Chasing Atalanta (Chapter 1)

Atalanta

Atalanta is a Greek character who is known with her deadly footrace. Her father, wanted her to be married, but Atalanta, uninterested in marriage and had taken virgin oath to Artemis , agreed to marry only if her suitors could outrun her in a footrace. Those who lost would be beheaded. Many guys tried and are killed. Only Hippomenes who was smart enough to ask help from Aphrodite. She gave him three golden apples, and whenever Hippomenes were behind of Atalanta, he just needed to throw one apple, and Atalanta would be distracted. Using such trickery, Hippomenes won and married to Atalanta. Therefore, chasing Atalanta represents something dangerous, something that is almost impossible. But, when a man finds a trick to chase her, he will be rewarded with something beautiful.

Chapter 1

“No!” I shouted to the laptop screen, sending my jolt of frustration. I pointed three sets of eyes that stared at me calmly and innocently as if they were a saint. My temple twitched and it wouldn’t be long before my vein would burst, splashing gush of blood on the screen. They would see their youngest brother dying in front of their eyes. At least, that would leave some scar to their cold heart. They must be kidding, right? My family was notorious in making unfunny jokes that always irked me. It had to be one of them. 

“There’s no way in hell I would do that!” 

“Patrick,” pleaded Mom. She sounded so exhausted. Now, whose fault was that? “We completely understand that you—well—struggle in New York, but we think for your well-being. It’s better for you to come back home. To Rosefield.” 

Every single normal person knew what Mom tried to imply. That I was an utter failure. That I was a giant meat ball with failure stamped in every inch part of my body. And just because they three were more financially successful than me, it didn’t mean that they had a right to jump on my ramshackle boat and try to sail it. No, that wouldn’t ever happen. This all was because of that damn play, wasn’t it? 

“Pat, honey.” Now was my sister Patricia’s turn to say another nonsense, using her enticing voice like I was still ten. She used to be my favorite sister, but she now also conspired against me in plotting this whole applesauce. I didn’t want to listen to her. “New York is really expensive and life as a playwright there can be challenging. Especially with your last play which wass not too successful. You can still write play in Rosefield while teaching at Mom’s school.”

Yes, more salt on the wound. This was because that damn play that I wrote which was not too successful—fuck it, Patricia. That whole play flunked majorly, and my whole life in New York depended on it. I still owed last month rent to Josh, my roommate. And even though he was cool person, I had promised him to pay off my debt as soon as I could. Then that damn play happened. 

Going back to Rosefield was a first strike. I couldn’t stand on being asked why I came back home, but I could live with that. Teaching drama in Mom’s school, on the other hand, was a final blow. What kind of loser I was, in my 27 years of my life, getting a job from my mother, of all people in the world, for God’s sake?

“Oh, come on, Patty! We all know you’re a dud, don’t make your life difficult.” Phil blabbered from his screen. 

“Fuck you, Phil!” I gave him the bird. 

“Pat, your language, please!” Mom protested. Oh, great. Now my mother wouldn’t allow me to profane. How old was I again? Ten? “Phil, you mustn’t call your brother dud.” 

Phil smirked triumphantly. 

He was the reason why I completely supported The Purge to be legalized in the country. Killing him would help many people. He was an obnoxious programmer, who just happened to be lucky when his startup company thrived. He had married to a hot woman—who I think was as blind as Ray Charles because what did she see in Phil?—had a great son, and lived luxuriously in Atlanta. Yes, killing him was necessary. 

Even though Mom asked him not to call me a dud, I knew what’s really inside of her mind. Who was she fooling? I was the duddest dud in my house. Mom, even in her sixties, was a headmistress in Rosefield High School. Hence, she could provide me a job as a drama teacher there. It’s because they were lack of people, but still. My sister Patricia was a data scientist in Pittsburgh who earned a hundred grand more than me annually. And Dad, well, he used to be a succesfull football coach. 

So, when I chose English as my major, they looked as though they supported my decision, but I knew those judging eyes. They didn’t care that I got accepted in NYU and not in a remote university in Puerto Rico or somewhere. Considering my tragic GPA (except for my English grade which I passed with flying colors) in high school, being accepted in NYU was definitely an achievement. Moreover, when I took Dramatic Literature as my minor, they had predicted my future, which unfortunately, was not too far from reality. 

“It may not pay too much, but at least it’s stable,” said Mom once again. Were they completely clueless and idiot to grasp that this was not about money, but matter of pride? They can try to interview 27-year-old men out there and ask them if they wanted to get a job from their mother and live under the same roof with their mother? If there was one man said yes, I would gladly guillotine my head and bestowed it upon them like Macbeth. 

“And you just broke up with Jennifer.”

Leave it to Mom to make me feel worse. Damn it, Mom! Way to go. She decided to bring the topic about Jennifer up now. Thinking about her now took me to a few weeks before that damn play when she decided to break up with me. She said those you’re-too-good-for-me cliché that I completely couldn’t comprehend. I mean I think we were happy, our sex was great, and even if I couldn’t take her to fancy restaurant in New York for dinner, she enjoyed our modest dinner in my apartment. Sometimes I cooked. Sometimes we ordered takeaway from a deli not too far from my apartment. So, I didn’t understand where it had gone wrong, but I had a feeling it’s because I couldn’t satisfy her financially. Ha! Apparently satisfaction in bed was not enough. 

“Hi, Uncle Patrick! Hi, Aunt Patricia! Hi, Grandma!” Adam suddenly appeared on laptop screen, sitting on Phil’s lap. Adam was Phil’s son, and he was really cool unlike his father. And our feeling was mutual. When I gave him a train model as Christmas present, he thought I was the coolest uncle in the world. 

“Hi, Adam! Why are you not sleeping yet?” Mom asked in her cutesy voice. She always did that every time she talked to little kid. 

“I’m waiting for bedtime stories from Dad. What are you doing?” replied Adam while his little fingers fiddled with the keyboard because random letters shdfeetyrboobjk started to pop out from chatting screen. I tried my hardest not to laugh like an adolescent. I knew that this was unintentional, but I needed every humor injection that I could get. 

“We’re just talking, Adam Sweetheart,” answered Patricia in the same cutesy voice as Mom. 

“Talking about what?” asked Adam. More random letters appeared on screen. 

“About Uncle Patrick, tiger.” Phil lifted Adam down. “Now, you go back to your bedroom. I will get back to you soon, okay?”

“Okay, Dad!” Adam jumped ecstatically. “Bye, Uncle Patrick! Bye, Aunt Patricia! Bye, Grandma!” Adam ran off before disappeared from the screen. 

“So, I guess if Patrick insists on not going back to Rosefield, I believe we can’t force him.” More blabber from Phil. “Sorry, I have to leave now. I still have a son whose future is bright, unlike someone here.” 

I decided to ignore him. 

He smirked. “Nah, just kidding, Patty. You know I love you. I love you too, Mom and Patricia. Bye.” 

“Bye, Phil,” replied Mom. Phil went and left us with an empty dining chair on his screen. 

“So,” Patricia broke the silence, “what do you think?”

“No.” I resisted. 

“Please, Patrick.” Mom exhaled. “Dad will be glad to see you home. He needs you. You’re always his favorite.”

Mom is the most Machiavellian person that I know. She knew how to exploit weakness to reach her personal goal. She knew that Dad was my weakness. 

I swallowed hard. My mind flew back to Rosefield, to our house that directly faced to a small lake there, connected to Lake Michigan by a small stream. I could smell fresh pine tree that grew in our yard. I could see Dad lying on his bed, unable to move. And then, I began to realize how I missed him, my favorite family member. He’s the one who trained me football hard, but he was also the one who was the most proud when I scored a touchdown. He was also the one who didn’t judge me when I left for NYU when I could go anywhere else with sports scholarship. 

Living in New York seemed nonsensical for me now. 

“Well?” Mom asked expectantly. 

I inhaled and replied, “This summer. I lost, Mom. There’s some business that I need to settle with first here. But, I will go back to Rosefield this summer. In June.”

I could hear Mom and Patricia sounded so relieved before I turned off my laptop. I believed if they were in same room, they would hug each other like I just won a Super Bowl or something. 

I rub my temple. Going back home, huh? What kind of mistake that I just made once again?
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