No. 126: Beautiful Losers. He had three not unattractive female friends--Abigail Crunch, a cultural critic for a small local newspaper, Gwendolyn Witt, a playwright, and Noreen Nosegay, who sometimes wrote poems. One day he made the lighthearted mistake of referring to them as his beautiful Muses, whereupon they insisted on mounting a beauty contest--vaguely derived from the famous Olympian Judgement of Paris, where the goddess-contestants were Aphrodite, Hera and Athena. He knew it would all come to no good--though he took some comfort in the knowledge that whatever his choice, it would be unlikely to result in anything so dire as the Trojan War.

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