Sunday, November 25, 2012


Ben came down from the hills brown and peeling, his last few drachmas spent and his spirit exhausted by a month of too many stars and resin wine and the odour of sheep dung never distant. His hair, usually the colour of wet sand, was now bright blonde, standing out on his arms as filaments of gold. His jeans were stiff with dust. He walked slowly into the village. A sweat-stained shirt loose about him, and another in his bag, both appropriated from his father's wardrobe back home. A wallet empty of all but a donor card and two tickets for the Paris Metro. His passport. House keys.

He spoke very little Greek, but his thirst was obvious. An old man waved him over with his stick. A pensioner, all in white, white hat, large white moustache, an angel, Ben thought. He sat in the shade outside a bar. 'Kátse káto,' said the old man, gesturing. Ben sat opposite him. The old man shouted for water and beer. 'No drachmas,' said Ben. The old man waved away an imaginary fly. 'No drachmas, no próvlima.'

The old man watched him drink, nodding when he had finished the beer. 'Efcharisties,' said the young man, rising. The old man lifted his hat. His hair was thick and perfectly white.

Further into the village there were tourist shops and a post office, with a sea-rusted Western Union sign sticking out above the door at an uncertain angle. Ben went in. There was only one counter; behind it a small, nervous clerk on the telephone. 'Yes,' he said. And looking up at Ben, 'yes,' again. Then he smiled and handed over the receiver. 'It's for you.'

His father's voice, richly amused. 'Will a hundred quid get you back to Athens?' Shame draining slowly into relief. The clerk counting out the notes with short, slender fingers, like a girl's.

He bought a ferry ticket at a creosoted hut in the small harbour. The next crossing was at five. He walked back to the bar at the edge of the village. The old man was gone. It was too hot to be outside now, even in the shade.  

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