Greek Fire

Themistokles the Lesbian, as the papers were to call him, came from the small Greek isle of Lesbos. By profession he was a vintner, though he only made retsina and mainly for himself. His main source of income was his mother and her hostelry. She was a widow who ran a home-away for traveling women, though what business foreigners had with Lesbos, Themistokles could never quite understand. Still he enjoyed the income it produced, and rationalized its use with the indubitable fact that it made his mother happy.

Upon his twentieth birthday wanderlust struck him, and he decided to go to America to seek his fortune. America was not his choice because of any illusions he had about gold-paved streets, or the like. He chose America because his mother had always said that it was where his father had come from, and gone to at the end of his short life. Though she was vague in the details of his birth, likewise about the misadventure which took him from them, young Themistokles decided that there were far worse things in life than proving yourself better than your father, thus in one pronouncement unconsciously obliterating the entire field of modern psychoanalysis. So he set off to Athens on a tramp steamer, and from there it was simply a series of AirBus jumps to New York.

He entered the city with nothing but two visas and a return ticket. One visa was his, listing his profession as ‘Lesbian’ at the insistence of a smiling young customs agent, and one was once his late father’s, whose last address had been in what was assuredly the Greek quarter of town. Themistokles found a taxi driven by a Philadephian, whose Hindi-scented Greek was passable enough, and went straight off to the address on his father’s visa.

Despite the fine quality of Themistokles’ suit, the taximan decided on the bonds of lingual fraternity not to take advantage of his fare’s ignorance in the area of currency conversions. This would have proven fruitless, as Themistokles was used to handling American money (almost all his mother’s houseguests paid in exotic foreign currencies, such as the dollar). As it was, Themistokles thought that the man was trying to cheat him when he was told the real price, and only a look at the meter kept him from summoning a constable. Thus satisfied, he paid gladly. He disembarked, turning up his collar against an evening rain.

At the address listed on his father’s old visa was no public or private residence, so undoubtedly the building had changed hands. However, Themistokles was heartened to note that he had at least found the Greek quarter of the city, for in large glowing letters the word lesbian was proclaimed in many places about the building. Dampening quickly, he made straight for the entrance.

Upon entering, he noticed three things and noticed them very quickly. One, that none of the women in the establishment seemed to bear the slightest traces of Lesbian ancestry, nor did they even have the look of the Ionian or Cretian. Two, that none of these women seemed to be in any full state of dress. Three, that none of these women seemed to be accompanied by men, nor did there seem to be any unaccompanied men on the premises. Themistokles stood bewildered until a burly woman of some Germanic descent accosted him and asked him his business.

He attempted to explain his bewilderment in his best English, and the woman, in a moment of kindness fully uncalled for in her job description, took him aside and attempted to explain. It was then that Themistokles first learned that Lesbian was not common parlance for a person from the isle of Lesbos; that Sapphic was no longer an adjective used to describe a certain syllable count in Aeolic verse; that bulls were not simply ancient symbols of Eleusis; and that many Dutch feats of engineering had met a similar fate. Further inquiries also produced some definitional ambiguity regarding scissors.

This deeply offended Themistokles, not so much because he felt it a perversion of his culture, but more because of the shocking ignorance it displayed. He felt himself therefore honorbound to, in the manner of his great Greek forefathers, challenge the matrons of the establishment to correct their misappreciations.

Themistokles then leaped up upon a runway in the middle of the room and upended the announcer’s vacant table, ducking his entire body behind it. From there, he proceeded to insult, goad, prod, and just plain blaspheme every single person in the room. He prayed for their ruin. He mocked their country. He commented on their mental limitations. He inculcated every woman there with every provincial Greek expression of abuse in his experienced vocabulary.

At the point when, like a Charibdian tide, the women prepared to sweep over him and assuredly do him bodily harm, he erupted with the loudest imitation he could muster of the most obscene bodily function he could think of, and then ran at a full clip from the room. He then hailed a taxi and found himself a bed and breakfast, where he slept proudly, knowing he had behaved honorably in the manner of his ancestors.

The next morning, after sampling America’s feeble attempt at coffee and destroying most of a platter of pithy baklava, he went for a walk to find work. He was, however, impeded at this, for he was accosted in the street by a veritable mob. This gathering was made up of equal parts Activists (some to cheer for him, mostly to howl for his blood), Reporters (most with a vocal interest in interviewing him), and Politicians (some to cheer for him, some to howl for his blood, and all to capitalize on the Spectacle).

Themistokles was fully unaware how his actions in the country had possibly created such a difficulty. However, when a video of his offenses the previous evening was shown from the rear of a television station’s minicam van, the laughter and cheers and screams of rage it elicited made him sure that said incident was what was causing such a stir. He then attempted to explain to them how his manner of fighting the perceived injustice was tactically identical to the manner in which his most noble ancestors won independence from Ottoman subjugation. This combative strategy allowed for maximum damage with minimal personal risk.

Themistokles was about to explain how this was surely proof that his people still retained the brilliance of Socrates, when a raw egg broke upon his forehead. Then another.

Themistokles was deeply offended. Before he could be subject to further assaults, he jumped behind a Central Park bench and began to sling insults like missiles against his attackers. He produced such invective as he had never created before. His words did all but darken the sky with their quantity and ferocity.

Unfortunately he was unable to reach a satisfying apex of intensity before being forced to flee. He made his way with alacrity across the Park, where he found a taxi and made directly for the airport.

He went home more content with his lot in life, his wild oats sown, their bounty reaped, and salt liberally strewn upon their fields. After this, his mother’s Lesbian Hostel attracted so much attention that she was able to quintuple her rates. Yet still she kept her clientèle very limited. After all, she would not want to bother her son unnecessarily with too many guests coming at all hours of the night. Besides, she was herself already well past her prime. Long past were the days when she was capable of pleasing more than one woman at once.


-Waynflete, 2003


~ by davekov on 26 April 2009.

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