“Missing Athena” by Josh Green – Story 14 of Deal Me IN 2016

The Card: ♦4♦ Four of Diamonds

The Suit: For 2016, Diamonds is my suit for “contemporary Indiana authors”

The Selection: “Missing Athena” from the short story collection, “Dirtyville Rhapsodies” which I own an ecopy of and which I heard of via Melissa’s excellent blog, Avid Readers Musings. See her review of this collection here.  I picked this story because, as a Classics Minor back in my college days, I’m a sucker for any reference to the classical myths.🙂

The Author: Now based in Atlanta, Josh Green spent enough time in Indiana to write for both the Indianapolis Monthly magzine and the Indianapolis Star newspaper. I first heard of him at a book club meeting at Bookmamas Bookstore, where author Robert Rebein – also a creative writing professor – mentioned him as one of his former students whose work I should check out. You can find him online at http://joshrgreen.com

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/story roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in thislegacy project seal of approval 2 year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

Missing Athena

The Athena of this story is not the one we know from mythology. She is/was (a distinction of some importance in the story) the wife to one – and mother to the other – of the two characters in this story. We meet Hank Obelisk (love that name) and his son Joe while on a flight returning from Hank’s home town of Chicago to Atlanta, where he relocated to years ago after meeting and marrying the title character. He was a strapping young big-city fireman and she an upwardly mobile young professional. We learn of their life view a few flashbacks, after the dialog between Hank and Joe reveals that she is no longer with them, e.g. when flying over Georgia’s “black-green carpet of rolling hills and pines—down where his wife must be, somewhere.”

Frank’s relationship with Joe is the highlight of the story. Joe is a “precocious seven-year-old and only child, stores each word (of Frank’s) as undisputable fact.” Young Joe is a nervous flyer, though, and the early parts of the story detail Frank’s efforts to reassure him that “this landing” will be a good one, unlike the “last time,” which is the source of Joe’s anxiety. After the interplay between Frank and Joe, we learn via flashbacks of how Frank and Athena met and what may have become of her after her disappearance/abduction. Several times on the plane flight, father corrects son when the latter talks about Athena in the past tense. Frank hopes against hope that maybe she is still alive, been if deep down he knows she isn’t.

So at its core the story is a tragedy and maybe a chronicle of coping. The author compares Joe’s getting sick on the plane to the times he got sick shortly after His mom’s disappearance, when he got similarly ill. That nausea, though, “came from constant microwave pizzas, soda, and Twinkies—a clueless father’s specialty.” Toward the end of the story we are handed the following exchange.

“Look at that sunset,” Hank said one evening. “It’s like red sheets, ripped off the city and pulled out west.” Joe cocked his head, his eyes in philosophical squint. “I bet mom liked sunsets.” “ Likes ,” said Hank. “She likes them.

How sad.

I’ve come to enjoy the writing of Josh Green and suspect this won’t be the last of his stories that I share with the “citizens” of Bibliophilopolis.

Posts at Bibliophilopolis about other stories from Dirtville Rhapsodies:

Axis of Symmerty and The Delusional Mr. Necessary

Athena – the Goddess, that is – has graced my bookshelf for many years. Ever since Mom & Dad picked up the little statuette below on a trip to Greece about fifteen years ago.

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4 Comments

  1. Dale said,

    May 15, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    This story sounds really good! I’m going to have to find a copy of Dirtyville Rhapsodies. All of the Josh Green stories you have posted about sound like they are worth reading.

    Like

    • Jay said,

      May 16, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      I think you’d enjoy his stories (though they are rather dark), Dale. My favorite may still be The Delusional Mr. Necessary.

      Like

  2. Kenia Sedler said,

    May 16, 2016 at 11:47 am

    How sad.😦 I wonder about the author’s intent in picking that name for the wife? What is the symbolic connection between Athena the Goddess and Athena the missing, mortal wife?
    Personally, when I think of Athena I think of her love of war (in The Iliad) and her love of cunning (in helping Odysseus return).

    Like

    • Jay said,

      May 16, 2016 at 12:54 pm

      That’s a good question, Kenia, and for some reason I didn’t give that much thought – but now I am.🙂 There’s an “Athens” Georgia, and the greek city was named after her at least. GA is where the father and son live and where the author has relocated to.

      I always think first of Athena as the Goddess of Wisdom (I think that’s one of her “responsibilities” anyway). This author’s stories have included a lot of great names, like “Bob Necessary” and, in this one, “Hank Obelisk.” I look forward to reading the rest of the stories in the collection. I don’t know if I can wait for the next round of Deal Me In to do it, though.🙂

      Like


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