Stratis Tsirkas: The Carols



Stratis Tsirkas


The Carols

[A New Year’s Day Story]


[The story takes place in the old time Cairo Greek Community, where three children fall victims to a gang of bullies.]

OU SEE, the big issue was the drum: if you had a drum, the job was considered done. It was easy to find a partner and the lantern did not cost more than a piaster. That year father made an extravagant expenditure. On new year’s midday Eve, he brought me a drum! A smallish one, certainly, made of tin.

       «In this way, you won’t break it easily,» he told me. But I thought he was merely being thrifty. In the first years after the war, leather drums cost a whole lot of money.

       I went over to Michali’s, my friend. He was the gallant of the neighborhood and the best partner to sing the carols with. The neighborhood urchins often used to attack us in order to tear the lantern or break the drum; that’s why Michali was invaluable.

       «We have the drum,» I hollered him. «Shall we go out tonight?»

       Michali accepted immediately, but he suggested we take his brother Dimitri with us, too. He was sweet-voiced, which would be very helpful with our job. The truth is that Dimitri sang like an angel. It sufficed that you could hear him sing The Akathist or read out from Paul’s Epistles and you would rather choose going to Saint Constantine’s Church, where he was a cantor, than to Saint Nicholas’. However, Michali’s proposition concealed an ulterior motive: the money earned would be divided into three parts. They would get the lion’s share while I, despite my drum, would get the least. Nevertheless, I accepted without a second thought; such was my love and admiration for him!

       We set out in the evening. Michali wore a long, black overcoat that comically swelled in his belly covering thus the drum. I was responsible for the paper lantern, which I often had to light and put it out. Dimitri, like a prince, fair-eyed and sweet-voiced, his hand in his pockets he was walking sometimes in front of us, other times falling behind as though we were strangers to him. Michali was taunting him for behaving like an aristocrat for Rinoula’s beautiful eyes. However, it took me many years to understand the significance of that taunt. The majority of Michali’s and Dimitri’s clients came from the poor neighborhoods; therefore, their proceeds were modest. We extended a word of thanks when we were given an extra piaster besides the usual handful of hazels and almonds. And then I led them to the classy suburbs; that was my secret I had kept for days. My father’s barber shop was constantly patronized by doctors and lawyers, who had been asking me for days:

       «Hey buster, won’t you come over to us and sing the Carols?» to which I responded vaguely. However, I noted the name and saw to finding out their addresses. So, at the most hopeless moment of our enterprise I divulged to my friends a list with a half dozen notable names.

       «Let’s go,» I told them in a superior air.

       «Are you joking?» they were both aghast. «They’ll practically kick us out!»

       «Don’t worry,» I reassured them; «I know what I’m doing.»

       As soon as a door opened, my job was to announce that Taki, the barber’s, Master Stefano’s son, has come to sing the Carols. Thus we made a pile. Shillings flowed in to cover the meager piasters from the low class neighborhoods.

       However, I didn’t like one thing: as soon as the proprietors of those houses heard who at the door was, they invited me in leaving my friends outside. They treated me in particular giving me an extra shilling aside and telling me that that should be only for me. Then I resented recalling Michali’s trick to inflict Dimitri on me, but I could hardly hold it up, and I confessed everything. So, my particular earnings went to the common cash. All would have gone fine the following day; we would have had a wonderful time, going to the movies, and so on, had we not, on our return, met, met ‘Crabstick’ Spyro with his gang over at Maarouf orchards.

       ‘Crabstick’ Spyro was a bully, a monstrous bum and a blasphemer. He used to peddle cinnamon buns outside St. Constantine’s church on Sundays. He was accompanied by two of his goons —Holy Virgin keep us— who carried a hurdy-gurdy and a glass lantern decorated with all sorts of ribbons and papers. What a dumb thing of Dimitri to take us to that dark quarter and brag about our earnings! No sooner had we realized it than the bums stormed upon us, stole our money and broke the drum. Michali, though a brave kid, had no chance with those bruisers.

       Weeping and carrying my now spent paper lantern, I headed straight for home. Michali and Dimitri chased the bums vainly calling the shawishes* to arrest them. I don’t know what became of my friends; I didn’t ask or I no longer remember. But what I do remember is spending the holidays in disconsolate bitterness and grief. My childish mind could not accept the fact that there were a host of other people more woebegone that I and the unhappy incident with ‘Crabstick’ Spyro was but an infinitesimal instance of injustice and violence that still reign supreme in the world.


*Police sergeants.


Source: From short stories collection Christouyeniatikes Istories (ed. Dimitris Posantzis, Kastaniotis Publi­shers, Athens, 2009).

Stratis Tsirkas (July 23, 1911, Cairo, Egypt – January 27, 1980, Athens, Greece). Greek author, one of the most remarkable writers of the post war generations. He is widely known for his fictional trilogy Drifting Cities (Akyvernites Politeies) as well as his novel The Lost Spring (I Chameni Anixi).

Translation in English:

Vassilis Militsis (1947). He attended secondary education in Greece and from 1963 to 1965 continued his studies at Apopka High School, Florida, USA. In 1973 he graduated from The University of Thessaloniki, Greece, with a B.A. degree in English. He taught at state Greek schools, both in Greece and Germany. He retired in 2010. He has a good command of German, Italian and French. He and Mr. Wolfgang Reumuth are the authors of the Praktische Grammatik der neugriechischen Sprache, for foreigners.


			

Kimon Theodorou: Boy cries about Amy



Kimon Theodorou


Boy cries about Amy


THERE ARE ONLY TWO kinds of people in this world: those who cried when Amy Winehouse left us, and the ones who didn’t cry. Zefi gave me her verdict: “You’re nuts, you didn’t even cry this much about father.” And then she said that we were talking about a junkie here anyhow ̶ Amy that is, not father ̶ and everybody knows how junkies end up. She forgot about that time three summers back when we didn’t go on holiday ̶ besides, we never go because we’re flat broke ̶ and we made do with car rides along the coast, driving from Kalamaki to Saronida. The metal  frame of the Opel was smouldering, the old wreck being a thirty-year institution, a family heirloom, with the windows open to the brim, a fan that didn’t work and a radio that hardly did either, but the old tape player could still spew out music, giving off a kind of retro feeling, ’cause who listened ̶ and still listens ̶ to music on cassette anymore? I’d filled up a tape just with ‘Rehab’ and ‘You know I’m no good’ on repeat. In a way, dear old Amy saved our lost holiday. Still, Zefi remained in the camp of those who didn’t cry and I wondered whether it was possible that we were brought into the world by the same parents. She didn’t cry when she lost the baby either; it was as if the miscarriage didn’t involve her body at all. Then, during the divorce, when she finally got rid of her husband, she almost had a party. At a random moment she had come out with a real slip-up, saying that I had no idea how much trouble I was missing because she didn’t see me getting married any time soon, at least not like I am now stuck in the wheelchair. You should have seen how much I cried about Michael Jackson. More about Amy though.



Source: First published.

Kimon Theodorou was born in Kavala in 1981. He studied journalism and European Cultural Studies. Short stories of his have been published in a number of anthologies.

Translated by Chris H. Sakellaridis

Chris H. Sakellaridis is a poet and teacher who was born in London in 1983 and grew up in Crete. He studied English at Queen Mary University, Social Anthropology at UCL and completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Education at Bath Spa. Poems and translations of his have been published in magazines and anthologies in the UK, Ireland, Spain, Italy and Greece. He has also been involved in radio production, animation and sound art.


John Yiannouleas: You can go your own way


John Yiannouleas


You can go your own way


N A WEDNESDAY morning, Mr Paul, having served his time as a good husband and neighbour, thought that there was nothing else left for him to do but to leave and go as far as he could.

       He opened the door of his house, walked across the tiles on the patio, went through the gate—yet this time, with a sure-footed step, walked downhill on Phoenix Avenue and passed the luminous signs and absent-minded pensioners.

       He carried on walking until the early evening and then took the first bus headed for the outskirts of town—exactly the opposite direction from his house.

       Eleven months later, when he unexpectedly looked upon Phoenix Avenue, he continued without speaking, opened the door, hung his coat on the wooden coat hanger and understood that the other end of the world was in his house.



Source: First published.

John Yiannouleas (1962). He studied Film Direction and has directed the films: The Other Side (1985), an interview of the heretical revolutionary Agis Stinas, mentor of Cornelius Castoriadis and Good morning Managua, (1987) a travel documentary about Nicaragua of the Sandinistas. Books of his are: In 45 Square Metres (short plays, 1997) and Unexpected Garden (poems, 2006), My Unknown Words (2014) and The Cat’s Mold (forthcoming). He has published many critical texts on film and theatre in newspapers and journals.

Translated by Chris H. Sakellaridis

Chris H. Sakellaridis is a poet and teacher who was born in London in 1983 and grew up in Crete. He studied English at Queen Mary University, Social Anthropology at UCL and completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Education at Bath Spa. Poems and translations of his have been published in magazines and anthologies in the UK, Ireland, Spain, Italy and Greece. He has also been involved in radio production, animation and sound art.

Yorgos Haralampopoulos: By blood

 

Yorgos Haralampopoulos


By blood

        — SO WHEN do you leave?

        — Tomorrow morning.

        — How long will you stay?

        — I don’t know, it depends.

        — What do the doctors say?

        — It’s serious, he’s dying. If he could see you…

        — It’s not necessary.

        — …for the last time.

        — Do you need money?

        — If he asks about you?

        — You haven’t seen me.

        — Do you still hold it against him? He’s our father.

        — Panayoti, why don’t you tell me, when my child grows up what shall I introduce you as? Its brother or uncle? Go on, tell me, tell me!



Source: First published.

Yorgos Haralampopoulos (Katerini 1956). He studied Chemistry, completed a Master’s Degree in Statistics and has attended creative writing workshops. His short film screenplay, entitled ‘On the road’, has been published and received awards.

Translated by Chris H. Sakellaridis

Chris H. Sakellaridis is a poet and teacher who was born in London in 1983 and grew up in Crete. He studied English at Queen Mary University, Social Anthropology at UCL and completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Education at Bath Spa. Poems and translations of his have been published in magazines and anthologies in the UK, Ireland, Spain, Italy and Greece. He has also been involved in radio production, animation and sound art.



		

	

Haris Psarras: Circe’s Hall


Haris Psarras


Circe’s Ηall


T’S BEEN years since I last dreamt of Circe’s palace. I came to live in a concrete city.      I made my home in a place of humid nights where dreams dry out. No more unwelcome midnight hauntings. I was lucky to escape her spell, fleeing the island and regaining control. That’s what I tell myself when I grieve for the loss of those dreams.

        One day though, my landlady asked if I knew Circe. A strange question. She asked at breakfast, with her back to me, sitting as usual at her loom. “Of course I know her,” I replied, “she’s a figment of my ancestors’ imagination.” She turned towards me and said: “I’m not talking about Homer’s world. I mean our Circe, our world.” She then changed the subject to current affairs, what she had read in the papers, to fashion and the arts.

        After we talked for a while, she reminded me that I should hurry to work, to my duty. And she was right. I got up, and with a heavy heart left the house. I crossed the woods, passing lions and wolves, and arrived at the pigsty. That’s where I work every day. I feed the pigs and cry, recognising in their eyes my downtrodden companions.


Source: First published in Greek in Planodion-Bonsai Stories (2011).


Haris Psarras was born in Athens in 1982. He studied law in Athens and Oxford. He holds a PhD from the University of Edinburgh. He has held posts at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge and Southampton Law School. His most recent book of poetry, Gloria in Excelsis, was published in 2017. His poetry and flash fiction have been translated into English, French, German, Italian, Romanian, Slovenian and Spanish.


Translated by

Chris H. Sakellaridis is a poet and teacher who was born in London in 1983 and grew up in Crete. He studied English at Queen Mary University, Social Anthropology at UCL and completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Education at Bath Spa. Poems and translations of his have been published in magazines and anthologies in the UK, Ireland, Spain, Italy and Greece. He has also been involved in radio production, animation and sound art.

Alexandros Vanaryotis: Materialism

 

Alexandros Vanaryotis


Materialism


OTH OF THEM were crying for a long time, each in the other’s arms. The bank had just repossessed their house. The house they had dreamed about for years, the one they had built with love and care, the house they had raised their children in. They were crying and holding each other tightly. So tightly, as they had never held one other in the years before, the years they were together, when they dreamed and raised their children.



Source: First published.


Alexandros Vanaryotis was born in Trikala, Thessaly in 1966. He studied at the Philosophical School of Ioannina. His books are: Stories for the end of the day (2009) and The Theory of Kites (2014).

Translated from the greek by

Chris H. Sakellaridis is a poet and teacher who was born in London and grew up in Crete. He studied English at Queen Mary University, Social Anthropology at UCL and completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Education at Bath Spa. Poems and translations of his have been published in magazines and anthologies in the UK, Ireland, Spain, Italy and Greece. He has also been involved in radio production, animation and sound art.

Tasos Kaloutsas: Why did you do it?



Tasos Kaloutsas


Why did you do it?


There are no witnesses now, to anything
George Seferis
(«Three Secret Poems»)

HELP! Help!

       The cry reached their ears in a pleading, almost heartbreaking scream. Undoubtedly, the one who uttered it was in great danger.

       «Help! Help!»

       The sound ripped the silence of the night. He looked askance at his watch: past three-thirty!

       His life-partner suddenly jumped out of bed and made for the window. She put down the blind.

       «What are you doing there?»

       «Ssh», she whispered to him. «Don’t move and don’t turn on the lights, either!»

       Her shaky voice betrayed her fear.

       There was a strip of grass in front of their win­dow; the railings of the yard and the street had been dark the last two days. The post lamps all around were out. She even remembered grumbling to him: «What the hell? Do they save on electricity? Such a resort…in darkness and they hope to attract tourists?»

       «Help! Help!»

       The voice was heard closer now.

       It was followed by heavy, scurrying footfalls along the street. Then complete silence fell. In the hall a dim light burned. The young woman stood quite still between the man, who was half sitting on his side of the bed, and the window as if she wanted to check his movements. Then she bent over the baby’s cradle, like a guardian angel, and listened to his breathing.

       «What are you afraid of…like he’s going to barge in here!»

       The woman, instead of an answer, covered the baby, who kept on sleeping calmly, with his small bedcover.

       When nothing more was heard, the man approached the window and put up the blind to its former position. Meanwhile he noticed that several lights were turned on —too late of course— in the condominium across the street.

       «So you were scared to death, weren’t you?” he asked her. “You even put the blind down…why did you do it?»

       He so much wanted to add that normally they all should have run to see if they could help in something, but he could see she was so disturbed that he did not dare to.

       «You mean you weren’t scared?» she responded incredulously.


* * *


A little way off, at the end of the square there was a small fountain. Each night a jet of water gushed out of its center in fluctuating intensity, scattering a kaleidoscope of luminous colors through the use of proper projectors. Different tourists, couples or families twittered merrily, taking pictures of themselves, against this scenic setting, standing by or sitting on the low stone wall of the pool. A few days before he, with his life-partner and their little one, had posed to be photographed. Today, since the ungodly hour of dawn, the dead body of a young man had been floating in the water with outstretched arms and face down.

       The first rumors went around that it had to do with someone involved in drug and contraband trafficking in the area and done in by a Rumanian belonging to the same gang. However, no necessary evidence had been found yet, nor the victim’s exact residence. Everybody talked of a sort of payback between scoundrels of the under­world, where, it is generally known, none is easily getting away when one is being targeted. Some argued that the man had been a victim of an unexpected nocturnal robbery; he might momentarily have gotten away from his killer’s claws and was chased and killed, in particular he was strangled. There were so many versions as those (with vivid imagination or not) who spread them. Some went even so far as to hint to a heinous sexual crime as the victim had been dazzlingly handsome. The local police had been faxing and emailing messages to all authorities in charge (both local and foreign), but what more could a police service be expected to do when it is understaffed and situated in the far end of this isolated tourist area?

       The crucial question that was originally asked was whether the incident finally concerned the person who had called for help the night before. There was no doubt about this; for there were many – neighbors and others – who though they had not seen either the killer or the victim, they had heard, however, (distantly as in a dream) their voices and their scuttle, and they could precisely determine the route they had moved along, through narrow and deserted alleys until they reached the fountain – their destination. Because of such detailed hearsay evidence, the possibility of a terrorist attack by a lonely wolf – since no relevant cry Allahu akbar! was heard – was excluded. To the perplexity exhibited by the police chief before the fact that there were no eye-witnesses (not even one! Only the ones that had heard the shout from a distance) who could have experienced the incident closely someone had given his own version:

       «I was about to get into the bathroom when I heard the shouts and thought of going out to see what was going on but then I was scared…» He added that once when he happened to encounter (or rather to come across) a person cut of the same mould as the one they were looking for, he saw him in the street brandishing a sharp, thirty centimeter long steel machete… The police officer assumed the man’s answer to be sincere, as he believed that what the man had felt – something like panic – could paralyze one’s right thinking and prevent one from taking action; therefore, he no longer pursued the matter.


* * *


In the same evening, at some moment, the man’s eyes opened by themselves in his sleep as if they had been scheduled to. He looked at his watch askance: past three- thirty in the morning!… He slowly got out of bed and approached to the half-closed window blind. Outside the street was dark again, since the post lamps were out; deafening silence.

       He swallowed nervously as if he was going all out for something and then funneling his palms around his mouth he shouted at the top of his voice:

       «Help! Help!»

       His partner was taken aback by panic.

       «What are you doing? Are you out of your mind?»

       She had at once bent over her baby’s cradle led by instinct; the child, startled in fright, began weeping in its sleep.

       The man stood in front of her, still and mystifying. The thought that he had probably managed to be heard by all made him laugh since that was what he exactly wanted: to disturb everybody by rousing them from their blissful slumber, to sense them again, even for a few moments – he thought maliciously – lurking behind the closed blinds of their homes, penned in their fear.

       He waited for the first lights to be turned on across the street and then went back to bed.



Source: From short stories collection Hypo to kratos tou tromou (Metai­chmio Publi­shers, Athens, 2018).

Tasos Kaloutsas (Born in Thessaloniki, 1948). Short Story. He studied at the Philosophy Faculty of the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki and taught in secondary schools.  He made his debut in the literary circles in 1983 with a short story in the magazine Diagonios. His first book The Plum and Other Stories, a collection of short stories, was published by Diagonios Publishers, Thessaloniki, 1987. Hypo to kratos tou tromou (Metaichmio Publishers, Athens, 2018) is the most recent.

Translation:

Vassilis Militsis (1947). He attended secondary education in Greece and from 1963 to 1965 continued his studies at Apopka High School, Florida, USA. In 1973 he graduated from The University of Thessaloniki, Greece, with a B.A. degree in English. He taught at state Greek schools, both in Greece and Germany. He retired in 2010. He has a good command of German, Italian and French. He and Mr. Wolfgang Reumuth are the authors of the Praktische Grammatik der neugriechischen Sprache, for foreigners.