There’s a woman up against a wall. Facing her is an old man, a beggar. He’s huge and ragged and bloody, and he’s just gone on a rampage and killed all the men in her banquet hall.
And now he wants to talk.
He’s saying crazy crap, talking about her son, and monsters, and gods.
She thinks he might be her dreams come true at last. Only, he doesn’t look so hot.
Do you remember that scene? I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since I read it as a teenager. Odysseus comes home after twenty years to find his house overrun by men trying to steal his wife and kill his son. He’s faced monsters and witches and angry gods, and now that he’s finally home he’s got this: Rude guests.
That’s what growing up is like. As a kid, you think life is going to be all big glorious battles, important challenges, and working hard for your dreams: The great odyssey of your life. Maybe you even have some of those adventures. Then you grow up and realize life is mostly laundry and what to do about the rude guests messing up your banquet hall. I mean kitchen.
So here’s Penelope, and for her it’s been *all* laundry and rude guests, and in comes her husband, late as usual and caked with mud from his exciting adventures, and no wonder she’s sitting against the wall trying to decide what to do with him.
Lately I feel like Penelope, up against that wall, staring at this big ragged hulk of a thing in front of me. It’s saying crazy crap, talking about my sons, and my book, and God. I think it might be my youthful dreams come back to me, and they’ve been having an awfully exciting time without me.
Of course Penelope didn’t know what to do. She’d been bogged down for twenty years in drudgery, entertaining guests, protecting her son, and attending to clothes. It was hard to believe the miracle she’d been hoping for had actually shown up. And he didn’t exactly look the way she remembered him, either. Well, maybe a little, if you could get past the blood. Could she trust him?
Penelope did ultimately figure it out, what with her brilliant intellect and all. It helped that Athena cast a glamour over Odysseus right about that time, making him taller and goldener and “crisping curls”ier. Didn’t hurt a bit. Convinced at last, Penelope threw herself into his arms.
But what about me? What am I supposed to do with this thing in front of me–my book, my business, my family, these ragged things that look like they *might*, if you can get past the blood and sweat, look a little like my youthful dreams? I’m not as clever as Penelope, no olive-trunk-bed tricks up my sleeve.
And last I heard, Athena quit her job as a glamour caster.
And what about you? Has life turned out the way you thought, all adventure and excitement? And has it paid off like you expected? Would you recognize your youthful dreams if they showed up in your banquet hall covered in blood and asking you to embrace them?
Well, maybe this thing in front of me–my almost-finished book, my on-the-cusp business, my half-grown family–doesn’t look quite like I expected. Be that as it may. What with Athena having quit her day job and all, I guess if somebody’s going to polish these dreams up, it’s gonna have to be me.
P.S. I’m at page 149 of 294 in the final edits on my book before submission. The halfway point. Yah, still kinda sweaty and ragged, but it’s starting to shine just a little. Maybe.