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Greek-American Stories: Welcome, Home, Odysseus

You know I like reading ancient Greek history. OK, so, I tell it in my own way. Hey! I say it the way I see it! Well, I already wrote about the Trojan War and Greek soldiers being stuffed into a wooden horse waiting to attack the city of Troy for the return of the beautiful Helen. Today, I decided to tell you another saga – in my inimitable way, of course.

This is about Odysseus’s journey home to Ithaca taking ten years because Poseidon condemned him. But, having Athena on his side and his own smarts, saved his life during the horrific journey where many of his sailors were eaten by the giant, Polyphemus. Athena knew about the mess going on in his house. So, just before he arrived, she had him disguised as an old, decrepit beggar. He needed a goddess for that? How hard is it finding rags and a phony beard to look like a homeless bum? Anyway, it worked! Inside his palace Penelope was enduring a mob of powerful nobles who believed Odysseus was long dead. They were competing for his kingdom and nagging her to choose a husband among them. Her house was a misery for a long time. I’d figure a pit bulldog would have solved her problem. They hung around, drinkin’ and stuffin’ their guts, taking inventory and listing the valuables.

Odysseus noticed his son, Telemachus. Crooking his finger he took him aside and lifting the phony beard, said, “Guess who?” Telemachus was so heartened when he realized the disgusting creep beside him is actually, ‘papa’. Then, looking out at the motley crew, he murmurs, “Ha ha – ha ha – ha!” Then, the raggedy old bum staggers up to Penelope and with shaky hands and gruff voice, tells her about the demise of her poor, beloved Odysseus, while watching her reactions, closely. They were good! Tears ran down her face hearing about his terrible sufferings, his adventure into the place of the dead, the sea monsters Scylla and Charybdis, who had eaten a few sailors, and other fantastic misadventures that beset poor Odysseus before he succumbed to a horrific death.

I’ll bet he didn’t tell her about the beautiful nymph, Calypso, who saved his life and promised him eternal life and youth forever if he would stay with her and be her lover.  And, he did stay – for a while. Hey! Why not? He was treated like a god! But, after a time, doing nothing but being a lover began to become a bit tedious and boring after the hell of a journey he’d endured. He decided it’s time to go home. That’s what comes when you have no hobbies – it was a time before Scrabble.

During Odysseus’ s absence, pressure had been mounting on Penelope, sitting at a loom for years, telling them she’d make up her mind who to choose when she finished the wall to wall carpet. At night, she’d pull out a few rows to prolong its finishing. That’s when she did some tall thinking. Those lazy, parasitic bums, who don’t even clean up after sacrificing all those animals they bar-b-cued, gotta be taught a lesson. Taking out her husband’s bow, she promised to offer herself as wife to anyone who could bend the mighty bow her husband left behind. Telemachus rubbed his hands in glee, thinking, what an opportunity to place a bet! Each one tried to bend it. No one could! What did they expect? They were so out of shape after boozin’ and gorging like they did for so long.

The nobles watched, giggling, as the old decrepit man stepped forward. Penelope, handed him the bow he requested, nervously thinking, ‘Hey! Suppose he wins! It’s back to the loom, that’s what!’ Raising the bow he aimed high and sent the arrows sailing, ‘up, up and away’!

It didn’t take long for the suitors to get the message and run like hell off the property. But, Penelope wanted more proof. Even without the disguise he didn’t look too good. Hey! Ten harrowing years will do it! She took him into their bedroom and said, “what’s wrong here?” He said, ‘don’t you remember that one of the legs of the bed I built had a tree growing out of it?” That was the final proof! That ragged stranger who landed in Ithaca to seek restitution was, in fact, the island’s rightful king. And, rule he did!

 

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