Achilles has been making trouble down at the corner store. Yesterday, it was the coolers: they weren’t sufficiently chilling his beverages. We tried apologizing. He only fumed, and fixed us with his godlike glare, and gnawed his garments. “Plrustrate verfelves,” he commanded us through gritted teeth and a mouthful of fabric. We waited for him to chill, and offered him some cold ones from the back, not that we’d have known how to prostrate ourselves even if we had understood him. Still, he smote the beverages from our hands, and threatened us with brandished sword and swore to avenge the dishonor until the river choked with corpses, by which I guess he meant the gutter out front. Nobody’s been to the river in years. It might be choking with corpses now, for all I know. That’s when it struck me—like the glint of Phoebus’s car off Achilles’ burnished shield—that something essential is lost when we abandon the gods and dishonor fallen comrades with our stages of grief and our getting on with our lives. “Achilles,” I said, “I hear you, man.” I told him of my own catastrophes of fate and the season of blood when my lamentations fell short of heaven, and, as I spoke and Achilles sipped his Pepsi, I saw stirring within Achilles the deep desire to grieve for me. I named the beer distributor whose rapacious nature had scared off more reasonably-priced purveyors, and the light-fingered schoolchildren who daily made off with my profits. I appealed to Achilles as the greatest Achaean to make my cause his own. As an example only, I reminded him how he had dragged the dead, mutilated body of Hector behind his chariot for nine days. And, lo, who should appear at the door but the beer distributor.

Copyright © February 26, 2008 David Hodges

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