Chapter no 32 – Grover Eats My Leftovers

The Chalice of the Gods

The worst part of it all?

Demi bags—as in bags of leftovers for demigods—were a real thing.

Naomi gave me an insulated white sack with DEMI BAG! written in red letters above a sketch of smiling children with their tongues hanging out, waiting for tasty treats.

I’m not sure what I found more insulting—the fact that the gods treated their kids like pets, or the fact that Poseidon had never once brought me any leftovers. Naomi loaded me up with primo pastries, though she didn’t include any clotted cream.

Somehow, I made it back across the Olympian bridge without being accosted by minor gods or rabid dryad fans demanding Annabeth’s autograph.

As I took the elevator down to the mortal world, “I Got You, Babe” was still playing. Gods almighty, how long was that song? Or maybe the Olympians just had it on a loop to torture their visitors.

I realized I was shaking from delayed fear. All the adrenaline rushed out of my body. I could still see Athena’s eyes boring into me, so much worse than the gaze of a lion. Unlike Lucius, the goddess of wisdom couldn’t be pacified by a scratch behind the ear—or at least, I wasn’t going to be the one to try.

I took off Annabeth’s cap, which helped a little. The itching stopped immediately. I expected my skin to be covered in red welts, but my arms looked no different. By the time I reached the lobby, I was feeling almost calm again.

The doors slid open. I took a deep breath and strolled out of the elevator, doing my best to act casual. I dropped my stolen key card near the front desk. There was no sign of Grover, though when I passed one of the mortal guards, she was humming “Get Lucky.” The sentry at the front desk didn’t try to stop me, but I’m pretty sure he narrowed his eyes when he saw my demi bag.

Once out on Fifth Avenue, I spotted Grover at the end of the block, waving his sparkly Hula-Hoop at me.

“Lobby security let me off with a warning!” he said as he trotted up. “And did you— Ooh, a demi bag! Thanks!”

Grover dove in like a horse with a grain sack . . . which I mean in a completely complimentary and positive way.

“Yum,” he said. “You know what these pastries need?” “Clotted cream?” I guessed.

He got a dreamy look on his face. “I was going to say strawberry jelly.

But yeah . . . clotted cream. Anyway, tell me what happened!” I gave him the rundown on my fabulous brunch experience.

“Llamas in Crete?” Grover frowned. “You sure they weren’t vicuña or guanaco?”

“You know, I didn’t get the chance to ask while I was hiding under the pastry cart.”

“That’s a cliché. But you met Lucius the lion! I hear he tells hilarious jokes. . . .” Grover must’ve registered the blank look on my face. “Which of course you didn’t have time for. It sounds like everything worked out, though!”

“Yeah,” I said. “As long as Athena doesn’t report me to the Olympian border patrol. Or as long as Zeus doesn’t find out I sneaked into his brunch. I’ve decided not to mention this incident to anyone at camp.”

His goatee quivered. I worried I’d offended him somehow. Then he sniffled, and I realized he was on the verge of tears.

“I’ll be honest, Percy . . . the most scared I’ve ever been? It was probably in that Cyclops’s cave in the Sea of Monsters, when I was all alone. . . .” He wiped his nose, which made the Hula-Hoop sparkle cheerfully. (Because Hula-Hoops have no sense of propriety.)

“But today,” he continued, “when I watched you wrestling Gary . . . ?

That was a close second. I really thought I was going to lose you.”

My heart felt like it was being filled with a particularly heavy Olympian beverage. “Ah, G-man . . . we came through it okay. We always do.”

Sniffle. “I know. But every time . . . I feel like we’re tempting fate. Like eventually our luck will run out. And if I lost you . . .”

“Hey,” I said. “I’m fine. Besides, you’ve been in a lot scarier spots than today. I mean, Medusa’s lair, the Underworld—”

“Nah,” he said. “Nothing is scarier than watching your friend struggle and not being able to help.”

I put a hand on his shoulder. “But you did help. You know how I was able to beat Gary?”

I told him about the daydream that got me through the wrestling match— of Annabeth and me and him, dozing in the sunshine at a cottage on the seashore.

He listened intently, like he was almost as hungry for the story as he was for the demi-bag goodies. “I had white ear hair?” he asked.


“That makes sense. And what was cooking for lunch?” I thought about it. “Probably enchiladas.”

He sighed with contentment. “Okay. That’s good. I can believe in enchiladas.”

He gave me a hug that reminded me how much my ribs hurt, but honestly, I didn’t mind. We probably looked strange standing there on Fifth Avenue, just two guys hugging it out with a Hula-Hoop between us. I didn’t mind that, either.

“I’m keeping you from school,” Grover said, releasing me from the satyr hug of steel. “Haven’t you already missed, like, two classes?”

Oh, right . . . school.

“Maybe I should find Annabeth first,” I said hopefully. “Tell her what happened. Return her hat.”

“I can do that,” Grover said. “You get to class!”

That’s the advantage of having a friend who does not attend school—he can do things for you while you’re stuck in lectures. The disadvantage is that you have one less excuse for skipping those lectures.

I readjusted the cap for Annabeth’s size and handed it to Grover. Then I gave him another hug.

“Thanks for everything, G-man,” I said. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“Aww.” He blushed to the base of his horns. “Just make good grades!

Otherwise . . . well, I’m sure you’ll do great.”

On that happy note, we headed in different directions—him downtown toward SODNYC, me to the subway for Queens.

I tried not to dwell on the fact that I was taking the F train to school. It seemed like a bad omen. Still, it felt weird being back in a mortal commute after my trip to Olympus. In the seat next to me, some guy was on his phone complaining about stock options. The lady across the aisle was rummaging through bags of produce, pulling out turnips and scowling at them. Meanwhile, up on Olympus, Zeus probably hadn’t even finished his llama story yet. I preferred hanging out with Stock Option Guy and Turnip Lady. They were more entertaining.

By the time I emerged in Queens and walked a half mile, I’d just about stopped shaking from my morning quest and instead had started shaking thinking about the unexcused tardy I’d have to explain.

Alternative High was right where I’d left it—on a tree-lined block of 37th Avenue between a used-car dealership and a wholesale store called (I kid you not) Hephaistos Building Supplies. I hadn’t had the courage to visit the store, though I wondered if they sold used bronze dragon parts.

The building itself looked like a deceptively average New York elementary school: a two-story wedge of red brick with white-trimmed windows and a bright blue main entrance. It wasn’t until you compared the sign ALTERNATIVE HIGH SCHOOL to the playground—which still had seesaws and paintings of Disney characters on the pavement—that you started to get a sense of disconnect.

I walked into the front office, ready to spill all kinds of wild stories. I was trying to decide between My dog ate my shoes and My alarm didn’t go off, which, given my state of mind, probably would have come out as Hi, my dog didn’t go off, and I ate my alarm shoes.

Before I could say anything, the secretary looked up from a phone call. She practically beamed with delight. “Oh, Mr. Jackson! I’m talking to your father right now. He explained that you would be late.”

I blinked. “He did?”

She put her hand over the receiver. “What a lovely man! Here, you can tell him you arrived safely while I write you a pass to third period. We’ve already rescheduled your first-period quiz. Not to worry!”

She handed me the phone and floated back to her desk, humming a cheerful tune.

I stared at the receiver. Had Paul called the school? That didn’t make sense. He wouldn’t even know I was running late, and he was careful never to misrepresent himself as my father. But who else . . . ? Surely not . . . ?

“Hello?” I said.

“Congratulations,” said Poseidon. “That was nicely done with the chalice.”

I braced myself against the counter to keep from falling over. Hearing the god of the sea on a mortal landline was beyond strange. Usually, I heard his voice underwater, or echoing through the council chamber on Mount Olympus. On the phone, he sounded like Poseidon the same way I sounded like myself when I heard a recording of my own voice—which is to say, not at all.

“You called my school?” I asked.

I didn’t mean to sound rude. I was just in shock. How did Poseidon find the school’s number? How did he know what to say? How had he even learned to operate a phone? I pictured him in an air bubble, sitting poolside at the edge of the continental shelf, his line plugged straight into the undersea transatlantic cable. No wonder he had such a clear connection.

“It was the least I could do,” he said. “Margaret was very understanding.”

Margaret? I guessed that was the secretary. Grover was right: school secretaries really did know everyone and everything. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Poseidon being on a first-name basis with her, though.

“Uh, thanks . . . Dad.” I said that last bit for Margaret’s benefit, since she was smiling at me as she wrote out my hall pass. She was probably thinking how lucky I was to have a father who was so active in my life.

“Can I ask . . . ?” I lowered my voice as I cradled the receiver. “And don’t take this the wrong way, but why help me now? I mean . . . I’ve been in way worse situations before. Isn’t this pretty hands-on for a god?”

The line was silent for a count of three. Except for the faint gurgling sound of water in the background, I would’ve thought Poseidon had hung up.

“You know,” he said, “sometimes it’s the smallest waves that knock you off your feet. Tsunamis—everybody knows they’re powerful. Tidal waves—

big and impressive. But those small waves? They hold a lot of power. They prove what the ocean is capable of, even when no one is paying attention.”

Margaret slid a hall pass across the counter. She smiled as if to say, This is all very nice and your dad sounds great, but I need my phone back now.

“Okay, Dad,” I said. “I understand.”

In fact, I had no idea what he was talking about.

“I always keep an eye on you, Percy,” he said. “Mostly from a distance, it’s true. I’ve watched you save the world multiple times, conquering enemies that would scare most immortals. But it wasn’t until today that I realized how much of a hero you truly are.”

A lump formed in my throat. “Because I dared to go to brunch?”

Poseidon chuckled. “No. That was just foolhardy. You’d never catch me at one of Zeus’s brunches. I mean when you accepted Geras’s challenge. You could have walked away, left Ganymede to his fate, probably even gotten Geras to write you a recommendation letter instead.”

The way Poseidon spelled out what I’d been thinking at the time . . . I wondered if he could read my mind. Or maybe he just understood me the way he understood the ocean’s moods. Like the sea, I was part of him.

“Instead,” he continued, “you honored your promise. You risked your life for a cupbearer you barely know. Not for a letter. Not because the fate of the world was at stake. But because that’s just who you are. Today, you created a small wave, and you showed what the ocean is capable of.”

My eyes were getting watery. If I wasn’t careful, I was going to start a saltwater flood right here in the office.

“Mr. Jackson?” Margaret sounded impatient.

“I gotta go,” I told Poseidon. “But hey, Dad? Thank you. Also . . . would you consider letting the river god Elisson do a yoga class at your palace sometime? I think you’d really love it.”

I said good-bye and, after handing Margaret the phone, took my hall pass and left. When I glanced back through the office window, she was talking to my dad again, laughing at something he’d said. Were they flirting? I decided I didn’t want to know.

Already this morning, I’d wrestled Old Age, survived a godly brunch, and gotten the demi bag to prove it. I’d saved Ganymede’s reputation, and even put in a good word for Elisson and his undersea whale yoga classes.

Those were enough small waves for now. My dad was right. If you weren’t careful, they could sweep you off your feet.

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