Jim Knable’s Sons of Dionysus: a lusty novel of myth, mirth, and music.
I am a good student. Having a teacher for a father, I know how important it is to show respect for teachers. I know how hard they work and how they struggle to be heard. Until college, I was always largely frustrated with the rest of the students in my classes, embarrassed by their immaturity. Field trips were the worst, acting like imbeciles, flailing their bodies around, talking too loud, never listening, never shutting up. College was a relief. Everyone sat still. I was in a room full of people who wanted to learn something, who asked meaningful questions, or tried to. It was a kind of Heaven.
Today we discussed book 5 of The Odyssey. The Professor is young and popular. To get into his seminar we had to submit previously written papers to prove ourselves. I submitted a paper I had written last semester about The Iliad. In high school I would have had no doubt about making the cut. Here, I was scared. There was real intellectual competition. At first, my name was not on the list. Then someone else dropped the class and I got a phone call saying I was in.
Chapter 6 (Read by John Raymond Barker, Jared R. Pike, and Jillian Coneys)
Building a raft, the professor said. He looked at all of us and smiled. In this book, he will teach us to build a raft. Odysseus must build one to leave Calypso’s island and start his voyage. He knows how, he is a master seaman (my high school classmates would have erupted and been lost for the day, but no one in this coveted seminar blinked). He is given the axe. He fells 20 tall trees: Adler, poplar, fir. He trims them, makes them all straight. He bores into each plank, makes the holes, then fits the pieces together with bolts and pins, hammers the hull tight. He sets his deck beams in place, bolts them with close-set ribs. He makes a mast, a steering oar. And to protect his craft from waves, he builds a fence with willow withes and brush wood. Then he makes a sail. He hauls his craft across the beach and to the sea on rollers.
And now, we too, for generations, know how to build our rafts.
He smiled at us again. This is the “how-to” section of the Odyssey. I want you to write for me tonight a description of something you know how to do. Teach me how to do something.
HOW TO BUILD A POCKET LASER
By Jeremy Kuritomi
Assemble your components: casing, lens, diode, switch, battery casing.
Parts can be found in standard DVD player and high quality flashlight.
Wear safety goggles and gloves as lasers can damage eyes and skin.
Remove diode by unscrewing casing.
(My first laser was 200 milliWatts, strong enough to cut and burn paper and cardboard.)
Care must be taken when transporting handmade lasers across state lines as they are usually not legal if more than 5mW.
It’s funny that you tried LSD before I did, said Arthur.
Why? I said.
Just is, he said.
We were working out together at the gym, something we had started doing after Arthur’s first tour with the SODs. Now that he was more likely to be exposing his body in public (he obliquely said), he wanted to make sure it looked good. Having long felt insecure about my own body and wishing it looked more like Arthur’s, I started going to the gym with him. Arthur was no stranger to gyms. Without making a big deal of it, he advised me in strength training, aerobic machine usage, general gym etiquette and hygiene.
Charlegne approached us. She was a close friend of Benjamin’s, having grown up with him and now going to college with him. She was short, stout and very pale with tight stiff hair. She was awkward in her body, but always moved with purpose.
How is he? she said, meaning Benjamin.
He’ll be fine, said Arthur, just broke his leg.
What were you guys doing? said Charlegne.
Just being stupid.
I wish I had been there. Was Delilah there?
Cassius and Moses and us.
Wow, she said, I’m so jealous.
Charlegne had become a regular guest at the Owl. She, like I did, revolved her social life around the group, sometimes showing up when Benjamin wasn’t even there. The speculation that she might be grooming herself to be the next Delilah ended when she brought a girl she was dating to the Owl. They held hands and Charlegne made it clear they were a couple. The girl was very feminine and by the end of the night was making it clear she was only dabbling in lesbianism, brazenly accepting the advances of several SODs. Outside the Owl, where the group customarily stood and smoked after the main event, we were all witness to a brutal fight between Charlegne and the girl. Charlegne called her a slut, shoved her and told her if she really wanted the guys in the SODs, a gang bang could be arranged. The girl left in tears, her plastic party shoes slapping the newly rain-wet cobblestones, her flapper dress shimmering from side to side, sequins catching specs of street light.
Charlegne turned to the rest of us and said:
You can have her if you want her. I’m done with her.
A couple of the guys happily started to pursue the crying girl when Moses held them back with his strong hands.
Charlegne, he said, you really want us to gang bang your girlfriend?
She’s not my girlfriend, said Charlegne.
Okay, said Moses, releasing the hounds, who continued their pursuit.
Wait! she said. And we were all impressed to see the two pursuers stop in their tracks, waiting.
No banging, she said. But go to her, and say I sent you. Proceed no further if she says no. But if she says yes, degrade and violate her in every way you can think of.
Maybe you should go with them and watch, suggested Delilah, sounds like you might enjoy it.
Charlegne smiled, realizing she would. She turned to address all of us and said:
I have never wanted to be a woman. But I have always lusted after them. If I were a man, I would be one of you. Come.
She went off crazed and warlike down the small college road, her dogs on either side of her, all hungry for conquest.
God, I wish I was a lesbian, said Delilah, and she took Benjamin home with her because she hadn’t had him yet.
Well, said Charlegne in her sweatpants in the gym, see you on Wednesday.
She walked off to the weight lifting section.
She’s going to become a man, said Arthur.
Huh? I said.
Benjamin told me. She’s always felt like she should have been a man. She’s been saving up. She’s going to start the surgeries over Spring Break.
You’re kidding, I said.
She’s cleared it with the school. There was a little red tape involved. She’s already changed her name legally and she’s been taking the hormones and such.
Yes, when she becomes a man, she’s going to go by “Charles.”
Benjamin told you all this?
That night, because I couldn’t stop thinking about it, I researched how one would go from being a woman to being a man.
First, the breasts are removed with a double mastectomy and the chest is reshaped to make it look more masculine. Then a hysterectomy is performed, removing the uterus, while hormone treatments continue to start the growth of a beard. One of two surgeries is then performed. A metoidioplasty or a phalloplasty. If metiodeoplasty, the clitoris is released from its hood and the urethra is lengthened with the labia minor to end at its tip. Hormones are used to increase the size of the clitoris making it into what appears to be a small penis. The labia major are united to form a scrotum where prosthetic testicles can be inserted. This surgery takes 1-2 hours, as opposed to a phalloplasty, which takes 8-10 hours and involves rolling up tissue from the inner labia, part of it forming a new urethra which is grafted to its new place between the thighs. Sensation is retained in the clitoris, which is now at the base of the new phallus. Often a large nerve in the graft is connected to nerves either from the clitoris or nearby nerves. Nerves from the graft and the tissue have been attached and usually connect naturally after a while, bringing back sensation.
When I slept, I dreamt of performing these operations with my pocket laser.
I awoke and decided to become an English major. Until then I had thought I wanted to be a doctor.
Continue to Chapter 7
Jim Knable is a Brooklyn-based writer of plays, songs, prose, and the occasional screenplay. His plays have been produced at MCC Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Soho Rep, NYC’s Summer Play Festival and other regional theaters, and have been published by Broadway Play Publishing, Dramatic Publishing, Samuel French, Smith & Kraus and Playscripts, Inc. He released his solo album Miles in 2000 and Redbeard (2006) and Golden Arrow (2009) with his band The Randy Bandits.
John Raymond Barker is a professional actor, singer, voice-over artist, writer, and director living in NYC. He is also a YouTube Partner with a wide range of videos including a flamboyant ex-gay to a vampire drag queen.
Jared R. Pike is a New York based actor and director whose credits include Boyet in Love’s Labors Lost, All three witches in Macbeth, and Freddy in Pygmalion.
Jillian Coneys received her BA in Theatre and English Literature, as well as her M.S. Ed. in Secondary English Education at Hunter College. In addition to doing theatre work throughout the city, she now teaches middle school in Harlem introducing student to the arts.
Beeb Salzer (illustration) is an artist, set designer, and essayist based in San Diego.