Blondhilda and Lady Luck
"Darling," Blondhilda whispered lusciously, holding a manicured hand over the phone's receiver. "It's your editor."
"Why does she want to talk to me tonight of all nights?" Stanley muttered, grabbing his poker chips from the pants he'd wore the day before and stuffing them in his pocket.
"I think she wants to know why you haven't submitted the manuscript you promised her two weeks ago," Blondhilda answered, literal minded as ever. "Should I tell her you're on your way to your nightly poker game and don't want to talk to her?"
"Tell her I'm not here," Stanley snapped, walking into the hall.
"Just a moment," Blondhilda said politely, putting the phone down. She followed Stanley into their spacious foyer, where he was pulling on a jacket. "Stanley, you are here. How can I tell her you are not here if you are here?"
"Don't be stupid," he said and walked out. A poker chip fell out of his pocket.
Blondhilda picked it. She watched him drive away. "He is now correct. I may accurately convey that he is not here." She slipped the poker chip into her bodice and returned to the phone.
* * *
After dinner, Blondhilda and Hello Sailor withdrew to the ladies sitting room for an evening of weapon honing and sparring.
"You're not concentrating, Blondhilda-san," Hello Sailor said, balancing on the back edge of the davenport, pirouetting and flinging a sushi-shaped eraser with precision. "I think I might be able to hit your most honorable self for once. I wonder what kind of plush toy my magical eraser will turn you into."
Blondhilda back flipped onto the top of a highboy and parried the hamachi handroll sloppily. "An irritated one," she answered, hopping down. "Stanley has been different since starting his 'poker nights.'" Blondhilda peered at Hello Sailor. "What are you wearing?"
Hello Sailor flopped onto the Davenport, fingering the chain at her neck. "Oh, it's a new necklace Dave gave me."
"The pendant looks like one of Stanley's poker chips."
"Yes. It's for luck."
"It's lucky for Stanley that forbearance is one of my godly traits," Blondhilda said, "for his recent conduct pleases me not." Hello Sailor shrugged. "Who is Dave?"
"Our new security guy. Don't you know him? I thought you took care of all security matters."
"I do," the warrior goddess replied. "And it is odd that I don't know who this Dave is. I interview and background check everyone who makes contact with our household. I should speak to him forthwith." Blondhilda absently put her hand down her bodice and scratched where Stanley's poker chip was chaffing her. "Forgetting about practicing," she said, tossing her sword aside and sprawling next to Hello Sailor on the davenport. "Let's do something else."
They watched reality TV and ate Velveeta on corndogs.
Later that night, Blondhilda made a right turn on Middlesex Road as per the GPS directions from her TeliPhone Quad on her way to deliver her sacred cargo, the preserved leaf of the Yggradasil world tree that was her beloved Stanley’s lucky charm for his weekly ritual game of Calamity Cate Hold It Poker. Blondhilda had at first thought that poker was some sort of sacred combat ritual, but Stanley had informed her that it was a card game that he played with his friends and fellow writers.
Blondhilda remembered her adventure with the Mighty Reza and his lovely consort Farrah to defeat the fanatic cult of Angra Mainyu devoted to unleashing the dark god upon the mortal plane. The three heroes saved Ancient Persia and the world and Blondhilda took away two especially fond memories: the best food she had ever eaten, and the Persian card game that bore a strong resemblance to the poker game that Stanley described. Poker may not have been a contest of ritual combat, but the game had high stakes and Stanley always came home with substantial winnings after Blondhilda had given him the Yggdrasil leaf.
The charm had heightened his deductive reasoning and powers of observation, but Stanley had assuaged her sense of honor with the reassurance that it only heightened his existing senses and did not affect the game itself so that the benefits of the sacred leaf did not constitute cheating. The Yggdrasil leaf provided Stanley with enough of an advantage to improve his game, but he still lost his share of hands and even with the leaf he could barely keep up with Heather.
Stanley’s friend and fellow author Claire Guang enjoyed playing poker and even devised the rules for the game’s popular iteration; Calamity Cate Hold It. Claire had named the card game after the feisty red-headed anti-heroine of the best-selling novel series based on her postmodern take on the spaghetti western genre. Claire had supposedly based the Calamity Cate character on an ex, which made a sort of sense in Blondhilda’s opinion, although instead of breaking Claire’s heart Calamity Cate along with her inseparable lover Virginia “Ginny” McBride defied the societal conventions of turn-of-the-century America and left behind significant body counts on their hard-boiled misadventures. Claire devised a variation on poker for a Calamity Cate novel and then realized the potential to develop it into an actual game.
Blondhilda liked Claire as much as Stanley did, and her beloved writer even allowed Claire to write her own Blondhilda stories. Blondhilda never ceased to be amazed by how such a seemingly sweet and well-adjusted author could write such violent, cynical fiction. Blondhilda had enjoyed her adventures well enough even if she could not necessarily call them “fun,” but she was always glad to have her creative direction back under Stanley’s able pen.
Claire was indeed a pleasure, but her partner Heather was something else. Heather worked a straight laced day job as a senior associate at a law firm, but outside of her work environment she was akin to Loki himself. After that one fateful night when Claire brought her to the weekly poker game to help her unwind after a stressful work day, Heather took to the ritual like a proverbial fish to water. She played cards like a shark and drank all of Stanley’s friends under the table with both beer and whiskey. She also had an encyclopedic knowledge of classic rock and heavy metal that had all the men all but swooning at her feet. No matter how many times Claire commented on her and Heather’s relationship status, the men of Stanley’s poker group repeatedly offered to take her out and asked in disbelief how such a treasure like Claire’s roommate could possibly be single. Blondhilda shook her head and rolled her eyes in the same manner as Claire and Stanley at the thought. As Stanley had told her, men often only saw what they wanted to see and conversely refused to see what they did not want to see.
Heather had consistently cleaned up at poker night and even with the Yggdrasil leaf, Stanley only won as often as the fearsome attorney. Stanley had bought her many precious gifts with his winnings, including the TeliPhone Quad that guided Blondhilda to her destination. Blondhilda had trouble navigating the labyrinthine streets of suburbia, so the TeliStar GPS proved a godsend. Blondhilda took to modern technology like Heather took to poker night, as these modern gadgets brought her joy that she never experienced in Asgard. Stanley had sent her a text message that he had forgotten the all-important Yggdrasil leaf and would lose his shirt to Heather without it. He punctuated the urgency of his request with a high-resolution photo of Heather seated at the table with a tall stack of poker chips in front of her and a wicked grin lighting up her face. Blondhilda could not quite make out the edge of the photo, but it looked like Claire striking the heel of a hand against her forehead with an embarrassed expression.
Blondhilda proceeded post-haste lest Stanley lost this week’s game and be left unable to buy her another gift during the weekend. The Norse goddess had her eyes set on the newly released CapSul Duo and she would not let anyone take that away from her, friend or no. The location of the poker game rotated weekly with tonight’s game hosted at the house of Brad Ellis, naval veteran and best-selling author of nail-biting, pulse-pounding techno thriller adventure novels. An author of Brad’s status unfortunately lived in the most exclusive neighborhood in town that was several miles uphill. Blondhilda gathered her resolve and trudged up the steep grade for Stanley and for victory. Although arduous, her path was effectively a straight line at this point so Blondhilda deftly opened the CycloPedia app to brush up on the rules of Calamity Cate Hold It Poker.
Blondhilda reached the summit of Ridgecrest Drive and stood at the door of the Ellis mansion. She gently squeezed the Yggdrasil leaf to extract a single drop of its sacred dew that would leave her as refreshed and renewed as if she had drunk a bottle of water and had a full night’s sleep. Blondhilda knocked on the door, keeping in mind Stanley’s admonition that the rules of Midgard required her to knock on a locked door and patiently await a response rather than kick it down and barge in. Blondhilda restrained herself and after a moment of forbearance the front door opened. Blondhilda saw before her a burly man with a salt-and-pepper flattop haircut and a cigar in his mouth sending off a spiraling trail of smoke. Blondhilda gave him the courtesy of a warrior maiden’s nod.
“Greetings good sir, I am here to see Stanley Chester Brown, a guest in your abode, on an urgent matter.”
The man gave her a knowing nod, and then turned to face behind him. He laughed and then bellowed:
“Stanley you old dog, you didn’t tell us you hired a stripper!”
by Chris Hugh
A cold light suffused the room and glinted off Blondhilda's drawn sword. The man lurched back, whispering an apology and bumping into Stanley, who had just come around the corner. Claire and Heather were close behind, arm in arm. All were laughing, hard greedy laughs without merriment. Claire slapped the man on the back and leered at Blondhilda. "Come on, Blondhi, do it. I'll tip good," Heather giggled.
Blondhilda turned her cold gray eyes to them.
"Tips, did you say?"
* * *
A few minutes later, Blondhilda's sword lay on the carpet, along with her mini-skirted hauberk, her dagger, her platinum breast plates, her vambraces, her shield and all her warrior raiment with the exception of her five-inch thigh-high battle boots and her low-cut leather cuirass. Heather was sitting on Claire's lap, Stanley was counting the money the women had stuffed into Blondhilda's G-string, Blondhilda was gyrating and the blue-eyed man who'd opened the door was happily shouting encouragement.
As Blondhilda's cuirass fell to the floor, the poker chip fell with it.
Blondhilda's face went suddenly went cold and she drew herself up to her full height. The room fell to silence. Heather slid off Claire's lap and sat looking at her hands. Stanley starred at his wife, his mouth hanging open. Slowly she bent to the floor, to the pile of clothing and other things she had discarded, but she was not moved by a modest desire cover her nakedness. Her hand closed around the hilt of her sword.
Stanley flinched as a tail of blood splattered into his mouth. Heather screamed as the blue-eyed man's severed head landed in the lap she had so recently vacated.
She fainted when the head laughed.
"I'm Loki, the trickster god!" the gruesome thing cackled. It spun around in Claire's lap, waggling its tongue obscenely. Stanley sat unmoving, his eyes unblinking, unseeing. Claire screamed and jumped to her feet, dropping the head to the floor.
The head laughed again.
Claire kept screaming. She did not stop for a long time.
* * *
The family therapist cleared her throat, and looked nervously at the people in her office. She was stroking her chin and slowly shaking her head.
"I really hope you can work with us," Stanley said. Heather and Claire nodded. "My wife and Loki are, in a sense, brother and sister." He glanced at Blondhilda, who was pressing her luscious pink lips into a hard thin line, and continued. "We've had so many problems with Loki, and now it's getting out of hand. He enchanted some poker chips to fill us with greed and in doing so he has involved Lady Luck, the very last goddess we want to antagonize." He sighed and furrowed his eyebrows. "We really need a new approach."
The therapist looked at Loki who was sitting on her sofa, bound from head to foot in coils of heavy chain. A black leather gag covered his mouth and a ragged bandage at his neck dripped blood. "Maybe you should go to a 'kink-aware' therapist."
A beautiful, gloriously fat woman with shining curls interrupted, laughing. Gold coins tinkled from the rich velvet of her jewel-colored clothing. Her laugh was like silver rain. "I think we'll have good luck with your medication-based approach," she said.
* * *
A year later, the therapist had a New York Times bestseller and her own talk show. New legislation had unexpectedly passed and Heather and Claire were legally married. Their families were overjoyed to learn that they were lesbians, and their dearest wishes were fulfilled when they both somehow managed to become pregnant without male intervention.
Loki had not played a trick on Blondhilda or Stanley since that fateful poker night.
Everyone who had invested in Ritalin, Adderall or Prozac was a millionaire.
Blondhilda and Stanley ran into Loki occasionally, and he was friendly and engaging. Stanley had grown to like him, and even Blondhilda was thawing. When the three laughed together, recalling Loki's tricks, his blue eyes were filled with kindness, caring, and charm.
But when he turned away, there was a cold, empty hatred that was new. Pin It Now!