She almost fell through the gate and he heard her car roar off through the olive groves faster than usual. Manolis brought out his guns and cleaned them slowly. Vendetta was once as common and bloody on Crete as on Sicily. They had carried on until relatively recently in Sfakia. Justice was still likely — and expected for certain crimes — to be dealt with by the family.
Most Cretans kept guns, illegally like Manolis. It was an act of independence and pride to be able to let one off at special celebrations; a duty to take a child at the right age and wave the gun in their face — let them be aware of what waited in a house or property for any crime. Haris had refused to learn to shoot from the start.
And more recently told his father to leave them to a museum or, better still, hand them over to the police now before Europe gave its strict rules along with the Euro to Crete and he found himself the criminal. It had been their last conversation. A disagreement to part on. Haris had phoned after the news finished,. Manolis had known exactly what his son was talking about. A man accused of raping an eleven year old girl had been handcuffed and virtually paraded along the street to and from the court hearing: led through the angry mob of family and villagers. As all criminals were: let them hear the anger and feel the spit burning on their shamed faces.
It is why there is virtually no violent crime on our island; hardly any crime at all; why big shot lawyers like you go to Athens or America to earn money. Hit on the head!
An eleven year old girl in Crete. I thought it was decided, the case over. You, or some peasant: the great law givers. A quick bullet or blow: the verdict without trial. Do you know the new game in the US and most of Europe? Cry rape. Your date refuses to pay the bill or marry you after sex: rape.
An episode of Here's My Thing
Fathers, brothers, doctors, priests: all rapists. The pendulum swung too far and being abused. If she says she was raped, by God she was raped. And get rid of those guns before this big shot lawyer has to defend you. The police will have to come and try and take them if they want them. Manolis put the gun to his temple and squeezed the trigger. The hammer clicked on the empty hole. He knew that it always should: the weight of the bullet following gravity.
Another law that could be broken though, if fate or circumstance deemed it right. Manolis had no time for books. To slip into that trance-like state as he danced with other men free of constraint to the swirling sound of the lyra: his soul free to drift through mountains and over the sea: to shake off everything and touch bliss. What book, he asked, could get close?
Once though, Haris had read him a passage from another of the endless pile of books he carried the way some carry worry beads.
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A great old Kapetanios, with all of his family gathered around him is dying. He is taken out and placed under a lemon tree. The lyra player is summoned and plays as the old warrior drifts into the only peace he can have ever known.
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Tomorrow, the court case began. All there: to witness. He understood clearly what he must do and for whom. But he saw no honour or bravery in this place. Just golden-tongued eels who were playing their own game. It carried on for over two weeks. An endless bending and stretching of truth and lies until they melded together into some babble of meaningless, unharmonic sound. He searched for any real sign of regret: something beyond the feigned tears and mouthed, rehearsed regrets. He waited for their families to offer some kind, sympathetic gesture toward his, instead of their looks of contempt and hatred as if they were the guilty ones trying to deprive them of their children.
Manolis found nothing and tried instead to see his son in this place. He wanted to believe desperately in the worth of his life.
Would he have been admired for this? Loved by those he defended; hated by those he foiled? Did he always defend the innocent? And was his great love of truth and justice able to survive in this world? He wanted to be able to believe and see but could not. Then it was over. All of his people cheered and clapped while the young men and their families collapsed in sobs.
Manolis did feel his heart begin to fill with pride at imagining Haris winning such a victory. The driver would get five years, the other two men three. The sigh was a gasp of disbelief from his family. And she relaxed, not tensed, for him as he pulled the revolver free. As he got to his feet and took the first of his strides he shot the youngest of them between the eyes. One more stride and the second, wildly spinning away, was shot behind the ear.
Manolis shot him through his trembling spine so the bullet could tear his cold heart out. He turned and saw his wife and family smiling in pride as the first of the policemen flew like a doll from his sweeping left hand blow. The barrel touched his tongue for a briefness of cold before the bullet burned its way in. A taste as bland as any dish you did not truly wish to serve or devour. Few customers visit my shop, perhaps three or four people a day. They watch the animals in the cages and seldom buy them. The room is narrow and there is no place for me behind the counter, so I usually sit on my old moth-eaten chair behind the door.
Hours I stare at frogs, lizards, snakes and insects, which wriggle under thick yellowish plates of glass. Teachers come and take frogs for their biology lessons; fishermen drop in to buy some kind of bait; that is practically all. I have worked here for five years now.
FRANK August/September by The Frank Magazine - Issuu
One day a strange small woman entered my room. Her face looked frightened and gray. She approached me, her arms trembling, unnaturally pale, resembling two dead white fish in the dark. The woman did not look at me, nor did she say anything. Her elbows reeled, searching for support on the wooden counter. It seemed she had not come to buy lizards and snails; perhaps she had simply felt unwell and looked for help at the first open door she happened to notice. I was afraid she would fall and took her by the hand.
She remained silent and rubbed her lips with a handkerchief. I was at a loss; it was very quiet and dark in the shop. Then I saw her eyes. They resembled old, torn cobwebs with a little spider in the center, the pupil. I had to tell her I never had sold moles in the shop and I had never seen one in my life.
A Practical Guide
The woman wanted to hear something else — an affirmation. I knew it by her eyes; by the timid stir of her fingers that reached out to touch me. I felt uneasy staring at her. She turned to go, silent and crushed, her head drooping between her shoulders. Her steps were short and uncertain. The words whizzed by like a shot in the thick moist air and made her body shake. Her transparent eyelids hid the faint, desperate glitter of her glance. Her hands lay numb on the counter, lifeless like firewood.
Her narrow shoulders looked narrower in her frayed gray coat. She remained motionless and when her fingers grabbed the glass her eyelids were still closed. She turned to go, small and frail, her back hunching, her steps noiseless and impotent in the dark. I ran after her. I had made up my mind.