Cupid’s Day Off
Part 1: Carl, the Cupid-in-Training
Nothing was going to stop this vacation. Oh sure, there were many things to do this year. The world was in turmoil, wars were being fought, and the one hope people sometimes clung to during times like these were the love they often found in pairings around the world. Well, that was true to a certain extent many times in the last thousand years. And throughout all those hard times, Cupid had done his sworn duty and helped couples know the real love they felt deep inside themselves.
In the past hundred years or so, the Cupid High Command had become very technological and less reliant on actual skills like intuition and heartfelt feelings when it came to performing cupid duties. But the only one whose opinion really mattered was the one and only Cupid, the man behind the myth.
Cupid was a man. Sure, he got portrayed as a baby sometimes, or at least a little cherub with a diaper and a bow. But Cupid was all man. He always had been and as far as he was concerned, always would be. He’d even insisted that all cupids-in-training be male. It wasn’t as though he was a sexist. It’s just females tended to act more out of emotion when it came to pairing couples up. Sometimes, it took an analytical mind to not just pair up every loving couple on the planet.
So what if Cupid had strong opinions? He never saw it as a problem. And it helped when the High Command began handing out the latest in design from Cupid Labs, the Cupidator 3000. The Cupidator 3000 was the bow that finally replaced the long-used traditional one people on Earth recognized from myth. It was a handy device and Cupid certainly saw the appeal but it was dangerous. He also saw this and had warned the Cupid High Command for many years that cupids-in-training were not ready to handle the power.
The way a Cupidator 3000 worked was much like a crossbow. It had two separate arrows locked and loaded and a small control screen that lit up bright red when a couple was found in proximity. It was designed to only detect couples that were in direct contact with each other and ones who had some sort of relationship. Only when it locked in was the trigger released for firing. The screen would then analyze the couples to make sure they were each of appropriate age. But all these detailed features had problems, as Cupid had pointed out.
The Cupidator 3000 often locked in on couples that weren’t the greatest matches in the world, sometimes not a match at all. Cupid had learned to distinguish between a couple sharing a cab and a couple parked late at night watching the stars. But cupids-in-training often hadn’t performed well in his tests of them.
Another basic problem was the Cupidator 3000 had a wide age variety it considered acceptable. It wasn’t like Cupid was terribly old-fashioned, but the age ranges it considered acceptable were from seventeen to seventy. That meant as long as the two it locked onto were between those years of age, it would release the trigger for firing. This often meant Cupid had to make the final decision himself and he hesitated to think what would happen were he not in control.
But nothing was ruining this vacation, and that meant nothing. No concern was going to stop Cupid from taking this one Valentine’s Day off. It had been hundreds, maybe a thousand years since his last break from the daily grind. And it was a daily grind. Many probably imagined Cupid was only busy around Valentine’s Day but he was helping couples find love every day of the year. It was part of the job. Wherever love was, in all its many forms, there was Cupid. That kind of work load would drive even the most loyal cupids crazy. So he was leaving on his vacation in just under an hour and all he had left to do was await the arrival of his stand-in for this Valentine’s Day.
Cupid had asked for the best of the best, only the most mature and knowledgeable of the cupids-in-training. He wasn’t that comforted by this request. The Cupidator 3000 was a weapon, maybe not a deadly weapon, but one that could still cause chaos if used incorrectly. It had settings that he never messed with, but if a cupid-in-training wasn’t aware of them, these settings could ruin a perfectly good pairing.
There was a sudden knocking at the door to Cupid’s office and he felt the worries he had settle inside his gut like bad seafood. Why did he have a bad feeling about this vacation?
The door opened slowly and a rather innocent looking man poked his head in. “Er... Hi sir. I’m Carl, the cupid-in-training you requested.”
Cupid placed a hand on his head. Oh quills and arrows, Cupid thought, why did it have to be Carl? He rolled his eyes, motioning for the small man to sit down opposite him.
“Hi there Carl. You may have heard I’m taking this Valentine’s Day off and in fact I’ll be leaving in just the next hour. What I need is for you to take over my duties during this absence.” He paused, trying not to be bothered by the excited thrill Carl seemed to get. “Are you ready to handle that responsibility?”
“Oh yes, yes sir. I’ve been waiting for this day for years.” Carl said. The man was nearly falling from the chair he sat in.
Cupid rolled his eyes again. It wasn’t that Carl was a bad guy. In fact, he was the kindest and most enthusiastic fellow Cupid had overseen during his training. But Carl had a big flaw that Cupid wasn’t sure he could overcome. The man liked making people happy. He hated seeing an argument or a disagreement in others. Often during the training simulations, Carl had fired more arrows into arguing couples to make them forget their disagreements and find new ways of handling the energy they felt. This sometimes wasn’t a bad thing. In fact Cupid had been impressed with the turn-out. That’s probably why Carl ended up as the one now sitting in his office. But there was more to being a Cupid than solving disagreements. One had to have the right stuff going on in their head to analyze the situation. This was where Cupid felt Carl lacked somewhat. He was a bit too enthusiastic to take the job as serious as it needed to be.
“Carl, you realize this a big deal. You’ll have a lot weighing on you while I’m gone. And you’ll be in charge of this.” Cupid said. He held up the Cupidator 3000, the compact and yet powerful device that did half the job for you, requiring little if any real skill in aiming. It wasn’t that skill or lack thereof that worried Cupid.
“Yes sir.” Carl said. “I am totally committed to showing you how well I can handle this job and all the responsibilities that will entail.”
Cupid smiled politely but still held reservations. “That’s good Carl. I know you have the right heart. I just hope you’ve learned what the real meaning of being a cupid is all about. It’s not all about disagreements. There are genuine loving couples you can help. Try to remember that.”
Carl seemed a bit too easily agreeable for Cupid’s tastes, but at least he nodded his head and seemed compliant.
“And remember Carl, don’t turn the settings up too high. This device is a powerful one. But when used improperly, it can create lust, not love. Lust is a powerful form of love in many ways, but when used without careful consideration, lust can actually make things worse between a couple, not better.”
“I understand sir. I’m ready, trust me.” Carl said.
Cupid noted the time and realized he couldn’t stall this turnover of power for too much longer. He had to simply grit his teeth and take the chance. He only hoped it wouldn’t end up in disaster.
“I’m going to have to trust you Carl. But just remember this, always take a second before firing. You only get one shot to fire correctly. There are no second-chances in being a successful cupid.”
Carl stood and reached over the desk to shake Cupid’s hand. He was enthusiastic and near hyperactive with anticipation as Cupid laid a hand up on his shoulder. Looking into the man’s eyes, Cupid saw the excitement, but he also saw the seriousness he wanted to see in his temporary replacement. Maybe things would turn out fine.
“Carl, I Cupid hereby entrust you with the Cupidator 3000 and promote you to the rank of Cupid in the time of my absence from the job. You are granted all powers and responsibilities associated with the office of Cupid and are commissioned to serve with honor and excellence on this day. Do you accept what I have entrusted in you?”
“Yes sir.” Carl said. He smiled proudly and took the Cupidator 3000 from the desk.
“Then go and serve love this holiday. I send you out Cupid Carl.”
Carl seemed like a child as he held the Cupidator 3000 closely and nearly appeared ready to cry. He looked into Cupid’s face with wide expressive eyes. “Thank you sir. Thank you very much.”
As Carl left the office and would head down to Earth to begin his duties, Cupid hoped he’d done the right thing, chosen the right time to take this vacation. It was a decision that had weighed on him for far too long, and now he finally had to admit. He needed this day off. He only hoped Carl didn’t make him regret taking it.