Chapter no 34

The Chalice of the Gods

I Write the Worst Letter Ever, Delete, Delete

was relieved to get home that night—at least until dinner turned into a letter-writing party. You’d think that with an English teacher, a soon-to-be-published author, and a daughter of Athena at the table, we could come up with some believable praise that Ganymede might say about me. You would

be wrong.

Annabeth had come over around sunset. She didn’t bring cupcakes this time. She’d been too busy catching up on schoolwork after hunting the diapered god of geriatrics in the park that morning. She and I chopped peppers for the salad while Paul cooked spaghetti. And, yes, after the horned-serpent incident, I’d sworn off spaghetti, but pasta is like a best friend: you can’t stay mad at it forever.

Once the table was set and the Dave Brubeck Quartet was jazzing out on Paul’s turntable, we broke garlic bread and talked about our respective days, just the four of us. Well . . . four and a half of us. I had to keep reminding myself that my mom was expecting a little mortal bundle of Jackson-Blofis.

It was a pretty average dinner for us, which was exactly what I needed. Paul told funny stories about his classes. His students were goofs. His fellow teachers and administrators were even bigger goofs. My mom told us that her book had received its first one-star review online, even though the book wouldn’t be out for several more months. Apparently, the reviewer didn’t like that the title Love Songs of the Gods promoted paganism.

Paul chuckled. “Little do they know.”

I offered to talk to Hylla, queen of the Amazons and fearsome monarch of online retailing, about removing the review, but my mom said there was

no need.

“I’m going to print it and frame it,” she said. “I kind of love it.”

Finally, Annabeth told them about our latest adventures. She played down the most terrifying parts, like almost getting turned into grave dust, but I think my mom filled in the blanks pretty well.

“Wow. Embracing old age?” She smiled at Paul. “I have a smart kid.” “Yes, you do,” Paul said. “I think he gets that from your side.”

I may have blushed. It’s one thing being called the son of Poseidon. Getting noticed for being anything like my mom, though . . . that’s a compliment.

“What happened on Olympus?” Annabeth asked me. “I didn’t get to hear about it.”

I hesitated. I was still processing what I’d seen at the brunch—and not just the horror of Zeus’s pedicured toenails. “It wasn’t too bad,” I said. “I got Ganymede the chalice just in time. He gave me my letter.”

Annabeth waited for more. I gave her a look. Later, okay?

“So . . .” Paul broke the silence. “What does a godly recommendation letter look like?”

“I’ll show you after dinner,” I promised. “Probably best if we don’t get spaghetti sauce on it.”

Once we’d cleaned up the dishes, I brought out the letter and set it on the living room table. Everybody leaned in like they were looking at a board game.

“It’s blank,” my mom noted. “Lovely paper, though,” Paul said.

“If you got an essay on this paper,” I said, “would you just give it an A-plus without reading it?”

Paul grinned. “I would probably write ‘Nice try with the lovely paper, but you still need to provide examples that prove your thesis.’ ”

“Well, there goes that idea,” I grumbled.

My mom picked up the letter and looked at both sides. “Is it written in some sort of invisible ink?”

“I have to do it myself.” I explained what Ganymede had told me—that I could say whatever I wanted, within reason, and once I had done a good job, his signature would appear at the bottom.

Paul frowned. “That seems a bit . . .” “Too trusting?” Annabeth guessed.

“I was going to say lazy on Ganymede’s part.” Paul glanced at the ceiling. “Though I hope that doesn’t get me zapped with a lightning bolt.”

“Nah,” I said. “The gods would take that as a compliment. They raise lazy to an art form.”

“Nice work if you can get it,” Paul said.

I knew he was being facetious, but the comment made me wince. I’d been offered that work, and I’d turned it down. But the more I thought about Ganymede, the happier I was with my choice. His job was anything but nice.

My mom set the paper back on the table. “How does it know when to start writing?”

“Dunno,” I admitted. “Maybe I just say ‘Dear Admissions Office.’ ”

I should have known better. Fancy calligraphy blazed to life across the top of the paper, each letter forming in fiery bronze ink with a sound like a burning fuse: Dear Admissions Office.

“Well, crap,” I said.

Well, crap, wrote the fancy calligraphy. “No! Delete!” I said.

Thankfully, the writing erased itself.

I looked at Annabeth, who was trying hard not to laugh.

“This isn’t funny,” I said, “Delete, delete. I didn’t know it would start.

Delete, delete.”

My mom stared at the letters writing and erasing themselves. “That is amazing paper. What’s it made out of?”

I wasn’t about to tell her Arachnean silk, because Annabeth had a major spider phobia. I didn’t want to have to peel her off the chandelier.

“Maybe we should help Percy get it written now,” Paul said, “so he doesn’t have to worry about it.”

“Spoken like a true English teacher,” Annabeth said. “It can’t be that hard, right? How about, ‘I highly recommend Percy Jackson for New Rome University. He is adorable and has nice eyes.’ ”

“I am not saying that. Delete, delete,” I complained, though I did keep the first sentence. That one sounded okay.

“ ‘And his mother is very proud of him,’ ” my mom chipped in, “ ‘though college would be a wonderful experience, as it might teach him to do his own laundry.’ ”

“You’re all terrible people,” I said. “Delete, delete.”

Paul cleared his throat, like he was getting ready to launch into a lecture on similes. “ ‘I, Ganymede, cupbearer to the gods, have found Percy Jackson to be an excellent hero—brave, kind, and fantastic at chopping vegetables.’ ”

My mom and Annabeth were both giggling.

I wanted to say Just kill me now,but with my luck, those words would stick on the letter and the admissions office at New Rome would make me fall on my sword the moment I arrived.

I dictated Paul’s sentence, minus the vegetables. For the next half an hour, Paul, Annabeth, and my mom offered all sorts of unhelpful suggestions for Ganymede’s letter, while I picked out the least embarrassing lines and read them onto the paper. I even managed to get a line in there about how helpful my counselor, Eudora, had been.

By the end, Annabeth was on the floor crying from laughing so hard. Paul looked like he was starting to feel bad for me. My mom came over and kissed me on the head.

“I’m sorry, dear,” she said. “But we do love all those things about you.

Let’s see how the letter came out.”

She read it aloud, and I had to admit, it wasn’t bad.

“How do you get his signature to appear, though?” Annabeth wondered. Before she could suggest something like Hugs and kisses,I said, “

‘Thank you for your time. Yours sincerely, Ganymede.’ ”

The words burned themselves onto the paper, with Ganymede’s signature appearing in red.

“You think it’s done?” I asked. Then I realized my question was not transcribing itself.

“Thank gods.”

“You have to get two more recommendation letters?” my mom asked. “Sounds like fun!”

“Yeah, and if those are do-it-yourself letters, too,” I said, “I think I’ll do them by myself.”

“But you’re never alone, Seaweed Brain.” Annabeth squeezed my ankle. “We’ll always be here to help you.”

She didn’t even have the decency to put sarcastic air quotes around help. “To Percy!” Paul raised his glass. “Our own family hero!”

My mom and Annabeth both cheered and drank sparkling water to my health.

I appreciated the sentiment, but I didn’t join in. Toasts made me think of Ganymede, and it was a little too soon for that.

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