Sing to us Muse, of the boy who loves masks, the veils and veneers of heroes;
Tell us not of his many now-familiar deceptions, that garbage-heap iron constable,
The caped superkid, or that light-sword wielding warrior from a distant star.
No, sing of a father's weariness of Lucasfilm gewgaws,
his fear of the inevitable JarJar encounter.
He remembered his honeymoon: the family villa in Tuscany, the six-year-old cousin
Taking fencing lessons. Fencing lessons! He battled with the boy
For hours on that Etruscan lawn. Errant sticks, empty water bottles were their swords.
Just days married, he already wanted a son.
He soon got one: a boy eager for masks and battles, but happy in any costume.
He went searching for this child once, found him with his daughter and her friends
Next to her upturned dress-up box, draped in costume pearls and pink chiffon.
Wits about him, the father held out a toy sword, and the boy reached for it impulsively.
Feminists: chill. That didn't really happen. He spent years dressing his daughter
Purely in pink at her request. Let him enjoy this. He merely seeks to meld the things
His son enjoys with the stories that caught his own imagination as a boy (This poor lad,
To have been born with such an incredible dork for a dad).
Honey-tongued Goddess, tell us how this tiny hero gained his shield!
(Not a shield, but an antique metal sled, discovered under a discarded Thighmaster
At the Value World in Dearborn Heights). Like Athena bursting
Fully-armored from her father's skull, the vision of a Hoplite Son was born.
A can of paint would turn that steel to burnished bronze. A dozen belts of bridle leather,
Hammered by smiths in distant Seres, joined the thrift store trove.
The Value World cashier (surely the gray-eyed goddess herself) gave him
a 50% off coupon (score).
This modern Hephaestus blew on his crucibles, gathered his tools, and
Promised the immortal gods armor to match this shield they gave him.
And so he crafted a skirt like the one brave Achilles wore to his grim destiny,
A muscle curaiss of upholstery leather (boiled and shaped on a mold he made himself),
The spear a broom handle from his neighbors' garbage (foam-tipped),
A rubber helmet he found on eBay (by the gods the only bidder, no reserve),
His daughter's old gladiator sandals (shhhh). Diadora greaves. Behold, the hero:
The father taught the boy to wield his spear, to lift his shield and protect himself
From feigned, slow-motion blows in their backyard. He spoke of the phalanx,
Thracian peltasts, Persian hordes, Alcibiades and Epaminondas,
Bellerophon and Perseus. But true heroes hunger for real adventures.
Over potholed streets they sailed, past burnedout houses and landscapes of devastation.
Surely a Chimera caused all this, or an ancient battle between Titans?
They traveled far beyond their ravaged realm, crossing over the dreaded 8 Mile Road,
A distant fortification, past 696, a second gate they guessed, built by powerful Troy,
(Michigan) its mighty walls still strong before invading Southern hordes.
They tried to sack a Saks 5th Ave, but the Somerset security pushed them
Back to their ship. "No photography!" The heroes shouted back:
"You'll be a carrion feast for dogs and birds before we're through!"
With hands on his spear, quivering tense for battle, the hero listened to his father
Speak of a playground not far from there, the tale of how Ulysses brought down the walls
Of Troy by hiding silently in the belly of a wooden horse. Even tiny heroes may pose
Imponderables, like, "What did brave Ulysses do when he needed to pee in there?"
The winding road home brought them to the enchanted island of Cranbrook,
With so many statues they wondered if perhaps a Gorgon lingered on its grounds.
And then to Hades, where the dead speak only through the stones they leave,
(And even without one's cape, the photo ops are pretty great).
And when their wandering day is done, the father and son return home
To fight one final backyard battle; and the boy sits quietly in the grass while his sister
Gets some attention after school (a game of Crazy 8s outside, perhaps).
Sometimes even the bravest heroes need to take a nap.
* * * * *
[This probably won't be the last you see of our hero; his sister has requested an Athena/Urania costume and I'm already working on it. Medusa and Pegasus may also join in on the fun. It promises to be an epic summer. I'm disabling comments for a lot of boring reasons, but would love to hear from you over at the new facebook page]