A Fireside Chat

Penelopos sat himself before the fireplace in his studio. His chair was one that he had designed himself. The wood was polished so finely that it shone in the lamplight along with the inlaid whorls of silver and ivory. Its seat was covered with a deep fleece. Several maids were efficiently starting a fire in the grating.

Eurykleia the nurse brought up some fruit and dipping honey. Penelopos called for others to bring in a bench and a sheepskin for his guest to comfortably sit upon. The nurse then left to prepare some mochas which she soon brought back. The old beggar woman stepped hesitantly forward.

"Please, come in and have a seat," Penelopos welcomed the woman in. "I am hoping by the exotic look of that walking stick that you are well travelled. Tell me, who are you and where is it that you have come from?"

The woman settled herself on the seat and lowered her eyes. "Penelopos, I have heard your good name spoken from afar. Truly it is spoken with a sweetness and pleasure greater than any honey and a respect almost as great as that given to Aglaia, perhaps even Apollo. My name and my origins are such small matters, I ask that we do not speak of them for that would bring me far too much pain. I am so heartsore that should I start crying, someone might accuse me of getting maudlin from too many cups of wine. Besides it does not do for me to be endlessly grieving."

Penelopos nodded at the woman's final comment, "You know, I too have known much pain. Nearly twenty years ago my dear love, Odysseus, sailed for the Trojan Wars and since their ending we have heard nothing from her or of her. I held that woman as close to my heart as if she were a part of me. Losing her has been like losing an organ: a lung with which to breath the fresh aroma of life, skin with which to embrace life's sensuousness, an ear with which to hear life's rhythms and melodies, and an eye with which to see the beauty of truth. I have chosen to sense pain for far too long. But I do not regret not remarrying: I have had my art, my wonderful daughter and my memories.

"Sadly, my daughter has inherited still more grief in the form of wolvish suitors who care more for power and possession than the love of the good woman Telemakhe has grown to be. Not so long ago we attempted to keep the suitors at bay by the ruse of having them wait for my completion of a wedding gift, a tapestry. During the day I would whip my shuttle through its warp and woof, drawing forth the images of Apollo and Daphne; at night Telemakhe would help me undo what weaving had been accomplished. All too soon a loose lipped maid gave away the game. Now the situation grows ever more dangerous with threats against our lives. If I can share such of my own grief with you, perhaps you can tell me who you are."


Copyright © 1998 Katherine Phelps