GET OFF OF MY CLOUD

Rock and roll meets Greek myth. Please comment nicely!

High among the clouds of Olympus . . .

Zeus was the king of the Greek gods. He was all-powerful and unstoppable, like a mighty bull. Unlike a modern deity, Zeus didn't pretend to set a moral example for his followers. And he didn't punish the sins of ordinary men.

But when a mortal man ridiculed the immortal gods . . .

"Aphrodite, wake up."

"Mmm . . . stop shouting, Ares. I swear there's no-one else!"

"Wake up!" Zeus was ordinarily very amused by Aphrodite's endless infidelities. But this time he shook the beautiful goddess of love roughly until she awoke.

"Why can't I sleep late once in a thousand years?" The golden-haired goddess sat up stretching and yawning, not caring that the king of the gods could see every inch of her incomparable beauty. Her grumbling continued as she rubbed her sleepy sea-blue eyes. "It's not bad enough you married me off to an ugly old cripple, he has to be a blacksmith too. Every morning Hephaestus is up at sunrise, clanging and banging, when all I want to do is sleep!"

"There are better things to do in bed than sleep," Zeus rumbled, "and you know it. But today I need you to help me punish a mortal who has mocked the gods. I mean all the gods, not just me."

The beautiful goddess opened her eyes wide. "Why do you need me when you can throw bolts of lightning?"

Thundering Zeus looked grim. "I want this insect to suffer. Not just in his body, but deep in his heart. And you are the goddess who can make that happen."

"What do I have to do?" Aphrodite reached for her magic girdle, the one that her bumbling husband had made for her. She had to admit he was clever – the jeweled garment let her dazzle every mortal eye and take on any form she liked.

"Only what you do best." Zeus leaned over and whispered his plan into the perfect rose-pink shell of her ear. Even for him, the momentary nearness brought on an overpowering urge to kiss the beautiful goddess of love. But the instant he tried it cruel Aphrodite laughed and vanished into thin air.

Somewhere down on earth . . .

INTERVIEWER: We're on Serious Satellite Radio, talking music and politics with Chris Munchkin of the band Coldfinger. So wrapping up, Chris, is there a God?

MUNCHKIN: Well, yes. I mean, why was I born into such a wealthy British family, with good looks and tons of talent, when so many other people are born with nothing at all? There has to be some greater wisdom behind that. I don't know if you'd call it God, or Allah, or Jesus . . . you might even call it Zeus!

INTERVIEWER: So if the Beatles were bigger than Jesus, does that mean Coldfinger is bigger than Zeus?

MUNCHKIN: Yes, of course. Who are the Beatles?

Chris was glad when the satellite interview was over. Whenever he talked to the older rock journalists – saggy looking men with sad eyes and pony tails, wearing off-the-rack suits or ill-fitting jeans from the mall – they always got this pinched look on their faces. It wasn't an angry look, exactly. It was more like he was causing them intense pain.

"I just don't understand what people want from me," he sighed, sitting down on the bed inside his humble cottage in the Caribbean. "It's not like I don't go to Africa every month!"

"Don't let them get to you, honey. They can't see your heart." As always, his beautiful wife sounded both wise and serene. Julia Rose was playing with their new baby, who was about to take his afternoon nap. "Daddy's got the biggest heart in the whole world, doesn't he Marlowe? Doesn't he?"

"I'll put him down for you, and then we can talk." Chris leaned over and kissed Julia full on the lips, taking the baby at the same time. The passion that had flared between them almost constantly since the night they met had cooled a bit since the birth of their first child. But Chris still felt like Julia was the only person on earth who understood him. Everyone else thought he was shallow and arrogant.

"If people would just try to see my spiritual side . . ." Coming back into the bedroom, Chris stopped short and gave a sigh. Julia was asleep on the bed, her lustrous mane of black hair spread out across the pillow, looking amazingly beautiful. They hadn't got much sleep the night before. When Marlowe was cranky Julia liked to stay up and hold him.

Chris decided to lie down for a few minutes himself, and then go down to the village for a drink. Maybe Julia would come, and they could get a booth like the old days and just talk.

Instead Chris ran into Emma Wilde. Emma was cool and blonde and superior, a classically trained actress with a major diva complex. Poor Julia always said she felt like the proverbial big-haired bimbo from New Jersey whenever Emma was in the room. Both of them were movie stars, but Julia did the popcorn films while Emma made important pictures with sad endings.

"Well, if it isn't England's answer to Eddie Vedder!" The slim blonde greeted Chris with most un-Emma like warmth, actually throwing her arms around him in the coffee bar.

"I thought you were shooting a movie in Paris, Emma," Chris said, sitting down beside her. A little tingle of fear ran down his spine. Emma seemed different, somehow. She never hugged, or smiled, or flirted. She was cold as ice. Today she was looking sexy – a bit like Julia, but in a more refined way.

"My leading man got busted for dating an underage boy," Emma sighed. "I had a few days off and I thought I'd come see how things are with Julia and the baby!"

"Well . . . that was nice of you." Chris didn't get it. Emma and Julia were friendly in public, on the red carpet, but in private they were as different as two sexy movie stars could be. Julia was gentle and domestic, a rock-star's daughter who valued intimacy and stability. Emma was haughty and aloof, uninterested in family life and probably repelled by sex.

Except that down here in the Caribbean Emma seemed different. She was playful and provocative, even naughty. The two of them were drinking iced coffee, but the blonde kept flattering him, flashing her soft sea-blue eyes, even running her fingers lightly up and down his thigh.

"You know what I'd really like?" she asked, just when he was starting to get a wicked hard-on.

"Uh, no." Chris knew all right – and he felt like a guilty rat.

"I'd like to go for a walk down on the beach."

Say no! Say no! Say no!

"Sure, that'd be great," the young rock star said smoothly.

"This has been building up for a long time," Emma declared knowingly, when they were alone on the beach. The two of them were hidden from view in a secluded little grove of palms. It was a beautiful evening, and the sun was setting.

"It's not that I don't love Julia, or the life we have," Chris mumbled, digging his toes into the cool white sand. "It's just that I've always hated rock and roll. Underneath the glamour it's so beastly and uncivilized. That's why I'm so drawn to you, Emma. You're so pure and fine, so above it all. I just love it when you do those Jane Austen movies and speak in that crisp, refined British accent – my mother used the exact same tone when she was toilet-training me as a little boy!"

"But you're Chris Munchkin of Coldfinger – you're a rock star!" Emma giggled and rubbed up against him in a most un-genteel way.

"I know, but my music is really all about spiritual needs," Chris replied, squirming with lust. "I try to use my celebrity to educate my fans, and to benefit needy people in third-world countries. I've never had any interest in the old rock and roll lifestyle – people choking on vomit, drowning in the bath. That sort of weakness disgusts me."

"You're better than that," Emma sighed, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him close for a passionate kiss. But something was horribly wrong. Emma Wilde moaned and wriggled too eagerly. She kissed hungrily, violently, like a savage. After a few horrible seconds, Chris regained his reason and pulled away.

"This isn't right!" he gasped, wiping his lips with the back of his hand. He stood up, trembling with fear at his narrow escape. "I'm sorry, Emma. I'm married."

"You're sorry, all right," the blonde laughed. "And that sorry spurt of lust is the closest you'll ever come to rock and roll."

"What?" Chris ran a trembling hand through his golden hair. "But that was wrong. It was brutal, almost animalistic!"

"Rock and roll is when you do what you shouldn't do, and say what you shouldn't say. Rock and roll is when you know what's right and do what's wrong, no matter who gets hurt and how many rules you break, just because you want it bad and the feeling is real."

"That's – that's not true," Chris stammered. "Music is a healing, spiritual force!"

Emma shook her head, gravely. "Rock and roll has nothing to do with flying to Africa on a private jet, kissing babies and guilt-tripping your audience into believing you're some kind of holy man. Real holy men suffer. Rock stars let the audience do it for them."

"You're not Emma Wilde!" The slim young man staggered backwards, trying to escape from the crazy woman on the deserted beach.

"No, I'm not." The blonde clapped her hands. "My name is Aphrodite, and the bad boys of Olympus would like a few words with you before you go crawling back to your cow."

Chris Munchkin screamed and tried to run. But all around him were Greek gods. They didn't look like exquisite sculptures come to life, either. They were hairy-chested, pot-bellied, like a Sixties biker gang only less refined. They quickly surrounded the terrified Chris and started slapping and kicking and punching him, wisecracking all the while.

"Hey! Watch where you're going!" Zeus gave him a shove. "Move it – or you'll be shaking all over."

"Don't step on my blue suede shoes," laughed Ares.

"Hey! You! Get off of my cloud!"

Chris whimpered. He wept. He fell to the ground and wet his pants. And then everything went black.

"Baby? Are you okay? Chris, wake up!"

"Julia!" Chris opened his eyes, tearful at the sight of his gentle, dark-haired wife. "I had such a terrible dream – Jim Morrison and Elvis Presley and all these other dead guys came back as Greek gods. They said my music sucks!"

"Well, they're probably right." Julia kissed him. "But they don't hate you because your music sucks. They hate you because you're alive. And your life doesn't suck. Theirs did."

As Julia made love to him, Chris Munchkin finally faced the awful truth. Rock was dead. He'd killed it. And he didn't care.