After cleaning out the barn with a river, after beating up a three headed dog for a bit, after killing Medusa off, Hercules was brought down to the house of the king for some tea and biscuits.
"So how do you think it all went?" said the king. He lounged back on his great grey sofa, the one sitting on top of a little mosaic'd pedestal.
"Fine, fine, mostly." Hercules was sitting at the table the king had placed just at the foot of the pedestal for when he had guests over. He used to have them sitting across the hall, but the hall was one of those stately, king-ly sort of halls that stretched for hundreds of feet on any given side so that they gave the impression that, if so inclined, they could throw one hell of a party with quite a large number of people at any time at all. "I think the dog, like, bit me, though. My arm sort of stings, you know?" He lifted up his arm, a good chunk of which looked like something a dog might fancy for a late afternoon snack.
"Ah. Yes." The king's policy on looking upon bloodied things was one of not doing it, this was why he had lackeys. And one of the lackeys scuttled over to Hercules to have a peek at his arm. It took him a rather long minute because he had been hidden away in the drapery along the edge of the hall. This wasn't through any specific mandate by the king that lackeys had to be hidden away, out of sight, when guests were being entertained, in fact, the king rather liked having them mill about to make it seem even more so like a party might break out at any moment, and that he had staff on hand to handle just such an occurrence. This particular lackey had ambitions of getting promoted to working the king's tennis courts someday, and used any opportunity to showcase his special skills in scuttling to the king and those surrounding him. He also tended to always carry a tennis ball around in his left hand. It was with this hand that he gestured at the king in a gesture that he hoped conveyed "it's pretty gruesome, all right, and look, hmph, how did that tennis ball get there in my hand?" The gesture done, he scuttled quickly across to the other side of the hall to hide beside one of the massive drapes and looked alertly out across the hall. "Good of you to wear a shirt, by the way."
Hercules looked down at his shirt. "Well, you know. I figured it was the least I could do, seeing the king and all." He hesitated and pulled at the cotton sort of thing he was wearing. "Actually, one of your serving maids let me borrow it. She said I'd look better in a loose white cotton shirt type of thing than I did with my chest bared and battled-scarred." Hercules shrugged.
"They're always doing that to me, as well." The king nodded sagely. It was a nod that said, "Sometimes women just know this sort of thing best, and even if you think you might know better or just as well, it's easier to just accept whatever they tell you and do it." It was the oldest and sagest of nods.
"So what's up?"
"Oh, not much. Hey, I did sort of have one last thing for you to do... I know we'd set a limit to the number of labours and everything, but I had one last one for you."
"What?" Hercules shifted in his seat and set his tea down.
"Well, you see, I've got this rug," the king sat up in his seat and gestured to a few of the lackeys lingering near the back of the hall, "bring in the rug!"
The doors swung open and lackeys rushed from everywhere in the hall and disappeared through the open doors, returning, presumably, underneath the weight of a massive rug. They presumably returned because the rug was of the shaggy persuasion, and giant bits of fluff wafted back and forth as the rug made its way forward into the hall, the occasional clump of fur fluttering away from the larger rug and down to the floor of the hall, where it drifted back and forth on the unseen air currents. When the rug made it to the center of the room, a trail of fluff leading behind it to the now closed doors, it whumped down on to the floor of the great hall and thirty lackeys suddenyl appeared all around the sides of the furry rug. There was an unseemly lump towards the center of the rug that slithered towards the edge until the thirty first lackey showed up around the edge of the rug, as well.
The doors at the end of the great hall opened yet again and a Hoover was dumped just inside the door and the doors were shut once again.
Hercules turned and looked at the king. The king just smiled.
Hercules picked his tea up again and noticed that it had gone ever so slightly cold.
"I would like you, for your thirteenth and final labour, to vacuum my rug."
"Damn," said Hercules.
Today one third of the people who might be gainfully employed in any given occupation are on strike for some reason or another. The firefighters are in day three or so of their strike for better wages (which is fair enough), the tube workers are on strike because they feel left out if someone else is striking and they're not, the teachers are on strike, probably for better wages (which is also probably fair enough), lorry drivers are on strike because they're obviously in peril if their lorries set on fire and no firefighters are working to put the fire out, the army is on strike because they were filling in for the firefighters but are now realizing how hard it is to be a firefighter, Heathrow is going on strike because the firefighters are on strike, and people in
cars are striking and protesting the congestion charging due to hit London in February 2003 by parking in the middle of the motorways in and around London. Actually, the drivers in the last example are just stuck in traffic, but figured while they were there they might as well be picketing something, as it seems everyone else is at it.
I think everyone in England and probably France (where lorry drivers plan to strike for the entire month of December, royally screwing France's general holiday season) need to take a few days holiday off work, sit at home, watch tv, put their feet up, maybe hang out with their kids and partners, take a deep breath, and then sort of like, you know, go back to work and do normal things, like surf the internet and gossip with their colleagues.
By the way, those shaggy rugs?
They're damn hard to vacuum.