I clamber down the stairs to Argiroupole metro station, heading to work, in central Athens. She’s sitting on one of the benches there, dark-skinned, dark-haired, probably a Roma, in her twenties. A long limp pony tail, a shabby red T-shirt, a flared flowery skirt, tattered flip-flops. An equally scruffy two or three-year-old boy is wringing out of her grasp.
She sees me and raises her open palm. ‘Please, madam.’ I flick into my skirt pocket and take a euro out, drop it to her palm. ‘Efharisto, efharisto,’ she nods. The boy grabs the coin and shoves it right into his mouth. The woman plunges a finger into his mouth and hooks it out. He whimpers. Continue reading “At the Metro Station”
‘I know you and dad wanted something else for me but- Yeah, a rich, pot-bellied prince. You think mine is a frog, eh? He loves me to bits, mum; he really cares, that’s what matters.’ Sonia punches the pen’s tip fast against the notepad on the coffee table, peppering the white sheet with inky dots. ‘We’ll find something to eat. He’ll get a job. God is merciful- No idea why He’s not to the Syrians, mum, but we’re in Greece, things are much better.’ She runs her tongue along her lower lip. ‘We’ll survive- What if he hasn’t got a University degree? I can’t find a job either. He’s a trained plumber, anyway. Continue reading “On the Phone”
Tzoras jots down the date of the primary school students’ last excursion this year. A week before his son’s University entrance exams. He couldn’t possibly be absent from this critical moment in his son’s life.
He unlocks the top desk drawer and takes out a deck of cards with famous actresses on he’d bought on an educational trip to Thessaloniki. He counts them. Fifty one. One’s missing. Fingers move deep into the drawer, through grade books and the register, under the desk pad. Nowhere. Continue reading “You Reap what you Sow”
The bus is crammed; people jostle in the aisle, swinging hither and thither at the driver’s sudden brakes and swerves. A baby howls, an old lady flaps her fan against her flushed face.
Then the bus stops. It takes a while. An armed soldier gets off to inspect the road. Pitch dark. A roar is heard, a gunshot. The second soldier follows suit. He never comes back. The passengers stare out the window and at each other alert. Somebody knocks on the front door. The driver opens and a man, face distorted, reddish saliva dripping down his bloodied teeth – a zombie – bursts in, lunges at whomever he comes across, bites them hard on the neck. Screams and moans fill the bus. The ones that have been bitten become infected and maul the ones sitting next to them until everyone, except for the driver, runs amok, becomes a zombie. Continue reading “An Awesome Ride”
‘Mum! Look! A spider! Kill it!’ Belly still working on my web, I goggle down at the small boy’s pink finger pointing at me like a huge, wriggling worm. Oh, no, I think. I’ve been spinning this web in a corner of the kitchen ceiling for ages and this little bugger here wants to wipe it out in a flash and, worse, do me in. Why do humans loathe us so much? We never do any harm.
A wave of relief washes all over me when I hear the woman say,
‘Oh, no, Niko. A spider in the house is good luck. It won’t hurt you. Go have your breakfast.’ The boy sits at a chair and sips from his glass of chocolate milk, his eyes still glued on me with curiosity and mistrust. I go about my work, wishing for a fly to be trapped into the web soon before I starve to death.
Continue reading “The Spider”
He pushes the heavy iron gate open by the bars, flakes of peeling paint chafing his cold palms. The soles of his shoes scrunch against the grainy soil the pouring rain had carried this afternoon from the garden down the marble stairs, landing in small, grungy pools on the dirt road. He can feel the wet weather in his bones as he climbs up the steep, narrow steps, the night air heavy and cool on his cheeks.
Continue reading “The House”
I have always loved pets, particularly cats. I have, really. It is true that when my dear husband died I set my mind on buying a feline to keep me company. A quiet, good-mannered Persian one I had spotted in the shop window of the big pet shop downtown. Until I heard from the shop assistant there that it would need to be groomed daily. That put me off buying it. Too much trouble, I thought and figured I could do without a companion for a while.
Until that shaggy stray cat appeared at our doorstep one day. Mr Nikos, the neighbor next door fed it every day. Of course, he never allowed it into his house. He just let it roam the premises, ignoring the fact that the horrid animal relished to empty its bowels on my fluffy, brown doormat. Every single day I would wash it clean off its contaminated excrement, the mat having by now become as sleek as a steak.
Continue reading “The Cat”
Strategoula’s square jaw tightened as I pulled her messy, straw-blonde hair hard at the back, like plucking a dead chicken off its feathers. Her head bounced back and forth as if joined with her shoulders by bed springs. She reiterated by kicking me hard in the stomach and then I felt her pincers-firm grip on my left wrist. She twisted it to the point of crackling it strained, the acute pain shooting hot tears into my eyes. I managed to release myself with a sudden jolt and stumbled into my house, locking the door behind me.
‘You’ll never come in!’ I screamed my lungs out, my nose misting the window overlooking the concrete yard.
Continue reading “She Wouldn’t Budge”
You know what struck me the most when I saw you lying flat on the hospital bed? I realized I’d never seen you without your impeccable false teeth. You looked older, defenseless, robbed from authority. A catatonic man with cheeks sunken along the gums that framed a wide dark cave of a mouth, a forehead jutting out of the white pillow, wet wisps of hair drowning underneath. Tiny red drops were sprouting out of your face, and your eyes… so different! I wondered where all that sparkling, ingenious green had gone to. Now coated with some thick membrane, they were just two anguished, anaemic slits on a hallucinating stranger’s face.
‘Pour me some water, Dina!’ you stammered. ‘There, from the tap,’ you pointed to the serum hanging on your right. ‘Bring me my coat that’s hanging there,’ this time you showed me the blank wall to your left. ‘Time to go home.’
Continue reading “Your Toothless Mouth”
Athena’s street looks abandoned, still, like a dusty street before a duel in a western. Shop windows dim, like the dirty spectacles of a myopic child; cardboard boxes scattered over shabby floors, like presents that have been left unwrapped; dust blanketing the window displays, like stale icing on a cake. On the pavements, in flaky flower stands, yucca leaves cower over brittle trunks, like rusty, weary swords.
The economic depression has gravely affected retail sales all over Greece. Chopped salaries mean less money to spend on consumer goods. How do all these redundant people earn a living now, I wonder. Something has to be done soon or lots of people will starve.
Continue reading “The Gordian Knot”
The skin of my yiayia’s hands dry, like peeling garlic; blanketing a tangle of frustrated veins. Eyes round, tinged with terror, mouth agape, pale legs grappling with the white sheets in an effort to revolt against stagnation.
I want so much to comfort her, ease her pain. ‘I’m here for you. I’ll always be,’ I think but never utter the actual words. We’ve always shied away from exchanging soppy phrases such as ‘I care for you’, or ‘I love you’.
Continue reading “Words versus Actions”