It’s not quite a Words Crush Wednesday quote, but I wanted to share another bit from my NaNoWriMo novel. (This post, btw, is being pre-written on the 12th.) Within this fairly lengthy snippet (it could have been a lot shorter, but these felt like the ideal starting and stopping places) one of my characters quotes something published in 17 BC. (Untranslated, mind you.) If I had time for the NaNo forums, I would totally go ask there if anyone has ever put older words in their NaNo novel. (Probably a few have, but I would think that most things that old being quoted are in translation only, y’know?)
I think the only thing to be set up — beyond everything in Monday’s excerpt — is that Ricki is a teenage girl from the mid-1980s. (Or possibly late 1980s. I tend to go on my memories of the era in describing her outfits, so my initial thought that she would come from 1986-7 may be wrong. She may be from more like 1989.) The soldiers are being held in a quarantine zone, and earlier Ricki brought them their vaccinations, which Sergeant-Major Fleischer refused to take…until Caesar injected him with it anyway (fancy futuristic replacement for a syringe that’s a lot less complicated to use) which made Fleischer so exceedingly angry (and violent) that Ashley punched him out to make him shut up. (Though Ashley hadn’t actually expected him to go down in one punch…) Oh, one more thing about Ricki. Caesar and Timmy are both interested in her — especially Caesar — but so far she has mostly spent her on-page time flirting with Ashley, despite that he’s extremely not interested.
Actually, you know what, let me quote part of Ricki’s first appearance before I move on with the main excerpt:
Now that Ashley could see her up close, she seemed to be about sixteen or seventeen, and her ‘dress’ was actually a very long neon pink T-shirt that extended down a bit past her hips, worn over a pair of opaque tights with a pocket watch pattern in loud colors that clashed with her shirt atrociously. Her hair was mostly blond, except for about half an inch or so of brown at the roots. Her bangs were teased up in the most appallingly unappealing manner.
I had a pair of tights like that, btw. It was watches and ribbons on a nebula-like starfield pattern. Actually a really cool pattern; I wish I’d kept them. I wore them with a huge black sweater, rather than a long pink T-shirt, but this is a tropical island, so a sweater would be too hot. Bizarrely, I’ve yet to discuss her partially grown-out bleach job. I meant for Ashley to make a (thoughtlessly rude) comment about it early on, but somehow it hasn’t happened yet.
Also, I should probably explain that they were given a fenced in region containing bungalows for them to live in while on the island. (The fence being locked while they’re in quarantine, naturally.) There were enough bungalows for every man to have his own (including an empty one for the pilot once he recovered) but one of them had been trashed inside by a six foot tall boar (seriously; you’ll learn more tomorrow) so Ashley volunteered to share with Paddy. They first met Ricki when they snuck out on the second night, at which time it was explained to them by her and by Mel that they were being quarantined until such a time that the robotic patrols would no longer view them as interlopers and cut them to ribbons. (There’s more to it than that, but that’s the gist of it.) They don’t like it, but since it’s only for a week, they’re just putting up with it. Besides, they’re cushy places, with absolutely any food they want delivered straight to their doors, for free, at any time of the day or night. Though because of something Ricki said, they’re abstaining from meat, just in case.
As with the previous excerpt, this has not been edited, apart from removing the hard swearing, and correcting any words I notice having a red squiggly line under them. (But I may well have missed some, so please don’t pay too much attention to my spelling, okay?) Oh, we’re in Ashley’s POV again, btw. (So far, I’ve just been bouncing back and forth between his and Paddy’s POVs. Shortly I’ll also add Ricki as a POV character, for some variety. And to get out of sweaty male minds…)
The uncomfortable silence was broken by exactly what Ashley had been fearing earlier: the arrival of the enraged Sergeant-Major Fleischer. He stomped in through the door that Caesar had left standing open, shoving his way past the medic to get right up in Ashley’s face.
“I’ll have you court-martialed for that, Pendleton!” he shouted.
“Court-martialed?” Ashley repeated, appalled. “Will you get your head out of your ****ing ass?! We’re trapped in the distant future, remember? Even if there still is a US, and even if the army still exists, it sure as hell doesn’t know we’re here, or that we ever existed!”
“Are you as stupid as you are ugly?” Fleischer demanded. Something pricked inside Ashley. Since when was he ugly? Everyone was always saying how attractive he was! He shouldn’t have to stand here and be called ugly! “This is just some kind of psychological experiment, a test! That’s all, a test, and you’re failing it! We’re supposed to show how well we can hold up under pressure, and you’re all falling for it, everyone except me!”
“You’re delusional,” Ashley sighed. “Piss off.”
“Ashe, making him madder isn’t going to help,” Paddy objected quietly.
“Keep out of this, Morris, or I’ll have your ass in a sling, too!” Fleischer snapped.
“Like hell you will!” Ashley shouted, punching at Fleischer as hard as he could.
But this time the sergeant was expecting it, and dodged the blow, before sending a fist of his own in Ashley’s direction.
Of course, there was no way that an old man like Fleischer was going to be able to lay a fist on Ashley, not after all the fights he’d gotten in back home. He was able to dodge it with ease, and began circling the older man, looking for the right opportunity to lay him out again.
They had exchanged a few weak, exploratory punches before they were both suddenly drenched with cold water. Caesar was now standing in the doorway to the bathroom, holding an empty bucket. Where the hell had he found a bucket? And how had he run it full of cold water without Ashley hearing it?
“Calmed down yet?” Caesar asked, walking around in between them. “Good. Because I have some words to say to you,” he told Fleischer.
Glad that he was no longer the center of everyone’s anger, Ashley moved over beside Paddy, wiping the water off his face as he did so. “You’ve got to learn to control your temper,” Paddy whispered at him with a sigh.
“C’mon, he started it!” Ashley objected.
“You’re the one who threw the first punch, Ashe,” Paddy reminded him.
“Yeah, but he was spoiling for a fight! Why should I have to traipse around on tiptoe to avoid it?”
“Do you think I care if I hurt your girlfriend’s feelings?!” Fleischer suddenly roared, distracting them from their whispered conversation. “You shouldn’t be sleeping with the enemy, anyway! That’s treasonous behavior!”
“I think you gave him a concussion, Ashley,” Caesar laughed. “He’s talking nonsense.”
“No, he always does that,” Ashley assured him.
“But you know, Caesar has a good point,” Paddy added. “It wasn’t very nice to be so rude to Ricki when she had come to bring you medication to prevent you from catching god only knows what.”
Fleischer snorts. “Maybe you were fooled by that act, but I wasn’t. Timeo Danaos et dona ferens,” he said, with a horrible air of smugness that made Ashley want to punch him again.
“Um, what?” Paddy asked, his brow furrowed in confusion.
“It means ‘Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.’ And it’s quite the good piece of advice,” Fleischer chuckled.
Before Ashley could begin tearing Fleischer’s attempt at an argument apart, Caesar sighed deeply. “No, it means ‘I fear the Greeks, even bearing gifts,’ and the guy who said it died a very horrible death not long after he said it,” he corrected. One by one, each head turned to stare at him. “What? Latin’s a very useful language for a doctor. Almost all our medical terms come straight from Latin.”
“I’d think a modern language would be more useful,” Paddy mused.
“Well, I had four years of French in high school, and I kept at it on my own outside of class in college,” Caesar assured him. “It was very useful in Saigon; a lot of the locals speak French, but not many know English.”
“If you were learning Latin for medical school, why do you know about what happened to Laocoon after he denounced the Trojan Horse?” Ashley asked.
“Oh boy,” Paddy sighed dismally, “here we go.”
Caesar shrugged. “Given the choice of a semester translating the Aeneid and a semester translating the speeches of Cicero, I went with the former. Figured it would be more interesting.”
“It’s just a rip-off of Homer,” Ashley said, shaking his head. “Waste of time to study it.” He wasn’t jealous that Caesar had mastered Latin, while he only had two semesters of Ancient Greek. That would be silly. He was just annoyed that anyone still bothered with the Aeneid in this day and age, when they could read the Iliad instead. The gall of that Roman, trying to pretend that Aeneas’ feelings for Pallas after only a few days could come anywhere near Achilles’ devotion to Patroclus after a lifetime of being inseparable companions!
“No, it’s also a serious propaganda piece,” Caesar assured him. “Virgil was on Augustus’ payroll. It’s a great study if you’re looking to expose modern propaganda in other things that are pretending just to be patriotic fiction.”
“I’m not listening to this any longer!” Fleischer shouted. “How can anyone named ‘Caesar’ go around belittling the greatest poet who ever lived?!”
“He didn’t say a word against Homer,” Ashley pointed out.
“Uh, isn’t Shakespeare the greatest poet?” Paddy asked.
“Well, I guess I can accept that,” Ashley admitted, uncomfortably. There was a lot to object to in Troilus and Cressida, but at least he’d gotten the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus almost perfect…
Caesar nodded. “Yeah, Shakespeare would get my vote, too,” he said. “Othello might be the first European work to take a black man seriously.”
“Wasn’t he a murderer?” Fleischer asked, suddenly sounding lost and confused, a reassuring sound indeed!
“Memnon was taken seriously,” Ashley assured him. “He got a whole epic, and a trilogy of plays by Aeschylus. Though those are all lost,” he had to admit. “Still, the Odyssey admitted that he was the best looking man in the whole war.”
“I’m not sure calling him good-looking is quite the same as taking him seriously,” Caesar said, pursing his lips.
Yep. I just had a bunch of soldiers, displaced in time from the Vietnam War, discussing who was the greatest poet of all time. And most of them are very invested in their answer. Well, okay, actually only Ashley and Fleischer really care about their answer, but still. I do write some really weird stuff. And I didn’t mean for them to devolve into arguing about whether the Iliad or the Aeneid is better, mind you. (No need for argument: the Iliad is way better. Period.) It just naturally grew out of Fleischer’s quote and mistranslation. Because that’s how I write: I put the characters in a situation, and let them talk until they run out of breath.
Not a very effective or efficient mode of story-telling, but — alas! — I am an old dog who can’t learn new tricks.