‘You are not going to a bullfight in La Linea or anywhere else; whether as a toreador or as a bull.’ Although millennia had passed since Zeus’ affaire with Europa, Hera had neither forgotten nor forgiven the Father of the Gods the amorous escapade in which he had transformed himself into a bull to… well – to put it politely (and Hera was a paragon of politeness) – to win the favours of the infatuated beauty.
Through the drifting smog from the Cepsa refinery, her husband stared glumly across the city and the airstrip at distant La Linea where its bullring was a dark oval. There was to be a Corrida de torros that evening, and Zeus had decided that his participation would be an easy way to earn some much needed cash. For the Olympian gods were broke. Skint.
Long months had passed since the pantheon of gods had left Mount Olympus to escape the constant racket of political and economic refugees as they trekked through Greece and into Macedonia – heading for the wealth and luxury which they believed awaited them in Euroland.
They were mistaken, of course, but so had been Zeus and his family. The mini-mountain to which they had emigrated – encouraged by the enthusiastic reports of Apollo and Poseidon – had certain advantages which Olympus lacked. But there were also the apes, the Levanter, and narrow streets barricaded by camera-toting tourists, or proud parents blocking pedestrians’ way with the prams of their newborns.
But if life was measured on a set of scales, the benefits would outweigh the drawbacks, Zeus reflected; the discovered comforts at Ikea of down-filled duvets and posturepaedic mattresses, which were infinitely preferable to the clammy clouds and marble beds of their old home; the flavour-rich fish and chips along with the acquired taste of Marmite by the spoonful, whom all except Hera agreed were better than manna and ambrosia; and it was no contest in a choice between duty-free booze and the nectar which had been the gods’ tipple for hundreds of millennia.
But these new enjoyments did not come cheap. There were laptops… and smart phones… and a wide-screen television sets… and motor scooters… and a constant menu of take-away junk food. So, within a few weeks of arriving on the Rock, funds they had brought from the safe-boxes of Delphi and Lydia had dissipated.
Attempts to find work had stumbled. Hermes’ job with the Post Office had ended when his fellow postmen threatened to strike; Bacchus had been fired from a busy Ocean Village bar as soon as it became clear that he was consuming more than he was dispensing; and Artemis’ efforts at a Women’s Lib charity were voluntary. Hebe had been shortlisted for a post as buyer for a boutique vintner’s, but had not yet heard the results of her interview.
Now Zeus had decided that he must lead the effort to revive the fortunes of the Olympian family.
A fortnight earlier things had looked up – briefly. An attempt to avert the cash crisis by setting up a cryptocurrency fund seemed set to solve all their financial worries. Bitcoin was intangible, didn’t actually exist, so how could anyone prove whether or not the gods possessed it, ran Bachus’ persuasive argument. All they needed to do was to set up an off-shore company dealing in cryptocurrencies; imagine it to have substantial capital; find a suitably dodgy lawyer – there must be several in a community which boasted more legal boffins per capita than any other jurisdiction – to register the GGG (Gods’ Golden Goods) Corporation; and market the shares to greedy and gullible punters.
It had sounded simple… and had seemed to work.
Ares, ever belligerent, had had no difficulty posing as a small-time crook and lurking under the ancient wisteria in the gardens of Gibraltar’s Supreme Court, to eavesdrop on the chatter of those awaiting to appear, and discovering the name of an adequately dubious lawyer. This gentleman had readily accepted the last of their cash to register and launch the GGG Corp in exchange for a 15% shareholding. [Zeus had bridled at what he considered the lawyer’s ‘over-weaning greed’… until Apollo reminded him that the shares were non-existent.]
But – and in the world of mortals there always seemed to be a ‘but’ – there were problems. Though the GGG Corp had launched successfully and several HNWIs (whoever they were) had promised to invest, there were difficulties obtaining a licence, the lawyer explained when Zeus and Apollo met him for an overpriced coffee. Something called the ‘Effessee’ (which Zeus took to mean ‘overseer’ in the local patois) wanted more details about the firm’s principals and other members of its board. Something called ‘due diligence’, the lawyer explained.
Which was a bummer, for in anticipation of the windfall, the gods had begun mentally to spend the anticipated cash. Hermes had discovered a string of expensive Apple appliances he could not do without; Poseidon thought a high-speed jet ski would be ideal for his forays into the Strait; for Athene’s wide-spread researches, she needed an online version of Encyclopaedia Brittanica; even Hera had decided that an expensive food processor and a remote control stove would simplify her efforts in the kitchen – proving that even the most level-headed of the Olympians could be swayed by clever TV advertising. And the list went on. [Zeus planned to buy a fish-and-chip shop on Casemates Square – not that he intended to demean himself with mortal work, but as the easiest way to satisfy his new-found taste for battered cod sloshed with vinegar.]
‘Can’t you persuade the “overseer” chap to go easy on us? I understand that a couple of cases of Moet often does the trick,’ suggested Apollo. But the lawyer shook his head. ‘This lot are more interested in hairstyles and lipstick and they can’t be bought. The top brass are female.’
‘Well, that explains it,’ grumbled Zeus. ‘Women at the top and something always goes wrong… Look at Theresa May and Brexit… Or Angela Merkel and her flood of exiles… And that Scots one – Nicola with the name of a fish. That’s why the mortal world is in a mess…’
The lawyer had nodded sympathetically, thought for a moment and then told the Father of the Gods: ‘Gibraltarians are incredibly generous to both charities and beggars. You’ve got the looks and even the right costume, why don’t you pose as a statue in Main Street…’
You may have seen him… even dropped a couple of coins into his begging bowl – it’s shaped like a cornucopia…