The Blind Poet’s Dog

Everyone who is anyone knows Homer and loves Homer and invites Homer to perform at their Royal drunken feasts. But I know that Homer is a pain in the ass.

Homer is my master, but we cannot simply have a congenial, professional servant/master relationship, oh no. Because Homer says that he is a ‘people person’ and he apparently wants ‘even his manservant’ to feel ‘involved’ in his ‘art.’

So I must listen to him practice his epic poems over and over again. And I must provide an opinion on the practice because Homer always says, “Your opinion is important to me, Argos!”

And I always reply, “I have no opinion, Sir.”

And he most often says, “You know what they say about opinions, Argos.”

And if he says that, I always reply, “Yes I do, Sir.”

But he will always go ahead and say, “Opinions, like a certain something else, are something which everyone has!” And then he will laugh.

I also must listen to every performance as well. We typically have a very similar exchange following his performances.  After five years as his personal manservant, I know The Iliad and The Odyssey almost as well as Homer does.

“Argos!” Homer says to me often, “If you had an ounce of charisma you could perform my epics for me and I could have a vacation!”

“Perhaps I could do a matinee, Sir.” I always respond and he always laughs.

Homer is blind, so he holds my elbow almost everywhere we walk. He insists that I tell him where to aim when he pees, though he often purposefully misunderstands my instructions. Then he laughs.

I also have to stay within earshot at all times, even when he is with a woman. This is revolting. Later, I must provide a critique of the ‘congress,’ which I never do.

“Argos!” The bard often says when I fail to comment, “I swear I can hear you blush!”

“I am a loud blusher, Sir.” I always respond. And he always laughs.

One night in five years everything changes. Homer does not have a woman with him that night, and he comes to me quite drunk. I do not think he likes to be alone.

“Argos,” he says to me, “I think of you as my friend. But I think you do not think I am your friend. This must change.”

“Must it, Sir?” I ask.

“It must. Tonight. I order you to drink this. I am your Master and you have to drink it. All.” Homer hands me a wine skin and I drink, obedient as a manservant should be.

“Gods! What is this stuff?” It tastes of anise and burns going down.

“Never mind. Drink more of it. We must be friends.”

“Why?” My head is already starting to go vague from the stupidly strong drink.

“Because all the royal Greek people love me, but I am not one of them. I came to Greece as a hostage from Babylon. I am a slave here. I entertain them, enrapture their minds with my stories, and enrapture their queens with my lovemaking…”

I may have scoffed audibly at that, but I cannot tell for sure because of the drink. Homer doesn’t seem to notice either way and continues, “The Greek people love me. But I am their servant, not their equal. You are my equal, Argos.”

“Oh,” I say, and Homer laughs. It seems the drink has loosened my tongue, because I continue. “Since you are my friend now, I want to tell you what I really think of your poems.”

“Oh? Say away, my friend.”

“You mention Dawn’s Rosy Fingers altogether too often in The Iliad.” I say. I am startled by his impassive face and by how well he is taking this. Emboldened, I continue.

“The bit in The Odyssey where Odysseus tells the Cyclops that his name is ‘nobody’ and then blinds the cyclops? And then the cyclops keeps saying ‘nobody stole my eye’ so that his friends think he is stupid and don’t help him? Well, I know that all the drunken royals reclining on their couches laugh their heads off every time you tell it and that everyone thinks it’s witty. But I just need you to know that it is quite possibly the stupidest joke that has ever been told. And I have never found it even a little bit funny. Not ever.”

Here I stop because Homer looks a little sad. And he looks a little smaller. Although I had always thought that I would love to see the Great Blind Bard taken down a peg, I find I don’t like seeing him diminished and that I never want his gigantic personality to shrink.

“But,” I say, and I see him perk up and listen to me with his whole being. “Every time Odysseus comes home and his poor neglected dog recognizes him just in time to wag at his old Master before dying, I cry a little. I really do. No matter how many times I hear the poem.” I tell him this, and it’s the truth.

Homer drains the rest of the wineskin and passes out. I dutifully roll him onto his side in case he vomits, as usual. I wonder if he’ll remember any of this when he wakes. I go to sleep a few yards away. Always in earshot.

We have a party to perform at the next week. For the entire week Homer barely speaks to me. He doesn’t ask where to aim his pee; he doesn’t even ask me to listen to his practice. I worry that I’ve wounded him deeply. It’s not until the performance that I hear it, and I weep openly when I do. When he comes to the bit where Odysseus returns home, Homer has changed the dog’s name to Argos.

Emily is a Lawrence native and a former geologist. She write science fiction, nonfiction science stories, and plays. She stay at home with her two-year-old daughter, Nora, and is supported and encouraged in all things by her husband, Nick.

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