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  • Kevin O'Keefe

Prometheus Returns

By Johnny Cisco, Cub Reporter, Addison County Independent

The trouble started in the middle of a meadow outside Middlebury, Vermont. It was at dusk on an unseasonably cold and windy evening in early May. A hooded figure, in a torn shirt and black boots dropped from the lowest limb of the last American elm tree. This great species of tree once spread its’ majestic limbs over the eastern half of this continent but this is the last surviving member of that species. This mighty tree stretched sky ward so that this reporter had to crane his neck just to get a glimpse of the top. It seemed to dissolve into the clouds high about this idyllic New England town.


The hooded figure – whom the authorities have positively identified as a titan named Prometheus — held in his left hand a lit torch. Cows ceaselessly chewed their cud and scattered in wide eyed fear as Prometheus was thrown backwards by an enormous bolt of lightening that split the tree just as his boots landed in the soft earth. He ran and did not look back.

The sound his torch made as the titan strode across the field was very much like a light - saber in a Stars Wars movie. A varrom or a varush was heard as he passed. The fire itself seemed thirsty as if it were licking up the oxygen around it. It’s not possible to ascribe emotion to an element but it seemed to be relishing its role in this historic event. Thunder railed and lightening screamed as Prometheus sprinted across the field. The darkness broke occasionally, as the flares of lightning that followed his course warned him to return. Was it an accident of fate or design that none of the lightening strikes ever came close enough to destroy him?


These fields and cows belong to Abner Doubleday an organic dairy farmer. He was interviewed later and said, “It seemed to me that the titan was almost daring the lightning to hit him. He stopped to tie his shoes although, as he passed me, I noticed that he was wearing boots without laces.”


How Prometheus spent his time the rest of that evening is unaccounted for at this time. The next time the titan was spotted was at a roadside tavern called Dutch’s. It was then just after midnight, and at that unhappy hour, the only patron at the bar was a man named Hank Struthers. Mr. Struthers was intoxicated. He lifted his 250-pound frame off the bar stool and stumbled to the jukebox. When he realized he was out of quarters, he gasped and pounded his hands in frustration. The bartender, a man named Ron Reagan (no relation to our past president) told Hank to, “Go home and sleep it off.” But as Hank managed to get back to the bar he started sang:


Please, Mister please, don't play B-17

It was our song, it was his song, but it's over.

Prometheus entered the bar, assessed the situation, and with nary a nod to the bartender, lifted Hank’s leather motorcycle jacket off the stool. On the back, in bright red letters were the words Indian Runner Motorcycle Club. In the top pocket were a set of keys and some Varnet sunglasses. Outside the bar, Prometheus started the motorcycle, a black 2008 Harley Davidson Street Glide with enough custom chrome to warrant sunglasses, even in the evening. Hank, his reactions dulled by the twenty-first beer of the night stumbled out of the bar and said, “Hey fuck bucket, off my bike.” Prometheus smiled apologetically and dismounted. Then he kicked Hank right in his nutsack. Hank howled and doubled over in pain. Mr. Reagan was busy doing his count and by the time he got to the porch the only thing he saw was the titan on the Harley fishtailing out of the parking lot.


The next morning at the intersection of routes 7 and 29, a twenty-three year old traffic cop named Wilbur Dudley, a man raised to respect authority was set to begin another day of work. Wilbur liked his job and always got high year-end assessments. The town fathers planned to install a new light at the intersection in 2020. When it becomes functional Wilbur will be out of a job. Until that great day comes Wilbur will stand on a small platform in the center of the intersection and direct vehicles and pedestrians when to stop and go. It wasn’t the choicest assignment on the police force but Wilbur learned long ago, “Not to question why, but to simply do and die.”


The March of Progress, such as it is, is finally coming to Middlebury, Vermont and Wilbur is happy to be a part of it. A new traffic light is front page news at the Addison County Independent, three times in the last month.


Once, they even printed a picture of Wilbur in his little box. The caption below the photo joked, "Which way did he go Wilbur?” The article pointed out and commended Wilbur’s personal flair as he commands the cars and trucks to wait for the occasional pedestrian to cross the intersection. Wilbur was quoted as saying, ‘The best part of my day is being there for a child on the way to school an elderly person who needs more time to across. These are the moments that give my day meaning.’

Prometheus entered this intersection at 9:03am, just as Wilbur got onto his box. The motorcycle stopped a few feet from Wilbur’s stand. The titan was wearing those wraparound sunglasses so it was difficult to see his sparkling blue eyes. Wilbur didn’t at first understand that this motorcycle was not broken down or that the rider was not awaiting directions. Prometheus stepped off the bike and flicked a switch on the Harley’s radio.


The Talking Heads Burning Down The House (the live version) played at volume eleven. David Byrne sang:

Anybody got a match?


Prometheus struck a match against the headlamp of the bike and lit a cigarette.

There was a synthesizer chord and at that moment, as if choreographed to the music, Wilbur Dudley, traffic cop, shimmered in his body and began to do something he had never done before - dance.


As he danced he removed his badge, hat, orange vest, even his dark blue shirt, his belt was unbuckled and dropped to the road with it’s attendant night stick, ticket book and mace (traffic cops in Vermont do not carry guns). He was stripped of all semblance of traffic cop-ness and became what he always was – an ordinary man.


Wilbur tried but found he couldn’t speak as he whirled to the center of the intersection. His body moved as if under another’s control, yet somehow the movement looked authentic, like he dropped a persona that was never his, and now moved from his very soul, for the first and only time in his young life. His legs parted and he stood frozen in anticipation as he straddled the center of the intersection awaiting his destiny.


Prometheus put an unlit torch between Wilbur’s legs. Wilbur’s inner thighs instinctively gripped the unlit torch. Then Prometheus strode ten feet or so in front of Wilbur and wheeled to drop into a tai-chi master’s tiger crouch. A ball of fire shot out from Prometheus’s finger and lit the torch. Flames exploded in front of Wilbur’s crotch. He looked up surprised but awake. Prometheus lit another torch from the one already burning between Wilbur’s legs. He gave the traffic cop the second torch. He then returned to the motorcycle to smoke and watch.

Wilbur became something akin to the signalman on the deck of an aircraft carrier spinning, twirling, bopping, and dancing with fire. A third torch was produced from the motorcycles’ saddlebag. Prometheus tossed it to Wilbur who caught it and lit it from the others. Then Wilbur began to juggle the flaming torches. All these actions were accompanied by the music from the Talking Heads:


Three hun-dred six-ty five de-grees

Burning down the house

and later:

I’m an ordinary guy

Burning down the house

As the song ended, Wilbur, still carrying the three burning torches in one hand ran at full speed down the road towards Vergennes,VT. Unlikely as it sounds he became a one-man

Olympic-style relay racer to pass the splendid torch to the next traffic cop.


Prometheus finished his smoke by the side of the road and awaited the authorities.

They arrived. They always do, don’t they?


The delegation was headed by another titan, one Blacksmith to the Gods — none other than Mickey Rourke. Yes, that Mickey Rourke— the actor. He fettered Prometheus in adamantine chains and took him high above this verdant town, up to a break between peaks—Lincoln Gap. There, with a view of the Mad River in the distance, Prometheus was shackled to an exposed outcrop of rock on Mount Abraham.


Mr. Rourkes’s first line of dialogue, delivered with his trademark understatement was, “Why Pro? You had a good thing going. You had all the chicks, a great future, a direct line to inherit it all and to go and do this? Makes no sense.”


Prometheus who had known Rourke since his Diner and Body Heat days said, “Yeah I imagine it wouldn’t make any sense to you Mick, but then, you’ve always been a company man.”


“Why?” Rourke asked, holding back tears, as he hammered away at the chains.


Prometheus never really answered, just smiled his enigmatic smile and rubbed his three-day beard against his own shoulder. Perhaps he too was flabbergasted, speechless by what he had done. It was such a brick-through-the-window-shop of the gods. Gods, of which he was one. And not just anyone but the heir apparent.


It occured to this reporter that perhaps Prometheus had seen this entire action and reaction before it happened. His name, after all does mean forethought. He’s always been known among his fellow titans as a trickster and truth-teller. Every culture has one: one who tells the emperor he is naked and his butt smells. What if where he was right now was just the way he saw it in his mind? That thought might comfort and soothe the pain he now felt.


Mickey Rourke finished hammering the last of the four shackles to the iron stakes. He wiped the sweat off his brow and put away his tools. He bid his old friend farewell and headed down the mountain to his trailer, knowing he had done some of his best work, leading him to fantasize about a best supporting nod from the Academy.


Prometheus remained on the side of Mount Abraham for a series of chilly nights – there were still flurries, even in May, and bright, hot cloudless days. Then his father Zeus helicoptered down. The silver in his long hair and the gold epaulets on the shoulders of his uniform picked up the fading light.


This reporter got Mickey Rourke to put a voice-activated recorder just behind a cairn of rocks not far from where Prometheus was shackled. The following is a transcript of their conversation:


Prometheus: It was my last resort, a last ditch effort to try to get you to see me. I tried everything: acting like you, acting the opposite of you, getting into trouble, joining the fraternity of the gods, rebelling, protesting, running away from my responsibilities, the acting thing, all of that: desperate efforts to try to get you to intercede. This was your chance to show me that you cared.


Zeus: I didn’t act more decisively because I wanted you to make your choice, but this? This crosses a line that cannot be undone, paid for, or fixed.


P: Whenever I reached out for you. I found that you were smoke.


Z: Where there is smoke there is fire.

P: Where there is smoke there is fire meeting water.


Z: But Fire, that is mine, ours.


P: I reject your legacy. I reject my inheritance.


Z: That is for us. They won’t know how to handle the enormous responsibility that comes with fire.


P: Gods afraid of losing their power always say something like that. As if it were their destiny and theirs alone to have control of all the elements. You had your chance to stop me with your lightening bolts. Why didn’t you?

Z: You are my son. I could never destroy you that way.


P: No you prefer something slower, that leaves less of a trace, something like indifference. Well at least I found out that your loyalty to me means something, even if it conflicts with your loyalty to power.


Z: You have destroyed, single-handedly destroyed, the natural order that has been in place for time immemorial.


P: There is nothing natural about enslavement. What are you afraid of? They’ve had it now only a short time and look, look out over this valley to see how they’ve grown, changed, made life better for all mankind.


Z: Mankind? Their kind… but what about us? What separates us from them now? It was a clear indication that we were different and you have destroyed that. The gods are very angry with you.


P: Good. I’m angry with them and if not for your strangle hold and influence, most of which is bought, you wouldn’t have any consensus among them. Your problem is that you are hanging onto a way of life that’s outdated. You need to chillax Dad.


Z: Why have you done this to me? What did I ever do to deserve this?


P: As you were so fond of saying,“Do whatever you want to just don’t do it near me.”


Z: It was for your own good, everything that I did was for you.


P: When’s my birthday? How old am I? What’s my favorite meal?


Z: Irrelevant. So I missed a birthday or two.


P: Not your own, never your own and your cake was always the biggest and in the paper the next day you always had the big smile, the big cigar, the big goddess on your lap.


Z: That was a show. You knew that. All a show for mankind that power and order are in place. Your brothers accepted that and thrive in the pantheon of the gods. Your mother knew that and accepted it. That was part of our understanding.


P: That wasn’t a marriage. That was indentured labor with a goddess that you ground down

until she was a pile of ash at your feet.


Z: You know nothing of our marriage and you never will.


(Long Pause, wind rustling)


Z: So now you are here and you probably knew this was where you’d end up.


P: Yes.


Z: You love them that much?


P: Them? No, they are…not my kind. I love fire. After a thousand years or so here I expect to learn to love my destiny the way Sisyphus loves his rock. Maybe I’ll even come to love the eagle that comes here every night to eat my liver.


Z: Sisyphus?


P: Yeah… he’s on the next mountain over. I yelled across to him the other day… seems happy as a clam, said he wouldn’t know what to do with his life if it weren’t for that boulder, even knowing he would eventually be overcome by its weight. Seems he felt useless before he found it. When it rolled passed him it couldn’t stop him skipping down after it to begin again - laughing the whole time.

Zeus returned to his helicopter. The loud machine took off in a swirl of lights and trumpets fanfare.


Then on a star-lit night, just a few weeks later, Prometheus woke from one of his momentous dreams and uttered these words:


“The drop of water comes down from above. It seeps to a lower level. It oozes a course through the soil and the sub soil. It cruises on a well-worn path. In a cavern that has never been warmed by the sun waits a reservoir. Many such drops of water formed it. From some fifty feet above the floor of the cavern, the drop reaches the end of a large stalactite. A stalactite is an icicle shaped deposit of calcium carbonate. Drops of percolating calcareous water form it. The drop pauses a second, while I inhale. It looks as if it might be deciding, but at that height there is only one thought, and that is of falling. When the water calls there is only one thing to do- answer her. Now, it is off. Floating and bending it’s way down, the way water will if given a chance, to the mirror like surface of the reservoir. It isn’t a real mirror because a mirror needs light and there is no light here. The drop hits the surface of the reservoir and makes the most delicious sound. The cavern is a perfect echo chamber. It boasts again and again of its newest arrival. It is a celebratory time for the journey is over for the drop. The drop instantly loses its identity around so many others. Below the cavern there should be burners or engines or molten lava - something for heat. There isn’t, or if there is their fire has gone out. They’ve been overwhelmed by the immensity of the tranquil, black water. It seems hard to believe that a drop of water in this reservoir once percolated it was so full of energy and passion. It must be time to light a fire somewhere.”


What followed next has been well documented elsewhere as the only earthquake (over 7.2 on the Richter scale) ever to hit Vermont. That quake unleashed Prometheus from Mt. Abraham.


He remains at large today.

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