“From the Laestrygonians we sailed on, glad to escape our death
yet sick at heart for the dear companions we had lost.
We found ourselves approaching the island of Magnolia,
home of alluring mermaids and flavorful cupcakes.
As we moored our ship to the harbor,
we noticed new creatures greeting us in the water,
ones with tails and flowing hair, crooning with soothing voices.
The mermaids of Magnolia won over my crew in an instant,
flirting and stunning them with their beauty.
At the same time, an overwhelming scent washed over us—
sweet, like honey. Our problems seemed to dissolve,
lost in the ocean of sugar flowing up our nostrils.
I remained focused and went to search for the men who lived on the island—
men like us perhaps, who live on bread?
But shortly I was stopped, the mermaids calling my name,
asking if I wanted to meet the nymph of the island.
They began to make a synchronized noise,
a screech, a piercing noise,
and soon the nymph with lovely ears, Laeda, strode in.
‘What a crew has arrived on my island, all looking dirty and famished!
Come, follow me to my palace, you will be welcomed adequately
to the island of Magnolia.’
I accepted her invitation, in great need of rest,
and instructed part of my crew to keep the ship intact, and a few
trusted shipmates to follow along to the palace of Laeda.
After being washed and rubbed with oil,
we sat in chairs of honor next to the nymph with lovely ears
and began a heavy feast of meats and cheese of every sort,
each dish richer than the next.
Once we’d put aside desire for food and drink,
the nymph began to question us.
‘Now that you’ve dined, where does this great, godlike man and his crew
call home? How have you found this island of mine?’
As I began to answer, the maids of Laeda brought out silver platters
holding cupcakes the size of a fist, frosting the color of
seashells on the shores. Believe me,
these cupcakes were worthy of the gods on Olympus,
so rich and moist. Little did we know these cupcakes
had been altered, infused with drugs not only to supplement taste, but
to make everything else taste inferior,
to keep us desiring more, wanting to call the island home.
A host so hospitable, such lavish bedrooms,
the delightful food, songs of mermaids hovering in our ears,
why would we yearn to leave?
But when young Dawn with her rose-red fingers shone on the third week,
the god Paelus crossed my path and asked me kindly,
‘Great Odysseus, master of exploits, have you lost sight
of your plans ahead? While this island is full of comfort and pastries,
it is also full of illusions, potent drugs in your system
from Laeda and her mermaids. Now all you crave is cupcakes
instead of returning home to your family.
Come, return to your senses and lead your crew back to the land of Ithaca.
Before bed tonight, tell all but five of your crew to walk to the ship,
staggering the men so little noise is made.
After the last of your men has gone, the five of you venture out in the dark.
There is always a silver tray of the cupcakes, the size of
a fist, icing the color of seashells, sitting near the door.
Don’t succumb to your temptation,
although the food on your ship is not nearly as appetizing,
or the mermaids will sense your departure
and hold a strong grip of the vessel and
you will find yourself on the island of Magnolia
for much longer than desired.’
With that Paelus went on his way and I returned to the palace
to lead my crew. The men at first
refused to leave the island, safe and comfortable as they were,
but I helped them regain their senses, remember their loved ones at home
and the great island of Ithaca, and the plan was reluctantly agreed upon.
That night, after our last delightful meal and mouthful of
cupcake, we retired to our rooms as the plan was put into action.
Once the nymph with lovely ears had retreated to bed
and the mermaids had long stopped crooning,
five of my trusted men and I silently escaped the
opulent palace, taking last note of the smooth floors,
lush carpeting, the accommodations we were leaving by choice,
and we soon came upon the silver tray of cupcakes—
their icing perfectly
swirled, the smell pervading the surrounding air—
and I could not resist
taking just one for our long journey ahead. As I picked it up,
a faint shuffling echoed through the halls. Startled, we ran to the ship
in the dark of the night, the strong breeze from the sea beating our backs,
and as we approached, the familiar sound of the mermaids
rang in our ears, but now an aggressive, piercing sound.
We arrived at the ship to see the graceful creatures grasping
my ship, shrieking and splashing the wine dark sea with their tails,
tipping and tilting the boat.
Thinking quickly, I ran onto the ship and searched for the heaviest
items I could find, first coming across the treasure chest.
I, of course, could not throw away our valued riches from the journey,
and so I hurriedly emptied the treasure on the deck and threw the chest into
the water, crushing the tail of one mermaid.
The shrieking became deafening as my crew followed my lead,
heaving our most cumbersome belongings onto the mermaids.
As we did so, the faithful Eurylochus undocked our ship
and the strong winds swiftly carried us away,
leaving behind the shrieking mermaids with flowing hair,
the endless supply of mouthwatering cupcakes,
the island of comfort.
Catherine Banner, Age 15, Grade 9, Trinity School, Silver Key