~ Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently.They're not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them - about the only thing that you can't do is ignore them...

...because they change things!


 ~ so here's to Antonios ~



'...and the time when Sandy and I were visiting the island of Karpathos and our two week stay was coming to an end. She had gone swimming and I had gone Metaxing.'

The Halkia is one of the oldest tavernas in Pigadia, the main town on the island of Karpathos. I was a regular there as was Antonios, a local builder. One day he dropped into the chair next to mine with a curt, 'Ya!' - and that day poor Antonios looked more grumpy than usual.

I'd been waiting so long to get served that I almost felt like a local myself. Eventually, we began chatting as we waited for the gentle morning breeze to cool our coffees. Then Antonios ordered two Metaxas and before he spoke, he huffed and sighed then lightly touched my arm, a traditional signal heralding an all-important announcement. And that's when I found myself entrusted with either some of the most extraordinary snippets of invented gossip that it had ever been my pleasure to hear or it might have been simply a modern folk tale used to pass the time with gullible travellers like myself.

'Forgive me my friend, but you know that goddess of Fate, Clotho? Well let me tell you she is not a nice lady, and before you get up to leave, I will tell you how I know this.' He lit a Greek cigarette and I could almost hear his lungs sigh with resignation as he puffed away. In my experience, Greek cigarettes seem to be made from donkey droppings, rust and sand but they do have their moments.

He coughed a few times to clear his throat then began, 'I work a ten hour day all through the winter building new hotels - and for what? For peanuts! I get peanuts for all my hard work and then in the summer I am not much better off renting out sun brollies on the beach to you sun worshippers. So tell me, how in the name of Zeus am I supposed to pay my taxes out of broken peanut shells?'

Absentmindedly, he flicked the ash from his cigarette onto his lap and continued, 'OK. I'll tell you how. I charge a large price for each bed as well as the brolly.' He nudged my arm and whispered, "There are at least two beds to each brolly, so you see how I make a little money for me. I know this is a sin but what else can I do? Eh?"

He nodded in the direction of the proprietor, Zacharia, and lowered his voice, 'And him? Some people have the ear of Zeus, believe me my friend. Listen, thirty five years ago when we was young and foolish, me and Zacharia went everywhere together and we had no money at all. There was one time when we were doing some building work over on the big island of Crete and one weekend the mighty Zeus did something that I can never forgive.'

Suddenly Antonios had my full attention. 'It was at Pasxa, and we were driving back across the mountains to the south coast after a couple of nights in the capital when our car broke down just as it was getting dark, leaving us stranded high in the White Mountains and in the middle of nowhere. Through the darkness, I noticed a light from a house in the distance and suggested we go and ask if we could stay until morning when we might get some help to fix it. Zachi was reluctant at first but we had no choice and so we trudged across fields and through ditches and even surprised one or two streams in the dark until finally we knocked on the door. You will not believe what happens next my friend, and I swear on my mother's life that it is all true.'

Andonios paused just long enough to take some fortification from his brandy and to acknowledge the greeting from a passer-by and by doing so drop a little more ash onto his trousers.

'A vision of true loveliness, dressed ready for bed, answers the door and is not only happy to help but insists we stay in the house and not in the barn as we had hoped.

As luck would have it, her parents were away for the weekend so she suggests she sleep in their bedroom and we either share the little bed in her room or one of us sleep downstairs on the couchetta, whatever we wished. She was American and the house was magnificent. I mean it had everything, car, TV, a bar, even a pool in case you don't like to swim with the fishes. So we flipped a coin and I slept upstairs in her scented bed whilst Zach slept downstairs on the couchetta.

Anyway, one thing led to another and I am not bragging when I say that that lady and me had one helluva a night, I can tell you. I will not forget it even when I die.

The next morning Zachi fixed the car himself and we went on our way, promising to write to her and go back one day but we never did, in fact we never do. Also, I never told Zach what had really happened during that night.'

It was my turn to take a long drink from my glass; I'd completely forgotten my brandy up until then. 'Keep listening my friend,' Antonios touched my arm again. 'The next part haunts me to this day. Anyway, about nine months later, at Christmas, I was sipping my Amstel in a taverna down in the harbour here when Zacharia pulls open the door and marches straight up to my elbow.

'Hey, Antonios!', he yells. 'I want to speak to you - urgently - and in private. Please come outside.' So I empty my glass and he leads me by the arm into the street behind the shoe shop. He lowers his voice while keeping hold of my arm, 'Do you remember when our car broke down in the mountains of Crete and that lovely lady let us stay the night?'

'Yes, Zacharia my friend, I believe I do recall.'

'Do you remember that I slept downstairs on the couchetta?' The eyes of Zacharia were wild and I thought he might do something dangerous.

'Er, yes, you were very, very noble Zacharia.'

'Never mind all that. Just tell me the truth Antonios!' He seemed to brace himself as he formed his next question, 'During that night, did you and your overrated skill with the women sneak along to where she lay sleeping and did you seduce her?'

'Well, I wouldn't say sed...' I tell you my friend, I groaned as he tightened his grip on my arm and tightened his jaw, 'Don't interrupt! Did you or did you not give her the name and the address of my home here in Pigadia? And I want the honest truth Andonios, do you hear me?'

By now, my friend, I was shaking with fear for what he might do to me. His face was purple with emotion. So, taking a deep breath and bracing myself for a blow, I said quickly, 'OK! Yes. Yes, Zacharia. But I can explain.'

Sirr, please, put down your glass and listen closely, my friend, because I was not prepared for what Zacharia said next. He said, 'Stop! Don't bother with your explainings. Now I understand everything. You see, the lovely lady has died, and left me the house and a small fortune in her will.'

Antonios drained his glass, slammed it down on the tabletop, emptied the air from his body then sternly looked out to sea.

'So that is how Zacharia gave up the building work and bought this taverna, the most popular in our village and all I got for my share was a little house on the edge of town, and to think I did all the work. I tell you my friend, fate is a woman and she cheats, that's all.'

Andonios shot me a glance like a lost dog as he finished his story so I ordered a couple more Metaxas and left him to brood in silence whilst I went off to stifle my laughter in the toualetta.

'I swear this is all true. Antonios told me the story himself at the Halkia Kafeneion in Pigadia on the island of Karpathos.' ~ Tony






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