Have you ever just needed to be reminded of what you mean to people? I guess even the Goddess of Victory does from time to time.
I left Mom’s office and took to the sky. I soared high above the clouds, flying at a speed that soon had me beyond human sight. Where was I going in such a hurry? I was more than halfway across Asia before I realized where I was and turned around. That sometimes happened when I was flying while distracted. I mean, I wasn’t distracted, more like deep in thought.
I slowed down and began to glide. I spotted Olympic Park below and landed, deciding to take a walk. The smell of melted snow and wet stone was lovely, reminding me of falling rain. I wandered toward the temple, letting my feet find their own path. I loved this place. I remembered walking the paved streets like it was yesterday. I sat on a bench near the temple and got lost in my thoughts.
The year was 1972, the height of summer tourism. The Vespas zipped through town, and you could hear honking cars all the way to Mount Olympus. I was often drawn to the temple, watching the people come and go as they sought the gods. On this particular day, I watched a young man taking photos of the tourists. He was smaller than most of the people he was photographing. I smiled as he went from person to person. He had one of those cameras that gave you a picture right away.
He would tip his hat and kindly ask each passerby if he could take their picture for a souvenir at a low cost of three dollars. He had an energy of delight as he took photos. One of the couples stood in a kissing pose and another in a proposal pose. They were so happy to have the picture. The girl wrapped her arms around the neck of the little photographer, kissing him on the cheek to thank him. The man gave him three drachma for capturing the moment for them. That was a lot of money. I watched how gracious the young photographer was. He told the man it was too much, but the man replied, “It will help you buy more film and make others happy to get a photo from you.”
It was a delightful exchange to watch.
The sun was setting now, and many tourists had returned to their hotels. The little photographer packed up his gear and was leaving the temple grounds. He turned back to the ruins as if he had forgotten something. He climbed the steps and knelt in what looked like a prayer. He laid something on the floor, then spoke these words:
“Dear lords and majestic ladies, I humbly thank you for the bounty I received today. Thank you, that I, a humble servant, may bring honor to you all. Thank you, Nike, for this victorious day. My family will eat and thrive because of you.”
My heart leaped as he said my name.
He stood up and left the area. I was curious as to what he’d left behind. Assuming my mortal form, I walked up the steps. There on the floor was a feather and a photograph. The picture was of a blurred figure sitting on a bench. The very one I’d been sitting on. I picked up the photo. I knew this was me, but how? How did he know I was there? No one ever knows unless I make myself known. I looked at the photo again and noticed he had written something at the bottom.
“Thank you for always watching over me. I know that there aren’t many pictures of you. Please accept this as my gift to you. Thank you for the feather. It has brought me so many victories. Your friend and servant, Gigio.”
I brought the photo to my heart, remembering the little boy who only wanted to help his family. Seeing his name brought me back to when I’d first met him.
He was a street urchin in Greece. I remember him trying to pickpocket my brother as we walked on the roads in our mortal forms. Zel didn’t take kindly to it and grabbed the little boy’s hand. I’d stopped him from hurting the child, and we’d moved into the alley using godspeed, catching the child off guard. Sometimes we would forget this wasn’t good for humans. The little boy threw up.
“Oh, my,” I said, trying to hold the little one’s head.
“Well, shit! Nike!” Zelus exclaimed.
“Zelus, look what you did,” I snapped at my brother.
“I didn’t mean to make him sick.”
The child stood up and cried, fear in his eyes, thinking we were going to hurt him.
“There, there, don’t cry, little one. We won’t hurt you.” I tried to reassure him.
“Speak for yourself. Give me back my clip, you little…”
“Zelus!” I snapped at my brother.
“What? He stole my clip.”
“You mean he tried to.” I pointed to the pocket on his trousers where his money clip was hanging out of his pocket.
“What? I thought…”
“Brother, we are both too quick for that to happen.” I rolled my eyes at Zelus as he put his clip back into his trousers. “Now, little one,” I said as I looked back at the small child standing in front of us. “Why were you trying to steal from my brother?”
The child looked at the ground, fiddling with his shirt.
“Answer her, boy.” Zel’s voice was stern.
I placed my hand on Zelus’s leg to calm him.
The child looked up at me. His eyes widened, and he quickly dropped to the ground. “Please, goddess, don’t kill me. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” he sobbed.
My head shook in surprise, and I glanced at Zelus. We hadn’t thought that this child could see us for who we really were. I put my hand on the little boy’s back to comfort him.
“We won’t harm you, sweet little one. Will we, Zelus?”
“Of course not, we…well, I just wanted to scare you a little so you wouldn’t try this again.”
“I…I won’t ever, I promise.”
I smiled at Zel.
“He doesn’t know us very well,” Zelus remarked.
I laughed, as did Zel. “Oh, you poor dear.”
“Why do you think we will kill you?”
“You’re gods. Papa says we must never anger a god because they will kill you.”
“And what makes you think we are gods?” Zelus asked.
The little one looked up at us. Zelus handed him his handkerchief. I took it and helped the little one blow his nose. “There. Do you feel better?”
“Yes, milady.” He smiled at me.
“Nike, how does he know?”
“I can see you’re glowing.”
“Mama says that I have a gift. I can see the good in people.”
“We are not people,” Zel corrected him.
“I know. I can almost make out your wings.” He traced a line around where Zelus’s wings would be.
“What? He’s lying.”
“No, sir. I must always tell the gods the truth.”
“But how do you know we are gods?”
“Papa works at the museum. He takes us there sometimes. We learned about all of the gods there. He taught us to bow down to them if we ever met one. If we don’t, the great gods will smite us dead.”
I giggled a little. Humans have the funniest ideas about us, I thought to myself.
Zelus laughed along with me. He sat on the ground next to the little boy. “What’s your name, kid?”
“My name, sir?”
“Yes, your name? You don’t see any other kids here, do you?”
“No, sir. My name is Josepi Rigiano Pappion, but that’s my papa’s name too, so they call me Gigio.”
I extended my hand to him. “It’s nice to meet you, Gigio. I am Nike.”
His eyes grew wide. “You are the Goddess of Victory.” He smiled real big.
“And this is my brother, Zelus. Zelus, come on, shake his hand so he knows you aren’t mad at him.”
Zelus extended his hand. Gigio was happy to meet us.
We sat there and listened to him tell us about his family and what he wanted to be when he grew up. I got that feeling in my chest when someone needed a victory. Zelus must have felt it, too.
We got up and escorted the little one out of the alley. We walked down the street with Gigio between us. We swung him back and forth, lifting him in the air. Zel put him on his shoulders as we headed to the market. Gigio picked all the vegetables, meat, and foods his family needed. We paid for the items, of course. With our arms full of packages, we happened upon a camera shop, and little Gigio stopped. He stared at all the different cameras in the shop’s window.
I knelt next to him, sensing his longing. “Would you like to go inside?”
“Oh, I can’t. I could never afford such a thing.”
“Isn’t that what you truly want to do?”
“It is, but Papa could never afford such a thing.”
I looked up at Zel, who nodded in silent agreement. Then, standing up, I took little Gigio’s hand. “Come on, let’s go inside.”
Gigio’s clothes were a bit worn. He had on a pair of short brown pants and a collared black shirt, with black socks and brown shoes. Zelus and I wore the finest of white linen. I was in a dress with a puffy petticoat and he had on a suit.
The shopkeeper looked us over. “Yeah, what do you want?”
“Sir, this young man would like to see your best camera,” I said, smiling at him.
The man looked over the counter to see Gigio.
“And just who is he to you?”
“I don’t see how that is any of your business, sir. But he is our little friend,” Zel replied.
“Humph, what’s a street urchin doing with the likes of you tourists?” the grumpy shopkeeper gruffed.
I knew what he meant. He was referring to the color of our skin. It’s enough to enrage a god that mortals still live like this. My brother knew precisely how to handle it.
“This lad is a ward of ours, and we are here from abroad to spoil him. Now, if you don’t mind, please show him the camera he wants.” Zelus took out his money clip and flashed it in front of the shopkeeper.
Not long after, we were at Gigio’s home. His father met him at the door. He was so surprised to see his son standing there with his arms full of groceries and packages all around him.
Zelus and I had left a note pinned to the lad explaining how he had come by such lavish gifts, and we left him.
That night we were sitting on the roof of Gigio’s house, listening to his family talking about the day the gods blessed them.
I looked at the picture Gigio had left for me, smiling. I knew he’d told no one about us. His family had told people in the village that a pair of angels had blessed them that day. Zelus and I were used to being called angels. That’s how we are kept alive to the mortals. We have done so many things like this. I had left Gigio a feather once a long time ago to thank him for his worship and for keeping our memory alive, and here he had returned the favor.
I sat on the park bench and noticed how big the trees were now. I needed this memory of Gigio.
“A happy Victory blessing on you, Gigio, my little friend,” I said. “It’s my turn to keep your memory alive.”