An excerpt from my long out-of-print book, Gods New and Used. Specifically, this is from "Slings & Arrows," a Sam Bowen story.
Cupid drove the Loop 255, looking for the exit that would take him downtown. The stereo was loud enough to make the chassis of the other cars on the loop vibrate and hum. Driving in the car was a conceit, not because he was three feet tall, but because he didn’t need it. He was Cupid, he didn’t have to drive a car. The little wings on his back were deceptively powerful and would carry him over great distances in a heartbeat. Problem was, every time he used his wings, it reminded him that he was Cupid. Specifically, it reminded him that he was a three-foot tall baby with a little cloth diaper on. He missed being tall and beautiful. He missed the adoration, the attention.
The car, in this instance, a 1979 convertible Corvette Stingray, was a way of making him feel like a complete god again. He was too short to reach the pedals, but every time he moved his right foot, the car sped up or slowed down. He could work the steering wheel; that was still doable. Unfortunately, the car was red. Cupid had no choice in the matter. Well, that’s not entirely true, he could have chosen white or pink, but to Cupid that was totally unacceptable for a Stingray. It was bad enough that his dick was little more than a corn nut without people thinking he was a girl altogether. So he drove fast, swore often, and tried not to think about the color of the car.
The downtown exits were zooming by so fast Cupid barely had time to take the last one. He cut through three lanes of occupied traffic and made the off-ramp with a fourteen-car brake light salute in his wake. He flipped them all off and cut the volume on the stereo so he could concentrate. Robert Plant’s banshee wail became a tiny moan. Cupid sang “Whole Lotta Love” under his breath as he looked at the street signs. Several pedestrians stopped to stare at the car and were rewarded with a one-fingered salute from the diminutive driver. He finally found Merced, and, in keeping with the spirit of his day, it was one-way in the wrong direction. Swearing, he drove to the next street, Carpenter, and took a right.
It was Groundhog Day at Doyle’s, and the bar was in the midst of a wake. Everyone was wearing black armbands for Phil Connors, a local weatherman who mysteriously vanished seven years ago. Ever since then, the only real Groundhog Day party to attend was at Doyle’s.
This was the lunch crowd, and although the place was packed, it was subdued. Security was at a minimum, since most of the trouble happened at night. The patrons, professionals, mostly, were smiling at their armbands and taking advantage of the lunch specials and getting soused on Punxsutawney Punch, one of Silas’s more lethal concoctions.
And being that Doyle’s was the kind of place that it is, and that reputation is, if anything, understated, it should come as no surprise that no one even blinked when Cupid walked into the room.
“Fucking finally,” he growled, walking straight to the bar, shooting looks this way and that. “Go on, say something, I dare you,” he muttered.
“Can I help you?” The bartender looked him straight in the eyes, an even gaze.
“Yeah, you got food?” Cupid’s expression didn’t change.
“Sure, you want to see a menu?”
“No, just bring me the biggest sandwich you got and the biggest, darkest beer on tap.” Cupid finished, still expecting a crack.
“You want your beer now or with the sandwich?” asked the bartender.
“Now,” said Cupid. His defenses were still up.
“No prob.” The bartender turned the order in at the kitchen window, and then drew Cupid a half-yard of something that looked like motor oil. “Here you go,” he said and hung around to get Cupid’s reaction.
Cupid took a long drink, smacked his lips, and screwed up his face. “What the hell is this?”
“It’s one of our house brews. It’s called ‘Velvet Jones’.”
“I don’t get it,” said Cupid.
The bartender shrugged. “Our brewmeister has a weird sense of humor.”
“What’s in it?” said Cupid, drinking deeply.
“It’s a chocolate stout.”
Cupid narrowed his eyes. “That wasn’t a wisecrack, was it?”
Silas shrugged again. “Hey, you asked.” He drifted off to tend to other customers.
Cupid turned to his beer. It was good, in spite of the fact that the beer was made with chocolate. He looked around. The place hadn’t changed much since his last visit, and that was fifteen years ago. Cupid surveyed the crowd, looking for familiar faces, but it was a lost cause. He didn’t really expect to see anyone, but he was bored and hungry.
The bartender sat a huge plastic tray down in front of him, and Cupid spun around to face it. He was staring at an 18” long submarine sandwich, sitting on a bed of fries, with four small buckets, containing ketchup, beef broth, mustard, and mayo. Cupid whistled. “Now, that’s a sandwich!”
The bartender grinned. “Here,” he said, sliding another stout over. “This one’s on me.”
“Why?” said Cupid, picking up a section of the sandwich.
The bartender leaned on the bar with his elbow and took a swipe at the bar with a white rag. “Because if it wasn’t for you, I’d be out of a job.”
“How’s that, exactly?” asked Cupid as he shoveled one end of the sandwich into his mouth.
Silas leaned on the bar. “Hey, if I had a dime for every dumb shit who sat across the bar from me and drank like a fish all night because he was pining for some girl, I’d be a rich man. Of course, every time I listened to them spill their guts about Jennifer, or Natalie, or whoever, I got handsomely tipped. So, the least I can do is buy you a beer.”
Cupid laughed, an explosion of breadcrumbs and pieces of meat. “That’s great! What’s your name, kid?”
“Silas. What do you want me to call you?”
“For you, Cupid. Only people I like can call me Cupid. Everyone else, I make ‘em call me Eros. Well, Silas, I tell you, you’re a lot smarter than your predecessor.”
“Who, Al?” asked Silas.
“Don’t remember his name. But the last time I was here, he started in on me with the wisecracks when all I wanted was a beer and a sandwich. Like, why in Hades would you want to piss off a god?”
Silas shrugged. “Dunno. Me, I never wanted to. So, what did you do?”
Cupid pulled out an arrow from the quiver on his chest. “Special shaft, just like this one. Delayed reaction. You start to feel like something is missing from your life, like you’re not complete. Gradually, it takes up more and more of your thoughts, until you come to realize, you need to find someone to settle down with. You need to be in love.” He started to snicker. “But, because of the tip, here, you can’t! You’re doomed to failure!” He slapped the bar and howled. “Oh, I got a million of them.”
Silas exhaled and rubbed his chin. “That’s a little more complicated than the standard crush-type thing I read about, huh?”
“Hey, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands.”
“Sure,” said Silas. “Well, that clears up one mystery. I always wondered what happened to old Al. How’d you shoot him, by the way?” asked Silas.
“With my bow.”
“No,” said Silas, flipping his rag. “I mean, where. I’m surprised no one tried to stop you.”
“Oh, you mean here in the bar! No, man, I shot him in the parking garage when he was leaving.”
“Ah. Well, there you go, then.” Silas nodded.
“Say,” said Cupid, “you’re pretty knowledgeable about the, what do you call it? The Neighborhood?”
Silas nodded and said, “Yeah, I guess.”
“I’m looking for some people. Maybe you can help me.”
Silas wiped another section of the bar. “I’ll do what I can.”