Odysseus left us with one blind mother-fucker of a problem.
Lynn glared at me from behind eyes as sharp as Polyphemus’ teeth. Clearly, this was all my fault. I had chartered the boat. I had given the captain a heart attack. I had no regard for Lynn’s life and the fact that she probably enjoyed having one. It was my fault, too, that we were playing death or dodge with a blubbering one-eye-holed giant dressed in a stinky loin cloth. And if she died, her blood would be on my hands. Just, not for very long.
“This is no time to be mad, Lynn, duck!”
I darted away from the monstrous hand, tripped gracelessly on a lamb and tumbled to a halt inside a giant wheel of cheese. If I could ever use a bath. Lynn fared better in her escape and now cowered behind an immovable jug fortress. I licked feta off my lips.
Polyphemus lifted his incredible honker into the air and sniffed. This was no room of subtle odor and yet the acrid stench of one girl’s fearsweat left a faint overtone, a scent only the most discerning olfactory organ could sense.
But sense it he did. A putrid smile arced across his flat lips. He approached her sideways, the way my brother used to when he thought he was being crafty in stalking Cat’s jerking tail. They had that same malicious grin.
He pounced, his arms tree trunks dislodged by a hurricane, wrecking everything in their path. The protective jugs toppled and crashed into the center of the room, spilling wine and vinegar and olive oil and exposing Lynn to the monster. He had her. Her retreat was blocked.
It was then that I did the stupidest thing I’d ever done in my life.
“Hey!” I shouted, “I’m over here.”
He turned as quick as Black Swan-Natalie Portman and in a voice colored by the foul stench of his breath incanted some gnarled version of Greek my way.
“Yeah, that’s right. Over here.”
In Greece, it’s not a good idea to have an itinerary. Distance seems to have no relation to time in these windswept islands, just ask Odysseus. Dude took like ten years to go from Italy to Ithaca. That’s a distance of just over 500 miles. He could have walked home in a month but when you’re sailing around the Mediterranean you have to be prepared to go where the wind and waves take you. You need to be ready for anything. You need to keep your wits about you. You need to be the man with the plan.
I’m afraid I lacked both the man and plan in that recipe. I just had a disregard for my own safety and a big mouth.
The giant took one step towards me. Then, another. On his third leg-plant he splashed down into the mess of wine and oil he’d split all over the floor. He slipped and despite his attempt to windmill his arms and catch his balance, crashed with a resounding crack as the back of his skull collided with the rock floor of his cave.
I climbed out of the cheese.
Polyphemus was dead. He had breathed his last breath and eaten his last Greek.
I watched him for a long time but there was no rise and fall in his chest and on a frame that big it’s hard to miss an inhalation. Stumbling towards the enormous corpse, I failed to notice the trail of blood that poured from his skull into the red wine lake. I righted myself, but the sticky slop of dead Cyclopes was already stuck to the cheese and my skin.
When the others came round, asking, not doubt, if someone was attacking their brother, they found me standing triumphantly on Polyphemus’ head, covered in feta and the blood of the son of Poseidon.
I froze, hoping to go unnoticed, but it’s kind of hard to be invisible when you’re standing on the face of a dead Cyclopes. For a moment, no one moved. They stared at me in silence with their binocular monovision. I stared right back at them. Lynn squeezed her eyes shut and tried to make the lot of us vanish from existence.
Then, a miracle. Clapping. More clapping. A resounding applause. Polyphemus’ brothers lifted us high and paraded us triumphantly into CyclopesVille to celebrate our heroism.
The body of Polyphemus provided a feast the likes of which I had never seen before (and I certainly hope I will never see again). How we ate and danced and wiled the night away in story and song.
Through a series of gestures, the Cyclopeses told the tale of Unlikable Polyphe, the Unavoidable Bellyacher. It had been more than three thousand years since Odysseus had tricked him out of an eye and a dozen lunches and he still moaned about it in unending self-pity. When the weather grew hostile and the flocks thinned to dangerously few sheep, Poly pouted his massive lips and threw rocks into the sea. When the harvest time came and everyone from the littlest clops child to the bendiest Cyclopes elder came out to join in the work, Phemus drank himself silly and made crying sounds long into the night. He thought of Nobody and himself. He never offered to help clean up after a party. He sang out of key as loud as he could. In short, nobody liked him.
Wanting to commemorate our fateful journey, I handed my camera to our gracious host, Thyallus.
|Lynn, Polyphemus and me.|