The Last Day of James, Joan, and Elaine
and the Return of Uncle Mister Jack

It's noon as I am leaving the house when the girls come home from breakfast or some last minute shopping. The flying dolphin that will take most of our gang away will be arriving at around two o'clock. Elaine asks me to take one of her bags to the dock. When I get there The Octopus family is waddling over to Crysanthos' boat. I think maybe they are going for a cruise but when I walk over I realize that they are buying an enormous grouper that Crysanthos had caught this morning. It weighs about five kilo. Tied to the boat are three more, one of them even bigger, perhaps twenty pounds and almost three feet long. A woman tugs at my arm.

"Did you see? Did you see what your friend Mister Crysanthos has done?"

I wish Elaine was here. The final proof that he is the man she had been looking for. On top of all his attributes he is also the best fisherman in Kalotrelochoro.

I return to the house to hurry them so Elaine can catch a glimpse of the fish before they disappear into the Octopus families soup and bellies. The girls are on their way out the door so I carry Elaine's heavy bag and ask Andrea to bring my camera so I can photograph my future step-father-in-law with his big fish. But, when we get to the dock he is nowhere in sight. The fish are still tied to his boat and still breathing so I show Andrea. She is impressed but says it's merely the second biggest fish she has seen here this summer.

We go for our final meal together at Katina's. All I want is a salad and sadziki. I'm feeling kind of anxious and I don't know if it's because I'm sad Elaine will be gone in less then two hours or because I had used three tablespoons of Nescafe in my coffee this morning. One thing I do realize is that I am under the watchful eyes and ears of my brother and his girlfriend who are waiting for our arguing to begin. Knowing that they are listening makes me more anxious and everything anybody says I take it the wrong way and get angry.

Then in the middle of a conversation about Andrea's cousin Kim getting together with Panayotis the kefalo fisherman on his cruise ship in the Caribbean, Elaine interrupts me to say, "You know you can have that tooth filed down." She is talking about one of my front teeth that is bigger then the other, and has been for the thirty years I have known her. I thank her for pointing out my flaws to me and she responds that it' not a flaw if something can be done to fix it. Nothing a little minor surgery won't cure. She says she is pointing it out to be helpful. I thank her. By then James and Joan have left. They'd heard enough. I'd had enough too. I go to spend the last two hours of Elaine's month with us reading by myself.

When I eventually get to the bar to say my farewells, everyone is exchanging information. My brother James has a coveted Flying Dolphin schedule that he is unwilling to part with so Andrea is furiously copying timetables for our trip to the island of Kea. Amarandi is happily eating strawberry ice-cream and playing with Joan who she has suddenly become very close to. A few minutes before the dolphin comes, Epatia, the woman who had befriended Elaine hands her a gift and a letter. Elaine is so choked up I don't have the heart to remind her that very morning she had called the woman a leech and a parasite, with such force that Amarandi had marched around the house singing both words.

"Now she'll hate the woman even more because she has to carry that box all the way back to Athens", Andrea whispers.

At last the flying dolphin comes to spirit them all away. Elaine goes to give my brother James a big hug good-bye.

"Hey, don't hug me. I'm leaving with you", he says while backing away. We all say our farewells and magically they are gone. We wave until the hydrofoil is out of sight and then we comment on the silence. It's a profound deep silence. I also realize that Andrea has relaxed and so have I. We both love our families but we are glad to see them go. The girls and I go for a swim together for the first time in a month.

So with Elaine out of our lives for the time being, we have to re-adjust. When Amarandi is impossible we can no longer pass her off to her grandmother and go about our business. Our first taste of this is at Katina's when there are no kids around and she goes into one of her cranky spells. While talking to our friends we have to comfort her. Usually if she is acting like this it's because she is either hungry or tired and there is a simple cure for each. Sometimes though, the reason is less obvious and the cure not so simple. These are the times we get frustrated and sometimes there is a total breakdown in the child-parent relationship and we end up screaming at her. That's only happened to me once but it happens more often with Andrea. She just kind of loses it and with no Elaine to come to the rescue I've inherited the job.

Jack and Sue return. They come from the airport straight to Kalotrelochoro, stopping only a half an hour in Athens. They don't even have a newspaper but that's OK. With Jack back in town I can do without the baseball scores fro the few days until we must leave for Athens and then Lesvos.

They are sure happy to be back. The Octopus family have roasted a lamb for Mrs. Octopus name-day. We were hoping we would be offered some and when Jack and Sue show up it is assured. The only problem is that the pieces they give us are mostly bone and fat, the kind of scraps one would through to the animals. Still it's the thought that counts and nobody else was offered any. The Octopus family devours an entire lamb by themselves.

"The Octopus family may be fat," Andrea lectures us in their defense, "but every day they take long walks into the hills and along the coast. They go for miles. I don't see you doing that". She glares at me and I suddenly feel self-conscious about my own girth.

"They're not taking walks", I tell her. "They're foraging. They go off into those hills devouring everything in sight. Lichens, plants, grubs, insects. When they return from one of their 'walks', there is nothing edible for miles around. They leave a trail of desolation behind them."

As soon as the Marlowes leave for the evening to recuperate from their jet-lag, the party begins. First, Paraskevis or Mrs. Octopus as we call her, passes out little baklavas wrapped up like candy bars so everyone can celebrate her name day. Then the entire Octopus family begins dancing with Dimitroula, the waitress, joining them. Then to everyone's surprise, Vassili the Greengrocer leaps up and takes the lead, dancing with an abandon seldomly seen at Katina's. Within seconds he is physically spent and returns to his seat. Andrea and Amarandi have already gone home so I go to the bar where I know Lea, her husband Panayotis and Helen the girl who mourns the demise of the sea, will be and I'll have someone to talk to.

There is also a panagiri in Haraka, the next village which has a Saint Paraskevis church. Marina Vavaris is taking a group of people over the mountain to represent Kalotrelochoro in the celebration. We had all been happily talking when they suddenly stand up and say good-bye. I'm a little hurt to not be invited but I don't really trust Marina's ability to drive safely over the mountain. Who knows how long she's been at the bar, throwing back those green colored drinks? The others who are probably drunker then she is, don't mind putting their lives in her hands. Actually it isn't the journey there but the trip back that concerns me. They wave happily to me as they drive off. If they don't survive the trip I will find out about it at breakfast.

July 27th

I get two letters today. One is from my mother telling me that she had gone out to dinner with Janet Powers, the woman who is renting our house in America for the summer, telling us what a nice woman she is. The other letter is from Janet Powers, postmarked the same day, wanting to know if my mother has a history of kleptomania. She is missing a sapphire ring, a camera and a yellow blouse and since the house did not seem to have been broken into, my mother is a prime suspect. Somehow I can't imagine my mother or anybody I know finding those items irresistible and stealing them but it's fun imagining her being a closet kleptomaniac and having successfully hidden it for all these years. I think of all the things I had lost since I was a child. Perhaps my mother was the culprit. One day I will go up into her attic and find everything, toys, books, pets, ex-girlfriends. Andrea and I discuss what we should do. I don't want to do anything. It seems too absurd to be sitting at Katina's, five thousand miles away from home, reading a letter from a total stranger suggesting that someone in my family is a criminal. Then I think about calling my mother to let her know she is suspect #1 so she can start working on her alibi and character references in case of an investigation. It seems kind of sad too. My mother sends a nice letter with nothing but praise for the woman who simultaneously wrote a letter that she suspected my mother of criminal behavior. I wonder what their next evening together will be like.

Today on the two o'clock news there is a report from Crete about old people being evicted from their houses so they could be bulldozed to make room for a new school. The authorities claim they are "illegal" houses, and yet the people interviewed say they had been living there for sixty years. One old guy says he would die before they take him out of his home. There are tires burning in the street and a sign in Greek and English pleading for help. An old woman crying hysterically tries to stop the policemen, tugging at their uniforms, clutching and grabbing their arms as they walk by, rudely shoving her away.

It is obvious where the sympathies of the Octopus family lay. "Hit the old woman! Don't take any crap!" They cheer on the cops. My suspicions are correct about him being a retired police officer. For all we knew, big fat friendly Mister Octopus was a notorious torturer of leftists during the Junta. Who knows what the son-in-law did. Maybe the spirit that makes them dance, laugh, joke and party with wild abandon is the same spirit that made them "good cops." One thing is for certain. They spend ninety percent of their waking hours eating and drinking. As nice as Mister Octopus tries to be with his backslapping good-natured jibing, I can't help be suspicious and a little afraid of him.

"I like Christos", Jack had said, using Mister Octopuses real name. I can't really say that I like him. I don't dislike him. I'd just like to stay on his good side. Who knows what happens to those who get on his bad side.

I remember a few years ago when Andrea came here for the first time. There was another family of a retired policeman, only this guy made sure I knew he was with the Security Forces. He joked in a threatening manner and hinted that he suspected me as a narcotics user, which incidentally was his division. Like the Octopus family all they did was hang out at Katina's and eat and drink. They were all fat. The man was loud and phony-friendly and there was something very sinister about him. I was happy the day they decided to leave, two weeks ahead of schedule because the "weather had soured on them." (It rained one day and they never recovered.) They didn't come back.

But if these fat old cops make me nervous, how do they make Niko the cop feel? Last year he spent a month in another village, being punished for who knows what? Working in a retirement community for old policemen is the last place a guy like Niko would want to be a cop and yet he is still here, or was the last time I looked. Maybe the unwritten law is that a village policeman's beat is his own private kingdom. They may disagree about how he runs it but there is honor among policemen. How else can you explain Niko still having a job? Unless none of these guys are cops. They just like to pretend they are so people will fear and respect them. Maybe Mister Octopus has a pastry shop.

Whatever it is I realize that I have a high-school pot smoker's mentality about cops, with the exception of Niko of course. They make me nervous. I feel like a criminal when I am around them. Andrea is the same. Only she takes it a step further and believes that Vassili the Greengrocer is a spy or a police informer. Her reasons for suspecting him are simple. Last night when I left the two of them at the table she began to tell him about her grandmother's village in Mytilini, how they grew their own food, made their own wine, how there were seven cafeneons in a Village of three hundred souls and the men drink ouzo from noon to midnight. She realized that Vassili was not paying attention to her, but was looking around the little patio of Katina's, listening in on other people's conversation for evidence of criminal activity.

I had an alibi for him. Vassili has been married for about forty years to a woman he has nothing in common with besides the fact that they come from the same village. Most likely, because she is Greek, she nags him all the time, about the kids, about money, about everything. The only way he could have survived is by tuning her out. Unfortunately it has probably become a habit so firmly ingrained in him that he tunes out all women. When he hears a woman's voice his mind is automatically distracted and he scans his surroundings for something to latch on to.

Andrea was not convinced. "How do you know?" she asks me.

"It's just a gut feeling I have".

I hate to admit it but I may be nearly ready to go. For one thing I am running out of things to write about. For another I am a little bored with spearfishing. It's exciting today because as soon as I swim out from the beach the wind and waves pick up and I go about two miles along the coast in a semi-fearful state. I even think about walking back but realize that if I swim and it becomes too rough I can cling for dear life to a jagged stone until some fisherman finds me hours, days, weeks or months later.

Also I am getting tired of fish. At least the kind that I catch which has now been reduced to two species, kefalo and skaros. The gopa have me all figured out and don't even use the same swimming lanes as I do. They used to swim about a foot from the surface. Now I see them sneaking around thirty feet below me. They're gone before I can get near them. Even the skaros are starting to avoid me and I only catch the feeble and infirm. The kefalo I hit with lucky shots, only because I have figured out their escape patterns when they are cornered, but I have never been that enthused about the way they taste. It's probably psychological because I usually associate them with harbors that are used as open sewers. They're very clean here and Amarandi likes them, as she likes all the fish so I guess I'll continue until we leave. Still I would like to go somewhere I can shoot at big round fleshy white fish like they sell at the fancy tavernas in the Plaka. Maybe they are seasonal. I saw some in Lesvos a couple years ago but by the time we get there it will be Meltemi. This could be my last fishing of the summer.

July 28th

So we are leaving tomorrow. I wish we were leaving Greece tomorrow. Either that or staying here in my Grandmothers village until the end of August, by myself. I keep thinking about the last time we were in Mytilini in August. It was horrible. Andrea has no idea how close I came to leaving her and I have no idea how close she came to leaving me. We went to her grandmother's village of Xidera, way up in the mountains on a road to nowhere. Andrea's dead grandmother used to steal things from one relative and give them as gifts to others. She was the horror of the village and apparently the other relatives have not forgotten. If they hadn't been so mean to Andrea, I would have left her there, four months pregnant, but I felt so sorry for her.

After a week in Xidera with her sister Pam we were going back to Mytilini, the main city on the island of Lesvos. Xidera had been murder, not just because of the arguing and the oppressive heat, but there was no water. They would turn it on for two hours a day. Once at eight in the morning before we would wake up, and again after midnight when we had gone to sleep. If it wasn't for ouzo I don't think I would have survived. When it was time to leave we got a ride with her idiot cousin, an Athenian yuppie who drove like a maniac. Everytime she would pass a church or a roadside shrine she would make the sign of the cross, and then fight to regain control of the car. Because she wanted to go somewhere else first, she dropped me and very pregnant Andrea a mile from the center of town with all our luggage in the scorching hot afternoon sun. Like a couple overloaded pack mules we made our way to the center only to find all the hotels were booked solid because of the August 15th panagiri for the Virgin Mary. There is a very holy church in the village of Agiassos that is the second most sacred place in Greece after the church in Tinos.

Andrea called her cousin Xenoula who had a house, to see if we could stay there, but she was on her way out the door and rudely blew us off. We waited at this horrible cafeneon where the degenerate owner charged us to leave our bags while we looked for a room. We walked towards the old port, I was ahead fuming, with Andrea following behind. When I looked back I realized she was crying. I suddenly felt so sorry for her I couldn't be angry anymore. I also realized that I may as well accept that it was my destiny to take care of her because there was no escaping the fact that she was the mother of my child and we were tied together by fate.

I took her to a cafe-bar in the old port and I went off by myself determined to find a room for us. I succeeded and went back to get her almost two hours later. She was eating an ice-cream and of course was angry because I had taken so long. But the room was so nice she got over it. It was in a very old house in the center and the owner was a gay interior decorator who had designed the lounges of some of the ferries. We had a nice dinner and then went home where we were attacked by thousands of mosquitoes and didn't sleep a wink. The next day we saw a boat that was leaving for Pireaus and the temptation was too much. We left the island. As we sailed around it I had a few regrets about not seeing more of it and wishing I had been more flexible.

In fact we did return a year later and had a nice time, but only spent one night in Xidera and a week in her cousin's house in the main town. It was a sort of working trip because Andrea was moving the contents of her house in Plaka to her sister's house in Vatoussa. It was also during the month of May when it was much cooler. Elaine was with us too and drove me totally crazy. In the end we were at each other's throats and after that trip I was surprised she still spoke to me and even agreed to come on this trip

Reminiscing about those two visits to Lesvos make me certain of one thing. I sure as hell don't want to go back there again in August. This trip has disaster written all over it, especially with Andrea's best friend Mary coming along. Mary is one of the least dependable people we know and to hear Andrea talk about her she could easily be her worst enemy. Plus she doesn't really like me. She tolerates me and since the maturing yoke of fatherhood befell me she has been nicer, but a few hot shower-less days in Xidera could easily undermine this fragile peace.

So anyway we are not gone yet. Tonight we go to the grand opening of James Crispy's art exhibit. As we walk into the bar and he is sitting on a stool in a long sleeve shirt sweating profusely. He offers me a drink and I happily accept an ouzo. He then goes into a monologue about the difference between his shows in London, and those in other major cities. It's all very fascinating but I can't get over how much he is sweating. It seems like a much more interesting topic considering he is only doing this for fun, but I can't think of a subtle way to make the transition in topics. Luckily Amarandi wants me to take her out to the end of the dock to see the kids who are fishing. While we are out there we run into Crysanthos and I congratulate him on his big fish. We begin talking about my grandmother's house and the possibility of us spending a winter in Kalotrelochoro as he does. Amarandi becomes bored, wants her mother and runs back to the bar. In the meantime Jack and Sue have arrived so we all sit together and try t o decide where to have dinner. Vassili the Greengrocer is trying to steer us towards Katina's but my attitude is anywhere but there. We settle on Lefteris and climb into Jack's car for the drive to Vrissi.

Having diner with the Marlowes, without Elaine is a whole new experience. We can actually carry on a conversation without being interrupted by Elaine telling us something completely irrelevant, or relating some story that she is reminded of that features the relentless Yaya Stassa, her saint of a father or one of a dozen now familiar family figures, all of them deceased. While Elaine was with us she was able to monopolize most of the speaking time, in fact you could safely say with her around there was not a moment of silence. Any interval was an invitation for a comment, complaint or observation.

July 29th

At about six this evening I go out for my final fishing expedition of the month, perhaps the summer. Clouds have come over the mountains and the sea is dark, eerie and cold. It takes me awhile to get used to it. I'm not really feeling the thrill of the hunt. Maybe my aggression and machismo is wearing off. I only shoot at one fish on the way out, a gopa, one of many that spots me too late. Still, I miss. I'm not focused. As I swim around the bend I notice the sea is getting rough. There is one spot where the land drops straight down and I have to swim past the face of a giant underwater cliff. It's the scariest part of the trip. Sometimes I turn back. Today I keep going but as I approach the small beach I realize it's getting too rough and turn back. The closer I get to the point and the underwater cliff, the rougher it becomes and I am aware that my breathing has quickened. Though I'm not in any real danger, my unconscious mind is not be convinced of this and I feel the conditioned response of fight or fligh t kick in. I decide on flight. Looking below and side to side I can see the fish are rocking back and forth with the movement of the waves. If I look above the surface the sea is white, bashing the rocks on the coast. I just swim quickly and steadily foreword and try not to think about anything but my breathing. Suddenly I see the biggest skaros ever. I stop, aim and miss. He swims off, but I notice the spell is broken. The fear is gone and as I continue on, the waves become calmer. There are fish everywhere. A school of large salpa, some a foot long swim tantalizingly close. Then two tuna, hopelessly lost, go right by me. It's like paradise. I had passed through the hell of my fear and found myself in heaven, and I would have stayed there longer if I hadn't gotten stung by a jellyfish.

We meet Jack and Sue at the dock just as the lights of the ferry appear on the horizon. Jack comments on the local girls, and women in general.

"They're just so nice", he says.

It sounds too simple to me and not exactly within my own realm of experience so I come up with a quick analogy.

" If you've ever taken a lifesaving course, they teach you the correct way to hold someone when you are trying to save them from drowning to avoid being pulled under with them in their panic. That's how I see women. They're all afraid they're drowning and they're desperately reaching out for someone to save them. If you don't know the correct hold they drag you down with them." Jack likes my analogy and asks if he could use it in his writing. I tell him he could but I would use it too.

We had told Katina we would be eating with her. There is a chicken with my name on it. Jack and Sue had made a secret unbreakable pact that no matter what happened tonight, they would have dinner at Lula's. When they find out that we are as immovable as they, Jack is dismayed. He tries to talk us into staying another day so we can have dinner together. I don't feel like being sad about leaving for another day. Just let me get it over with. Andrea suggests that we eat separately and then we would walk over for a drink when we finish, but I have no intention of following through with that plan. I subtly remind Jack about the previous year we had our last meal at Katina's because Tom Mazarakis was calling us there to give us our Hotel information. It was a heat wave in Athens and we wanted an air-conditioned luxury Hotel near the Plaka. We didn't care how much it cost. Jack and Sue were entertaining a young photographer who was taking pictures of Sue doing traditional baking for an article of Jacks. They were ea ting at Lula's because they wanted the photographer to see the view. Even my traitorous brother David had gone with them and Andrea, Amarandi and I ate our last meal alone, waiting for the phone to ring. It's still a touchy subject evoking painful memories and I hate to bring it up. Jack winces. He and Sue excuse themselves for a conference and do not return for a very long time. When they do he announces, "We will join you at Katina's."

Katina has won again.

It doesn't seem like a last meal. I'm feeling very tired until the second or third glass of wine. The chicken is delicious and abundant and the kontosouvli even better. Niko the contractor from Egalion and his crew have returned and taken their rightful place at the small table by the door. He seemes quiet and pensive as if his trip to Athens had matured him. He leaves without dancing, in fact there is no music to dance to. Our last evening is anticlimactic and what begins as a question about Jack and Sue's true feelings about their lives in Cairo, with the arrival of James Crispy, turns into a comparison of Egyptian and Moroccan cultures. It's all very interesting but not the stuff final evenings should be made of. Before I know it I'm alone at the table. Jack and Sue have gone home, taking James Crispy with them. Andrea has gone for a walk with Amarandi and never returns, probably to see her secret lover. I go home to read. I don't even stop at the bar. There is a mass of people there but I'm not in the moo d to dissect the crowd and find someone to sit with.

I'm ready to go. I love it here and I could stay another month but I need a couple days in a city. I'd rather it be another city but Athens will do. By Tuesday I'll have had my fill and even Mytilini will look good to me. Kalotrelochoro will seem like paradise lost. It's taken awhile for Elaine's hysterical energy to dissipate and the three of us are just getting used to being together again and now we are leaving. But it seems like a good time. Jack and Sue have the ongoing project of their house. Jack has his writing and they are a part of the village. We are still visitors here.

Yesterday one of the old men asked me about John Colombotos. I said he was my father's first cousin and he is a professor in New York. This set off a whole discussion where it was hinted that I didn't know what I was talking about. John Colombotos owns a restaurant. There is no teacher named John Colombotos and that I was completely wrong. It made me realize that though it's true, Kalotrelochoro is a beautiful place and a fun place to spend my summers, it is still full of the same closed minded, hard headed, egotistical, know-it-all Greeks who can drive you crazy no matter how magnificent the surroundings. As long as Jack and Sue keep their language skills at a minimum, they will be happy here. They will smile and joke with their fellow villagers at a level where it is impossible to offend or be offended. Attack seems to be in the Greek nature and words are the weapons. If you choose not to use these weapons, you are considered harmless. They may talk about you and make jokes, but if you don't understand them what does it matter? Blissful ignorance. I wish I had it.

As long as I come here as a tourist, blending into the surroundings like Pip and Pop, everything will be fine. Once I begin making claims on the house and property, or take steps toward buying a piece of land, then I have totally entered their world and I have to accept the bad with the good. When I offered information on how Nikos Rovatsos could cheaply repair his boat I was told by another villager not to mess with him and his family, that they were dangerous. Maybe Kalotrelochoro is their Ponderosa. Old Christos Rovatsos is an evil Ben Cartwright with his ruthless sons. And yet when I told Nikos that one of the geese on the beach had swallowed someone's fishing line he braved the thrashing wings to remove it.

Like any village there are feuds and long brewing hatreds. For all I know there could be a vendetta between my family and another. As long as things are kept simple and friendly there's no danger of hidden hatreds boiling over. In that sense I have to agree with my father that maybe it's best to not become involved in the business of my grandmother's house. The land Kosta Monemos showed Elaine and I, had as much appeal to me as a piece of desert near Albuquerque, a personality-less bit of property just big enough to fit a small house with neighbors so close you could hear them snore, all for only twenty-five thousand dollars, without the house. But it was 'clean' as they say. One man owned it and he was selling it. Nobody would come knocking demanding his one tenth of a share. No feuds begun with property perceived as stolen. You put down the money, another thirty thousand for a house, and it was yours forever, or as long as the government allows foreigners to own property, which is as long as Greece is in th e European Community and must comply to their standards.

Or just save my money each year, rent an old house and come here for vacations. As Kalotrelochoro becomes more popular and houses less available I can change my vacation time and go somewhere else for July and August. Somewhere like Alaska. I'll come here in September/October when the rofos and the octopodi are bigger, or in April/May when the fish are plentiful and inexperienced. It's hard to believe I am leaving but I will be back. The further away I am, the stronger will be the desire to return. By February it will be like a disease and I'll have to hide the photo albums and the ouzo to keep my mind on my "real life" of working in America. It's like an addiction, as Andrea often says. She wants to get over it and never feel compelled to return here. I feel the same way, usually while I'm in some tourist impacted village next to a plastic filled sea, living for my next meal. It is like an illness, I certainly agree, but as far as illnesses go it's more fun then most.

We bid a sad farewell on the dock. Andrea is in her usual pre-departure frenzy and drives us all crazy. We were going to eat at Katina's and would have had Jack and Sue not arrived in the nick of time to save us from white rice with red sauce, the only thing she had bothered to make. We went up to Lula's and had kalamarakia, fried peppers, string beans, greens, and a cheese omelet and it was better then Katina's, I was embarrassed to say after denying myself all summer. When we were finished eating Lula came to our table and said "Now that was good food." Andrea found the comment insulting. She took it as meaning we had been eating bad food at Katina's all summer. They're cousins and there are no secrets in Kalotrelochoro. We had eaten fifty meals at Katina's and at Lula's twice. No wonder she had a chip on her shoulder. But that's because she had obviously forgotten about charging us two thousand drachma to clean our fish all those years ago.

Next we had to face Katina who was almost in tears because we hadn't eaten at her place. I was able to lie and say we had gone to Jack and Sue's house for lunch, realizing I was putting myself in a vulnerable situation since Lula would surely come by to gloat about having snagged Katina's best customers. Meanwhile Katina was acting as if someone had died. I was thinking maybe Panayotis had passed away while we were happily eating lunch in Metropolis. He had been looking worse and worse lately and without Elaine to administer him there was no telling how long he would last.

So we stand in the bar running out of things to say, wishing the flying dolphin would arrive and we can get the whole thing over with.

"Give James Crispy a big kiss for me" Andrea tells Sue, patronizing her art teacher.

"And give his dick a little squeeze for me," I tell Jack, with a wink.

Jack has a pained expression, knowing that any such action might be misinterpreted, but he promises he will. Knowing that our final requests will be taken care of by our good friends, we feel comfortable leaving as the flying dolphin roars into the bay and takes us away, back to civilization. As I stand on the wing, watching the rocky shore of the Peleponisos passing, I wonder about the month I have spent in my grandmother's village. I think of the dozens of fish I had caught and eaten and the thousands who were relieved that I was finally gone. I think of the friends I have made there. Will I ever see them again? Will the Bulgarian get his house back? Will my grandmother's house be a parking-lot when I return. Will there be a neon light beckoning people to come for dinner at Katina's with an electronic sign announcing whether the night's special is chicken, kontosouvli or kokoretsi? I have a picture in my mind of hotels and beach chairs. The sacred waters of Vrissi's springs filling up swimming pools and lac ed with chlorine. A line of discos on the beach property that once belonged to my family. I know it sounds like a terrible exaggeration but in reality things change quickly in Greece.