The Aeneid and I

I like to sit in my bathroom and read. The west light window is a lure, plus the cool tile floor feels good on bare feet. Yesterday, I was reading Vergil’s “Aeneid” in the original Latin. You know, the part where Venulus says, “We have seen, O citizens, the Argive camp, and Diomed himself” blah-blah-blah.

When I heard a slight noise, like a shuffling, and I leaned forward and peered into the kitchen, and there was Farmer Orville, tiptoeing his way toward the basement, to clean the cat litter box (remember, I’m currently one-handed due to surgery, and can’t lift things).

I exclaimed, “Orville, I’m on the toilet.”

“I ain’t looking,” Orville replied. “You want the cat box cleaned, or not?”

“Orville, you have to knock when you come over.”

“Why? I got a key.”

“What if I had a woman over?”

Orville began heaving with laughter, steadying himself by holding the kitchen counter with both hands. “You are too old for that.”

Down went my friend into the bowels of the basement. I stood and struggled to pull my pants up. And back up the stairs he came, his good deed for a cat he has never seen much appreciated, his using my spare door key without knocking unsettling me, his observation about me and women really pissing me off.

Quilt Queen, Orville’s wife, once said to her spouse—the three of us were drinking coffee on their porch— “I have a need, dear.” She looked at me, at my eye-pop reaction, and said, “When we were newlyweds, if I told that old man I had a need, we about tore the house down. Now, ‘I have a need’ means?”

“Go get her a Dairy Queen blizzard,” Orville said.

This is a couple who, promptly at 6:30 pm, look at each other and say, “Break up time.” Then, Quilt Queen goes into the living room, lies on the couch and watches the big TV. Orville stays in his rocking chair in the kitchen and turns on the small TV and channel surfs and reads seed catalogues.

“You need anything else?” Orville says. “I can do most anything except get you a woman.”

“Please knock,” I said.

“Now you see why I ain’t got any friends.”

My friend descended the drive and walked alongside the highway back toward the farm. And every, I mean every car that passed him, honked and waved at this famous man.

Not unlike, I imagined, Aeneas strutting before the Romans and spouting epic poetry: “I grow tomatoes, I don’t like tomatoes, but women like them, and women visit the farm and buy them tomatoes, all dressed summer skimpy-like, and that is a good thing.”

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