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Sisyphus and Jane Austen

Attempting to make peace with my big rock. Commiserate with me on Twitter @IvyGri.

Out of nowhere, the gods altered my punishment. A woman replaced my boulder, and I watched her roll.
"Why are you here?" I said.
"For a laugh." Her hair was the color of honey and almonds. I felt so hungry.
My boulder had been altered a number of times. The gods had made it larger once for a brief time. It slowed me down, so they reduced it. On five or six occasions, the boulder changed into men, all of them strangers. Apparently, they had begged to meet me, and the gods had favored them. I am an interesting person in the underworld, it seems. But the boulder had never become a woman before her.
I had imagined many different beautiful women with me, usually helping me roll the boulder. Receiving any woman in any form meant the gods were smiling on me.
"You wanted to laugh at me," I said without condemnation. I was not surprised. I do not expect much.
"I asked to talk to you. I thought the gods would let me walk up and down with you and chat. But the gods are tricky devils."
I tried to push gently since her back was softer than stone. "The gods are clever." I had enough trouble with the gods without blaspheming them.
"They wanted to laugh at me," she said.
"They have laughed at me for some time. May their names be praised." I felt, I feel, some pity for myself.
"Oh yes, for thousands of years," she said, cavalier. She did not seem to feel sorry for me.
"I apologize. I cannot control my movements. I do not want to send a woman tumbling," I said before she rolled down again.
When I caught up to her, she laughed. "I'm all right. I feel no pain now. Do you?"
There were times I forgot about pain, but at long intervals, I would be surprised by a headache or a rush of terror. The gods pricking me, their doll, with pins from a distance.
"I am not sure what is real. The gods play with me," I said.
"This isn't as fun as I'd hoped," she said. I felt forlorn. She was beginning to pity me, which meant she would soon grow tired of me.
"You knew my plight. Did you come to mock me?" It felt good to argue with someone again. I was too fond of the boulder, my longtime companion, to argue with it.
"I came for wisdom. I thought you would have profound thoughts to share by now," she said at the top of the hill.
I considered my store of wisdom as I watched her roll and ran down the hill to meet her. She sat at the bottom, curled into a helpless ball.
"Wisdom about what?" I said as I pushed her.
"Like whether you regret your life, given the consequences." She turned towards me. Eyes like olives. No, I was not actually hungry. I simply wanted to eat.
I did not answer. I could not think. We reached the top.
"Will you kiss me?" she said. It was time for her to roll.
When I reached the bottom, before the push, I was permitted a moment (the gods allowed it, praise the gods) to brush my lips against hers. They were so warm.
"You are so cold," she said as I pushed her to the top again. She shivered before she rolled.
The next time, she began her farewells.
"Thank you for the visit," she said.
"I do not have the power to grant visits." I am honest.
"Still. Thank you for your time. I hope you are... I hope you are happy."
One more glimpse of her hair, the sun playing through the strands. And she was a boulder again.
I was sorry to lose her, yet the boulder has comforts. I know its familiar weight and every pock and dimple. I looked up at the sky as the boulder fell, an act I often forget I am permitted.
"It was a nice visit," I told the boulder as we ascended. "But it's good to see you again."
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

Author Comments

I tried to imagine Sisyphus happy, and this was the best I could do.

- Ivy Grimes
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