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Penelope's Story

Excerpt from We First Met in Ithaca, or Was It Eden?

By Richard SeltzerPublished about a year ago 3 min read
We First Met in Ithaca, or Was It Eden? at Amazon

Elle and Oz, strangers ready to restart their lives, meet by chance and flirtatiously swap stories in a dark abandoned house. This is one of their stories.

“Amazing,” said Oz. “Are you a goddess?”

“I don’t think so,” said Elle. “But I’m on a roll. Can I tell another?”

“We make our own rules here,” Oz confirmed. “Go for it.”

“As a kid reading The Odyssey, it occurred to me that Penelope suspected that this stranger in beggar’s rags was her husband, but identity was not enough for her. She needed to find out what kind of man he was now, after twenty years.

“Couples who live together non-stop can drift apart and, in middle age, realize they’re strangers to one another, that they don’t even like, much less love one another. Penelope doubted that, after such a long absence, she and Odysseus could reconnect and start over again, as if he had never left.

“So rather than welcome him, she kept testing him, culminating with the scene when he exploded in response to her suggestion that the immovable bed he had built for them had been altered and could be moved. Then she knew not only that he was her husband, but also that he was the man she wanted to welcome back into her life.

“I imagine another scene, after the suitors were slain and the townsfolk pacified. Odysseus started a detailed account of his adventures, and Penelope stopped him, abruptly.”

Oz asked, “Is this story from another missing book of The Odyssey, a book 26?”

“No,” Elle replied, “this is a childhood fantasy of mine. I imagined that, even before the Trojan War and his subsequent adventures, Odysseus had loved telling stories, especially stories about himself. This time, Penelope put a stop to it, saying, ‘I’ve heard all that before. No need to repeat it.’

“‘But there’s much I left out when I told you the first time. I want you to know everything.’

“She laughed. ‘Do you forget?’

“‘Forget what? ‘

“‘When you visited me in Acarnia, at my father’s castle, and sought to buy my hand in marriage, one night we slipped out together and ran through the north meadow. We lay near the spring and made love in the moonlight.’

“‘Of course I remember that.’

“‘But have you forgotten the stories we told one another about our make-believe adventures.’

“‘Which were?’

“‘The Cyclops, the crashing rocks, Charybdis and Scylla, the Sirens. I told you I had my crew put wax in their ears to protect them from the songs of the Sirens, and I had them tie me to the mast, without the wax, so I could hear. So, you tied me to a tree and sang to me and kissed me all over, then undid me, and we made love until dawn.’

“‘Impossible. How could you have known what I would do years later?’

“‘The stories I told were based on legends from many years before. You told me that you, too, had heard them. We had that legendary world in common. That was part of our bond, wanting to live such a life. You, as a man, might do such things. I, as a woman, could only fantasize and weave the images into the cloth I made. The shroud I wove for your father showed you on shipboard, tied to the mast, with the Sirens singing in the background.’

“Odysseus got up, took a gulp of wine, then paced the room, trying to make sense of what she had said. Were his adventures a delusion?

“She distracted him with caresses and kisses, then tied him to a bed post and sang to him and made love to him standing there. Soon all he cared about was Penelope and their likemindedness and their likebodiness.”

Excerpt from the novel by Richard Seltzer Buy the book at Amazon

Short Story

About the Creator

Richard Seltzer

Richard now writes fulltime. He used to publish public domain ebooks and worked for Digital Equipment as "Internet Evangelist." He graduated from Yale where he had creative writing courses with Robert Penn Warren and Joseph Heller.

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