The Poutanaki

At this time I rarely drank with Agis, as he was irritable, snapping at me and the other guys.
One night in late summer we sat in the square long past midnight drinking wine, talking about women, the olives shrinking on the olive trees because of lack of rain, where the world was going.
We are going to hell. Immigrants, the pestilence of this place. They pick Greek names, Thanasis, Pavlos, Nikos, hell they are communists, they have no names, no papers, no God. We Greek are a dying race. There is a solution, what the Italians do.
What do the Italians do? I interrupted.
He jumped up in the zeibekiko stance, arms stretched out. He danced around me, over me, like a bird that is about to attack, yelling
Where the hell do you come from professor, you don't know what the Italians do! They fucking drown them out in the ocean. You don't know, professor? and you say you are my friend! You say you love me! Bullshit! They drown the bastards. They drown them! They have no caffeneio in their country, no tavernas, they have no bread, they come here and boss us around!
We are sheep, the lamb of God, he whispered.
They drown the bastards! he yelled at the top of his voice, a manly voice, the helpless whimper of a child that is punished.
He stuck his nose on my face. Now he was calm, his voice course, trembling. His large black eyes wet, pleading
You do not know, palikari. You say you love me, ha. Your a liar, you know nothing.
Exhausted. he kept dancing and chanting, staggering in the empty square until he drifted out of sight in the narrow dark streets of the village.
I sat in the square for a long time. Witness to a crucifixion. I went back home shattered, whispering
I know Cuckoo my good friend, I know, I know.
A few weeks later, the old guys stood up as I entered the caffeneio. Mackie was whistling ominously in the back. His mother, tears in her eyes, walked toward me but stopped four yards away.
Cuckoo, she said.
I wiped my tears and walked out for hours in circles through the fields my head empty. Centuries old gnarled olive tree trunks, twisted branches, fleshy fig trees, shameless vineyards.
“I had my fill. Tasted all things. All holes.”
Near sunset I walked my friend to his last home. Mackie nowhere. De Chirico, a presence that flooded all space, ominous, Parkinson face. The ancients created Medusa, the Sphinx and other monsters, all female, so that they would not think of the most horrifying sight, a woman’s frozen face standing motionless, square in front of man.
In my pocket I carried the final gifts for my beloved friend. Outside the cemetery I had walked to the side, a fistful of earth under a wild fig tree.
Before the wooden lid hid the face that I loved so much, I reached in my pocket, a cuckoo cap, in it a pack of cigarettes, two rubber bands one broken, a fistful of earth that he plowed valiantly, my tears. I opened my fist, kept it open for a long time to honor my friend, I hurled my gift on his wide chest.
Long trip Poutanaki, full of tavernas and hanoumakia, all holes!

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