On the subway back from the Orpheus & Dionysus conference, I found a book on the remaining seat.
Pointing to “Olympus.” I asked the well-dressed man two seats away, “Is this yours?”
“You stole it,” he said, snatching it and leafing through the thick paperback. “This is where I left off,” he said, finding a page at the end folded down at the corner.
“Be honest,” he said to me. “How far did you get?”
He read a line, then mockingly called it “brilliant.” He dropped the book, distracted.
“Are those real Dolce and Gabbanas?” he asked a big blonde with earbuds in, listening to her Ipod.
“Your pants are ruined,” he said of her white bell-bottoms.
“What the heck is Ilium?” he asked me, leafing through the book again. “Because it appears in every chapter.”
“Ilium is where the Trojan War started,” I guessed wildly.
“No it’s not. That’s the Iliad.”
“The Iliad is about Ilium, dum dum.”
He pulled back his chin, cowed by my confidence.
A breathless man entered the car, saw me holding the book and eagerly grabbed it.
“I jumped the turnstiles to get this.” He ran back off the train just before the doors closed.
“You stole it,” my neighbor lowered his head accusingly. “I should have asked him what Ilium was.”
“Look, I’m coming home late Friday night from a conference on Greek myth. Anything else you want to know about ancient Greece, just ask.”
He opened his umbrella and closed it quickly from a strange angle on his lap.
“So what brokerage house are you from, Merrill Lynch?” I asked.
“Did you know,” I said, “that Hera and Zeus didn’t have any children?”
“I bet he had some fun with his thunderbolt.” He flapped his black umbrella open and closed again.
“Is he from Merrill Lynch?” I asked his friend.
“Let’s just call me Loser and you Never gonna Happen.”
He fluttered the black silk collapsing umbrella.
As we pulled into Hoboken, he held up a fist until I knocked mine against it.
“Ow,” he said. “Softer.”
I tried again, lightly.
“Owww. I bet you could beat up that guy who came back for his book.”
As the train door opened, he left ahead of me and didn’t look back. I gazed wistfully after him.
That was Dionysus, I saw now.
Mark Twain on the wrong page
12 hours ago