#136 Crock of Wit

by Joseph Messina

Standing at the edge of the old pier at Ostia, I cast my line one last time. Sun sinking below the horizon, chances of catching supper slipping away, I resign myself to another night of a pauper’s bitter broth — stinging nettle soup. Ugh. Miserable fare for one of Caesar’s old vets.

Tired and hungry and fed up, I’m about to throw in the towel when there’s a tug on my line, and I steel myself for battle with a worthy adversary at last! But this foe gives no fight — no parry, no feint.

I haul in my catch and find I’ve hooked no fine, fat, fish, but a clay jar entangled in weed. It looks old, ancient I reckon, but I don’t give a damn about history — seen too much with my own two peepers.

Try to open it, hoping to find some pickled mussels or at least cured olives or dried figs, but the wax stopper seals it tight and won’t budge, so I raise the amphora up to the heavens — and let go.

When it hits the ground the earthen jug shatters, revealing amongst the shards a tiny vellum scroll, rolled and secured with a thin bronze band. I slide off the ring, unfurl the scroll and by the last beam of retreating Phoebus, can just make out its pithy message:

We’re all full of Gods.

By Jove! Wisdom that may be, but I’d prefer a fish sauteed in sage butter, since my gut is so empty!


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