Chapter no 7 – Big Shocker: I Offend a Goddess

The Chalice of the Gods

It was the pizza that got me.

I don’t mean with food poisoning. I mean with nostalgia.

The cheese slice looked like a triangle of melted vinyl, garnished with three sad flecks of basil and served on a paper plate limp with grease. I had no intention of eating it—not after Sparky’s mold comment—but the smell took me right back to third grade.

Wednesdays were pizza days. I remembered the burnt-cheese smell in our basement cafeteria, the cracked green plastic chairs, the feverish conversations I used to have with my friends about trading cards, the history teacher who was our lunch monitor, Mr. Christ. (No kidding, that was his actual name. We were too scared to ask what his first name was.)

Now, looking at (and smelling) Hebe Jeebies’s glistening plastic pizza, I felt eight years old again.

“Wow,” I said.

Hebe smiled, as if she knew exactly what I was thinking. “Wonderful, isn’t it? Feeling young again?”

Okay, maybe she didn’t know exactly what I was thinking. Being in third grade for me had not been wonderful. Neither had the pizza. But it was still a rush, being pulled back in time by nothing but a smell.

Grover dug in, devouring his pizza slice, his paper plate, and my napkin. I had learned to keep my hands away from him when he was in grazing mode or he might have started gnawing on my fingers.

Annabeth remained focused on the karaoke boomers. They were now belting out a slow, sad song about where all the flowers had gone. I wanted to shout, I don’t know. Why don’t you go outside and look for them?

“What a fabulous generation,” Hebe said, admiring the geriatric singers. “Even now, they refuse to accept growing old.” She turned to me. “And you, Percy Jackson, I assume you’ve come to ask a favor. Perhaps you’re starting to regret turning down immortality?”

Here we go, I thought.




Every time the gods brought up my rejection of Zeus’s offer, they treated it as a sign of stupidity—or worse, as an insult to godkind. I hadn’t figured out a great way to explain it to them. Like, maybe if you all promised to claim your demigod children sooner, so your kids weren’t living their whole lives not knowing who they were or where they came from, that would be a win for everyone?

I must have looked like I was about to bust out the sarcasm, because Annabeth intervened.

“He made the selfless choice,” she said. “Because of that, your kids got their own cabin at Camp Half-Blood. You finally got the respect you deserve.”

Hebe narrowed her eyes. “Perhaps. Still, Percy Jackson, turning down eternal youth? You can’t really want to grow old. Don’t you understand how terrible that will be?”

There didn’t seem to be a right answer to that.

Honestly, I’d spent most of my life wishing I could be older, so I could get to college, get out of the target years when monsters were trying to kill me every other day.

I didn’t want to contradict the goddess, though, so I tried a careful answer. “I mean, I guess getting older is part of life—”

“This pizza is great!” Grover interrupted, probably in an attempt to save me from god-level zappage. “And the music . . .” He frowned at the boomers. “Wait a minute. Are they actually getting younger?”

He was right. The changes were subtle, but their hair didn’t seem so gray now. Their postures were straighter. Their voices sounded more assured, though still terrible.

“They come here to remember the old days.” Hebe gestured around her. “Nostalgia is the doorway back to youth. I’m just showing them how to open it.”

A shiver ran across my shoulders. The last thing the world needed was boomers aging backward, like, We enjoyed monopolizing the planet so much the first time, we’re going to do it again!

“That’s . . . nice of you,” Grover tried. But from the slight tremor in his voice, I could tell he was not liking this place anymore, no matter how good the licorice ropes were.

Hebe crossed her go-go boots at the ankles. She placed her arms across the back of the booth. With her smug expression, she reminded me more of a Mafia boss than a 1960s teenager.

“Is that why you’re here, then?” she asked. “You want to know the secret of youth? I imagine none of you really had a childhood, did you? Always running errands for the gods, fleeing monsters, adulting.”

Her expression soured, as if that word disgusted her.




“Our Skee-Ball tournament usually shaves off a year or two,” she continued. “Or you can redeem tickets for various elixirs at the rewards station. I’ll just warn you that if you’re looking for something extreme, I don’t turn anyone into babies. They do nothing but cry, poop, and throw up. The real childhood magic starts at around eight years old.”

Annabeth shifted in her seat. “There were no infants in the arcade. No one younger than, like, eight. Your manager, Sparky—”

“Stays in the main arcade,” Hebe said. “I am always the youngest person in any room, you see, even if it’s just by a few months. I can’t stand to be out-younged.” She brushed away the idea, banishing it from her presence. “But I do prefer the teenage years.”

“So you hang out in a karaoke bar,” I said. “Makes sense.”

She nodded. I made a mental note not to fight her with sarcasm. She was obviously immune.

“Now,” she said, “if you’ll tell me how young you want to be, I will tell you what it will cost.”

“No,” I said.

Suddenly the air around us felt colder and oilier than the pizza. “No?” asked the goddess.

“That’s not why we’re here.”

Hebe’s expression turned from smug to “resting goddess face,” which was not a good thing.

“Then why,” she asked, “are you wasting my infinite time?” “We’re looking for information,” Annabeth said.

“About the gods,” Grover added. “god. Hypothetically. I don’t know . . . Ganymede, for example?”

I was tempted to shove a napkin dispenser in Grover’s mouth, but it was too late.

Hebe sat forward. Her fingernails were painted Day-Glo yellow. “Now why would you ask about him?”

The boomers finished their song. After a few high fives, they replaced their mics and shuffled offstage, heading back to the arcade. Typical boomer timing: have a blast, then leave right before everything goes sideways.

Grover squirmed under the goddess’s gaze. A shred of napkin clung to his goatee like a tiny ghost. “We’re just conducting a brief opinion survey


“He sent you here,” the goddess guessed. The longer she sat with us, the younger she looked. If I’d seen her at AHS, I would’ve pegged her for a sophomore or even a freshman—a very colorful, vindictive-looking freshman. “Tell me, why would Ganymede do that?”

Annabeth held up her hands, trying to show our peaceful intentions. “It’s not so much that he sent us—”

“He has been acting nervous lately,” mused Hebe. “But he wouldn’t send out a group of heroes unless . . .” She smiled. “Unless he’s lost something. Oh, you can’t be serious. He’s lost the chalice of the gods?”

She laughed with such delight, I started to relax. If she found this funny, maybe that was good. I liked delighted goddesses a lot more than angry ones.

I shrugged. “Well, we can neither confirm nor deny—”




“How wonderful!” She giggled. “That upstart little witch is in so much trouble! And he sent you to question me because . . . ?”

All the humor drained from her face. “Oh, I see.”

“We just wanted some background information,” I said hastily. “You know, like who might have a reason to, uh—”

“Steal the chalice,” she finished.

Annabeth shook her head. “We’re not implying—” “You think I stole it! You came here to accuse me!”

“Not entirely!” Grover yelped. “I—I came here for the licorice!”

Hebe stood. Her dress swirled with pink-and-blue paisley light. “Heroes accusing me of theft! The only thing I’ve ever stolen is time from the Fates so mortals could enjoy longer lives! I care nothing for that . . . that usurper’s cup! Do you think I would want my old job back, waiting tables

on Mount Olympus, when I have my own establishment right here with all the pizza, karaoke, and bumper cars I could ever desire?”

That sounded like another trick question. Stupidly, I tried to answer it. “You’re right,” I said. “Of course that’s silly. But maybe you know

someone else who could’ve stolen it? Or if you’d let us look around so we can report back that it definitely isn’t here—”

“ENOUGH!” Hebe roared. She spread her hands. “What did you say earlier, Percy Jackson? Getting older is part of life? Well, perhaps you should start that process over again. Maybe you’ll do it right this time and learn some manners!”

The goddess burst into a storm of rainbow glitter that knocked me right out of my chair.

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