Homers Odyssey | Chapter 38 of 54

Author: Homer | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 889581 Views | Add a Review

Please hit next button if you encounter an empty page

THE CATTLE OF THE SUN

 

A month has passed on Thrinacia. The men huddle around a fire, talking.

 

EURYLOCHUS

Is he asleep?

 

SHIPMATE

Snoring like a buffalo. A fly crawled across his face and he didn’t move.

 

POLITES

I still say we should hang fire – do as he says.

 

EURYLOCHUS

You didn’t say that on the boat – when he told you not to shoot.

Oh no, you picked up a bow and arrow and let fly.

 

POLITES

Yes, and look what happened.

 

EURYLOCHUS

You disobeyed him once – you can do it again.

That’s the point I’m making.

 

POLITES

I just want to get home.

 

EURYLOCHUS

The same as everyone else does. Which is why it’s time to act.

 

SHIPMATE

Convince us, then. We’re listening.

 

EURYLOCHUS

Men, I don’t say these things lightly.

I’ve worshipped Odysseus from the very beginning.

I’ve followed him to the end of the earth – and half-way back.

 

But now I doubt his mind.

Face facts. We’re starving to death,

and roaming free not more than a mile away

are a hundred head of prime beef.

 

It doesn’t stack up. The equation doesn’t work.

 

POLITES

So why doesn’t he let us feast?

 

EURYLOCHUS

Superstition and delirium.

Tiresias in the underworld – Odysseus was truly spooked.

And seeing the ghost of his mother …

I think at that point he gave up.

 

SHIPMATE

As if he’s risking our lives on purpose – is that what you mean?

 

EURYLOCHUS

As if some death-wish has entered his mind.

 

POLITES

You don’t believe that. Do you?

 

EURYLOCHUS

Why else would he have steered into the teeth

of that six-headed beast, or tried to tip us

into that underwater hurricane?

No, comrades, we’re in charge of our own destiny now.

 

There are thousands of roads that lead to death,

but starvation, that’s the most painful route.

Torture – every inch. A slow, lingering demise.

I’d rather die at sea, crushed by Poseidon’s fist,

than sit and watch my bones poke through my shrinking flesh.

 

SHIPMATE

He’s right. He’s so right.

 

EURYLOCHUS

Polites, what do you say?

 

POLITES

It makes sense, the way you explain it.

But I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

 

EURYLOCHUS

Wait till you’ve got a decent meal inside you.

You’ll feel differently then.

 

POLITES

I suppose.

 

EURYLOCHUS

There’s no suppose about it.

Look – a full moon – she’ll be our guide.

It’s still an hour before the Sun God rises.

Round everyone up and hand out the spears.

We’re going hunting.

 

*

 

The men gather at the edge of the pasture, talking in hushed tones.

EURYLOCHUS

Look at the width of the shoulders.

 

POLITES

And the haunches – think of the meat on those.

 

SHIPMATE

Yes, and look at the length of those horns.

I wouldn’t want to be on the wrong end of one of those.

 

ELPENOS (loudly)

What’s all the whispering about?

 

POLITES

We’re trying to take them by surprise.

We don’t want to chase them half-way over the mountain.

 

ELPENOS

You’re kidding, aren’t you? They’re as soft as pudding.

 

SHIPMATE

A likely story.

 

ELPENOS

They’re completely docile.

 

SHIPMATE

Those prongs don’t look very docile.

 

ELPENOS

Look at him – he’s seen us, but he’s not fussed. Soft article.

 

EURYLOCHUS

Prove it. Approach one of them.

 

ELPENOS

I will do. There’s nothing to be afraid of.

 

SHIPMATE

Here, take this spear.

 

ELPENOS

You’re not listening – I don’t need one. Watch.

 

Elpenos sets off towards the cattle.

SHIPMATE

He’s either very brave or very stupid.

 

POLITES

They’ve noticed him but they’re not chasing him.

 

SHIPMATE

What’s he doing now?

 

POLITES

He’s touching it, pulling on its horns.

 

SHIPMATE

Amazing – it’s kneeling down for him.

 

ELPENOS (his voice from afar)

Watch this then.

 

SHIPMATE

What the … I’ve seen it all now.

 

POLITES

He’s riding it!

He’s climbed on its back and he’s riding it like a pony.

 

ELPENOS (coming closer, astride the cow)

Yee-ha! What did I tell you?

 

The bullock plods towards them.

SHIPMATE

It’s unbelievable. It’s … kind of beautiful.

 

POLITES

What do you say, Eurylochus?

 

EURYLOCHUS

Yes, a miracle. Now we know Odysseus was wrong.

This was meant to happen.

 

ELPENOS

Here we are, fellers. It’s the only way to travel.

Beats sloshing around in a boat anyhow.

 

SHIPMATE

He’s a magnificent animal.

 

POLITES

Quite awesome.

 

ELPENOS

Go on, stroke his nose. Feed him a clump of grass. Go on, Eurylochus – he won’t bite you.

 

EURYLOCHUS

An ironic statement, in the circumstances.

 

ELPENOS

What’s he talking about?

 

EURYLOCHUS

Slide down from that hide, Achaean.

 

ELPENOS

What’s the problem?

 

EURYLOCHUS

The problem is you’re sitting astride about two tons of raw beef.

You won’t want it rolling on top of you.

 

Zeus, we thank you for your bounteous gifts.

Forgive us our hunger. Forgive us our sins.

 

He slits the creature’s throat with a knife. It lets out a long, low death moan and slumps to the ground.

(salivating and excited)

Fetch buckets – don’t loose the blood-soup.

Fetch a cleaver – hack it into quarters and build a fire on the beach.

Then slaughter another, then another, then another.

Protein – that’s what we need to get home,

not hocus-pocus and mumbo-jumbo.

 

No human should starve while animals live.

It’s unnatural. It’s not how things were meant to be.

 

*

 

An hour or so later. Meat hisses and sizzles on a spit. The men laugh as they feast. Odysseus wakes with a start, sweating and talking to himself.

ODYSSEUS

Eurylochus? Polites?

 

What a dream. I dreamed I was staked out

under the sun, the sun scorching my skin,

singeing my hair. Staked out till I caught fire.

What does it mean?

 

Eurylochus? Polites?

 

I need to cool down. I need to wash.

 

He walks to the shoreline and throws water at his face.

Oh, better. Better.

But I can still smell … What’s that taste in the air?

(suddenly panic-stricken)

No, in the name of everything that matters –

tell me I’m mistaken.

(shouting)

Eurylochus? Polites?

(approaching the camp fire)

Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me this is a nightmare vision.

 

EURYLOCHUS

Relax, Odysseus.

 

ODYSSEUS

You disobeyed me.

 

EURYLOCHUS

Eat with us.

You’ll agree with our actions once you’ve tasted this silverside.

 

ODYSSEUS

This is sacrilegious.

 

POLITES

We were all of one mind, Odysseus.

We respect your wishes, but our needs as humans have to come first.

 

EURYLOCHUS

Don’t grovel. Stand your ground.

 

POLITES

I’m just explaining …

 

EURYLOCHUS

Don’t explain and don’t apologize.

No man should have to justify his need to eat.

No man should have to apologize for surviving –

not even to noble Odysseus.

 

ODYSSEUS

Greed and gluttony – they aren’t the motives of civilized men.

 

EURYLOCHUS

We were starving.

 

ODYSSEUS

You were slavering, like a dog.

You’ve wrecked everything.

 

EURYLOCHUS

I stand by my actions. You’ll never get us home –

you’ve lost your bearings.

 

EURYBATES

Look – it moved.

 

POLITES

What did you say?

 

EURYBATES

The hide from that cow – I saw it …

 

POLITES

You have a fever.

 

ELPENOS

No – look. I saw it too. It’s starting to … crawl.

 

EURYLOCHUS

Stop scaremongering – dead flesh doesn’t move.

 

POLITES

You’re wrong. Look, Eurylochus. That skull –

its jawbone opens and shuts.

 

ELPENOS

The eyes in the sockets roll and blink. Argh – the meat on my plate.

 

POLITES

What?

 

ELPENOS

It’s … twitching. It’s alive. Urgh – get it off my leg. Get it off.

 

EURYBATES

It’s bewitched.

 

POLITES

What have we done, Eurylochus?

Every bone rattles and shakes, and the carcasses squirm.

 

ELPENOS

I’m going to be sick.

 

EURYLOCHUS

It’s nothing, it’s just … we’re imagining it.

 

ODYSSEUS

You’ve no notion of the chaos you’ve caused.

 

EURYLOCHUS

We’re fine. It’s the richness of the meat – making us dream.

 

ODYSSEUS

You’ve no idea what demons you’ve released.

 

SHIPMATE (from afar)

Odysseus. The wind’s changed.

 

POLITES

What did he say?

 

SHIPMATE

The wind’s swung around. We should sail now, while it blows fair.

 

POLITES

He’s right. We should sail now, shouldn’t we, Odysseus?

 

ODYSSEUS

Burn or bury what’s left of those peaceful beasts.

Hide your shame in the sand.

 

ELPENOS

I’m not touching it – it’s weird.

 

ODYSSEUS

You’ll do as I say or you’ll join it.

Then everyone onto the boat.

 

EURYLOCHUS

So the Cattle of the Sun writhe and wriggle after their death –

so what? The wind changes in our favour.

The omens are good.

 

ODYSSEUS

The omens are BAD. The Gods are ANGRY.

And the doors of revenge open smoothly and quietly –

we’re invited in, and into them we sail, their special guests.

 

EURYLOCHUS

I’m not afraid. We’re no more than a few miles from home.

 

ODYSSEUS

And just the small matter of eternity in between.

I should leave you here.

Eurylochus. Traitor. Slaughterman – killer of hope.

 

A thunderbolt splits the air.

Comments

user comment image
Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

Share your Thoughts for Homers Odyssey

500+ SHARES Facebook Twitter Reddit Google LinkedIn Email
Share Button
Share Button