It hadn't been a great week. The elephants had stampeded through the civic center. Again. Luckily they had only trampled a handful of older women, but that was hardly the point was it? Atticus sighed and looked disinterestedly at the pile of molding grapes on his lunch platter. He absolutely hated the exotic animal shows. They were so much harder to coordinate. Attempting to parade all species of wild animals around the amphitheater and keep them from mauling each other....or the patrons. It was exhausting.
Timid footsteps padded down the white marble hall. They stopped shy of the entrance.
"Come," Atticus mumbled.
Blartus entered the room slowly. "We have a bit of a situation."
"What is it now?" Atticus didn't even bother hiding his annoyance. He flung a particularly moldy grape in the direction of his assistant.
Blartus ducked. "We're running out of lions sir."
"Gods almighty!" Atticus thundered. He rose unsteadily from the table and caught himself before he fell back down. Too much wine. "What do you mean 'running out of lions'?! The Games start tomorrow!"
"The last batch of Christians, gave them ulcers we think." Blartus looked down, "Not a very balanced diet if you ask me."
"Oh, you'd suggest that they receive a more religiously diverse diet? Too much monotheism for the king of the jungle?!" Atticus threw the entire plate of grapes this time.
"I'm just saying...." Blartus' voice trailed off. He brushed some grapes off his toga. Grape stains! Great. These will never come out, he thought.
Atticus sat back down. This could be fixed. Everything can be fixed. "So how many lions do we have for the Games?"
"Just one sir."
"Yes, but we do think he's quite hungry." Blartus smiled weakly.
Atticus put his head in his hands. One lion would never work. The crowds would be displeased. The emperor would be displeased. He swallowed thickly. "What else eats Christians?"
"Ok, how many bears do we have available?"
"Actually none sir." Blartus looked nervous. "But in my defense I thought the question was academic."
Atticus contemplated hurling himself at his idiot assistant, but decided that in his current state he might miss badly. He stifled a hiccup. And then another.
Blartus kicked at a grape. "Couldn't the gladiators just kill them sir?"
"No!" Atticus choked. He had risen to the top of the creative arts world and he knew the formulas for success. Gladiators killing Christians? That would be barbaric. It didn't make any sense. He took a deep breath. "The entertainment industry is about relationships Blartus. We have to set a scene, set the forces in motion, forces that will collide... because they have to collide. You can't just throw anything out into the ring. They have to have a relationship. It gives the whole thing meaning. You know?"
Blartus had no clue.
Atticus sighed. He was an artist after all. He couldn't expect the proletariat to understand. "How about tigers? Any other big cats?"
"We have two tigers. And a handful of Iberian wolves, mangy bunch them."
Atticus tapped a finger against his pursed lips. This just might work. "Ok, we release the lion from west entrance. The crowd will boo-"
"They'll boo?" interrupted Blartus.
"Yes of course, they'll be expecting a pack of lions, like we've always done. Try to keep up. So, we release the single lion from west entrance, we let them start to boo a little, then we release the tiger from east entrance. That will be new. Confusing but interesting. Then, we release the wolves from south entrance!" He stood with a flourish.
"Great." Blartus smiled. "Any worries that the cats will go after each other instead of you know, the Christians?"
"Good point. We'll set up blinds. Use the ones with leaves, it will look like a hunt. A safari hunt in the wilds of Africa! Great gods I'm good." Atticus looked around as if expecting random applause to materialize around him.
Blartus paused and then clapped several times. The sound echoed uncomfortably down the vast marble hallway. "Or....we could dress the christians up as zebras." Blartus felt emboldened. This was his chance, his opportunity to set the scene. "You know, with costumes with stripes and the, and with... and..." he trailed off under Atticus' withering gaze.
"Get out. Get OUT!"
Blartus scampered away. Atticus glared around the empty room and then sat down heavily. Dress the Christians up as zebras?! He shook his head. There was a right way and a wrong way to do this. Blartus just didn't seem to get it. Christians in zebra costumes wasn't classy at all. Now gladiators wearing zebra costumes ... that idea had some merit. Atticus picked a grape off the floor and brushed it against his toga. He popped it into his mouth and chewed it thoughtfully. Gladiators in zebra costumes battling hungry lions! Great gods, it was brilliant! Atticus almost fell out of his chair in excitement.
"Is anyone writing these ideas down?!" he called out to the empty room. "No? No one? Must I do everything around here?" Atticus stood clumsily and began searching for parchment. This idea had to be written down. It was that good.