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art by Seth Alan Bareiss

Downsizing Pluto

Shane is a software engineer, happily married and living in Chicago with his wife, two kids, and one nuisance cat. He has been accused of being obsessed with pirates, bacon, zombies, and his kids (not necessarily in that order). Hes a knitter, guitar player, budding accordionista, as well as a board and card game enthusiast. He can be found online at shanehalbach.com.

Hades sat in his office, high atop his dark tower. He put the finishing touches on his black painted fingernails and held his hand up to the light to inspect his work. Perfect. The shade of black exactly matched his hair, his eyes, and his coordinating shirt and pants. Only his pale white skin contrasted the darkness of his appearance. He was just about to complete the look with some dark eye shadow, when he heard a knock. Hades looked up quickly. No one ever dared to disturb him in his tower.
"Enter!" he commanded, and the door swung open.
Occupying the entire doorway was a huge man, resplendent in a white tank top and extremely short, red running shorts. Muscles bulged everywhere. He even had soft red wristbands and a matching sweatband around his head. Hades rolled his eyes.
"Playing up the jock look a little much, aren't we Zeus?" asked Hades. He waved Zeus toward a chair. "Come in, come in. Can I get you something to drink? I don't get much company here."
"Pluto..." Zeus began, and Hades arched an eyebrow.
"What's with the formal name? You'd think two gods who go back as far as we do could use common names amongst ourselves."
"Well," said Zeus uncomfortably, "I think we'd better stick with the formality for now."
"Very well, Jupiter, what can I do for you?" asked Pluto.
"Well... it's just that..." stammered Jupiter. "Well, I'm just going to come out with it. We're going to have to let you go."
"What?" roared Pluto, and he came halfway out of his chair. "I am Hades, Lord of the Underworld! I bring death and despair! Mothers frighten their children with me; strong men refuse to speak my name lest it draw my attention!"
"Used to, Lad, used to," said Jupiter. "It's just that... well, people aren't afraid of the underworld anymore. It just doesn't have a place these days. And it's been quite a while since people were afraid to speak your name."
Pluto flopped back into his chair, deflated.
"Look," Jupiter began. "It's been hard on us all, the way things have been lately. Not much worship to go around. Something had to give." There was a long, silent pause into which Jupiter added, "You have to admit, you've always been a little... out there."
Pluto's head sank into his hands, his elbows resting on his desk.
"You can't do this to me!" he whimpered. "I've been a god for over two millennia. I don't know how to do anything else."
"Now, now," said Jupiter. "It's not the end of the world, just a little downsizing. Plenty of time to start a new career. How about mining? You've always had a thing for precious metals. Why, I bet with a resume like yours, you'd make supervisor in no time!"
Pluto slumped down until his forehead was resting on his arms, burying his face.
"What am I going to do?" he moaned.
"I don't know what to tell you. I suppose you could always try a petition," suggested Jupiter. "A little self promotion? Drum up some interest? Get you back on the map?"
Pluto let out a low sob.
"Very well, I'll leave you to it then," said Jupiter, standing to leave. Sudden inspiration struck and he added magnanimously, "Why don't you keep the tower for a while? Just until you get back on your feet. Of course, we will have to take the planet back."
When Pluto didn't answer, Jupiter backed out of the room and closed the door quietly. With the door safely closed behind him, Jupiter let out a long breath. That had been hard. Pluto had been a god for a long time; he was almost like family. In fact, he was family: he was Jupiter's brother. Nasty business. Jupiter paused a moment longer and then began descending the long staircase. What he needed was some exercise; something to clear the head.
"Perhaps I'll go toss some lightning," he thought, "or maybe play some racquetball."
Jupiter exited the tower, closing the door behind him, and walked off into the night.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, January 7th, 2013

Author Comments

I was having a discussion with my sister-in-law about the removal of Pluto as a planet, and she wondered, "What will happen to the Roman god Pluto, now that his planet isn't a planet anymore?" Call me old fashioned, but I believe that all physical phenomenon in our world can be explained by the antics of powerful supernatural beings. Logically, it was the other way around: the god wasn't hurt by the downgrade of the planet, the god was downgraded, and the planet followed suit. Or at least that was a more reasonable explanation than that a few scientists got together and decided that something we all agreed was a planet wasn't a planet anymore.

- Shane Halbach
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