To the Artist's Page To our home page
To Derick Varn's previous piece To Derick Varn's next piece
Mythos Served with Red Wine
Araidne stared at me across the table to let me know she was not joking. Her purples eyes unsettled me. The hues shifted like microbes in primordial ooze.
"You lived with a guy named Dionysus?" I asked, taking a bite of my pasta.
"Yes." Her face did not change as she took another sip from her glass.
"That's ironic," I replied.
"Dionysus is the god wine and you want to work at the winery."
"Yes, he was the god of wine, but also of drama and poetry. And, yes, I want to work at your winery. That's not ironic by definition especially when you consider I am a goddess," Ariadne beamed as she took a bite of the oily pasta dish. Her wine glass looked untouched. Although she was constantly sipping at it, the amount of 'Andre 94: Zinfandel in the glass never lessened.
I smirked. She was either pulling my leg, making a strained metaphor, or completely crazy. I didn't believe in such things. In fact, I had never thought about gods, goddesses, immortals or any other variation of the theme until that day. University education taught me not to devote any serious thought to metaphysics when drinking. Meeting a beautiful woman was a rare exception to my philosophy. Still, I had a feeling this was something more.
Ariadne sat with her legs crossed like an old world lady. Her left hand rested on the white-green skin of her knee while the fingers of her right hand balanced the wine glass. Her eyes jutted from side to side looking at the myriad of people around us: businessmen, lushes, lovers, and friends of all types, colors, shapes, and sizes. Atlanta catered to almost everyone.
"Where are you from?" I asked as a ritual part of the conversation.
"Greece. Crete specifically. I was born in Knossos."
"Greece, huh? You speak very good English."
I cut myself short when the waiter walked by. "A David Nicholson 1843 bourbon please," I requested as my left arm flailed about. "Working with wine all the time, I like to drink something different when I get a chance."
Ariadne said nothing to that. She stoically took bite of vinegar sauce, twist pasta, and tomatoes.
Earlier that week, I had met Ariadne at my winery. Spending most of my life around alcohols and paperwork, chances at dinner with potential employees were edifying.
The winery was about a half hour north of Buckhead off of I-85. It was nestled in a relatively quiet area just enough outside of Atlanta to be both productive agriculturally and still close to the nightlife, the retailers, and my home in Dunwoody. I did not have many employees. The actual vineyard was only operational in the warm seasons and early fall. The warehouse employed about ten more workers who scrubbed barrels, cleaned and operated the presses, and turned the bottles in the fermentation process. Jessica was the only crucial employee I had. She helped me with all my clerical duties and managed the tasting room.
Jessica had been with me since the Smoky Mountain Winery's inception in 1987. Jessica's face was kind, but sexless. She was composed almost entirely of angles. Jessica wore her wavy gray hair short and disheveled. Her clothing was always nondescript-she decorated herself with no brand names and no obvious colors.
That day Jessica polished each long-stem glass as she watched the ceiling fan twirl overhead. As she hung the glasses on the rack over the tasting room bar, her eyes turned towards me.
"There's a woman in your office." Jessica hung another glass. My face distorted in it's flickering reflection.
"Why is she there?" I asked.
"Job openings," Jessica replied.
"Oh, the face behind the résumé I received the other day?"
"Yeah, the foreigner." Jessica nonchalantly wiped her hands on the seams of her pants.
I walked into my office with the inventory of California red grapes I just ordered in hand. Ariadne was waiting quietly. She was conservatively dressed: black slacks, a blue imitation satin blouse, flats, and a simple silver necklace. Her face was definitely Mediterranean: bronze hair, olive skin, and an exotic pout that was blatantly not native to Georgia.
Putting the paper down on my desk and picking up Ariadne's résumé, the first thing that struck me was her name: Ariadne Iacchos.
"John Burton," she said.
"Interesting name," I said glancing over the paper. Her credentials were solid: ten years of work at vineyard in Naples, twenty years at a vineyard in Sophia, Turkey, five years at a vineyard in lower France, and tons of related jobs all over Europe. As I added the dates up in my head, I discovered that she would have to be at least 200 years old without considering the large gaps of time unmentioned in the résumé.
"Do you mind if I ask you some questions?" I decided to test her. Pulling a pen out of the glass on my desk, I pretended to mark things on her résumé.
"Not at all." Ariadne straightened up and prepared to respond.
"Why do we here at Smokey Mountain Winery import red grapes from California?" I tapped my knuckles on the desk top waiting for her answer.
"They come from California because the weather in places like Napa Valley is very similar to that of the Piemonte region of northern Italy or the lower mountains south of Thrace." Ariadne cusped her hands and grinned.
"Correct," I scribbled some nonsense on the paper and gauged her reaction.
"What type of grapes grow in this climate?" I asked.
"White grapes can be grown in the southeastern United States, although they are not native to Georgia."
"Good answer. So what is the season for harvesting grapes?" I asked.
"October just before the waning moon," she replied.
"Huh?" My eyes flashed toward her in confusion, "Why before the waning moon?"
"It's tradition that grapes be pressed during the waning phase. In Greece the priestesses of Dionysus would press the wine and then mix it with water and stronger intoxicants for harvest festival. It was always during the waning moon to please the god," she took a deep breath. "It's said it must be done then or your wine will spoil. Europe's more rural vineyards still practice the custom."
I gestured with my hand, after placing her résumé on the desk. I pondered her answers, rationalizing the time incoherence as a problem of language. When I sat down at my desk, the phone rang.
"Are you willing for a less formal interview over dinner?" I asked just before picking up the receiver.
"Where?" she asked.
"Café Miguel, they have great pasta." I replied.
"At nine? I have some appointments to keep."
"See you at nine," as I said, just before answering the whining phone.
When my tumbler of bourbon arrived, I vocally started going through the wines we carried: the Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and numerous table wines. I blathered about our meager vineyard, the other employees, and my take on work ethics.
Ariadne's lips turned upwards. She peered into the crystal glass and the burgundy swirled with the twist of her hand. "This Zinfandel reminds me of my ex-husband. It's fluid with a strong sense of flavor. Concentrated, yet retaining elegance."
"You were married? You look a little young for..."
"Young?" she laughed.
"Well, you look it," I shrugged.
"I age well."
I glanced at her glass then my eyes turned to the amber concoction in tumbler. I looked at the clock, it was almost 10:30. The alcohol in my stomach churned. I took another sip and turned my eyes back unto Ariadne's face.
"Something like that," she said.
"Why did you feel the need to marry?"
"That's a nosey question, Mr. Burton," she leaned defensively into the aged wooden table.
"Well, I suppose it is but you could still entertain me by answering it," I said.
"Will it shut you up and/or get me the job?" she nudged my hand with hers. Donning a smart-ass grimace complete with mocking Betty Davis eyes.
"Sure," I winked.
"I was on an epic rebound. A trusted lover married my sister Phaedra and left me alone on a island."
"That's odd... so no love involved? I don't see a ring on your finger." I asked.
"I never said anything about love."
"What happened to him? Your husband, I mean."
Ariadne's face paled as her accent began to show more vividly. "He died because people began to lack faith in a good time."
I inspected the situation around us. A couple was intently flirting across from us. She was a strawberry blond wearing the short, red dress that flattered her soft form. He was in a white button-up shirt and pin-striped pants. They were probably having a late dinner before Prom. They both reeked of giddiness and love as they dined. I found that nauseating.
"How did you get here?" I asked.
"Taxi," she replied, slowly wiping her mouth with napkin.
"You need a ride home?"
"You willing to take me to your place?" She stood up and dusted her dress off while I waited for the waiter.
Afterwards, she got into my '95 Neon and we headed to my apartment. I avoided routes home that took us near the traffic at Underground or any of the thousand Peachtree Streets that make a labyrinthine pattern through Atlanta. I hit the interstate as quickly as possible.
Opening the door, my digestive track twisted. I rushed to the kitchen going to my cabinet and shifting through the Aspin, Kava Kava herbals, prescription Codeine, and finally finding the chalky Phillip's Milk of Magnesia. I set each of the little plastic bottles on the counter. After downing half the bottle of Phillip's, I poured myself a glass of ice water.
"Would you like something?" Staring from the kitchen, I saw her sitting on my couch.
"Yes, a drink. Nothing with alcohol."
"Coke or Iced Tea?"
"Tea is fine, thank you."
I brought out the iced water and tea and we started talking. Alcohol bombarded my inhibitions. I opened up to Ariadne as if I was in a yuppie confessional: my job, my life, my passion for Beat writings, my attempts at religion, my experiences with a puke green 1976 Ford L.T.D., and my love of Dada art all made way into the conversation. She mentioned ancient works of art she'd seen in the Middle East, Turkey, and the islands off Greece-she spoke about the beauty of Phoenician mosaics and Minoan frescos that she remembered. Occasionally she commented about the novelty of tea with sugar and ice or the lost of her lordly ex-husband.
Her Grecian accent began to show. She rambled on about a Minotaur and her grandfather being the judge of the dead. She reminisced about the sun beating down as she danced bare-chested and leaped over bulls to honor Sabrazios or some Minoan snake-goddess. Ariadne spoke about being abandoned on an island and then Bacchus making a goddess of her. At first I figured she had a low alcohol tolerance, but her voice began to echo and her eyes seemed to turn color-alternating from blue to red to purple.
Avoiding her gaze, I looked at the shelf of books by the old television across from us. On it rested a dusty bible with spine fully intact, a few worn Kerouac novels, a copy of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a book about brewing beer, and large coffee table edition of prints by Dali. Dali's apples, clocks, and women morphed and contorted in and out of reality. "Dali must have met Araidne," I thought. When I observed Araidne's eyes, I saw a surreal reflection.
I shook my head and focused my vision. I wondered if I was sick. When I turned back to look at her again, Ariadne kissed me.
The first time I awoke, all was silent. I smelled of decaying flowers and stale heat. "Drunk?," I asked myself before remembering Ariadne was still there.
She looked across the room. Smiling, she continued to button up her blouse.
"Are you well, John?"
"Yes, Ariadne," I grumbled a sound that blended with the post mortem silence. She smiled at that. I forced a smile back.
"You look like Daedalus, John," she said as she put her shoes back on, slipping her foot into the mouth of the flats. I pulled her closer to me. I was holding a goddess and I knew it. She smelled of jasmine and wine-idiosyncratic, but enticing.
"The Greek inventor?" I whispered as I stepped over my dingy glass on the carpet.
"Never mind," Ariadne said, "I will to be leaving soon." She carefully unwrapped my arms from around her and then punctuated her sentence with a kiss. Her kiss scalded; when I closed my eyes I saw vines entangling me. It terrified me.
As I ripped away from her, I felt a sharp pain shoot through my left foot. Nerves in my foot cracked as I heard felt the shattering glass. Sticky blood coated my carpet. The meat of my foot was gnawed by large shards of glass.
"Don't move," Ariadne said as she glanced down. Her voice had a paranormal resonance as it echoed through the house. The glass wrenched itself out of my flesh. The pain dulled to a tingle as I looked down to see the muscle, sinew and skin threading themselves back together. The blood embedded in the carpet fibers dissolved. The glass shards floated up into the air and fused back into one solid cup. Her eyes glowed purple and her hair blew like wind was racing through it. Light poured out from her body.
I fainted then. I am not sure if it was from the pain, the alcohol, divine intervention, or something completely different.
I awoke hoping I had dreamt the entire night. Ariadne was nowhere to be found. When I looked at my foot, there was no scar.
The drive to work was desolate. The Atlanta streets faded into young pine trees as I traveled up I-85.
When I got there, Jessica had already opened shop. I could hear her in the storage room. I went to my desk and looked down at the ledger books, my glass full of fresh Bic pens, and Ariadne Iacchos's résumé. I walked out the office and got a broom from closet. Starting to sweep in the tasting room before we opened to the public, my mind wandered.
Images flashed in my head. Somewhere a balding Irish priest bowed under a crucifix praying to someone known primarily as the Lord. Somewhere a Fakir burned dizzying incense for Shiva. Somewhere, long ago, a ethereal woman jumped over a huge bull in honor of a forgotten snake goddess. Somewhere a man proposed to the handsome, skinny woman that made up his world. Somewhere, but not where I was.
I swept the floor as Jessica took count of the cases of Chardonnay in the storage room beside my office. I could hear her mouth the syllables of each number to herself, tapping her fingers on her pants as she worked.
"How did the dinner interview go?" she asked through the walls.
"It went well," I responded.
"Do you think that young lady has the job?"
"I don't know. She has it if she shows back up."
I imagined Jessica furrowed her brow at that. Periodically, I turned to look at the door to see if Ariadne would walk in for work. I envisioned her wearing covertly conservative tan slacks and a denim blouse. I laughed at the idea, sweeping as I waited.
To the top of this page