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            I called Henry and told him to tell Apollo to call me, I had a proposition for him. I got off the phone when Henry started prying. As soon as I talked to Apollo, he’d get my reasoning, but there was no reason to spell it out beforehand.

I left the office near six, got in my car and pulled out onto Second Ave.

Six on a Friday. You’d think there’d be maybe medium traffic as the rush died down, right?

I wish.

I turned down First, trying to circle around the traffic on my way to the freeway.

When I was in law school, the streets of downtown and midtown were usually crowded at night, and the traffic going down south or to the east was terrible during rush hour. The gods woke up in my third year. After the world adjusted and the gods started up businesses, and magic became the BFD of the twenty-first century, crowded didn’t begin to cover the traffic.

Businesses, shows, lectures, and shopping associated with the gods rescued the economy. That was the only reason I got to stay in Nashville after law school instead of trying to find a job back home. The legal market all over the country had been dryer than the air in winter back in Denver before magic gave the economy a much needed kick in the ass. And Nashville wasn’t known for its thriving legal market even now. The gods all built companies that needed lawyers, the economy working again made more legal jobs in general, so suddenly government jobs were easy to come by again.

Those extra businesses weren’t what really clogged the side streets though.

The protests were downtown’s hairballs.

The gods had a polarizing effect on religion. The nonreligious people tilted towards the new ‘religions,’ i.e. cults, while the people who already had a hand in religion turned and dug their nails into the familiar.

The latter had taken to the streets tonight.

Right in front of Apollo’s Theater and in my path.

Apollo’s Theater opened last year on First, looking over the river. It hosts Broadway and Vegas shows, student productions, readings, conferences, dances, and parties amid some of the most decadent surroundings in Nashville. And if you’ve ever been to Nashville, you know that’s saying something.

It was an elaborately carved dome in the middle of lush flowers, fountains and eucalyptus trees, all marble and gold with geographic designs and detailed statues of the gods carved in. They had to tear down some old buildings and uproot other businesses to build it, but apparently the Nashville tradition of preserving the past went the way of the past when a god said he wanted that land.

Tonight, guards in gold and black lined the path, protecting the group of well-dressed patrons. A mass of humanity surrounded the front and spilled into the street, holding signs and yelling. I didn’t have to roll down my windows to know basically what they were saying.

The gods were pagan pretenders. The Awakening was a second Pandora’s Box. Magic wasn’t God’s work. The people worshiping and supporting the gods in this world were risking their souls in the next.

I agreed with two of those.

I grabbed a sucker from my stash in the glove compartment and ripped off the wrapper, shoving the strawberry treat in my mouth and sucking.

The traffic inched up then stopped again and I turned up the radio to block out the shouts, fingers dancing on the steering wheel to the pop-country beat. My left fingers curled around an imaginary cigarette and I forced them back to tapping out the beat. I’d quit smoking last year and times like these I was still dying for a cigarette.

I finally got on the freeway entrance and circled down to 65.

I lived in a nice, new building about fifteen miles to the south. The commute sucked in the mornings, and sometimes at night, but it was cheaper than living in the city.

I tossed my briefcase on the faux-granite kitchen island when I got in and locked the door behind me. The dishes that had been decorating the counter around the sink were still there, the clean ones still in the dishwasher. The dingy floor begged for a good sweep and mop. I couldn’t even give the living room more than a glance due to the massive amount of Kelsey’s photography stuff spilling out of her bedroom. I swear the piles of equipment, props and costumes had grown friends during the day.

“Kelsey!” My roommate didn’t answer. She was supposed to be off work at six, but supposed to be didn’t mean much to second year dermatology residents (kinda like being a lawyer) especially ones with a time consuming hobby/secondary career like photography.

Looked like I’d be cleaning the common areas again this weekend even though it was supposed to be her turn.

Puccini and Webber answered my call though. They zipped out of my room and into the kitchen like curly haired racecars, skidding to a stop on the linoleum. They bounced up and down around me, yipping excitedly. Sunshine yellow shown around their tiny black bodies like halos. I never saw a human with such pure, absolute happiness oozing out of them. Ah, to be a dog.

“Alright already, boys. Just give me a minute.”

The boys pinged around me, out to the living room and back as I changed into sweats and jogging shoes. I clipped on their leashes, and we were off.

We walked down to the park and I let them off their leashes. My boys ran around while I stretched. We did this every night. Walked, stretched, jogged the long way back around to the apartment. It’s harder during the winter, but it doesn’t usually get really cold in Nashville. At least not to someone who grew up in the Rockies.

I bent over one leg then the next, trying to warm up my muscles, ignoring the chub around my hips that had never quite waned after it blobbed up during 1L year. People either lost weight or gained it, or yo-yoed, the first year of law school.

“ARRELLP!” came from the direction of the playground.

I jerked straight and was running towards the colorful plastic monstrosity before I knew it. That yelp was Puccini.

I slammed to a stop at the edge of the dirt. “Puccini! Webber!” I yelled, searching the shadows under the well-lit playground. I should’ve been able to see even my black teacup poodles under the lights.

“Arf. Arf. ARF! ARF! ARF!” Webber barked off to my left and I dashed towards the noise.

And slammed to a stop again.

The boys were just off the side of the bright blue slide, Puccini lying down, licking his paw like it was made of bacon while Webber danced in front of him, barking at the… the thing in front of him.

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