512 Words

The Other Called Great

M. Stanley Bubien

"Where can I find the other called 'Great'? This one Diogenes?" I questioned of the shop-keep.

His eyes went wide, recognizing my mail and the helm I bore within the crook of my arm. "Uh... Uh... Sir, yes," he stammered. "Diogenes. Yes."

"Get to the point, man," I interrupted.

"Sir, sorry. Diogenes. Yes. Turn the corner," he pointed a shaky finger down the street. "And look... Yes... Amidst the wine barrels." He bowed and fell to one knee.

I hesitated in my response while the man jittered before me. The brief moment too much for him, he glanced up with one eye. "Your highness, sir, yes," he said and nodded toward the corner he had previously indicated.

"Reward him," I commanded my second. "Give him whatever he asks." I strode down the street alone while my second scooped the shop-keep to his feet.

Upon turning the corner, I shielded my eyes, confronted by sunlight reflecting from whitewashed walls. Squinting, I saw, just as described, a row of barrels, and there, resting against the centermost as though it were a pillow, was the robed figure I sought.

My shadow engulfed the reclining philosopher as I towered over him. The only movement he made was to lift his chin lazily, examining me from boot to brow.

"You are known as 'The Great,'" he stated matter-of-factly, chest-length beard wagging against his tattered garments.

"Yes. And I have come as one great to another."

A smile formed, half-buried beneath the tangles of his beard. He looked as if about to speak, to offer me a fleeting glimpse of wisdom, but instead he hacked twice, blew through his nose and, with a sniff, wiped from the hair below his nostrils the foul stuff that he'd ejected.

I sniffed myself, a sympathetic reaction, and was forced to step backward as the scent rising from his unkempt body accosted me. "Diogenes of Sinope?" I asked, at once doubting my discovery.

He nodded.

"How---?" I began, but, sensing that I may not desire an answer to that terrible question, I changed tact. "Is there anything I can do to relieve you of this..." I clenched my fist over him, "this poverty?"

He clapped his hands together. "You are Alexander, are you not? Conqueror of lands, ruler of nations, no? More powerful than any man before has dared, hmm?"

I tipped my chin slightly in response.

"Then certainly you can give me something. Yes. Give me the sun."

"What?" I blurted.

"Yes," he brushed his hand at me. "You can stand out of my light so I can see the sun."

I glanced momentarily skyward to the blazing orb. When my flash-blinded vision cleared, I realized he was waving me aside, mumbling "hmm, hmm," all the while.

My shadow moved off him as I complied. Instantly, clasping fingers together upon his stomach, he closed his eyes and sighed.

I remained, watching, waiting. But soon, it became apparent that the gurgling and gushing sounds that rose from this one with whom I shared the title "great" were those of his snores.

From a folk legend.

Copyright ©1998 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

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Story Bytes


March, 1998
Issue #23

512 Words