Creative Work: ‘Silvia’ by Barbara Biles

Creative WorksFor this week’s post, WPN has expanded its geographical horizons, bringing you a wonderful piece of fiction from Canadian writer Barbara Biles. Biles’ work is reflective of ancient tales, drawing influence from Greek Mythology to parallel the way we live and love in the modern world. This short piece explores two generations of characters, all with their own ties to mythology and the Greek gods who have spawned them. You, the reader, are an active participant in this tale, being spoken to, almost in secret, about Silvia’s affairs and the speaker’s memories as she has grown over the years.


          Her hair was blond as a child then prematurely grey so that you thought of her as ash-blonde; beautiful but mature. In spite of her resolve to become a biologist she fell into the same trap as dozens of other girls of the sixties, believing the whole amusing idea of free love: equal opportunity to hop in the sack with no repercussions. So funny I forgot to laugh.

Silvia got pregnant the first time out and like her namesake, Rhea Silvia, who was seduced in the forest by the god Mars to become mother of Romulus and Remus, she bore twins thus ending her own concocted tale of perpetual virginity. In Silvia’s case the seduction was in the back of a Chevy Nova at the edge of Groat Ravine. She could end the resulting pregnancy or put her boys up for adoption. Unlike Rhea Silvia whose boys were set adrift on the Tiber River then rescued and suckled by the she-wolf Lupa, Silvia chose to stay with her Aunt Margaret in Toronto for a stint and from then on wondered what kind of life her boys might lead. Certainly not likely to create a city like Rome or commit fratricide.

You might consider me lucky in contrast. My first time was in a motel after the Wauneita Ball. All arranged ahead of time unbeknownst to me. You have to know that for a girl of the sixties, in spite of the liberation, sex was shocking the first time, as in am I really doing this? There was less worry of venereal diseases since none could actually happen to nice girls and AIDS was not yet around. But pregnancy, that was always possible. In spite of it I took no responsibility in prevention because it wouldn’t be proper to anticipate sex and when I returned to Kelsey Hall that night I realized I still had a safe stuck inside me, filled with all the semen needed to create a child. My explanation to myself was yes, I must be in love. So much for the free love part. Why was I lucky? No pregnancy, either the first time out or any time after.

Silvia confessed to me, once she was back in Edmonton, that she delivered and gave away her babies and that Marty Weston was the father, though he was unaware of it. Marty was a law student, destined to become Chief Judge Weston, and through Parent Finders the twins found them both which was a relief and a heart stopper to Silvia and must have been a shocker to Marty.

Some claim that Rhea Silvia, instead of being seduced by Mars, was really impregnated by the demi-god Hercules, who was himself illegitimate, or even by her uncle Amulius who had first forced her to become a Vestal Virgin so he could keep the throne of Alba Longa free of her descendants. In parallel, Marty, feeling vulnerable in his venerable position, suggested that any number of others could be the father to Silvia’s twin boys. But I knew Silvia. She was traumatized by the immediate pregnancy experience and had not been with any other for more than a year after their bout in the Chevy. And DNA proved Marty’s paternity. Now how does one prove one is the son of a god?

I ran into Marty once while riding an escalator at The Bay. This was before the twins had tracked him down. He commented on how young I looked. Still pretty, he said. I have a compact figure, having had no kids to stretch my stomach out of shape and unlike Silvia I have very few grey hairs. On the other hand Marty had developed quite a belly and his once curly hair had receded and flattened considerably. I didn’t mention Silvia’s secret.

The twins, Troy and Hardy, are fraternal as opposed to identical so you are not tempted to treat them as if they are the same, whether in brain, heart or soul. They call me Auntie as I have stuck by Silvia through thick and thin (unlike her husband), including her first meeting with the boys, and I am happy to be in their lives as I have no children of my own. They were raised in a congenial family of market gardeners in Simcoe County. Troy Dobson, tall and prematurely grey like his mother, took his childhood experiences to the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph and became an expert in organic and small scale agronomy and the marketing of fair trade agricultural products for profit in third world countries. Through his travels he met and became the husband of Luisa, a Bolivian beauty, and they in turn named their daughter Silvia. This was before Troy found his mother. Maybe he knew about her long before he contacted her but talk about coincidence.

Hardy Dobson, who looks a lot like Marty, including a tendency to expand the belly, has his own law practice in Barrie, specializing in international adoptions and custody battles and has yet to get married though he has two girls. He says he is on excellent terms with their mother.

So you see, Silvia is also a grandmother and I am a great aunt by association.

Now Mars had a love affair with Venus and as you know Venus is associated with love and sexual desire. This was long before the seduction of Rhea Silvia and the birth of Romulus and Remus. You may be wondering where I am going with this. Let me remind you about free love in the sixties. Let me remind you of the long formal gown I wore, of the black strapless bra and the bikini panties to match, of the silk hose and the open-toed high heels, all chosen to impress my date and all eventually removed by his expertise and my implicit cooperation, in a seedy motel. I sometimes wonder what our children could have been like, Marty’s and mine, but I will settle for Auntie.

Notice the depth of the characters, the way they are filled out with physical descriptions as well as genealogical history. This is a hyper-real world, where realistic characters flirt with the idea of divine mythological intervention. The interwoven interactions between characters are both intriguing and shameful, captivating the reader almost instantly in a short piece about lies, love, and the people who stick with us over the years.

Join us again next week for another fantastic creative piece. Also, don’t forget to submit your own work if you are looking to get your words out there!

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