Home > My Favorites > Day One Hundred and Twenty-four: Diopet

Day One Hundred and Twenty-four: Diopet

A tiny bell tinkled as Avery opened the door into the small, dimly-lit shop, and the sound of the bell seemed to go on just slightly longer than it should have. The shop was lit with soft lamps that hung from a ceiling high above his head, and from small but tasteful wall sconces in between columns of cages that had dark, polished oak doors. Low tables displayed tastefully-arranged samples of merchandise with discreet price tags on small brass easels.

Everything the discerning customer needed if they were in the market to buy a god.

It was quieter that he thought it would be. He was used to pet stores, and the constant noises that come with them, but this place made him uneasy. Nothing in the cages made any sound, and there was no smell but that of wood polish and a light floral scent that seemed to come up from the carpet. He glanced back at the large etched-glass front window and for the first time noticed the white cat that sat there, watching the passers-by. It was sitting up, and held up one paw to beckon to customers. Avery shuddered and turned back.

A tall, thin man wearing an embroidered vest walked in through the door to the back room. “Ah, I thought I heard the bell,” he said. He extended a hand to Avery, who took it. “Welcome to Diopet, my name is Lerem. Lerem Kerr.” He pumped Avery’s hand up and down a few times and looked for all the world like a proud grandfather. “What can I do for you this fine evening?”

Avery looked around again at the cages. “I’m here for my son,” he said. He looked back at Lerem, who was watching him with an intensity that made him uncomfortable. His eyes were large and brown, and seemed to glow softly in the lamplight. “He’s turning thirteen this year, you see, and I thought I might buy him a god.”

Lerem clasped his hands together in front of him. “Excellent!” The smile that burst out on his face seemed genuine for a moment, but Avery took a step back anyway. “It’s always so wonderful when a child gets his first god – is it his first?”

“Yes,” Avery said. “We have a house god, of course, and one in the kitchen, but this will be Jick’s first.” He chuckled, and it felt forced. “He’ll probably forget to pray to it and the thing’ll fade away within a week, but you know how it is.”

“Ah, yes, I’ve seen it plenty of times.” Lerem started walking towards a rack of cages by the door, pulling a small silver key from his vest pocket. “Young people really do need to learn responsibility, though, and what better way to teach them?”

“Well,” Avery said, running a hand through his hair. “To be honest, I was thinking more along the lines of a puppy.”

Lerem’s hand froze as he was about to unlock a cage. Several emotions played across his face, and Avery wasn’t sure he wanted to know what they were. “Of course you were,” he said through clenched teeth. “Many people think of that, and I try to dissuade them as best I can.” He jingled the key. “Let’s see what we can do for you, shall we?”

Avery nodded and hovered behind Lerem as he opened a cage and took the tiny god out. It looked like an old man, with sea-green robes and a cascade of white hair and a beard. The little god stood on Lerem’s hand and looked at both men in turn. “This,” Lerem said softly, “is a very popular god with parents of teenagers. His specialty is in the sphere of studiousness and perseverance, and he’ll go a long way towards helping your boy do well in school.”

“I don’t think so,” Avery said. The god looked up at him sharply. “Jick does fine in school as it is. Straight A’s.”

“All right,” Lerem said, without too much disapproval in his voice. He nodded to the god, which walked off his hand back into the cage. Lerem scanned the row of cages and then selected another. Again, he opened it and the god stepped out. Or rather, it floated out. It looked like a constantly shifting spectrum of colors, always close to taking a shape that Avery could recognize, but never quite getting there.

“This one will do wonders for your son’s creativity,” Lerem said. “It’s in our Muse line of gods, very popular with teenagers.”

Avery rubbed his chin. “Hmm. Does it do poetry?”

“Of course,” Lerem said. “What kind of muse wouldn’t?”

“I don’t know,” Avery said. “I remember some of my poetry when I was his age. Rubbish stuff, really. I wouldn’t want to have been inspired to write more of it.”

Once again, Lerem nodded to the god, which wafted back into its cage. He put the key back into his pocket and turned to Avery. “Why don’t you tell me what you’re looking for, and I can get the best god for your needs. Sound good?”

“Sure,” Avery said. He thought for a moment, remembering how Jick had looked when he came home the night before. His son was smaller than other boys, and had started drifting towards a fashion that made him look smaller and skinnier. Lots of black, baggy shirts, black, baggy jeans, and he’d somehow managed to get the house god to turn his hair black and make it longer so that it could hang over his eyes in what he probably thought was a romantic fashion. He spoke quietly, when he spoke at all. He didn’t go out with the friends he used to be inseparable from. He didn’t seem excited about the new things he was learning, or interested in the world the way he had been. He was turning into a new person before Avery’s eyes.

He wasn’t the boy that Avery remembered. He missed the son that Jick used to be. “I just want my son to be happy again,” he said. He blinked his eyes clear and coughed quietly.

Something in his expression softened Lerem. The man nodded and patted Avery gently on the shoulder. “I see,” he said. He nodded again. “That is a difficult age, thirteen.” He started to walk to the cages on the other side of the shop. “I remember when my boys turned thirteen, one after the other. They seemed like strangers in my own house.” He glanced back. Avery looked at him for a moment, and then dropped his gaze to the floor. “But they get over it,” Lerem continued. “With time and patience.” He took out the key and opened another cage. “This, of course, should help.”

The god standing on his hand was female, or at least it looked female. She had black hair that fell in curls down her back and wore soft, generous skirts. She looked like he’d always imagined a peasant woman would look – at least the ones in the movies. Stocky, but possessing a kind of beauty that could never be achieved through artifice. When Avery approached, her eyes found his, and it was like she was the only other person in the room. She was a source of warmth, of peace, something that Avery hadn’t felt in a while, and he wanted to unburden himself of everything that had been on his mind that day, that week – ever. He put his hand to his mouth and bit his knuckle. Lerem whispered a word, and the god looked away. When she did, that immense pressure abated, and Avery sagged. It was all horrible and wonderful at the same time.

“She’s a listener,” Lerem said gently. “That’s what she does.” He smiled lovingly at the god. “She will never pass judgment or repeat what she has heard. She will simply listen.” He looked back up at Avery. “You’d be surprised how big an effect that can have.”

Avery shook his head. “Not really, no.” He wiped his eyes again. “I’ll take her.”

Lerem’s smile was genuine this time. “Excellent,” he said. “We’ll do the paperwork and you can be on your way home in no time.”

The paperwork was formidable, but Lerem was able to streamline the process. Insurance forms, liability waivers, a payment plan, a guidebook, and a troubleshooting pamphlet later, Avery was holding a small gilded cage under his arm. It had been covered with a deep red cloth and tied underneath. “Thank you,” Avery said.

Lerem shook Avery’s hand one more time and held the door open for him. As he passed the window, Avery held up the package so that the cat could see it. The cat seemed to smile, and it executed a simple bow as Avery walked away.

Home was only an hour away. Avery held the cage on his lap as he rode the train, and thought about how much he was looking forward to seeing his son again.

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