pinched his coccyx as if it were molten.  The dim sunlight, oblique and opaque, wavered across the scaly, encircling bracelet; here revealing scales, there the hint of fang and tongue.  Paul felt faintly nauseous, particularly around the heart.

"It does that," said the androgynous crone beside him.  She wiped the drool from her lower lip with a ragged black sleeve, then tapped a wrinkled, barklike finger against the exhibit case. "Orry-boros." Her antique ivory and lapis eyes gazed dully up at him and she smiled toothlessly.  At that moment, a hushed breeze came from behind them and the museum caretaker closed the window shutter, cutting off the sunlight with a bang.

"See what I mean?" mumbled the crone with a low cackle. "Apollo, heh heh." She nervously glanced around her, then poked her rigid middle finger up from her fist.

"The oddest thing, darling," said Paul over dinner that night, "was that when I thought about it all going down the museum steps, I somehow confused this old biddy with...with her."

"Paul, oh! You're not going to start all that again, are you?" Tilde's pale foot, bare and warm, settled on his ankle and rubbed vigorously under the table. "Forget about her.  Old news, my sweet.  Think about fucking me instead."

Paul tried a smile.  He really did.  It assembled itself slowly and in parts across his lips, resembling a series of tics and twitches that finally emerged lopsided and unconvincing.  He nodded at Tilde. "I will!" he said too loudly, patting her hand on the tabletop.

"Daphnedaphnedaphnedaphne!" Paul mentally grunted later, pretending awkwardly that the pale, freckly, plump, naked Tilde was a child's rocking horse.  His fingers dig into her fleshy love handles like the thick neck of a wooden mount, his hips mechanically riding forward and backward and bizarre mutations of "De Camptown Races" beating a rhythm in his mind. "Do dah, doo dah!" he suddenly cried.  Tilde looked at him over her shoulder.

"What did you say?"

Paul leaned over her wide back, noticed she had been reading a glossy magazine, lying askew on the pillow.

"What?" Tilde said.

"What?" Paul replied.

"Paul, oh.  Your cock feels so good, so big, so...wonderful." Tilde smiled and looked back down at her magazine.  She turned a page. "Mmmmmmm."

Paul's eyes rolled back in their sockets. "Daphnedaphnedaphne," he chanted silently.  He promised himself he'd call his father tomorrow.

"How's that honey of a new wife doing, Pauly?" The old man's voice sounded more than half-cracked. "You got her well-seeded with my grandson yet?"

"Dad? I'm not sure it's working out.  I mean, she's..."

"Pauly, you listen to me.  I already know what you're going to say, so don't.  If Tilde lets you put that little pecker of yours in her, that ought to be enough.  Don't expect her to get all damn gushy and grateful over it, boy.  If you wanted that, you ought to have married that...what the hell was her name? Dabney? Danny?"

Paul swallowed loudly.  A rather well-ordered and familiar phantasmagoria swarmed between his ears and tremored down his body: naked limbs, finger twigs, hair leaves, kiss blossoms, and slithering through it all a massive python that crushed the breath out of his lungs.  A tiny, humid voice echoed up from the swampy well of his pitiable soul. "Daphne," it said simply.

"Well, this is costing you money, Pauly.  I'll let you go.  Don't forget to bring me back some of that Greek brandy." Click; and the world was shut off.

Paul sat in a rickety chair at Taverna Empiros all afternoon, nursing watery ouzo and avoiding the dark-eyed admiring glances of the passing young women.  Some scuttled behind him, brushing their full breasts against the top of his head and apologizing as if they had done it by sheer accident.  A few even sat for a moment or three at nearby tables, running be-ringed fingers through their hair, impatiently and seductively swinging a foot or flapping their knees.

One asked the fat, old waiter. "Pusti?" He shrugged.  She frowned.

Paul reveried in absentia.  He chased naked Daphnes through dell and dale, over creeks and under bowers, always like a rampant Pan, cock wobbling between his goaty thighs, mouth bleating like a sacrificial sheep, heart charred and sere while she, frightened yet merry, skipped aloof and heedless through a greening world.

"That sucks," cried a massive Tantalus, sprawled beneath an towering oak.  Paul sped on.

"Catch her, rut her, root her, ream her, ram her," sang miniature satyrs scampering along beside him.

"I'm trying, fuck off!" Paul shouted, stamping them under his galumphing hooves.

"Asshole!" squealed the satyrs, echoing after him.

The titters pursued him, enveloped him, broke over his earlobes like ever-returning tides.  Earth titters.  Goddess giggles.  Isis and Hecate laughter. "Little dick, little dick, you can't have her." Paul sipped his murky ouzo and reveried continual failure. "Daphnedaphnedaphne, dammit!"

A fair-haired little Greek boy stood across the mostly empty road, a smile of mischief plastered on his face.  Without a word, from time to time, he stuck his tongue out and made a Gorgon-face across the road.  His mother, finally struggling out of a store, arms laden with packages, gathered him up with a nudge of her knee.

"That man's a boo-boo," he said quietly, without pointing.

"Cha!" She herded him along the sidewalk until they vanished on the horizon.

"He seeks her here, he seeks her she in heaven or in hell?"

Paul's eyes unglazed.  He looked up at the suddenly-appeared man. "Cosworth!"

"Hey, Pauly." August Cosworth settled into a chair opposite. "Still pining over the elusive Daphne, I bet.  You looked like you were a million miles away."

"Three million, four, what's the difference.  What the hell are you doing in Greece?" Paul painted a grin over his lips.

"Botanist's tour," Cosworth returned the grin. "They gave me a grant to study the...the unique and subtle flavoring and scent of the Thessalian basil tree leaf." He chuckled. "The humble laurel as new taste sensation for Amica's Fine Spices and Seasonings."

Paul shuddered.  Blood drained to his toes and his veins ached.

"S'matter, Pauly? You haven't gone and caught that Greek epilepsy, have you? You look white as a cobra."

Paul's lips opened, closed, opened, closed.

"What the hell, Pauly? Oh.  Oh, yes, of course.  Laurel, basil, Daphne.  Myth, where is thy sting? Sorry, shouldn't have mentioned her.  Here, look, have another drink.  A decent brandy, not that licorice candy crap you're sipping."

Four brandies was simply too much on top of the ouzo.  Paul could just barely get his cock erect enough to wriggle and stuff it inside Tilde's cunt that night.  She swayed her hips slowly from side to side and sighed. "It's all right, darling.  I think it's rather sweet this way." She cooed, rubbing two fingers idly up and down, up and down. "Did Cosworth find you, by the way? My god, he's a randy devil.  For a botanist, I mean.  It was all I could do to keep him from chewing my nipples down in the hotel bar.  Oh! I think he would have tongued my little pussy right under the table if I had let him.  Or the Greek police would have." Her eyelids fluttered slightly. "Did you just come, darling?"

Paul shook his head.

"Oh, well, I'm sure you will eventually." She continued to sway her hips then paused. "Darling? Does Cosworth have a big one? Cock, I mean.  You must have seen it, you've been friends for just ages, haven't you? I mean, I don't really care, just curious is all.  Does he? Paul, oh! I know you came then, didn't you?"

Paul shook his head.  He chased and chased and chased Daphne until he found himself in a sun-dappled glade, edges encrusted with tall, lithe laurels.  He looked at first one, then another, and another, and another.  Then, his mind sat down on a rock and held his head in its hands.

© 2004 William S.  Dean.  All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

Bio:  Who is William Dean? Read his bio on the Erotica Readers & Writers Association website.

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