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Excerpt for Nine Valiant Literary Deeds by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Table of Contents


Prologue – Writer’s Resume

Black Chalk

Resist!

The War Of Sheets

Hostage Situation

God Flowers

Idiots’ Philosophies

Three «Wiseguys» Wearing Glasses

Time And The Heart

REFERENCES








Title: Nine Valiant Literary Deeds - Secont Cover



English Translation: Tereza Skarvelaki

Translation review: Professor Maria Skiada


Cover Image from www.shutterstock.com

(photo by Art Konovalov)

Author: Yannis Hatzimarkou

E-mail: nine.valiant.literary.deeds@gmail.com


ISBN 9780463763827

Published by Yannis Hatzimarkou at Smashwords

Copyright 2019 Yannis Hatzimarkou


All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be copied
or otherwise used without the expressed written permission of the publisher, except in cases of a review.



Yannis Hatzimarkou







Nine Valiant Literary Deeds







I asked from God to give me STRENGTH and He gave me DIFFICULTIES to make me STRONG.

I asked for WISDOM and He gave me problems to solve.

I asked for PROSPERITY and He gave me MIND and MUSCLES to work.

I asked to FLY and He gave obstacles for me to overcome.

I asked for CONVENIENCIES and He gave me POSIBILITIES and chances.

I asked for LOVE and He gave me persons with problems for me to HELP…

I received nothing from what I ASKED, but I received everything that I NEEDED.


Live WITHOUT FEAR, face all the DIFFICULTIES and prove that you can

OVERCOME them…


But most of all do not become an OBSTACLE for others to face their problems…



Extract from Lives of Saints












Τhis book is dedicated to my parents, to my sister Zoe and to my friends Andreas, Nicholas, Yannis and Dimitris.



This book is also dedicated to the love of my life, Dora.



Special thanks to my tutor Tasos Zervas.



In addition this book is dedicated to all the acquaintances I have made from the late ‘90s until today on the internet and especially to Sarajevo and to Wonderboy.



To my Sleepless Guardian.



Prologue – Writer’s Resume


Yannis Hatzimarkou was born in Marousi, a suburb of Athens, in 1978 and has lived most of his life in Agia Paraskevi, Athens, Greece. His father was an accountant and his mother a midwife and at the time of the writing of this book they are both still in life and on pension. He also has a sister, named Zoe. He has studied Business Administration at the Athens University of Economics and Business from which he graduated in the year 2005 and he has worked in various businesses of the private sector during and after his studies. This is his first book. Publishing it is a life dream come true so the only thing that the writer wants to add in this short resume is the wish (and curse) for anyone to follow one’s dreams and if the faith in them is strong, then these dreams will come true.




Black Chalk




1

He was still in deep slumber and was having a weird dream that night; it was so strange and lively that he felt as if he really was there. The action was taking place in a different era, about two hundred years ago, when houses were small and stone-built and children played carelessly outside in the countryside and also in neighbourhoods, on pavements made of stones. He saw him and his friends having a blast playing and running and laughing in these little streets on a gloomy autumn afternoon. Some mothers were standing on the doorsteps of their houses wearing their cooking aprons and waiting for their children to come home for dinner. The street he saw in his dream was stone-paved and curved and was covered with grey stones that had turned smooth and flat throughout all the years of people pacing on them. He saw a bunch of kids going up that street with intense commotion, rolling an old carriage wheel and laughing. When they finally reached the top of the uphill, they paused for a moment and then burst forth again, running behind the wheel that was going faster and faster, jumping and speeding down that road. The kids were going after the wheel laughing and shouting. Their voices, loud and full of life, were disturbing the tranquility of that afternoon…

He woke up from his mother’s tender nudge feeling cranky about having to leave his dreamy world only to return to the sad reality of his little room. Seconds later, he heard his mother’s voice, while she was standing over him, requesting that he got out of bed immediately to prepare himself for school. “Get up, you’ll be late again”, her voice sounded warm and familiar. He hated waking up in the morning more than anything in the world and he hated it even more that morning, when his dream had been so vivid. He really could not explain the difference between his dream and reality. He turned on his other side. His mother kept nudging him on his little ribs, repeating the same words as before. She came back to his room minutes later and after seeing he hadn’t moved a bit, she shouted: “It’s ten past eight. Get up at once!” His school was fifteen minutes away from his house, which meant that his non-attendance for the first class had definitely been noted down. That didn’t bother him at all though. He was still thinking about the dream he had that morning. He was sure he was among the kids playing and making a fuss and running behind the big wooden wheel on the little stone-paved street. He hardly made it to get up. He rubbed his eyes. He put on his clothes and went to the bathroom. He was ten minutes late when he arrived to school but the teacher let him in, seeing him standing alone in the schoolyard. They were having their Greek language class at the moment. He was totally uninterested in that class but he had done his homework the previous afternoon. He started doodling on his notebook and before he knew it, the bell rang for the large break. He went to the canteen and got himself a snack, while the kids around him were laughing and teasing each other. He found a quiet place to eat his fresh and crispy cheese pie brought to school by some guys in a truck, everyday just before the school break. He wasn’t part of any group of children and didn’t participate in the games they played. It looked like he wanted to be left alone. He didn’t have a very sociable and vigorous personality, anyway. He used to sit and watch the kids, the most athletic ones at least, kicking the ball in ecstatic frenzy as they were running up and down the schoolyard. That’s how he would usually spend his breaks. Then back to class again. He waited impatiently for the moment he would go home to play games on his computer and to finish off the, utterly boring but scheduled, nonetheless, homework for the next day. Two months after that dream, his first love came into his life. Her name was Catherine and she lived next door. At the apartment next to his family’s. She had a rather chubby brother called Manolis or Manos, who used to be his friend. He, his sister, Catherine and Manos often played together in the yard of their apartment building. They played games known to all children around the world, such as tag, hide and seek, dodgeball, «prisoner’s base» and much more. When they played tag, he and Catherine would sometimes happen to run in the same direction to find a hiding place. As a matter of fact, their favourite hiding spot was the storehouse of a store on the ground floor of their building. There was a ramp about five meters lower than the level of the yard and so they thought they wouldn’t be spotted that easily. For a strange reason, the heavy metal door was always open and for another strange reason, if one can put it that way, he and Catherine would always walk through at the same time. They used to hide behind some large round cartons and they sat next to each other, waiting for the others to come find them. They started getting closer and closer to each other and it didn’t take long for the first kiss to come.

It was moist, hesitant and brief. Other things followed, like caressing and groping in the dark. Some called that game «the doctor». Whatever that was or what people called it, those «explorations» that took place inside the dump and dark basement of that storehouse represented his first sexual experiences. They would play every day of that summer. Every single afternoon they were there together, pressed against the large cartons that looked like barrels; the same story every afternoon. Then the new school year began and so did the next one. It was their first year in junior high school and Catherine moved out.

He would still keep away from other kids, this time being even more detached than before. He would still avoid playing soccer during the breaks. It was the first time he got to know what «school fun» meant and what it felt like laughing and enjoying oneself in class. Their religious education professor could not assert himself in class, at all. Poor guy! No matter how hard he tried, there were always the «naughty» kids in the back row setting off chaos in the class with all the commotion they caused and the funny answers they’d give to that poor professor. That class was definitely his favourite one and so it was for all of his classmates. He particularly looked up to Socrates, who was the «instigator» of the general disorder. Socrates was endowed with such an acute spirit and lucid smartness that literally «broke bones». He drove that professor insane. There was no stone left unturned and no mischief left undone. From the time he sneaked a cat into the classroom to the day he painted that professor’s chair white; he was a real school desks pirate. Our protagonist could never possibly reach the same levels of resourcefulness that Socrates and his gang, or «the devils of the back row» as they called them, so effectively achieved. The chaos they caused in class was beyond measure.

It didn’t take long for the first friendships to form in his life. Joseph, Panayiotis and Sotiris were his first «best pals» in junior high school. They used to hang out together during most of the breaks between classes. It was almost like a clique they had and at the same time, that was the first group of friends he belonged to. In one of the daily school trips that year, something happened; something that was meant to change his student life, if not his life entirely. Their high school and junior high school buildings were located near the foot of the mountain Ymmitos so, that particular day, when everything happened, the schools had decided to take the students for a walk up the mountain. The most «rough» high school kids were sitting on a bench in the pathway leading to the mountain, smoking. Alex, a tall boy wearing his hair in a ponytail, was talking to the other guys with an animated look on his face and was making enthusiastic gestures at the same time, in order to give emphasis to what he was saying. Peter was walking by calmly, until one of the guys shouted at him aggressively: “Hey, you! Nursery school! What are you doing here?” At once, he and another boy from the group stood up and started moving towards Peter. He lost it. “What’s the deal, buddy?” the other guy said and came so close to Peter that he could feel his breath. Peter was shocked and didn’t know what to do. He first tried to get away but a third guy ran fast towards him and grabbed his hands. Their actions didn’t make any sense. That third guy loosened up his grip for a moment only to grab him from behind this time, tightly clasping Peter’s elbows together. He was keeping him restrained. Even though Peter wasn’t too strong, he had plenty of energy that made the guy hold him even tighter. “Where are you going to go now?” the voice behind him was heard saying. “This is a karate grip, guys! He can’t move!” he exclaimed with extreme fascination. Peter could feel the back of his body touching with that guy’s chest, feeling his breath on his neck at the same time. They stood there for a few seconds while the entire school was stuck looking at them with agitation, waiting for something to happen.

Sometimes, life is a matter of coincidences, fortunate or unfortunate ones. Apparently, that thing that most of us have learnt to call «fate» is just our effort to explain those coincidences. The incident that was meant to change Peter’s life was solely attributed to the readiness of his reflexes, only a matter of a few fractions of a second. He found the courage to try to escape that guy’s grip but failed and then he did the unexpected. He held that guy’s arms tight and as he pulled them up forcefully, he leaned forward with all his might. The result was instantaneous and impressive. The «terrorist» flew over his head and landed on the ground where his back hit on a sharp stone. He stayed there…



2

It was Richard’s second week spent in the hospital. It was only pure luck that saved him from a permanent case of physical disability, according to the doctors. His seventh dorsal vertebra had been injured and this would be a problem for the time being, if not for years to come. He would have to remain hospitalized for at least one more week, so that his spinal cord could recover. The culprit, however, had already received his punishment, his first dismissal from school as well as a good old-fashioned beating from his father at home. He didn’t have any regrets about what he had done, but he sure felt uncomfortable and insecure thinking about the rumors going around that had to do with Richard’s friends planning to avenge his friend’s injury. The news had been spread everywhere at school and the things he heard had him worrying. For that reason, he took the precaution of changing his usual route to school. There was always the possibility someone would plan an attack against him at any given time. His parents, however, had already contacted Richard’s parents and made plans for Peter to pay him a visit at the hospital. Eventually, there came a Tuesday afternoon when, after coming back from school and having his lunch, Peter and his mother took a taxi and went to the hospital where one of the «victims» of the said incident was being treated. To Peter’s great surprise, Richard welcomed him with a smile on his face, the same way he would if he were one of his friends. That approach made Peter feel uncomfortable. He took a seat next to him but couldn’t utter a word, not knowing what to say and where to start; he would only look at Richard as he was lying on the big white bed, under the white hospital sheets. In the end, it was the patient who talked first…

“I’ll stay here for about a week more” he said. “That’s what the doctors said.” “It’s alright here though, it isn’t that bad!” he went on saying and a wide smile covered his whole face. “I like to tease the nurses!” he naively confessed. He leaned forward and whispered “They come here and fumble me. They even touch my privates!” he said laughing in the exact mischievous way as before, all the while the two of them, victim and victimizer, being the only people present in that depressing room. Peter felt as if he was looking at a ghost. He couldn’t wait to finally leave that gloomy, but seemingly bright, room, where not even a bouquet of flowers was there to make it look a little less repulsive to Peter, well, not until his mum came back with a cyclamen pot she had bought at the nearby florist’s. He felt relieved when they finally left. He had previously apologized to Richard, although deep inside he knew his troubles weren’t over yet.



3

Two days went by and in the early morning of the third day he woke up shivering from an unpleasant and rather violent dream. He had seen himself trapped inside a flaming elevator which was falling without having any wires to hold it back. He woke up only to realize he was soaked in his own sweat. He was soaking wet. He turned on his bedroom light and changed his pajamas making sure he made as little noise as possible so that he wouldn’t wake up anyone else in the house. He then looked at his watch. It was five minutes to seven. He lay down on his bed covering himself with the blanket and tried to remember the dream he had just had. About a quarter of an hour later, he heard his parents waking up. He uncovered himself hesitatingly, stood up and started dressing up. “My boy, you’re an early bird today!” his father said and smiled, when Peter opened his door slightly and saw him. The boy didn’t say anything at all in response, but rather went on looking for his shoes to put on. At past eight he was on his way to school. Right after the usual boring class, at least boring to him, he went to the kiosk right across the street to treat himself with an ice-cream. It was one of May’s first days but the sun was as shiny and strong as in the summer. The hours went by and the afternoon announcing the end of the school day finally arrived. Peter started walking back home alone with his heavy schoolbag on his back being his only company. He walked on Elvetias street and continued on Notara street until he reached the playground where he had to turn left on a small narrow street. He was feeling so tired that day. He was still sleepy and was feeling drowsy because of the restless night-sleep he had the previous night, plus, he had woken up early and somehow abruptly. There were quite a few moments when he felt that he didn’t have any more strength to keep him going and the heat was so extreme since the beginning of that day that he was literally soaking in his own sweat. That was when he encountered them. For the best part of the way home he had been walking with his head bowed so he only actually saw them when he got really close to them, meaning it was too late to get away from them. He was walking into their carefully planned ambush as they had hidden behind a moving truck waiting for him. They were all there: Alex with his «ponytail», Spyros, Nikos and three more guys whose names he didn’t know. They were Richard’s best friends. They surrounded him and pushed him against the wall of a nearby apartment building. Alex grabbed him by his lapel and pressed his head against his forehead. Peter froze with fear as he felt Alex’s intense breathing matching his aggressive attitude. Before he had the time to do anything, he received a head butt that made him extremely dizzy at once and gave Alex, who left the group shouting and cursing, a bloody nose… Peter was holding his head in pain while his body had been curved up against the wall acquiring a defensive position, almost as if a hungry pack of wolves was about to attack and devour him. “It’s payback time, you nerd” one of them was heard saying. “I don’t think you got it last time, weirdo” Nikos, an unnaturally well-built guy for his age said and grabbed Peter by his neck while his fist was swinging a few centimeters away from Peter’s face. He was about to give a new blow to Peter, who was in a state of total terror and shock at that moment. However, they were afraid someone passing by or a resident of that building could see them so they decided to change their plans. They made him follow them to a small park nearby, some five hundred meters away from their initial spot. There was also a soccer field there, which was usually packed with children during the evenings but which was, unfortunately, found empty of people at that time of the day. There wasn’t even a stray dog in sight. They ordered him to sit on a bench and they gathered around him forming a circle. Was this a trial? Was he being judged for something he had done? And what was that he had done? One possible explanation could be that their sense of superiority had been offended, after their «boss» had suffered the injuries. The person responsible had to «go to trial» and make amends for exhibiting such a vile behavior. Their «brother» was no longer among them, but was being hospitalized instead. The gang they had formed, which had an actual name although they didn’t use it that often, had received a huge blow and the culprit’s punishment came as an inevitable result, they called themselves «The Bullets» and they used to indulge in several delinquent acts, the most extreme example being the stealing of car badges in order to earn money from selling them.

Every person in this short, yet so long, time span called life looks for a meaning, from a very early age. That’s why for those guys, their group, that gang they had formed was more than a mere childish game; it constituted what was most meaningful and important to them. The existence of that gang was nothing but an end in itself. “Make him strip and let him walk home naked” a guy from the gang said laughing. Spyros then stressed, somehow skeptically, that something like that was too simple a punishment and wouldn’t last long. He said it was only a temporary thing and he warned them that they shouldn’t do anything without thinking twice or thinking about the consequences. “I suggest…” he said “we convince him to join us and become part of our gang, instead of having him hating us and wanting to take revenge!” Spyros’s idea was nice but still a little unclear, so he went on. “In order for this to happen, he will have to do something to prove his faith to us.” Peter was watching them astounded. “To do something like… what?” another one asked. “Here!” Spyros said. “We can tell him to break into the professors’ offices and bring us something.” “The attendance sheets!” someone shouted within the general turmoil of the moment.

Imposing oneself could also be considered a charisma, a very rare one, indeed. Richard had it and it was partly the reason why he had become the «boss» of that gang. He wasn’t the only one to possess such a virtue though… “It’s been a while now I’ve been hearing you saying things that are quite interesting but also quite foolish…” Thodoris said in a mostly apparent contemptuous manner. He was the «short guy», the «bad» type and he slightly resembled in his ways the traditional Greek crafty guy from the old times. His words caused so big a distress that everyone hushed and fixed their eyes on him. By making use of his innate rhetorical and conversational abilities, Thodoris managed to keep everyone’s undivided attention on what he was saying… “You seem a little naive and dangerous, for that matter!” he said “You know, if this guy gets caught stealing documents from school, they won’t stop searching for suspects until everyone is found. And then we’ll have legal issues to face, greater than you can imagine1. Stealing public documents is considered a criminal offense, you know?”

The «short guy» impressed everyone there with his knowledge and the arguments he had set forth, once more. “What we could do instead” he added “is to make him steal from a store or a super-market, on our behalf. Just a few things, that is. That’s how we’ll know he is on our side and not against us.”



4

It was a regular week day, when as he had been forced to do so, he turned left on Great Alexander Street instead of going to school and walked towards the super-market which had been open and running for years now and was right next to the mall. Two members of the gang, Thodoris and Alex, were there waiting to meet him. They instructed him to get as many batteries as possible. He was pretty much terrified but he was deliberately allowing himself to become overridden by the fast flow of events, all the while feeling totally powerless and insignificant before their course. He was neither confident nor psychologically capable of resisting those moments, not even for a second. He went in with an expression of humiliation on his face, like he had egg on his face, and started browsing the shelves for batteries looking clumsy and intimidated. The rest of the gang was waiting outside, on one of the benches of the mall, about ten meters away from the entrance door. Peter was wearing blue jeans and he was planning to squeeze the batteries he’d steal in there, by throwing his t-shirt over his belly and sucking it up so that nothing like a bump jutting out would attract any unnecessary attention. The shelf he was looking for was now right in front of him. There were dozens of different battery types «running» before his eyes and he was feeling so lousy that he simply wanted for «the ground to open up and swallow him». Without having any other option though, he tried to concentrate and complete his… unholy mission. He extended his hand and grabbed three packs of four small batteries each, all the while looking to his both sides with caution. When he made sure he wasn’t being watched, he put them inside his pants in a way his loot wasn’t obvious, at least not too obvious. He helped himself to two more packs which he stashed in his left pocket, as well as one in the right one. All that until he felt a hand grabbing him by his shoulder…

How does the human mind work, really? It is said that from a certain age onwards, the human brain and the functions of memory employ certain mechanisms that erase most of the recollections related to unpleasant events of the past or, at least, store them deeper than the more pleasant ones so that man can move on with his life. There is a typical example that is used to illustrate this argument: it is said that if nothing of the aforementioned procedure ever happened, the prehistoric man would be so terrified in the sight of a wild beast, due to a past encounter with one, that he would never attempt to hunt for food again and so he would eventually perish. He wouldn’t even be able to kill a domestic pig! To get back to our story, however, Peter had the most vivid recollections of the previous day. He remembered everything to the last small detail. He was able to remember how he went in the super-market in the first place, walking past the middle-aged women working at the cash desks. He even remembered how one of them had put on an extreme amount of make-up on her face. The most «colourful» recollections, however, had to do with the aftermath of his mischief, that is, when they caught him in the act. He particularly recalled the conversations that took place after he had been led to a badly lit underground room of which he couldn’t recall much. Be that as it may, he was certain that the surrounding wall was made of orange-red bricks with cavities, probably made according to the tastes of an old-school mannerist architect.

“So, it looks like you want to be taken to the police station right now…” They scared the heck out of him in that room.


The super-market manager as well as the security manager, who had arrested Peter, kept him tied up as if he was a hostage to be tortured. They had tied his hands behind his back with a string which was used to tie and secure the merchandise, and they had seated him on an old and rusty chair with plastic cushions. Somehow, the setting was reminiscent of Tarantino’s first very popular film, «Pulp Fiction». Whoever happens to have watched that film might be able to remember that scene where Bruce Willis and his boss, a mafia guy who was also a pimp and a king of the drug cartel, and who knows what else, impersonated by Ving Rhames2, were trapped like «flies» inside easy-rider Zed’s store. What happened to the hero of our own story, Peter, was quite similar. The act of those two gentlemen, although justified to a certain extent, had sadistic roots. It was definitely a case of power abuse. They threatened him and after performing a quick search they threatened him even more, having discovered that he had been carrying a Swiss knife, which was a present from his father the previous Christmas. “Do you have any idea what kind of damage you can cause with this thing?” the security manager asked him in an aggressive tone, swaying the knife before Peter’s face. He went on to explain to him that it was illegal to carry a «weapon» like that with him, because the blade was over four centimeters long and that could easily get him troubled, if they decided to turn him in. What a nightmare that morning had been! In the end, they let him go making sure they had taken some photos of him first to keep in their records. Of course, they warned him against catching him stealing again, something that would eventually lead them to turn him in without a second thought. He still couldn’t make heads or tails of his terrifying experience as he was pondering the events during one of the breaks between classes, at a remote part of the schoolyard.

That’s when she came into his life. It was as if she had come from above, like a strange angel who had chosen to seat beside him, in all her grace. She had a light complexion, brown hair and a serious look on her face. He felt alarmed when he recognized her figure. He wasn’t expecting any of this and having a female classmate, whose name he couldn’t remember, sitting next to him like she wanted something from him didn’t make any sense… She looked so peaceful and calm that one could sense there was something contradictory about her whole attitude. He looked at her and let his eyes rest a little on her face. He felt a strange shiver going up his spine as he was visually exploring her features. She was looking straight ahead. In the end, she burst off laughing and left…! Damn it! Had she just come there to make fun of him?

Indeed, that’s what it was all about! A little farther from him, there were her friends sitting on the other side of the schoolyard. They had been watching her playing her act on poor Peter all along. He was now devastated. He used to be bullied by the boys in his school, but it was different being made fun of by the girls. In his mind, he maximized his embarrassment to the point of feeling he had no hope or will to carry on with his life. In the end, he left that place and moved to where the other boys were sitting. His accomplices, «Richard’s friends» were also there. Well, not real accomplices anyway, he thought… As soon as they saw him approaching, they left. They wouldn’t bother him anymore from then on. They knew all about what had happened, since they actually witnessed his arrest by the managers. They didn’t intend to keep making his life hard. Balance had been restored or, rather, a sense of justice.



5

Fortunately enough, it was Saturday morning. Peter was getting up when he heard voices coming from the hallway. His grandparents had come to see them! He went to greet them in a quite reluctant and, to a certain extent, pretended manner. His mother ordered him to go and buy some milk and some bread. His grandpa stopped him at the door and handed him a twenty euro bill. “Keep the change for candies!” he told him with a smile expanding all over his old and awry-like face. He went out and followed the path behind his building, which led to the newsagent’s and the bakery shop. He really liked the lady working at the baker’s and from what he could tell she liked him back, too. He was looking a little bit funny upon entering the bakery shop, with his messy hair just after he had woken up. Their eyes met. “Good morning”, said both of them at the same time. “Touch red” she said to him smiling. He wasn’t sure he understood what she meant. She looked hesitant and then smiled and explained to him saying “So that you don’t argue with anyone.” Peter felt a little uncomfortable. He paid for the milk and the bread, said goodbye to the lady and started walking back home. There was a primary school on the way to his house. Even though it was Saturday, there was a crowd of people gathered at the school as it must have been some kind of feast or celebration taking place. Looking at the schoolyard through the bars of the gate, he saw students and parents making up the crowd. There was a teacher talking to the mother of a student at the entrance door. He couldn’t but eavesdrop what they were saying, as he was walking by: “There’s no fruitful cooperation between the teaching staff and the students whatsoever” the teacher said. “They are totally undisciplined and this fact alone leads to complete disorder in class…”

He sped up his pace. His grandma and grandpa had already left when he reached home. Peter had kept the money in the safest place he could think of: his school pencil case. He didn’t think about spending it in any way, for the time being.


After four that afternoon, the church bells rang. “Do you see the weather? It’s getting worse” his mother said and turned her eyes up to the sky. “It feels sad” she said. She believed that the weather felt sad because the previous night Mr. Kostas had passed away. Mr. Kostas was a peaceful man who lived in the same apartment building as them. He used to be a carpenter and Peter always remembered him as a figure-like character. He used to live on the third floor, above their family, although he had just moved several floors higher, in the neighbourhood of Angels…


A few years later, Peter would move from his own neighbourhood as well. He would succeed in the Pan-Hellenic exams and move to Salonica, a city far from his birth town. His first adventures and the residues those were meant to leave behind would follow him there too and would keep haunting him for a long time coming… for about a decade more…



6

The place he rented was in the district of Kato Toumba, at the junction of Vosporos and East Romilia streets, very close to PAOK’s soccer field. The landlady, a widowed lady near her fifties, was quite friendly and wouldn’t cause him any troubles, not as far as he made sure he paid his rent on time! He smiled to him every time he saw him and she always looked cheerful. The rent, however, was particularly high, especially for a guy at his age with no significant income. That’s why he started looking for a housemate by the time he entered his second year of studies. As a matter of fact, he put up an announcement on his university notice board and, four days later, he received the first call, so he supposed this move of his had worked. His name was Stavros. He was a tall guy with a dark complexion, around twenty-five years old. He didn’t look like a student and, from what Peter found out when they first met, he had seen the announcement about the apartment when he went to the university to pick up his girlfriend, Katia. He liked the flat and the two of them agreed on the moving-in details which was scheduled for the first weekend to come. Stavros would give Peter exactly half of the rent, at the price settled for the previous month. Peter’s landlady, who had been informed about the moving-in of a housemate a considerable period of time before it happened, agreed to it but had only slightly increased the rent, which was something that Peter would surely compensate for. That was the deal. He had a strange hunch about that guy, Stavros, though, but decided to go ahead without thinking it twice and so the moving-in was arranged for that Saturday. Stavros didn’t own too many things to bring in: two small duffel bags full of clothes, an old portable radio, three posters of rock music bands and a few copied music tapes. These possessions looked too few for a person his age. He got the room next to Peter’s, which had been used as a storage room by the tenant up until then, and decorated it with his old posters. Peter, on the other hand, left the small living room as it was and, soon enough, filled up his room and closet with things that he hadn’t taken the time to store and tidy up for the best part of the year he had been staying there. Most of the things he had were useless while other were not: old magazines and photographs as well as fitness weights and several things he had obtained from his family home. It was high time he met Stavros’s girlfriend, Katia. She came by the next day, on Sunday, and after the first brief introductory chit-chat she and Peter’s new housemate locked themselves in the room. Peter, however, didn’t appreciate their tendency to isolate. On the contrary, he rather felt lonely. He tried to get himself busy doing works around the house but his mind and soul was wandering back and forth the sense of «isolation» he had been left with. It was a particularly unpleasant and stressful feeling he had. At one point, sometime in the afternoon, she left without saying a word. He knocked on his new housemate’s door but didn’t get any answer so he entered on his own slowly and cautiously. He found him sleeping on the couch with his clothes on. That was the first of the only two pieces of furniture the room provided. The other one was a big bookcase, half-full with old encyclopedias and history books. Perhaps, the room used to be a kid’s room before the house was rented. Those people had not even bothered to take all those old books with them before abandoning the place altogether. He closed the door behind him careful not to wake up his new housemate. He went to his room as well and made a call to a friend of his in Athens. His friend’s mother answered the call saying he wasn’t at home at that moment. He hung up, took off his clothes and curled up under his covers. He wasn’t feeling well. Eventually, he fell asleep.



7

His sleep was brief. It was interrupted at four in the morning due to extremely loud music. He got up, turned on the light and tried to figure where the noise was coming from. Putting on a pair of sweatpants that came handy as they had been lying on a bundle of clothes, he almost lost his balance and leaned on the wall to keep steady. The source of the music seemed to be coming from inside the house. He was walking down the corridor in complete darkness when he finally made it outside the door of the old storage room, now Stavros’s room, where he saw that the lights were on. The music was still very loud; it was an old popular rock song playing. It was loud but not as loud as when it woke him up. He pushed the door open and nothing in this world could have ever prepared him about what he was about to see. Stavros was lying on the floor on his back, right in front of the couch, while, scattered on the floor were still some pieces of silver foil, an ashtray, cigarettes, a lighter, a blowtorch, a large spoon and a syringe. His housemate was crawling on the floor with a sickly smile on his face and his eyelids half-closed. When he realized Peter was present, he smiled to him and said: “Turn up the music, dude! I’m so high.” Peter froze right where he was standing, not knowing what to do, what kind of action he should go for. It was strange and incompatible with his character to call the police, even though that would have probably saved him from a lot of future troubles, if only he had.

He couldn’t help but examine the «tools» of his housemate-user. The spoon, the blowtorch, and the elastic band he was now seeing. Stavros would have to squeeze it around his arm to slow down his blood flow, as he remembered having watched in a movie. At least that’s what he thought the user did in the film. Then, Stavros crawled against the wall and tried to pull himself together a little. Peter finally burst out shouting at him! “Are you kidding me? Do you have any idea how loud the music is? And what the hell do you think you’re doing in here?” That was enough for Stavros to wake up a little and to try to get up. He fell on the couch, though, at his first try. Peter then calmed down a bit and helped him lie down. He took off his shoes and covered him with a sheet. He then turned the music completely off, despite his housemate’s nagging. In the end, he came back with a plastic bag, threw every «suspicious» bit of proof he could find and pushed it altogether under the couch. He didn’t get any sleep that night…



8

He skipped class the next morning. He was waiting for Stavros to wake up. He felt that he owed him some explanations regarding the previous night. Words and thoughts had been twirling in his mind all morning but he didn’t know how to handle the «confrontation» with him. He was too puzzled and he had no experience in facing similar situations. On top of that, he hadn’t slept at all. Stavros eventually woke up around eleven and made his appearance in the kitchen wearing a pair of boxers. He was still drowsy and tried to open his sleepy eyes while he was scratching his head. He finally said good morning to Peter but immediately assumed a serious expression and leaned against the door. He looked at Peter, who was sitting on a chair on the opposite side of the kitchen. “Hmm! What is there for breakfast?” he asked Peter in a carefree and, somehow, cocky manner. “Eggs and bacon, perhaps?” he added. “There’s some… milk in the fridge”, Peter answered with apparent surprise caused by Stavros’s provocative tone and the understandably natural, yet utterly unnatural request of his housemate, considering the events of the night before. “Milk? Ugh… Has it expired too? Let me fetch my cigarettes.” This is what constituted the housemate’s morning talk before he left the kitchen. He came back a few seconds later with a cigarette, not yet lit, in his mouth. “Have you seen my lighter anywhere?” he asked Peter. “It was among some other things I can’t seem to find. I assume you’ve got them.” “Everything’s under the bed” Peter naively answered and went on saying: “I think that… after the things I saw last night, you can’t stay here anymore.” Stavros immediately changed his posture. He averted his face as if he didn’t want to look at Peter anymore and put both hands against the fridge. Then, suddenly, he gave a strong and loud punch to the fridge door and disappeared from the kitchen. He went back to his room and packed his things fast in one of his duffel bags and, without exchanging a single word with Peter, left without taking his other bag or some other stuff, including his radio. Peter went into the room wondering what that was all about and looked around. He realized that his housemate had only taken half of his possessions with him. His confusion grew bigger. He had no idea what he should do next. He thought about calling a very good friend of his from the university, but he hesitated to do so. He wasn’t sure he should disclose the situation to a «best pal» he didn’t really know that well. What is more, he couldn’t tell his parents either because he felt they would lose trust in him if he did. It was impossible for him not to tell anyone though. He couldn’t carry that weight on his shoulders all alone. Eventually, he lied down on his bed feeling more lonesome than ever, since the day he had come to Salonica. In the end, he decided to call his friend. He was from Athens as well, from a neighbourhood close to his own, which explained why they had become so close to each other in the first place. He had «known» him from the time he was still in Athens, but never had the chance to make his acquaintance back then; it was only his countenance he recognized. As a matter of fact, they hadn’t met in a long time because of the summer break. Sotiris, that was his name (by the way, he had another friend with the same name), came over after three quarters of an hour had passed, during which, Peter had been waiting patiently on his bed, lost in deep thinking. After hearing out Peter, Sotiris’s advice was to call the police. It was the most sensible thing his friend could do to get him out of trouble at once. Peter, however, was caught up in a different kind of thinking. What sort of problems would pop up as soon as all of that was spread in the neighbourhood, let alone became known by the landlady? Perchance, he, too, would have to start looking for a new place to stay, since he felt he was equally liable for the situation by allowing residence to a person he barely knew who he was. Indeed, it was a very serious matter to consider and a very objectionable one as well. He couldn’t imagine what the consequences would be. Unfortunately, fear is, almost always, a bad consultant. In the end, he decided to do nothing and rather wait for Stavros to come back and seek a solution, together. He talked it over with Sotiris, who, being the third party, kept his distance from Peter’s views. At long last, Stavros advised him not to stay at home all day and urged him to take a walk with him outside. Peter had his doubts. Stavros already had a set of keys to the flat and this fact alone didn’t make Peter feel comfortable going out. Eventually, he agreed to go out and they both decided to go to a billiard house near the flat. They stayed there for more than an hour and then they split, with Peter returning to his home. The next few days went by in anguish and stress. Stavros was nowhere to be seen. No signs of life.


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