Mars in Suburbia

Tim had married a beautiful woman far above his station in almost every way. Sure, Diana was attractive, but she was also intelligent, capable and powerful. Tim was a little mousey, but he was creative and smart. More importantly, he was just a good guy. Tim thought he was marrying a goddess and only found out that it was literally true on their wedding day.

He was standing at the altar when he looked out at his family and friends on the groom’s side of the church. Dad looked like he was stoically trying not to cry. Mom was in full-blown handkerchief mode and gave a little wave. His uncle smiled his gap-toothed smile. His sister’s kids were fighting over some plush toy. Then he looked over at the bride’s side of the church.

Perfect physiques, perfect hair, perfect smiles… There seemed to be a real glow coming from that side of the room. He had met members of her family before, but he had always looked at his bride-to-be most. Then he flashed back to the first time he met her brother. Marty had almost broken his hand with that grip of his. He was body builder big, but he also had an easy way about him. His language was rough. He could drink more than an entire bar, and the stories he told about his recent time in the military were amazing.

Tim leaned over to his best man, Mark and whispered, “Do you notice anything different about our 2 families?”

Mark was busy trying to flirt with any of the bridesmaids across the way. “It’s just cold feet. You’ll be okay. Diana chose you.”

“But look at them.”

Mark turned his attention from the bridesmaids, who had ignored him anyway, and looked at the bride’s side of the church. He turned slowly back to Tim so as not to give anything away. “Damn! That’s a lot of beautiful looking people.” He looked again. “Are they glowing?”

The Bridal March began, and Diana walked down the aisle with her father, who was in great shape for a man of his age. He had a full head of graying hair and a long white beard. He looked good, but Diana took Tim’s breath away. His knees buckled; Mark was there to catch him. “You got this, man. She chose you.”

Mark and Marty became friends at the reception. They talked, laughed and enjoyed their time together. Even though they never really saw each other after that, Mark still felt like he had made a friend for life. He told Tim that Marty was “simpatico.” Tim clapped him on his back and left the reception in a limo with Diana.

Tim couldn’t say or ask hid bride anything about her family. Even after the wedding, the honeymoon was such a whirlwind, the years seemed to fly by until it was a distant memory. They had children. Family visits on her side were rare enough that they seemed to almost never happen. Then one day, Marty showed up on their doorstep.

“Hey, man,” He barged through the door shaking Tim’s hand too hard. “I need a place to crash. You still got that spare bedroom?”

“Hey, Marty, good to see you,” Tim flexed his hand. “It’s just down the hall there. Let me get your bag.” Tim stepped out onto the porch and grabbed the small bag.

“Thanks.” Marty headed down the hall. Tim followed him with Marty’s bag in hand.

“Bathroom’s on the right if you need it.”

Marty went into the bedroom and flopped on the bed. “Thanks, man.”

“I’ll just leave your bag here. We usually eat around 6 p.m. You’re welcome to join us.” Tim closed the door, pulled out his phone and dialed Diana. Tim walked to the kitchen. Diana picked up. “Hi, honey! Your brother, Marty, just showed up and is lying on the bed in our guestroom.”

“Did he say anything?”

“No, just thought you should know.”

“Okay. You should invite Mark over. Marty liked Mark.”

“Okay. Love you.”

“Love you, too.” Diana hung up.

Tim called Mark and got his answering machine. “Hey, Mark! Marty’s back in town! You should come over for dinner around 6.”

About 20 minutes later, Mark texted back. “See you at 6! 😊”

Tim ran to the store and grabbed a tub of ambrosia, a couple of pounds of Jo-Jo potatoes and 3 rotisserie chickens. He wasn’t sure how much Marty would eat, but if he fit the stereotype of weightlifters, he would want a lot of protein. Tim also picked up some chicken nuggets for the kids and 24 pack of beer. From what he remembered, Marty was a big drinker.

Tim picked up the kids from school. His youngest, Kimmie, was in kindergarten and his oldest, Tina, was in 2nd grade. “Hey girls, how was your day?”

“Great! I drew a pony!” Kimmie held up her representation of a pony. That would go on the fridge tonight.

“We had a test today,” said Tina.

“How’d you do?” asked Tim.

“I think I did okay. It didn’t seem that hard, but Sam was crying in the corner through most of it.”

“Why?” asked Tim.

“I dunno. Maybe he was tired or something. Sometimes, he doesn’t eat lunch. OHHH I LOVE THIS SONG!”

“ME, TOO!” squealed Kimmie.

Tim turned up the radio.  The rest of the drive was car karaoke with each daughter trying to shout over the other. When they arrived home, the girls grabbed their bags and jumped out the car. Tim handed the keys to Tina, and the girls ran to the door. Tim grabbed the groceries and walked up the path to the house. The girls went inside, and Tim could hear them squeal.

“UNCLE MARTY!”

Tim came in to see the girls crawling over Uncle Marty. The TV was turned to a sports channel. He put the bags in the kitchen and came back out to the living room. “Come on, girls, give Uncle Marty a break. He had a long day of travel.” Tim wasn’t sure that was true, but it seemed like a good enough excuse. “Kimmie, where’s your pony? Tina, take your bag to your room!”

Kimmie ran into the kitchen with her drawing. Tina grabbed her bag and took it to her room. Tim put the drawing on the fridge. The rest of the afternoon, Marty watched sports while the girls tried (and failed) to leave him alone. Tina and Kimmie almost didn’t notice when Diana came home. They each gave a quick hug and kiss to their mom and went back to Uncle Marty. Even though he was a big man who could be gruff, he was gentle with the girls.

When the doorbell rang, Diana sent the girls to get washed up. Marty went into his room, and Tim opened the door. “Hey, Mark! Glad you could be here!”

“I was glad to get your message. It got me out of a work engagement.”

“MARK!” Marty roared from down the hallway.

“Hey, Marty! How are things?”

Marty grabbed Mark’s hand and wrapped an arm around his shoulder. In one hand, he had a flagon. “Let’s eat!” Marty took Mark to the dinner table, which was already set.

“Mark! Mark! Mark!” The girls ran down the hallway and into the kitchen.

The family sat down. Conversation was simple. Marty was swigging from the mug he had brought into the dining room. The more he swigged, the louder he got and the more he used his arms to talk.

“What are you drinking? Alcohol doesn’t normally affect you, or at least, it didn’t at the wedding,” said Mark.

“Ambrosia! The nectar of the gods! What’s that white stuff?” Marty was exuberant and using his outdoor voice. It wasn’t yelling, but it was loud. Diana whisked the girls off to bed. They went protesting.

Tim looked at the ambrosia on the table as Marty took another swig from his never-emptying mug. “Umm, fruit salad with marshmallow fluff and coconut.”

“Sounds good! Pass it here so I can put it on my plate!” Marty had already taken an entire chicken and finished off the Jo-Jos. He put a heap of Tim’s ambrosia on hos plate. And a spoonful into his mouth. “MMM-HMMM, by the gods, it’s sweet, but good!” He pointed his spoon, and the motion flicked marshmallow and coconut at Tim. The glop landed on the table.

“So, what brings you to town?” asked Mark. Tim was glad his friend was there.

“I needed a break. A little time to myself. You know, I needed to get away from the business at hand. It’s not going very well and I needed to recharge my battery.”

“What do you do? I don’t remember from the wedding that we got into any details,” said Mark.

“You know, a little of this, a little of that. Ha! HA! HA!” The laugh was a little out of place, but it might have been the drink talking. There was more drinking, more talking and more laughter.

Diana came back. “Now, Marty, what’s the problem?”

Marty looked at her, “How do you do it, Diana? You were meant for greater things than this!” He held out his arms encompassing the house. “No offense, Tim, but clearly you must understand that you are not worthy of such a goddess.

Tim snorted, “What’s the meaning of this?” He frowned.

“I mean nothing by it, my good man, for it is clear that you are good and a man. But Diana is neither good nor a woman.”

“Now listen here, Marty! I won’t have this in my house!” Tim stood up. “You are drunk. Go to your room and sober up.”

Marty laughed and stood up as well. “Tim, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it. Diana, forgive me. It’s just this age. I’m the God of War!  But there is no real war now. There are just skirmishes and bombs and bodies. There’s no art to it. It used to be so much more than it is now. There’s no honor, glory or drama in it anymore. It wasn’t ever supposed to be like this. War should be about brotherhood and individual bloodshed.

“Instead, you got video game players with joysticks and drones and 2 old, fat people, who wouldn’t know how to fight if you put them in a ring and gave them training, one orange and one with a bowl cut threatening to blow up the planet. That’s my uncle’s job. He’s the God of Death. It’s got nothing to do with war. There should be gambits and cunning and trickery and honor. Now all we got is American football. It’s a disgrace, and it makes me depressed. What’s the God of War to do become the God of Games? Diana, do we have a God of Games?”

“What is he talking about?” Mark looked at Tim and then at Marty. They both remember the way the wedding chapel looked while they were on the dais, and they remembered their individual revelations of gods among them.

“Uh, I don’t think so. There are a couple of spirits that might try to claim the Olympic Games, but no gods.” She looked at Tim and shrugged her shoulders. “Maybe that’s the way to go…”

“But the world has a lot of wars,” said Tim.

“No, Tim, it has a lot of conflicts. They appear to be the same to the soldier and those on the ground, but they aren’t the same at all. Conflicts could be resolved if the parties got together and realized they wanted the same ideas. In a conflict, people are fighting for control of land or riches when all they really want is peace, love and safety. Conflicts are terrible, but they are never great because there is no universally recognized ideal behind them.

“Wars, on the other hand, are based on good versus evil. One group is clearly in the wrong and the world must unite to stop that group. The Trojan War was fought as much for Helen of Troy as it was for the idea of a woman’s ability to choose for herself who she was to love. That was the ideal behind that war. Unfortunately, it didn’t have a lasting impact after the war. World War II was such a war. War is great and terrible even for those who aren’t involved throughout the world. They last long, require payment in lives, blood and resources, and they make the world poorer.

“Conflicts enrich a few, have little effect on those not directly involved and can be ignored by the majority of people. Those involved in conflicts, especially the innocent wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, between the two. But I am no God of Conflicts – your human squabbles to control and kill each other holds no interest for me. It sickens me because you are capable of so much more. You are capable of confronting the evil hordes and defeating them. Instead, you waste your time and energy, so a few can profit from the misery of those you don’t know.

“Tim, there are no more wars. Just little men with little hands and big red buttons that make everyone afraid to confront the larger evils of the world, and that is not good for my business.” Marty seemed to deflate with the explanation, “How do you do it, Diana? You are the Goddess of the Hunt and yet, you hunt no more.”

“That’s not quite true, Marty. I still hunt; I just choose a different prey. I’m not sure that I can help you. Until men can see the evil in their midst and root it out, there will be no war. I don’t even know if such war is possible anymore. There are those who would wage it, but they have chosen different milieus. You need to seek them out and learn from them or the future of men and ourselves will be shorter than we expect. It’s a different war being waged, and people need you to adapt.” Diana lit a couple of incense sticks. The smoke floated up and into the room.

“…and then I said, ‘We’ll take ‘em down the hard way! And we did! By the gods, we did! Ha! HA! HA!” Tim and Mark joined Marty in the laughter.

Diana touched Tim on the shoulder. “Should I bring out the dessert?”

“Absolutely, honey…”

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