Pip and Pop


When we go down for our final swim of the day there is a flotilla of sailing yachts moored to the dock. I count ten and a motor yacht that is searching for a non-existent parking space among them. There's something about seeing pleasure boats tied up at the dock that makes me wish for the Meltemi winds to return. The dock is so unsheltered that any kind of wind or waves can turn a night on board into hours of sleepless terror. Most sailors go to either side of the bay where they might as well be since they all seem to cook and eat their meals on the boat anyway. What's the point of coming to Greece if you don't go out for dinner? That's where the life is in this country. But the yacht people sit there, drinking beer from the cooler, calling out to each other the names of the places they've seen and their routes while Panayotis and the children are forced to do their fishing in the little spaces between the boats.

In the bar I run into Pip and Pop, the English couple who come here every year. He's a retired police inspector and she's a vegetarian. Pip and Pop are not their real names and as I speak to them I realize that I don't know what their real names are and in a matter of moments I will have to introduce them to Andrea or Elaine. "This is all Jack's fault", I think to myself. He always called them Pip and Pop and so I never thought to ask what their real names were. Now Jack is happily thousands of miles away while I am going through my own private hell. To compound matters, Pop buys me a drink. We go outside to wait for Esther to bring Pip's coffee, or what she thought was a coffee when she pointed to it and said she wanted one. It turns out to be a fruit smoothie and it arrives at our table just as Andrea does. "I'm sorry I've forgotten your names" I say with my most formal and apologetic voice as I introduce Andrea as my wife, for some reason.

"I'm Pip and this is kqxwlp..." I'm so surprised to hear Pip is her real name that I miss his name entirely.

A million thoughts race through my head. "So Jack didn't make it up. Pip is really her name. But what about his?" I realize I had missed it completely and I try to rerun my memory tapes but get nothing. One thing is for sure. It isn't Pop, though he appears to be a few years her senior. I get the joke. Vintage Jack.

We make uninteresting small talk but I can't focus because I am too busy trying to stay aware for any reference to Pop's real name, from Pip. Pop is quiet, obviously scrutinizing us like he had been trained and had perfected through his many years of dealing with London's underworld, listening for some inconsistency in our stories. Something he could store away and present to us at just the right moment, shredding alibis and perhaps our sordid lives. I try to steer the conversation his way while letting him know I am on to him. "Andrea's favorite show is Chief Inspector Tennysen..." I start to say, but before I can get the words out of my mouth Andrea gets up and is gone, leaving me alone and vulnerable. To sit and talk about Andrea's favorite television show without her present would be ludicrous. I scan my mind for something of interest. Something to ignite the conversation and distract Pop's sharply trained police mind from the unease I am feeling.

"It rained yesterday", I say. Bingo. They took the bait and ran with it. English people love talking about the weather.

"Yes it did, and the day before that" answers an unsuspecting Pip.

"But not today" says Pop intently. What is he getting at?

I try to defuse the situation. "Actually it did." I tell him. He looks at me suspiciously. "But only on my house." I add. He nods and smiles. Damn, that was a close one. I have to be more careful. Pop doesn't miss much.

Luckily Andrea returns with a load of fresh conversation.

"Have you eaten at Katina's?" she asks. Good work Andrea. Again Pip goes for it. "Not this year but we are going tonight. You see, I'm a vegetarian so there's not much I can eat there." The tables are turned. It is we who are now doing the police work and so far Pip and Pop have no idea they are the ones now being interrogated. "I'm having an omelet tonight" adds Pip without even being asked. Police work is easy, I'm thinking.

"What kind of omelet?" I ask her.

"Just a plain one" she says in a meek voice. I have her and she knows it. It's just a matter of time before she tells us everything.

"You should try a tomato and potato omelet with cheese. You do eat cheese, don't you?" I taunt her.

"Yes occasionally". She is beaten and confused. But what about Pop? What will he be eating tonight? But Pop won't fall for the same trap. He is experienced. He'd used the same methods a thousand times and before I could ask he was gone, taking Pip with him and leaving half a beer behind. I'd rattled him. The next step would be a little more to my liking. Routine surveillance.

We sit at the bar for a few minutes more to buy ourselves some time. We still have a problem that neither Elaine, Andrea or myself want to bring up. Will we be eating at Katina's tonight? And if not, how will we get past her without taking the torturous Mickey Mantle Lane, a two-mile detour around her restaurant. We'd have to try to sneak past. I send the women first. They can handle the flak. I will bring up the rear and face the heavy artillery.

When I get to Katina's I see that the women hadn't gotten very far. Amarandi is in the back of old Panayotis truck playing with her little cousins. Elaine and Andrea are smiling and watching. "The kids! She's using the kids to slow us down!" I psychically prod Andrea and her mother using all my secret powers, but they won't budge. They've become dangerously entranced by the children at play. I push past them. If one of us can get through, the others will have the excuse to follow. I make it past the kitchen door. Good. Katina hasn't noticed me. I sneak past the next door which is the entrance to the store, fighting the desire to look in to see who is inside. I'm halfway home. Getting past the patio is the real test. I can hear the sound of many voices. In a moment I would be in full view of the people eating at the tables, the waitresses and if I was really unlucky, Katina or Panayotis. Too late I realize. It's a trap!

Everybody I know in the village is there. Niko the contractor from Egalion, his crew, Vassili the Green Grocer, Mister Spiro and his wife, Pip and Pop, even Katina's daughters and grandchildren had come down from the mountains to help. And there is old Panayotis cutting away at the long rack of kontosouvli. To top it off, in the middle of the yard is one empty table, the perfect size for a party of three and a half. Once again the power of Katina has overcome us. Elaine surrenders without a struggle. Silently she walks straight for the table and instinctively starts to pull it out and away from the next table which is dangerously close. Panayotis stops her with a gentle hand on her arm and moves it back to where it had been. "A horse is coming through the restaurant", he explains. Of course. Sure enough a few minutes later one of Monemos' workers walks through leading his black stallion right across the restaurant patio.

I use the distraction to move to a spot directly next to Pip and Pop. She is eating a tomato and potato omelet. With cheese. I smile to myself. Pop is eating beefteki. I should have known. Pop is a classic beefteki type. He fits the profile to a 't'. The mystery is over. Case closed, except for the small matter of his name. But that can wait.

We take our seats and mentally prepare ourselves for the food. The party at the next table are from one of the sailboats and by coincidence live two blocks from Vassili the Greengrocer in America. He is serving as their guide, host and unofficial consulate of San Jose. They are all good-natured and very American. Elaine tries to join in the conversation. "How many sails does your boat have" she asks seriously.

"Four" comes the reply from one of the women, thinking Elaine had said sailors. You can tell what's on her mind.

"How many winches?" I ask. Nobody answers but that's OK because the food is starting to arrive at our table. We begin our evening routine of eating and bickering. Andrea starts the ceremony with her traditional complaint that we have ordered too much food. Elaine counters with a "whatever happened to the sweet little child she raised" story. Andrea pulls me into the fray by accusing me of knocking Amarandi into and spilling the water bottle which was strategically placed by our feet on the floor. I nail her with a guilt trip and once again we are rolling. By the time we finish Andrea was gone, taking Amarandi with her and Elaine and I are on our way to being drunk. I brace myself for tonight's obligatory lecture. Just then the American party start to leave. One of the men stops at our table long enough for me to read his 1962 Giants shirt and for him to tell me about being in the stands for the 1989 World Series earthquake.

As soon as they are gone someone asks "Matheo, where's the music?". I don't need a second invitation. I plug in the tape player and turn on Marika Ninou. The tables are pushed aside and Elaine and Niko the contractor begin dancing separately but passionately. It was as if when the American's left someone had said "OK. They're gone. We can be Greeks again!" I realize that I am out of film and Elaine is putting on a show that would be forgotten if I don't act fast. I run back to the house and return with a new roll, and Amarandi. For the next hour Elaine, Niko, Amarandi and her little cousins dance until the French family who rent the room directly above the patio, came home and Vassili the Greengrocer feels it is his civic duty to turn the music down. The spell is broken but it was fun while it lasted.

July 14th

I wake up before sunrise feeling both spiritual and hung-over. I ransack Andrea's drawer in the dark but can't not find her secret cache of ibuprofin, the only thing that has been keeping her going this summer. I give up and go out to use the toilet looking both ways for traffic. As I open the door to the outhouse something big and dark moves into the corner. What the hell was that?! I strain my eyes to give definition to the dark shape that I am sure, sits with muscles taught, ready to strike. I run inside and get my handy underwater flashlight. I point it's beam into the corner. My God. It's a frog. Deadly poisonous no doubt. I try to paralyze him by shining the halogen light directly into his eyes, a trick I knew worked with deer. He hops away. That was a close call. I make a mental note to warn the girls to be on their toes when using the toilet at night.

As I am finally falling back to sleep after several hours of wrestling with my demons, I hear the others begin to stir. Andrea's alarm goes off and she obediently leaves for her art lesson. Amarandi comes over and sits on my head which I guess is her new way of saying wake up Daddy. I hear voices coming up the road. Elaine looks out the window.

"Look it's James Crispy with Andrea." He was on the way down the mountain when he ran into Andrea on the way up. He tells us he has had an upsetting couple of days. He is in the process of breaking up with his winter boyfriend Juan, who was to come tonight on the boat and finalize things. Maybe one last night of passion before the final good-bye, a fitting end to a stormy relationship. But this morning Juan had called to say he wasn't coming. James is clearly unhappy as he gives us a brief synopsis.

Meanwhile, my detective mind is again working overtime, trying to be in two places at once. One part of me in the here and now, the other at a table at Tiri's (or as Jack calls it "Double Limpy’s") many years ago. It was me, Jack, Sue, their daughter Ryan, my brother James and another party which included my sort-of girlfriend Silvi, and this pretentious arrogant friend of hers who Jack had dubbed "The Athenian" because he epitomized everything we disliked about modern Greeks. He was a complete snob who disliked everything and everybody. He made gross generalizations about Americans (in much the same way that Jack and I did about the Germans) and it bothered us. We challenged him at every opportunity. Jack was especially relentless, like a pit bull pulling an intruder down by his pants leg while he tries to escape over the fence. By the end of the meal, The Athenian was ready for a new bout of extensive psychotherapy muttering to himself as his friends deserted him in droves after having seen him exposed by Jacks multi-pronged attack. Jack had been troubled  by his role in the ordeal and still feels a tinge of guilt whenever he eats at Double Limpy's, which is seldom. Now it dawns on me. James's lover is The Athenian. I describe The Athenian to James. Sure enough it was him.

"Yes, he is a bit of a snob", James admitted. "But it's just a part of his defensive shell", he adds. Yeah, right. That's what they said about Liona Helmsley, I say to myself.

"James," I tell him, trying to sound wise and knowledgeable. "Greek men are all incredibly screwed up by their parents. They don't know if they're coming or going. Their fathers are especially harsh with their ideas of machismo and filotimo (a kind of Greek pride that allows them to justify doing things like killing someone for insulting their mule). Can you imagine what it would be like to grow up gay in such an environment? Juan has to be completely psychotic. You're much better off without him. End it without the fanfare.” He agrees. I feel it might be inappropriate to add that once Jack finds out that James' former lover was The Athenian he would never allow him to forget it. Best to put it behind him as they say, and pray that Jack never figures it out or I don't get drunk and tell him.

My father explained Cretan filotimo to me and my sister and brothers when we were taking one of our dreaded family trips to the island.

"In Crete there is an unwritten law that says; if you come to me as a stranger in need of help, I will offer you my hospitality, my home my wine, my food, everything. ("His wife?" we asked). But if you betray me I will try my best to kill you. He then went on to tell the tale of a foreign traveler who was in need of assistance. No passport, no travelers checks, beaten by hoodlums and left for dead, he was taken in by one of these proud Cretans who nursed him back to health, shared his home, his food, his wine. (Not his wife but he did offer his favorite sheep.) When it was time for the man to leave he offered to pay the Cretan for his hospitality. The Cretan, deeply offended, tried his best to kill him.” We thought that was hysterical. We imagined this Cretan guy running around chasing Alan Bates, "trying his best to kill him" in every conceivable manner. We had expected some gruesome finale where the Cretan disembowels him and feeds him to his goats, keeping his head on the mantelpiece as a warning to the next hapless visitor who tries to pay him for his hospitality.

July 15th

Near disaster. I turn on the computer while I drink my morning coffee and wait to get into the ms-works program. To my surprise this file is nowhere to be found. My first experience with a lost file, and not a computer nerd within a hundred miles. I know that I have it on floppy disk so I'm not totally freaked out, but I am still nervous while I recopy this story on the the main drive. Again when I try to access it, the computer can't find it. I finally locate it somewhere and bring it home to where it should be in the MS-Word files but it is a valuable lesson about saving material.

We manage to get by Katina's and have lunch at The Hotel again. It's a close call though. I can't walk past her restaurant without looking inside to see who's hanging around, eating or watching the afternoon soap operas that all of Greece is addicted to. Both Nikos, the contractor and the cop are there and I walk inside to greet them. Andrea rushes past me and out the back door, pulling a confused Amarandi with her. As Katina calls my name from the kitchen, Andrea beckons me from the other side. "Come on Matt. You can do it. Break free of her. Use 'The Force'." I summon all my strength. I can feel Katina's grip weakening. I could almost hear the tearing of psychic bonds as I tear myself free of her restaurant. I walk towards the light. Suddenly I am free! Immersed in the sun's golden rays I take Andrea's outstretched hand.

"C'mon honey. Let's go eat.”

Elaine joins us after a few minutes. She had an easier time getting past Katina though she is still shaking from the strain. She entertains us with complaints and reprimands while she eats her souzoukakia and rice which compares unfavorably to her own. Then Andrea excuses herself to take Amarandi to the bathroom. "Uh oh. Trouble" I realize too late. I had escaped Katina only to be trapped by Elaine. She has been taking notes on the way Andrea and I relate to each other. I bite my lip and take my whipping like a man. Then she changes gears.

"You totally underestimate me" she tells me. More trouble. I smell a lecture on her prison reform work taking shape. Where the hell is Andrea? How long can it take for a three year old to pee? Elaine begins her patented attack. I try to resist but I have been drained by my psychic battle with Katina and feel the first pangs of compassion taking root within me. Maybe I had misjudged my mother-in-law. She talks about her endless letter-writing, staying up to the wee hours of the morning with no company but the constant blare of 'Cops' and 'Rescue 911' in the background. Suddenly like an angel of mercy Andrea is back.

"Will you shut-up, mother". For the second time that day Andrea had rescued me.

"What a woman", I think to myself. "What did I do to deserve her?"

After filling Amarandi with chocolate ice-cream, candy and milkshakes it is time for her nap. For some reason she won't go to sleep no matter how hard we try to force her to. We each take turns trying to wear her out but after more then an hour we are all exhausted and she is still running around like a maniac. Her new game is to climb on top of the bedpost and jump on my stomach while I am reading or asleep. This inspires an Elaine story of a two year old who jumped on her father’s stomach and ruptured his spleen necessitating emergency surgery and then countless operations for the rest of his short life. It doesn't seem to deter Amarandi and she happily continues. I am forced to put my foot down in the most drastic way possible.

"Amarandi. If you jump on me one more time I am leaving the house to go fishing."

"Can I come?" she asks.

"No. Then it wouldn't be a punishment". I'm using the old 'it hurts me more then it hurts you' routine in order to justify doing something I really want to do which is go fishing. She is intent on testing her boundaries. She takes a running leap.

"OK. that's it!" I walk out the door. Andrea follows. Amarandi cries. It's a tough lesson for a small child to learn but one day she will thank me for it. Anyway I'll make it up to her by bringing her some undersea treasure, perhaps a sea-urchin skeleton or a shell. Plus with any luck she will be eating fish tonight. I let these thoughts drown out her crying which has now turned to hysterical screaming. Andrea notices the look of unconcern on my face.

"Don't worry. She'll only cry for a few minutes and then she'll be happy with Yaya." She needlessly consoles me. But Im already out of ear-shot and on my way to the small beach on the path to the tiny church of Saint George.

By the time Andrea gets to the beach I'm already in the water. It's freezing. Several springs empty into the sea from fissures in the rocks and the freshwater sits on top of the sea water giving everything a blurry appearance. It's like swimming without one's coke-bottle-lens glasses. Up close it looks almost like oil as the two water types intermingle but do not mix. I could swear I see ice particles. We journey underwater down the coast scattering schools of giant fish as we blindly swim through them. It's like being in a polar sea. Andrea turns back, defeated by the chill. I swim a little further but give up too. Then, on the way back to the small beach a gopa swims right towards me from the opposite direction. I shoot him. Then another one. Wow. This is easy. Like a reward for my suffering. I forget the water temperature. I get almost to the beach where Andrea is sitting but swim across the small cove to the other shore and continue down the coast in the direction of Saint George where the sea is warmer. Both Panayotis and Dionysious had urged me to fish this coastline telling me of the many small rofos that live here. They were right. Rofos peer at me from under every large rock. Some come up for a closer look, then hurry back to their holes when they realize I'd noticed them. But I'm not interested in them. I see a school of gopa heading directly towards me as they hug the coastline. I get another one. Then I shoot a couple skaros. I don't even look at the kefalo who are also in abundance. I pick off a few more gopa, that are by now starting to avoid me if at all possible. Then way down below I see a great big skaros near a large boulder. It's deep but if I time it right I can shoot and come right back up. I take a deep breath and dive. I shoot and hit him in the head. It knocks him cold or even dead but the spear does not impale him and he falls to the sea floor. Disaster. I race for the surface and take a big breath of air. My legs are weak. My heart is beating fast. I feel dizzy. And, my fish is lying on the bottom, seemingly out of reach, attracting a school of the ever-present little black fish that nobody eats or talks about but everyone catches. How am I going to get that big dead fish off the ocean floor? If only I could train those little black fish to bring it to me. "But that could take ages", I think realistically. I wait until I'm rested. The bottom looks deeper then ever but I force myself to go. Down deeper and deeper. I will try to spear him again as he lay there immobile. I shoot and miss. Shit. I swim desperately for the surface. I rest and try again. This time the spear goes through the fish but is deflected out by the stone sea-floor underneath. Again I surface.

"Is this fish worth my life?" I ask myself. I look down. I already know the answer and this time without waiting to recover I dive down and pick up the mighty fish with my hand. I burst through to the surface breathing the life-giving air with profound thanks. I feel immense pride in my perseverance and accomplishment. I had challenged the sea’s murky depths and I had won. I look at my catch. Funny how things seem much larger underwater. Well, never mind. It's the thrill of the hunt that really counts.

The sun has disappeared from the tiny bay and I begin my journey back. I shoot one more gopa but I have to chase him around first. It's a hard fought battle and I had hit him with a lucky shot. They are on to me. When I get back to the icy waters of the small beach Andrea is gone. In her place is the French family who are staying at Katina's. I swim around for awhile chasing kefalo just for the fun of it. I had also picked up a few colorful sea-urchin skeletons to give to Amarandi. One of these I give to the small French girl who is happily playing on the beach. She smiles in heartfelt thanks and rushes off to show her family the precious gift I have given her. I smile to myself. I have made this little girl very happy. And some day she will grow into a beautiful young French woman.

I set about the unpleasant task of cleaning the fish. There are many yellow-jackets around and they hassle me mercilessly. While I am scaling and cutting I notice the French family staring in rapt attention at something in the distance. I hope it isn't the ferry. That's my planned entertainment for the evening. I gaze down the coast, letting my eyes slowly come into focus. It's a flock of goats standing on the rocks at the shoreline. "They come for the salt", I call out to the French father in a knowledgeable tone.

"Yes", he nods in agreement though for all we knew the goats are there to eat barnacles.

I continue with my task at hand keeping a sharp eye on the goats lest they should grab my fishing bag and make a break for the impenetrable mountains. When I finish my work I say farewell to the happy little French family. The small girl is still fondling the wondrous gift I had given her. I begin the arduous journey back to town. As I approach the small dock in front of the first row of houses I am met by my fisherman friend Crysanthos, who wants to see my catch. He looks at the skaros.

"You don't have to clean these" he informs me excitedly. Then he teaches me a little rhyme to help me to remember.

The rofos you eat the head
melanouri the body
but for skaros eat the shit
tell me which do you prefer?

It actually rhymes in Greek. He keeps making me repeat it until I get it right and then he lets me continue home.

I love Friday. I love to go to the bar at the dock and drink ouzos until the ferry comes in. There's usually several people sitting watching the horizon. It's almost a straight shot to Pireaus and you can see the lights of the ship a long way off. Gradually the area around the dock begins to fill in like an arena before a sporting event. By the time the boat docks up the harbor is packed and you wonder where the cars and people are going to fit when they get off. When the ship is secured and the travelers aboard are allowed to disembark it's a merging of two huge crowds. It appears to be total chaos as vehicles squeeze through the mass of humanity towards the road and freedom. It's fun to watch and there is always the chance someone you know will get off unexpectedly. But tonight I am looking for one person and to hell with the others. All I care about is Greg, and the package he would certainly have for me. Sure if a close friend from America surprises me with a visit I will happily welcome them with open arms. But for now there is something a little more important on that ferry. I know that somewhere in Greg's luggage is a copy of the USA Today with my name on it.

Unfortunately Greg does not get off the boat and if I'm disappointed it's nothing compared to how his wife Anastasia, is feeling. So far three people have let me down and I feel terribly cut off from the world of baseball. Two had come from Athens and forgotten my request. Now a third has not shown up at all. Perhaps it was somehow my fault. Maybe by stopping at a newsstand he had missed the ferry. Maybe Anastasia would never forgive him, leaving him and sentencing her daughter Nora to the unstable future of a life with separated parents.

"Life can be harsh", I think to myself. "But now it's time to eat.”

Katina's is jumping. Even without the presence of Niko the contractor and his work crew there is an air of celebration. Everyone we know is here tonight including all Katina's grandchildren who whisk Amarandi off to play. The only table available is a small round cafeneon table but they send the wine quickly and stifle the girls complaints. Then I see the reason for the excitement. Mister Octopus has arrived. He sees me and hurries to take my hand. I prepare myself to answer all my personal questions about what has happened in my life since we last saw each other many years ago.

"When is Jack coming?" he asks me.

"We arrived two weeks ago" I answer happily, completely misunderstanding his question. Andrea gently points out my mistake in her own special way.

Shaken, I re-answer his question trying not to let my hurt feelings show. "How the hell should I know?” I return to my table, miffed. The party had officially begun. The Octopus family has arrived and I suspect it won’t be long before he starts demanding that I catch him an actual octopus from the sea, as he does every summer.

It turns out to be quite a night. This time the table of Americans are permitted to take part in the festivities as the dance floor is cleared of tables with the arrival of Nikos the Contractor and his crew. He runs inside and cranks up the music, leaping to the dance floor with a grace that belied his girth. Elaine too is on her feet coaxing and cajoling as they circle each other like a pair of mongoose about to attack. Suddenly with a burst of kefi, Old Panayotis throws a plate, shattering it on the dance floor. Niko slaps his heels and the tension breaks. The dancers dip and leap as if trapped in the power of some bizarre ancient mating ritual. Soon they are joined by others. Elaine runs over to Niko the cop and tries to pull him out onto the floor. "I can't. I'm on duty", he says, pointing to the badge on his uniform and nearly choking on his beer. The crowd roars in approval.

"Nisiotika, play a nisiotika" cry the locals. A rift is developing between the hard-core rembetis who want to dance to the slow painful dirges of Athens and Pireaus, and the villagers who want a fast happy dance from the islands. Niko the cop, who is also the local music expert, searches through the tapes and finds what he is looking for. The next moment the music has changed to an up-tempo nisiotika and Katina's daughters and Mister Octopus are leading a frenzied circular dance. Even the Americans join in with help from Elaine who leads them through the elementary steps. Again the music changes and Niko the Contractor is back on the floor doing the dance of the wounded seagull. I'm thinking that this is Greece. This is one of those times. They're usually just moments of beauty and clarity. Pure fun really. They don't last long but they have the power to change your life.

My thoughts are broken by murmuring behind me. "Get Mathaos to dance", I hear coming from the table where Katina's daughters are sitting. Time to go.

I follow Andrea, Elaine and Amarandi to the bar at the port but they were long gone. I sit with Panayotis the kefalo fisherman and a woman named Natasha who is an art teacher living with her three little children in the house Jack calls ‘the love nest’ because Andrea and I had spent two weeks there the summer she was pregnant and miserable. Natasha's baby is giving her trouble and she excuses herself saying she will try to come back.

"So many beautiful girls, but they are so young" says Panayotis sadly, looking around the bar. Clearly he had hoped that this would be the summer when romance would find him hiding out in Kalohori.

"And so stupid", I think to myself, my mind drifting back to the many nights I had stayed up late at the bar, drinking and chatting up these pretty young things from Montreal, who by the age of twenty-one were already so screwed up by their parents that it didn't matter what a guy did or said to them. Maybe 'stupid' was too harsh. 'Numb' was more appropriate You couldn't really talk to them because they didn't listen to a word you said. They just followed their own script and looked blankly into space, occasionally mouthing the lyrics to the worst of the taped disco music that was being played at the bar in those days. But they sure were beautiful.

Well, that was then and this is now. All those young girls are now married and fat, with spoiled children, living with husbands from the same village stock. Young republicans who would work hard and one day return to Kalohori to built a palace that will tower over the palaces their fathers had built twenty years before.

"Can I tell you a story?" I ask Panayotis. He motions for me to go on. "The first summer I came here I was alone. I had a room of my own upstairs at Katina's. One night we were eating dinner and some Swedish people from a sailboat came in carrying a girl. She was very beautiful but looked very sick. They asked if there was a doctor. I said yes and ran to get "the retarded doctor" as Jack called him."

"I know him. He's a very good doctor, despite his appearance” says Panayotis in his defense.

"When the retarded doctor arrived he looked at her and asked if there was a bed handy. I told him there was a spare in my room and we helped her up the steps and put her in it. She was afraid. The retarded doctor has a strange look, one that you don't normally associate with a man of medicine and she looked worried as he prepared his large hypodermic needle. She looked at me for assurance.

"Don't worry" I smiled and told her. "He's not as weird as he looks," though at the moment I too had my doubts. He gave her an injection in her butt and gave us some instructions that neither of us understood and was gone. We talked for awhile. I asked how she felt. Her muscles ached. I was a massage-therapy school dropout, I informed her. She was quite beautiful. She let me rub her shoulders, her back, her legs her...

She left early the next day. It was one of the most beautiful romantic experiences of my life. She said she would try to come back but she was a guest of her friend's family. The father was the captain and it was up to him. I watched her sail away and for the next two weeks I watched the boats. I watched the boats until the day of her flight back to Sweden and I knew that she wasn't coming." I looked at Panayotis. "That's my advice to you. Watch the boats.”

I don’t even know what I was trying to say but it sounded wise at the time.

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