Dig Two Graves
I make my living by teaching about the past, the very long-ago past. The Classics. Greece. Rome. Latin. Amo amas amat and all that. And what I've learned, after years of my own study, and seven years on the job, is this: what happened then isn't really so different from what happens now, except for the toga and armor part, the laurel leaf crowns and royal purple robes. Then and now, people want things, and they do whatever they have to do to get them. They take what isn't theirs. They hurt people. They kill people. Dead language, dead people: some things never change.
That's what I teach my freshmen Intro students, just so they can't say I didn't warn them: if you want to learn the classics, if you want to learn Greek and Latin, really learn it, get inside it, you're signing up to learn the language of revenge.
They love that part. Revenge.
I thought I did a pretty good job of teaching it, until I actually lived it. Those books don't have a clue what they're talking about.
I've had offers to tell what happened; calls from the morning shows started coming in the day the very first article hit the local newspaper, and then got picked up by AP. Some publishers have flirted around about a book, but they want it now, red-hot. Fresh off the presses, and the front pages. One even offered to give me a ghostwriter to hurry it along, but I want to write it all on my own. I let somebody else write Herc Holt: My Story thirteen years ago, after winning the gold medal in Sydney, and I spent the next thirteen years regretting my mistake. Starting with letting them using that cursed nickname, "Herc." Herc for Hercules. I was never a Hercules, except in the headlines, and I knew it better than anyone. Maybe by playing around with such a heroic name—taking what wasn't rightfully mine—I offended the gods.
I certainly offended...him.
I took what wasn't mine. I took his life. At the very start, and...at the end.
I'm getting ahead of myself. Running too fast, running toward the future, to keep from being here. Right here. Now. I've always done it, and now it's time to stop.
In the old days, right after the first Olympics, if you offended the gods, they put your name on a statue outside the stadium. It was called a zane—a statue of Zeus; it was his face that passersby saw, but with an inscription of your wrongdoing. A god's face, your crime; adding up to a warning to others who might be tempted to do the same.
The worst part, besides the public humiliation? You had to pay for your own fucking statue.
That's my punishment, my zane. I may not have a statue, but I'm still paying.
But the night it all started, there wasn't any of that. There was no pain, no paying, no blood. There was just birthday cake and melting ice cream, and the smell of wax candles that had just been blown out, and Skip.
My daughter. My life. My everything.
My "I love you more."