Swamped, a novel by Manolis Aligizakis

Posted: 19/04/2021 by vequinox in Literature


That evening, after the three young men came home, they ordered their usual Friday-night pizzas and enjoyed their meal over a beer. Since it was Friday, even Alex was allowed to have a beer along with the others. While they were eating, the weather turned violent, with lightning flashing along the eastern horizon over the Fraser Valley. The Lord moved in passion, Eteo thought, remembering the words of his favorite book of philosophy, The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. It was a book he recommended to everyone and made sure his sons and his nephew had all read it at least once. For himself, it was a book to which he often returned.

Before they had finished their dinner, just after it got dark, the power suddenly went off. The darkness of the house was startling. Only the glare of the lightning from the patio door to the east illuminated anything. Eteo got up, found a couple of candles and a lighter in a kitchen drawer, put the candles in two of the water glasses, and lighted them. The two small circles of light were enough to enable them to finish their meal and put the dishes away. Then they sat together in the family room and silently watched the storm light up the eastern horizon. Finally, Eteo took a small frying pan from the kitchen and a bottle of moonshine from his alcohol cabinet. He poured just enough to cover the bottom of the pan and held lighter over it. It didn’t take too long for the almost hundred-percent-proof alcohol to warm up and catch fire, creating a blue flame that leapt around in various shapes dictated by the air of the room. Logan had smuggled the moonshine from Crete a year ago when he had gone back to his father’s home country on holiday. It was the same drink the Germans called schnapps and Italians grappa. In Crete they called it tsikoudia. It was made out of the leftovers from mashing and pressing grapes for wine. These leftovers were boiled and the steam guided through a coiled apparatus where it condensed into a very potent alcoholic beverage that dripped down drop by drop.

The four men sat and enjoyed the shapes the burning moonshine created.  As it burned down, Eteo added a little more, cautioning his sons and nephew not to move the table. If the flaming moonshine spilled, it quite easily put the floor on fire. Suddenly Alex decided that a blizzard would be a good thing to have at this moment, and Logan and Jonathan instantly agreed. Eteo produced the cash for four blizzards from Dairy Queen, and Logan and Jonathan went to buy them. Fifteen minutes later, the four men were enjoying the flame of the burning moonshine with their freezing blizzards when the power came back on and all the regular sounds of the house resumed. Eteo put out the flame. Jonathan got his books from upstairs and sat down at the kitchen table to do his homework while Logan and Alex got busy on their PlayStation. Eteo was content to relax in his chair and plan what to discuss with Yannis the next day.

Yannis lived in Ladner almost an hour from North Vancouver. It was a beautiful September afternoon when Eteo drove his Jaguar over the Second Narrows Bridge to Rupert Street and then down to Marine Drive in South Vancouver, where he turned west, crossed Knight Street Bridge and took Highway 99 and the Massey Tunnel to Ladner and Yannis’s house. Yannis was a big fellow from an island in the Aegean. He had a company in Ladner that processed and sold wholesale fish products, which he ran along with two of his sons he was grooming to take the reins of the company when time came. His house, a modern Tudor design, sat on a huge lot with fruit trees, gardens, and a sizable vegetable patch where Yannis kept busy in his free hours. Among the fruit trees there were two figs. No Greek homeowner in the Lower Mainland could fail to have fig trees in the garden.

       Yannis, a graying man with a moustache and cool, black eyes, welcomed Eteo to his house and led him to the study. He offered him a beer, but Eteo preferred coffee. Yannis asked his wife Estella to prepare some, and the two men sat down.

“Tell me about this new company,” Yannis said without any small talk.

“It looks very good, Yannis,” Eteo replied.“Structurally, Platinum Propertiesseems ideal, in fact. The management are people I know, and the group coming in now, I know them as well”

“What can I expect from the deal?”

“Where this might end up we don’t know yet but the promoters are a good group. They are seasoned operators in the VSE, tested and proven over the years. They’ll be able to attract plenty of action. We just have to be vigilant and not fall in love with it, you know what I mean.”

Estella brought their coffees. Eteo took an eager sip of his right away, but Yannis left his to cool off a little. He didn’t like his coffee too hot.

“I understand you,” Yannis said. “What should we do with the financing you mentioned?”

“I’ll allot you a few more shares from it when they do it. It has the sweetener of the warrant, a two-year warrant. It could mean some good profit down the road.”

They discussed the details until Yannis was satisfied. Business over, he led Eteo to his garden and with a proud voice described this year’s crop. He still had a lot of greens—arugula, spinach, Swiss chard, and beets—but he was proudest of this year’s tomatoes. He grew three varieties: Roma, Early Girl, and Beefsteak, the last of which produced huge fruits that took a longer time to ripen. Yannis would use these late tomatoes to dice and put in the freezer for cooking while the others were for present use in salads. Eteo had many of the same things in his much smaller garden. Growing his own beautiful, tasty vegetables was a practice from his earliest years in Vancouver. He recalled his first house in Richmond and the tiny vegetable patch there that he still managed to get plenty of fresh produce from.

They walked around the gardens chatting about old times until they reached Yannis’s fig trees. The fruits were finished by this time of the year, but Eteo knew that Yannis had a very good crop of figs every year. A little later he left for North Vancouver where he would reach just in time for his afternoon walk at Ambleside Park.

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