“What are you selling again?”
The man with the paunch sagging through his frayed sweater scratched his comb-over and contemplated the stranger on his doorstep. He watched the man remove his fedora, run fingers through his short-cropped blond hair, then replace his hat. “Lightning rods,” he said. He fidgeted with the worn leather satchel.
“That’s what I thought you said,” said Horace, his gaze pinning the younger man like a bug under glass. “You do know this is the twenty-first century; right?”
“Oh, yes,” said the salesman, brightening. “I’m glad you brought that up, sir. You see, some of the world’s great minds believed in the usefulness of lightning rods. Why, Benjamin Franklin invented one! Tesla improved on Franklin’s design and-”
“Cut the crap, kid,” said Horace, turning his gaze upon a falcon that flew through the deep blue sky. “Why do I need one? I’m not exactly living in a skyscraper now; am I?” He gestured to the decaying floorboards of the porch he now stood upon.
“Listen, sir,” said the salesman. “I’m not just selling rods. I’m selling a lightning protection system. You see, the idea is to place these so-”
“Again, kid,” said Horace, eyeing the clear azure beyond the salesman’s head, “I don’t really need them… uh, it.”
The salesman’s face fell, and the older man’s expression softened. “It just seems like you don’t know your market here. I mean, I’m in the middle of nowhere. I’m not living a life of luxury… What made you think you’d make a sale here?”
The young man sighed. “Listen,” he said, blue eyes pleading. “Could you maybe just buy a couple? My old man, he… uh.” His shoulders sagged. “I really need to make this sale.”
Horace sighed, looked up into the heavens, then said, “Family problems, eh?” He rubbed his left eye. Its pupil never dilated, though the sun had retreated behind some clouds. “I know what that’s like,” he said, and blinked. “Tell you what… I have some money put aside. Hell, I’m old. What am I saving for; right?”
The salesman’s face lit up. “You won’t regret it!” he said, pulling a long metal bar from his satchel. “I’ll even install it myself. Cash or check?”
“Oh, heck,” mouthed Horace, fishing around in a clay jar inside the door. “Cash. A check just feels like an unpaid debt til it’s cashed anyway.” He handed the younger man a wad of bills.
“Thank you,” said the salesman. “This’ll make the old man so happy. My first sale!” He smiled, then sobered. “Don’t worry. I’ll install it for you right away.”
“Ah, I have faith in you,” said the older man. “You just take care of that, and I’m going inside to watch my soaps.” He turned his back on the grinning salesman and let the door creak shut behind him.
“Faith,” said the younger man. “If only more people had faith.” His dusty traveling cloak melted into a sparkling white toga, his battered leather boots into golden sneakers that sprouted tiny golden wings. The fedora became a gilded helmet with matching wings. He looked at the roof, sighed, and rose into the air. “Father, don’t you think this is a bit petty?”
Heat lightning flashed, followed by a faint rumbling. The god went about the business of installing the rods without grounding them. “I know you’re competative, but-”
Another flash, another rumble. “Fine, target practice,” grumbled the god. “Have it your way.” He sighed again. “I’m all for pranks, but this? Swindling an old man into making his house target practice? It’s just… such a waste of my talents.”
“Fine, I’ll be home for ambrosia later.” The golden youth picked up the leather satchel, slung it over his shoulder, and leapt from the roof.
From the second story of the farmhouse, Horus sipped his tea and watched the winged figure diminish, swallowed by distance. “I don’t hold it against you, poor lad,” he mused. “No one picks their family.” He touched his eye again, then picked up the pamphlet from the table.
Zeus could play his prank while he was at the museum. The Egyptology exhibit promised to be even more popular than the Greek one, and he had tickets for opening night. He could repair his home when he got back.
Even for the god of a long dead religion, godhood had its perks.