My mother scraped the name Patricia Ann from the ruins of her discarded Delta, thinking it would offer me shield and shelter, that leering men would skulk away at the slap of it. Her hands on the hips of Alabama, she went for flat and functional, then siphoned each syllable of drama, repeatedly crushing it with her broad, practical tongue until it sounded like an instruction to God, not a name. She wanted a child of pressed head and knocking knees, a trip-up in the doubledutch swing, a starched pinafore and peppermint-in-the-sour-pickle kinda child, stiff-laced and unshakably fixed on salvation. Her Patricia Ann would never idly throat the Lord’s name or wear one of those thin, sparkled skirts that flirted with her knees. She'd be a nurse or a third-grade teacher or a postal drone, jobs requiring alarm-clock discipline and sensible shoes. My four downbeats were music enough for a vapid life of butcher-shop sawdust and fatback as cuisine, for Raid spritzed into the writhing pockets of a Murphy bed. No crinkled consonants or muted hiss would summon me. My daddy detested borders. One look at my mother's watery belly, and he insisted, as much as he could insist with her, on the name Jimi Savannah, seeking to bless me with the blues-bathed moniker of a ball breaker, the name of a grown gal in a snug red sheath and unlaced All-Stars. He wanted to shoot muscle through whatever I was called, arm each syllable with tiny weaponry so no one would mistake me for anything other than a tricky whisperer with a switchblade in my shoe. I was bound to be all legs, a bladed debutante hooked on Lucky Strikes and sugar. When I sent up prayers, God's boy would giggle and consider. Daddy didn't want me to be anybody's surefire factory, nobody's callback or seized rhythm, so he conjured a name so odd and hot even a boy could claim it. And yes, he was prepared for the look my mother gave him when he first mouthed his choice, the look that said, That's it, you done lost your goddamned mind. She did that thing she does where she grows two full inches with righteous, and he decided to just whisper Love you, Jimi Savannah whenever we were alone, re- and rechristening me the seed of Otis, conjuring his own religion and naming it me.
Poseidon was easier than most. He calls himself a god, but he fell beneath my fingers with more shaking than any mortal. He wept when my robe fell from my shoulders. I made him bend his back for me, listened to his screams break like waves. We defiled that temple the way it should be defiled, screaming and bucking our way from corner to corner. The bitch goddess probably got a real kick out of that. I'm sure I'll be hearing from her. She'll give me nightmares for a week or so; that I can handle. Or she'll turn the water in my well into blood; I'll scream when I see it, and that will be that. Maybe my first child will be born with the head of a fish. I'm not even sure it was worth it, Poseidon pounding away at me, a madman, losing his immortal mind because of the way my copper skin swells in moonlight. Now my arms smoke and itch. Hard scales cover my wrists like armour. C'mon Athena, he was only another lay, and not a particularly good one at that, even though he can spit steam from his fingers. Won't touch him again. Promise. And we didn't mean to drop to our knees in your temple, but our bodies were so hot and misaligned. It's not every day a gal gets to sample a god, you know that. Why are you being so rough on me? I feel my eyes twisting, the lids crusting over and boiling, the pupils glowing red with heat. Athena, woman to woman, could you have resisted him? Would you have been able to wait for the proper place, the right moment, to jump those immortal bones? Now my feet are tangled with hair, my ears are gone. My back is curving and my lips have grown numb. My garden boy just shattered at my feet. Dammit, Athena, take away my father's gold. Send me away to live with lepers. Give me a pimple or two. But my face. To have men never again be able to gaze at my face, growing stupid in anticipation of that first touch, how can any woman live like that? How will I be able to watch their warm bodies turn to rock when their only sin was desiring me? All they want is to see me sweat. They only want to touch my face and run their fingers through my . . . my hair is it moving?