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The Essay
Show #466
Handling Pan
David Gunn

Zeus, father of the gods, was a fair but stern ruler. He laid down the law and expected everyone to obey it. Of course, ask his wife, Hera, if he led by example and she'd laugh and name a thousand nymphs and goddettes with whom he'd dallied, calling him the consummate philanderer. Zeus responded that he was only conducting "market research." Nevertheless, his will generally prevailed, for the alternative could be dire, indeed. Those who chose to ignore Zeuslaw might find themselves summarily turned into a tree or a toad or worse. Cacoëthes, the god of compulsion, committed an act so egregious, so ghastly, that even Herzberg's Classical Myths, the official chronicle of the gods, chose not to describe it. The book's sole reference to him is that he was born to Demeter, and later turned into the radioactive tailings from the Mount Olympus gold mine. Borborygmus, the god of rumbling noises produced by the movement of gas through the intestines, protested that he was chastised simply because of the nature of his craft. Still, Zeus turned him into Boustrephedonus, the god of plowing by oxen, who was condemned to spend the rest of eternity following the animals with the world's first pooper-scooper as they attempted to fertilize ever last acre of the endless Mount Olympus Ranch. All the same, there was one subordinate god who, even on his best behavior, rankled Zeus. And that was Pan, the god of woods, flocks and shepherds. Pan didn't blatantly flout Zeus' dictates, but he did try to undermine them. During the Age of Iron, for instance, when mankind had started to misuse the gifts of the gods, such as fire and the Cuisinart, Zeus ordered all of the mortals be "swept off the face of the earth." But as Fullerus, the god of brooms, was brushing them towards oblivion, the flockgod turned himself into a giant dustPan and collected nearly every mortal. Then, until Zeus calmed down, he turned the women into water and the men into oil, an arrangement that some say exists to this day. Zeus eventually did lighten up, but not before inventing the strappado and meting out another chastisement onto Pan. Yet no matter how often or how severely the übergod castigated him, the lattergod always seemed to weasel out of the worst of it.

At last weary of his own failed disciplinary attempts, Zeus published a classified ad in the weekly Olympian Reader. "Help Wanted: god, demigod, Fury, Titan or similar brute to inflict punishment whenever appropriate. Salary DOQ/E. Excellent benefits. Reply in strict confidence to Box Z." Well, even to an übergod, the response was overwhelming. On the first day alone, Zeus received ten thousand applicants, only six of which he deemed unsuitable due to perverse psychological disorders. The next day, the number of applicants reached an even one million.

There were many good candidates. Loquacious, the god of talk radio, spoke to Pan so earnestly and for so long that both eventually fell asleep. Unfortunately for Zeus, Pan woke before he could be turned into panne, a velvety finish that was by nature lustrous and extremely well behaved. Then Rhonchus, the god of snoring, endeavored to keep Pan awake for the rest of time. But Pan merely invited over a few thousand nymphs and satyrs and commenced an aeons-long bacchanalia. Vulcanola, Burdockus, Persecutium, Drano--all were expert disciplinarians, however not one could rein in Pan's anarchic nature.

Then one day, a stranger came to Mount Olympus. He was neither god nor giant, neither demigod nor demijohn. He was clad in a simple buzzard's fur cloak and sported the classic adobe hat. He approached Mercury as he was leaving his dealership, brandished a small, tin cup and said "Have any spare change?" Flustered, the messenger of the gods produced an olympiad and plunked it into the stranger's cup. Spotting Atlas, the god of road maps, loitering across the street, the stranger went over to him and repeated the procedure. "Spare some change?" he said plaintively, tinkling the coin in his cup. Atlas, too, seemed nonplused, but he plucked a silver minerva from the folds of his toga and gave it up. From his throne on high, Zeus watched these events and had a sudden inspiration. In full godlike regalia he appeared before the stranger, who showed him no more deference than he did the others. "Spare change, mister?" he said, holding out his cup. Zeus curbed his initial irritation and, instead of smiting him with a large, incontinent ox, he sent for Pan. When the latter arrived, he merely left the two of them alone. "Got any spare change?" the stranger whined to Pan. Well, Pan, of course, never carried any money. He had the woods, the fields, all of nature at his disposal. Why would he ever have any spare change? So he shook his head. The stranger, however, was loath to take no for an answer, so he asked again. "Spare change?" Pan attempted to walk away, but the stranger followed persistently. Pan turned himself into a heifer and escaped into the woods. But when he eventually transmogrified back into demigod form, the stranger was right there with his tin cup. Pan couldn't seem to escape him. In fact, for the rest of eternity, Pan was hounded by this stranger, effectively keeping him out of Zeus' hair. The father of the gods rewarded the stranger by bestowing upon him the exalted Olympian title of Panhandler.

Panhandling is alive and well both in western Oklahoma and on this 466th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar. Yes, it's fundraising week in K&D Land, and we're hopeful that you, our listening audients, will handle any pans we proffer by generously filling them with spare change or similar fiduciary offerings. For example, what am I bid for one slightly-used Kalvos?