GRACE IN GREECE
by: Cathe Ferguson ©2003
It was early evening in the city of Nea Makri. The hustle and bustle of the colorful Mediterranean Villas along the coast of Attica was slowly winding down for the day. The waters of the picturesque Peiraiko Limani, a horsehoe harbor jouncing with caiques, lazily lapped against the wharf. The seaside tavernas, however, in contrast to the sleepy chateaus, were just beginning to spark the shoreline with their neon lights and flashing signs.
Steve Sheldon sat at the table just outside his room in the Ballos apartment complex upon the terrace overlooking the seaport below. He had been sitting there now for hours while the sea mews soared over the gulf of Marathon, where, earlier, the waves had come in to sacrifice themselves in shiny shards upon the sand. Mesmerized by the soughing of the sea and the heady affects of whiskey, he had slipped slowly into a soothing stupor.
He had forgotten about his recent disappointment hours ago. He had drifted from one thought to another, in and out of emotions, from anger and hostility, to wanton apathy. He had pondered the joys of a single-barrel bourbon, toasting, more specifically, the ingeniousness of a one Evan Williams, the first to have a licensed distillery in Kentucky, way back in 1783, creator of the 1989 single barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey whose illustrious taste he now enjoyed.
By the second bottle, Steve had finally managed to elide the happenings of the day. He no longer felt the pain of rejection. So what if his closest nemesis, Clyde Belmont, had been selected to perform at the highly esteemed Theatre of Herodes in Atticus, while he, Steve Sheldon, was not. So what if Clyde was now entertaining Grace Ericson, Steve's own girl, at the famous Cafe Iroon in Psiri with his second rate rendition of Saint-Saens' bassoon sonata. So what if they were sitting knee-to-knee at a quaint little table having an ouzo and a meze together, staring into each other's eyes, whispering sweet nothings into the cool, dramatically lit air.
"Sho wha' indeed", he suddenly blurted out to the empty room as the memory of the ugly truth swept over him once again. As if the sound of his own voice startled him into action, the tall man leaned upon the table, struggling to his feet, in response to a sudden urge to play the bassoon which lay upon a nearby chair. After several attempts to stand, he gave up. He stretched out for the instrument, instead, until he was able to grapple it with his fingers and pull it towards him.
He fumbled as he positioned himself upon the chair, nearly losing his balance. Once steady, he slipped to the edge of his seat, and, with his back straight, placed his feet flat on the floor. He took a deep breath, and nearly passing out, relaxed his shoulders. He held his head up and slowly brought the instrument to his mouth.
He filled his lungs with air, and in one steady stream, began the opening piece to a beautiful solo written by George Zukerman. He had not thought to prepare the reeds first, before attempting the piece, so what resulted was a a series of pawky tones with a few screels and caws thrown in to boot.
"Bill Waterhowsh, eetchor heart out!" Steve shouted after playing only a few bars of music. He suddenly thought of Grace, and immediately he imagined her in Clyde's arms. He couldn't stand to think of Grace's sweet lips pressed against Clyde's fleshy folds of tissue surrounding that low-down, double-crossing mouth of his. Steve brought his upper lip down over his teeth and squawked out another series of cacophonous notes.
The sound produced fits of laughter out of the heartbroken man which resulted in a progression of involuntary sporadic guffaws and hoots of chortles which grew louder and louder with every explosion. At that point, he totally lost control. Images of Clyde guiding his sweetheart down the streets of Psiri, passing one traditional Greek taverna after another, with her arm crooked through his elbow, smiling at each other with each step, was too much to bear.
Steve reached for his glass and poured another drink. He swallowed it down in one swift motion. He stumbled to the rail off the side of the veranda, opposite the ocean, and, leaning over, watched the noisy street below as lovers toasted each other with half filled glasses at tables that now stood where the parking lots had been during the day. Now the tables and chairs served as dining areas for restaurants that looked as though they had been built into a bombed out city.
A joke came to mind as Steve thought of Grace again. He leaned over the rail as far as he dared and shouted to the people below, "Hey, what happens if you shing country mushic backwards?" He was having trouble controlling his tongue, but he didnít let that stop him. No one seemed to have heard, so he repeated the question, only louder this time.
A group of young ladies looked up towards the rail as they heard the question. One of them shouted back, "What do you get?" In a very loud voice.
Steve held onto the rail, leaned far over the side, and shouted, "You getcha job andja girl back!"
The girls looked at each other and shook their heads, then, giggling, walked on. Steve doubled over in throes of laughter. He repeated the answer to himself, again, as if he had never heard the joke before, sending himself into a hardy laughing fit.
Suddenly the phone rang. Steve didnít notice at first, or perhaps the sound just didnít register. He had stumbled back into his chair and was doubled over the table, still laughing, tears spilling crazily down his face and onto the table.
By the tenth ring, Steve was able to lift his head off the table. It finally dawned on him that the phone was ringing. His Swiss Agassiz was lying open on the table, and though he stared at it intently for a good long while, he couldnít make heads or tails out of the time. He tried to get up off the chair, but he almost fell twice, so he went down onto his hands and knees and crawled across the veranda to the inside of the apartment.
He had trouble deciding where the phone was. He couldnít remember where he had seen it last. Everything looked odd from this position, and it was hard for him to judge where the sound was coming from, so it took a while for him to get his bearings. Finally, he spied the phone on the other side of the sofa. It looked like a hundred miles away.
By the twentieth ring, Steve had finally made it to the phone. He was astonished that someone could be so insistent. Why had they waited so long for him to answer?
He picked up the receiver and said hello. When no one responded, he said hello again, a little louder this time. After several attempts to be heard, he finally realized he was holding the wrong end of the phone to his ear. He turned the receiver around and tried another hello.
Only three words came softly over the wire. "Forgive me Darling."
Steve didnít answer. He had passed out on the floor.