Outside of Troy
It’s long been my theory that soldiers haven’t changed all that much over the millennia. Their gripes, their simple pleasures, their penchant for complaining and analyzing the shortcomings of their superiors, their displeasure over drawing shit details, all of those surely go back as long as there have been organized militaries.
So, to that end, I present for your consideration a proposed conversation between two common soldiers in the Greek Army, around 3,200 years ago.
The year is 1180 BCE. The scene, a beach, over which looms a great walled city – the legendary Troy.
Two Greek soldiers, Rufus and Melene, are working on a construction project, just outside the city walls.
MELENE: “So, why are we building this thing, anyway?”
RUFUS: “Oh, it’s the King’s bright idea. You know how it is – the nobles get all the big ideas, and we have to do all the work. Hand me that plank, will you?”
MELENE: “Here. Where’s that adze?”
RUFUS: “Lying over there.”
They work for a while in silence.
MELENE: “I don’t get it, Rufus. What’s this on the plan here – a door?”
MELENE: “Why a door? On a giant horse statue, I mean.”
RUFUS: “So the guys inside can get out.”
MELENE: “Guys inside?”
RUFUS: “Yeah. Supposedly, we’re going to leave this thing on the beach with a hundred armed guys inside, and the rest of us make like we’ve left, see? The idea is that the Trojans will take this thing as a gift and take it inside their city walls. Once it gets dark, and everybody goes to sleep, the soldiers jump out. Kill the guards, throw open the gates.”
MELENE: “Ain’t any way the Trojans will be that stupid. Come on, Rufus, we’ve been out here laying siege to their city for like ten years now, and they’re supposed to look out tomorrow morning and see this and be all like, ‘Oh, look, the Greeks are all gone, and they left us a present – let’s take it inside the city!’ Come on, Trojans ain’t always the sharpest knives in the drawer, but they ain’t that stupid. How do you think the history scrolls will describe that in a hundred years? ‘Beware of Trojans, they’re complete idiots?’ Old King Priam ain’t gonna be that crazy.”
RUFUS: “Hey, Melene, I don’t ask questions, I just do what I’m told, OK? Sarge says sack that temple, I sack that temple. Sarge says burn that village, I burn that village. Sarge says work on a big wooden horse, I work on a big wooden horse.”
MELENE: “You say so. I think it’s a stupid idea. The King must have gotten a little too deep into his wine barrels last night.”
RUFUS: “They say it wasn’t really the King’s idea, you know.”
MELENE: “What’s that, Rufus?”
RUFUS: “It wasn’t really the King’s idea. I heard a rumor at chow this morning – well, keep this to yourself, but word is that it was really Odysseus’ idea. He’s supposedly going to lead the troops that go in this thing.”
MELENE: “Odysseus? He’s sure the King’s fair-haired boy, ain’t he?”
RUFUS: “How else do you think he got up in the ranks that quick? Odysseus has the biggest brown streak on his nose in the whole Army, except for maybe Achilles. And Ajax? What an asshole. All of ‘em kissing King Agamemnon’s ass.”
MELENE: “Suck ups.”
RUFUS: “Yeah. Army’s full of ‘em.”
MELENE: “Yeah, and don’t forget, we’ve been out here for all this time because of a woman. Little Helen, Prince Paris lays eyes on her, he gets a whopping stiffy, steals her away and next thing you know we’re neck-deep in this shit.”
RUFUS: “Oh, let it go already. I get the point.”
The work on a while longer. Finally, Melene speaks up again.
MELENE: “I sure hope I don’t get stuck on this detail. I’m betting the Trojans will just come out here and set fire to it. Hades’ arse, I would.”
RUFUS: “Oh, give it a rest, Melene.”
Melene looks up at the sun.
MELENE: “Cooks should be calling chow any time now.”
RUFUS: “I suppose so.”
MELENE: “Maybe they’ll have something better than pickled goat today.”
RUFUS: “Don’t count on it.”
They climb up scaffolding, carrying several planks and a box of tools, to begin work on the next level.
RUFUS: “Aw, would you look at this. Not even decent benches for the guys to sit on. They’re going to have to sit on the bottom and hang onto the framework.”
MELENE: “You’re right. Better hope we don’t get on this detail, buddy. I’d rather wait on the ship.”
RUFUS: “Nobody’s gonna ask us what we want to do.”
MELENE: “Yeah. Ain’t that the truth. We do all the work, and the nobles get all the glory. I mean, you don’t see those suck-ups Achilles or Odysseus out here sweating in the sun, working on this damn horse, do you?”
MELENE: “And I bet they’ll find some reason to not be in it tonight when we leave this thing here for the Trojans to burn.”
RUFUS: “Oh, come on, Melene. They might not burn it.”
MELENE: “You know they will. There just isn’t any way they’ll be stupid enough to take this thing inside the city, much less leave it alone all night.”
RUFUS: “Well, maybe.”
MELENE: “Better just hope Sarge doesn’t put our names in for it when they come looking for ‘volunteers’.”
MELENE: “Hey, hear that? That’s lunch. Screw this thing. Let’s go eat.”