Sunday, February 17, 2013

136. Heroism

Hoping to get C.W. on a new track, I encouraged him to try his hand at something creative, like writing. To my surprise said it was a great idea and he would jump into it with all seven of his feet. Imagine. So I wasn’t surprised to find him occupying my desk, sporting a long beard and white robe, and working over large scrolls of paper.

What’s up?”

He looked up with a patient smile. “Good morning noble friend, though rosy dawn has already flung herself high into the smog-gray sky, we welcome you.”

“Okay. I give up. What are you doing?”

“Translating,” he said.


“Yes, translating. Your species needs modern versions of your great literature. And I am the servant of the Muse.”

“You are translating what?”

“Homer,” he said. “It is about time someone drew strength from the gods and waded sword-fresh into the task.”

“Uh …”

“In short, you need updated versions of The Iliad and The Odyssey. And I’m here to do it.”

“You would update The Iliad? How?”

Oh please, weary traveler,” he said. “Your species doesn’t comprehend the idea of rich men’s sons fighting wars.” He took a breath and bowed his head. “Give me a break, oh Muse of lowly word-workers. King Priam sending his son Hector to fight to the death with Achilles? That would be like sending one of the Romney boys out to fight a Koch Brothers offspring. Why, you might even have the sons of Wall Street bankers and Halliburton CEOs slugging it out on the beaches of Troy.” He looked directly at me. “Ridiculous.”

I had to admit he had a point.

“So,” he continued, “The fighting must be done by those with the least to lose. Agamemnon’s ships will pick up African slaves on the way to Troy. Your species will understand the concept of their doing the heavy lifting, so to speak.”

“C.W., I said. “Are you out of your mind?”

“Anyway,” he said. “This hand-to-hand combat has to go. I’ve come up with an improved version of so-called ‘Greek Fire’ that can be launched from 16 miles out to sea. The armies should not even see one another.”

“So that’s it? Slave soldiers and aerial bombardment?”

“For The Iliad. Now I’m working on The Odyssey.

“Any problems there?”

“No, just opportunities. I’m using the Kardashians as models for the Sirens.”

“Ah, …”

“And,” he said. “Penelope has to be a bit more of a ‘cougar.’”

C.W. often leaves me speechless. This was one of those times.

“And,” he said. “This bloody combat in the final scene is much too personal.”

“Too what?”

What could be more old-fashioned
than combatants in a war actually
 touching one another? C.W.
“Personal. I’ll abstract it by placing Odysseus in Pylos and Telemachus in Sparta. They will each have a god, or goddess if you wish, to undertake the actual killing in Ithaca with no danger to either of our heroes. Brilliant eh?”

“Hardly,” I said. “You can’t have great heroes killing people by proxy from half a world away with no actual contact.”

“Oh no, Mr. Know-it-all? Well, it so happens that I do actual research for my work, unlike some people.” He rummaged on the desk and retrieved a copy of a recent newspaper. He point to a headline and smirked. It read “U.S. military to give Bronze Stars to drone operators—will rank higher in honor than those received by actual on-the-ground combatants.”

I sank into my seat as Rosy Dawn dipped her cheerful fingers into every unlighted corner of the world.

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