Passegiatta Pt. 14

byAdrian Leverkuhn©

"Merry Christmas!" the old man said as he held his flute up.

Nobody moved. Nobody.

Except . . . Paul Goodwin.

The others were still, their open eyes lifeless and remote.

"Ah, thank you," the old one said to Paul. "I must be losing my touch."

Paul looked at the somnambulant group and shook his head. "No, old friend, it is I who should thank you. It was a beautiful night, was it not?"

"Ah. Yes. Could you hear the stars?"

"Yes. Sublime." Goodwin looked up at the sky. "They sang well, my friend."

The old man looked proud. "We must leave, soon."

"Yes. Where is your grand-daughter? I haven't seen her."

"Anticleia?" The old man shrugged. "Who knows. Probably painting again."

"It is a nice rendition."

"Yes. She grows better with time."

"Maybe you should try."

The old man chuckled: "Me? Haven't I better things to do? Or have I become so irrelevant?"

Goodwin laughed too, then looked out over the sea. "Is it time?"

"Yes."

Goodwin began to stand, but the old man reached out, stopped him. "Wait. Hand me the strawberries."

"What? Oh no, what are you going to do?"

"Let's put one in each of their glasses. When they wake up they'll pee all over themselves!"

"You're incorrigible, you know that, don't you."

Hermes laughed as he reached for a strawberry. It was a nice, big, fat one.

________________________________

(excerpt from Malcolm Doncaster's journal)

Aboard Diogenes, Portofino Harbor

Christmas Morning

I hate growing old. The mystery, the very magic of life seems to fade away with age. Time seems to unravel all those precious gifts that youth bestowed, and she leaves us with only memories to keep us company as winter comes. Cliché, I know, but Christmas is a time of clichés.

Well, dinner last night was a bust. Before we could get the soup down the balloon went up! Talk about your holiday cheer going up in flames!

Who would have thought old Paul Goodwin had it in himself to father not one! but three boys! And nobody knew a goddamn thing except Mama. Mama-mia!

Anyway, Mary Ann and I sat up and brought the day in with a nice brandy; everything was quiet on Springer. We turned in about 0100; assumed everyone returned to the ristorante, particularly as Elsie never came back and we never felt or heard anyone all night.

Mary Ann got up at 0700 and opened our presents (can't quite give up that tradition, now can we!) in the cockpit. Chilly morning; must have been a fog out last night -- the deck was wet, almost like we'd had rain.

At any rate -- along about 0800 here comes the group -- Vico walking ahead, and pushing an empty wheelchair! Everyone there, but no Tom. That got our curiosity going!

Mary Ann went to meet Margherita, who seemed to be in quite a state! Lots of animated chatter! Bah! Women!

At any rate, everyone save Vito and Maria Theresa came aboard, they were all blathering away about Tom being gone -- dead, Margherita said (if you can imagine that!) -- and, well, everyone was in quite an agitated state, let's just say that and be done with it. Paul had a truly magnificent painting of Springer with him, which he took below, and the odd thing was that he didn't seem the least bit perturbed by all the commotion. I suppose it's all those years flying, learning to deal with emergencies and all. Calm as a cucumber.

So anyway, Paulo is up on deck and just frantic, frantic! Going on about needing to call the police and the coast guard, how he would lose his job! Oh, the poor boy. Mary Ann and Margherita sat in the cockpit; we gave the girl some coffee and she was just blathering away like a machine gun, and Toni! -- he was beside himself -- going on about how he never had the chance to know this new brother and on and on when Tom up and pops out of the water on Springer's swim platform -- and as naked as the day he was born!

Of course Margherita faints dead away! Toni falls to his knees and starts praying for all he's worth, but -- and this is the best part -- poor old Paulo races across and for all I know was going to hug poor Tom, when bam! -- he trips just as Tom is climbing into the cockpit. There they went, another rear summersault, and perfect form, mind you -- five point zero - and then there they were, sputtering about and laughing and carrying on like two children. Toni got in to the spirit of things and jumped in -- which would've been all fine and dandy except the poor sod can't swim worth a damn!

And Paul! Just standing up there in the cockpit, looking down on his three sons. What a story his grandchildren will hear. As for me? I think it time to move on soon; this endless quest to immerse myself in all things Greek has been fun, but perhaps it's time I grew up, did something useful. Hard to believe an old codger like me could still be gallivanting around the Mediterranean wasting his time chasing after moldy Gods no one has cared about for two thousand years.

It makes me curiously sad, however. I wonder what happens to a God when people stop believing in him. Perhaps he would just fade away, drift off into obscurity. I don't know. Perhaps, if he was really clever, he'd find a way to a place like this. I can't imagine a better place to spend eternity than right here.

So yes, all in all it was quite the Christmas!

Addendum

Onboard Diogenes, 1930 hours

Just wanted to add a note to what has been an astonishingly dull day. I was out on the quay taking Elsie for a walk before dinner when out of the blue a couple dozen strawberries rained down on my head! Not a soul around, either, but I did hear someone laughing. I hope I can catch 'em at it; I'll tell the cheeky buggers to sod off!

Bah!!!

Epilogue:

Seven Years Later, an afternoon in early April

Portofino

Paul Goodwin walked down the quay under the trees, holding his granddaughter's hand -- as this was his fondest desire. The promise of spring seemed alight in the air -- the first real warmth of the season kissed the sea breeze in its passage through trees budding overhead, and the old wanderer felt it a miracle to be alive on a day like this. He loved this land, this harbor, these people, and he loved calling the village home -- as he had now for more than seven years. He couldn't fault Tom's logic, either; his family was here now, he could best be true to his life only in this village, surrounded by the people who loved him -- and by the people he loved.

His granddaughter Penelope was now, of course, the light of his life. Though he had finally married Maria Theresa, she had passed quietly almost five years ago, and in the emptiness that followed he had found first solace, then redemption in the little girls smile. She played his heartstrings mercilessly, however, and he loved every minute of it.

Though Paul was now ninety six years old, he still walked out to the cape almost every afternoon with her. Most sunny days he waited outside the village school for her, and they walked together slowly, quietly, usually out to the cape, but sometimes just home, where he spent countless hours helping her read. Though Margherita would never understand this passion, Paul always seemed to return to the classics, to the myths of Gods now long gone from the world. Not surprisingly, Paul encouraged the little girl to take on an active fantasy life. Some days she demanded he call her Athena.

He always smiled when she did so.

They made it to the rocks at the cape that afternoon and walked carefully down to the waters edge. Most days they spent this time in silence, just looking out at shadows of clouds running across a sun-dappled sea, but from time to time they would slip quietly into the water, and a special friend would join them. Penelope thought those days were the best.

Today, Penelope's father was sitting out on the rocks, watching, waiting . . .

Paul and his granddaughter made their way slowly out among the rocks and sat down beside Tom Goodwin.

"Hey, Dad," he said, then: "How-ya doing, Muppet?" He put his arm around her and gave her a gentle squeeze.

"What are you doing out here, son? Little early for you to be in, isn't it?"

"Hm-m, oh, no. They're doing some work on the electrical system in the O.R.; no surgery this afternoon. I get to play hooky."

"Lucky you."

"Si, papa, you're lucky! I had to go to school!"

"Yeah, Muppet, you've got it rough! Better let me give you a kiss!" He smiled and she leaned over, and he kissed her on the top of her head.

"Anything wrong?" Paul said.

"Hm-m, oh, no. Just felt like a beautiful day. Too nice to sit in the office and do paperwork."

"I hear that."

"Dad? What is it about this place? Something so . . . I don't know . . ."

They looked out at the sea and the clouds for a long time.

"Tom, there's so much more here than we can see. You know . . ."

"Yeah," Penelope interrupted. "Last week we saw a lady with no clothes on swimming, didn't we, grampa!"

"That we did, Muppet. Hell of a sight, too."

"Who did you say she looked like? Moby . . ."

"Moby Dick, Muppet," Paul said as he chuckled. "The great white whale."

"Musta been a real looker, dad."

"At my age, Ace, the fu -- uh, well -- Queen Elizabeth still looks pretty hot, if you ask me!"

"Papa, did grampa say the 'F-word'?"

"Nope."

"The Hell I didn't!"

The two men laughed. The Muppet frowned.

"You know, Tom, sometimes I see the color of our skin, and the color of theirs," he said as he pointed at the sea, "and in the imagining I find a new color, something unique, and maybe it's not even of this world, but it's here, and it's ours -- whether we like it or not. Hell, I don't know, maybe it's just the color of life. Maybe in the coming together of lives we are destined to create something new, but the creation holds the essence of the old in its heart. I guess it's that way with all life."

"The circle of life," Tom said. "I . . ."

"The Lion King!" the Muppet yelled, clapping her hands. "Yippee!"

"That's right, Muppet. The Lion King." Tom squeezed her again.

"Yeah, and not that Sundiata Keita character, either. Never could stand that fellow. His eyes gave me the willies."

"What?" Tom and the Muppet said as they looked at the old man.

"Oh, nothin', Muppet. Nothing at all."

c. 1200 BCE

On the island of Ithaca, in the Ionian Sea

Penelope and Anticleia walked along the edge of the cliff, the restless cobalt sea not far below tossed gentle waves recklessly ashore. Telemachus played along the shore, hopping from rock to rock with the careless abandon any seven year old would recognize and call his own. Penelope watched her son without a care in the world; he was a strong swimmer, and loved the sea. A slave stood near the beach, charged with looking out for the boy. Penelope turned to her mother-in-law and took her hand. They walked up the trail to the house.

"It's so lovely to see you again," she said, though in truth that was the last thing on her mind. She was burning inside . . . the news from Athens was not good.

"And Odysseus? How is he?"

"Oh, he is fine."

"What has he to say about Anatolia?"

"The Teucrians? He says there will be war."

"Will he fight?"

"Menelaus may compel him."

"But the oracle!"

"Yes."

"This is madness! He is too old!"

"It would be best if my husband did not hear you say that."

He stood by the house talking to a stonemason about repairs he wanted made to the wall, but he heard them come, turned toward them as they drew near, and he waved at them . . .

The ground rumbled, the earth heaved, Penelope and Anticleia were hurled to the ground; Odysseus knelt and reached out to steady the mason before the old man fell, then he scuttled to his wife and sheltered her with his body.

Soon the ground grew still and Odysseus helped the women stand.

A sudden wind came, dust and sand filled the sky.

A scream. Far off; from the sea.

"Telemachus!" Penelope cried. "He is on the beach!"

Odysseus understood; he ran down the trail as the wind died; he could see the water receding even as he made for the path through the rocks to the beach. He came to the edge of the cliff and looked out to sea.

The wave was monstrous, at least half the height of the cliff. Odysseus could see exposed beach now far out from the rocks; the land now possessed earth that belonged to the sea. A dark omen!

Odysseus groaned. The wave was coming ashore with frightening speed, roaring like a lion as it advanced. He saw the slave running out among sea-urchins and starfish; Odysseus looked out to sea and could just make out his son's head and waving arms.

"Too far," he said, feeling the trap spring on his heart. He started down the trail but stopped; the wave was almost ashore. Just a few more moments . . .

He stood, paralyzed, as the wave rose behind his son -- Telemachus simply disappeared under the sea as it passed. The slave saw his position clearly now, the danger he was in, and he turned and ran back toward the beach . . . but he was not that fast.

The wave rose higher; as the water rushed in it pulled the slave into its maw -- Odysseus leaned over the edge and watched as the man was dashed against the cliffs below his feet. A wall of white thunder rose into the air before him; Odysseus fell back from the hissing water but was drenched nonetheless. He heard Penelope and Anticleia not far away, and he turned to protect them from the falling wall of water.

Soon they heard the water receding. Odysseus rushed to the edge again and saw the slave's shattered body as it was washed out to sea. Telemachus was nowhere to be seen.

Penelope cried out in sodden anguish; she fell to her knees and beat the earth with her fists until they started to bleed. Her mother-in-law knelt beside her, trying to comfort her despite the dread that filled her own heart. Odysseus ran down the trail; when he reached the beach the sea had reclaimed her holdings. Odysseus could see the slave's pulpy body lifting beyond the surf and he knew it would not be long before the sharks came. He made his way through the rocks and dove into deep water; he began to swim out to sea -- but he stopped.

Telemachus was flying through the sea, riding on the back of a . . . a dolphin!

_________________________________

It was seven years later when Odysseus marched into battle at Troy. He carried a shield, and on that shield there was engraved a dolphin. Whether deliberately made or the result of battle, no one could say, but there were two scars behind the dolphin's eye.

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byAdrian Leverkuhn© 4 comments/ 6324 views/ 2 favorites

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