More Than a Fluke

Telemakhe sat seriously contemplating her face in a mirror. If she subtracted her father's eyebrows and his hair colour, if she stopped the funny crook her mouth formed when smiling, which she had learned from him, what was left of her own face that might be the very image of her mother? She looked deeply and deeper into her own eyes trying to penetrate the truth of who she was and find some strength in that to face the suitors. She put the mirror down and looked out the window to the misty ends of the ocean. This was her morning ritual.

Telemakhe walked over to her wardrobe. She pulled out a shirt, trousers and a brown and gold tunic. Quickly she dressed herself and tied her curls back into a pony tail. After slipping on some sandals Telemakhe left her room and trotted down the staircase to the dining hall where she was greeted by several dozen already drunkening young men eating freshly roast oxen from her herds. She had given up on wearing herself out with anger and frustration at their unwanted presence. She simply nodded. With calculated obliviousness she made her way to her own chair and table where a servant met her with offerings of breakfast.

A shaft of what appeared to be morning sunlight flashed for a moment into the hall from the western door.

Telemakhe was already studying each bite of her cantelope between sips of coffee, so as to avoid meeting anyone's gaze. So, she did not notice the newcomer at her doorstep right away. When the servant came with newspaper and porridge, she had to nudge Telemakhe into observing their new arrival.

Annoyed with herself for being hindered in her ability to behave as a gracious host, she hastened to the door. Standing there was a sea captain with stormy gray eyes and dark golden braids in his hair and beard. In one hand he lightly held a harpoon in the stead of a spear, in the other he carried a jar filled with freshly caught octopus, which he gave to a servant as a gift to the household.

Telemakhe grasped his hand in both of hers. "Dear stranger, we are pleased to welcome you to our home. I am Telemakhe. Come feast with me and then tell me of your errand," she warmly greeted him. Telemakhe then grabbed the harpoon thrusting it high into the spear rack. She took him into the dining hall where she spread an embroidered velveteen cloth over one of the finest carved chairs in the room. She seated him in this chair with its cushy foot rest and pulled up a freshly polished table.

No doubt thoughts about news of her mother were crossing Telemakhe's mind as she helped wash the stranger's hands in a silver fingerbowl. She then had him served a smorgasbord of fruits and meats, including his own octopus, on gilt plates with goblet after goblet of wine. The house harper, Phemios, accompanied the meal with clear sweet song. This song was frequently interrupted by the rude and boisterous comments of the young men.

Confidentially, Telemakhe leaned toward the stranger saying,"It's easy for them to enjoy and make mock of the fruits of this household. I tell you, if my mother were here, she would make short work of them. No one could push her about without regretting it. But it makes no sense for me to speak of someone who may be rolling beneath the waves until she becomes yet more white sand upon the shore. So tell me, who are you, where do you come from? What brought you here and have you been here before? I would dearly love to hear stories about Ithaka in the days when Odysseus still ruled it."

The Fabric of Time.

Copyright © 1998 Katherine Phelps