“Menelaus and the Fake Helen,” by Teresa Spencer

Aug 20th, 2022 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

Menelaus’s hoary beard is stained red with Trojan blood. Lo, how he sits grieving at the prow of the flagship of a thousand ships, the craggy furrows of his brow deepened with the loss of his brethren, of Patroclus, of dishonored Ajax brought low by his own hand, of even the mighty Achilles. His powerful shoulders bend under the weight of a ten years’ war.

Nearby, his wife Helen is moodily gazing at the horizon, smoking a jay.

“Wife.” Menelaus’s voice rebounds in the cavern of his broad bosom. There is no head aboard that does not turn at the commanding sound. No head but Helen’s.

“Cast your eyes upon me, wife,” Menelaus booms.

Languidly, Helen extends a bare, bronzed leg. She spreads her toes wide as she stretches the graceful arch of her sandaled foot. Her toenails are painted turquoise with sassy little pearls of glitter at the tips. Very slowly, as if moving through a miasma, she turns her face from distant Sparta toward her husband. Her jaw is as sharp as a blade, her cheekbones impossibly high, like Gisele Bündchen’s.

“Dragging me away by the hair was kind of overdramatic, honey,” she says. A gentle trail of smoke escapes over the plump, moist mound at the center of her lower lip. Nearby, a brigadier squeezes the guardrail on the starboard side to stay upright. He dipped the point of his spear in the hearts of four hundred ninety-one Trojan cavalrymen, but his constitution is jellied by this small woman.

“I have told you, wife,” Menelaus thunders, “that I was sorry for that. But you crack my heart. I have lost all for you. So many men have lost all for you. My brother Agamemnon, Idomeneus of Crete, Odysseus, so many dropped all to honor the oath of Tyndareus and sail for your virtue, and you, woman, you turn your pale cold eyes upon the wine-dark sea and do not grace me, your husband, with your thanks, your charms, the treasures of your lap.”

“I didn’t ask you to come to Troy.” Helen takes a long drag on the joint, arching her back and lifting her chin as she does so, exposing her slender, tapering throat to the salt air. A breeze plays through the chiton pleats at her breast, so that her cleavage peeps out and retreats again. The bosun, watching her from behind the foremast, lifts a hand to his beard to wipe away a thin strand of drool. “I told you a million times you were fighting for nothing.”

Menelaus slams his leather-gauntleted fist down upon his own knee. The blow lands heavily, Menelaus cringes, and Helen smirks.

“You dishonor me, woman,” Menelaus roars. “Trojan soil is heavy with Achaean blood. I saw the spears of Euphorbos and Hector buried in the bowels of young Patroclus. I defended his lifeless body with my own. As a cow stands lowing over her first calf, even so did I bestride him.” Here the supreme commander’s great heart fails him, the sonorous vibrations of his voice die in his lungs. He drops his chin against his tarnished breastplate, and weeps.

Helen flicks her jay into the sea. “I don’t know how to say this to you any clearer. I’m an idea. I’m an idea in your head. And in Paris’s too. I don’t exist.”

“Even mighty Achilles fell,” Menelaus sobs. “The dashed infant brains of Astyanax cannot avenge so great a man.”

Helen heaves a sigh, rolls her eyes dramatically into her lashes, long and gently curled like the spread wings of a swan. She stands, and as she does, the folds of her chiton tumble over the swell of her hips. She stretches and yawns, lifting the orbs of her breasts to the light.

A deckhand makes a small, strangled cry, then freezes, his face taut and red, his eyes two enormous, staring discuses. He has come in his pants.

“Seaman,” Menelaus murmurs flatly, “get below deck.”

The boy scuttles toward the galley ladder, clutching miserably at his crotch.

Menelaus turns to Helen, every molecule of his colossal body drooping with defeat. “I sacked Troy for you,” he says.

Helen claps her hands in his face. “I’m an eidolon, you obtuse old fool,” she says. “I,” she continues, punctuating the word with another clap. “Am.” She claps again, the delicacy of her fingers belying their cunning. “Literally.” Another clap. “Made.” Clap. “Of clouds.”


Menelaus crumples. Something deep in his interior gives way, and the integrity of the king’s citadel-like frame compromises. He folds in on himself. His hands are barely swift enough to catch his heavy head.

Helen is, indeed, made of clouds. Her sandaled feet have already blurred, a kind of wispy hollowness is traveling gently up her calves. Her face, so achingly perfect, is serene, almost expressionless, but for the shadow of a smile at the corners of her supple mouth.

Just as her shapely thighs are beginning to disappear, resolving themselves into a shimmering dew, and then to thin air, Castor and Polydeuces, her twin brothers and sons of Zeus, come bounding up from the galley, looking for all the world like duplicated Ashton Kutchers.

Castor’s emo bangs sweep coyly over his fine brow, and Polydeuces is shouldering a video camera. As Helen’s torso turns into vapor, Polydeuces presses the lens into Menelaus’s face.

“You have been punk’d!” Castor crows gleefully. Helen’s smile is yielding to nothingness. Castor nudges a microphone into Menelaus’s face beside the camera lens.

“How does it feel, bro?”

The ship lists sickly to and fro. Helen disappears. Menelaus lifts his eyes to the heavy clouds, and wails.


Teresa Spencer is a stage and voice actor and writer living in Baltimore with her husband and three-week-old-at-time-of-publication son. Her work tends to mock the patriarchy and celebrate scatology. “Menelaus and the Fake Helen” will soon be republished in Too Like the Lightning: a forthcoming print and audiobook collection of Teresa’s feminist humor pieces, produced by Taffety Punk of Washington, DC. In Teresa’s ongoing efforts to become a caricature of herself, she named her cats Flannery O’Connor and Oscar Wilde.

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