IRIS AND STANLEY - AND BOBBY TOO.
It is, in the Kotsolakis household, a custom long established and, save for illness, inviolate, that Nikos gets the first hour of the day to himself. It works in Germany and it works here in Kournas, his family village. His mother was born here and he was raised here until he was 6: when he suddenly found himself in Germany. The job that his father went to do in Germany for BASF is finished now and so is his father. Dead these past 4 years. He is not buried in the church here in the village. He is buried in his father's village, up in the mountains on the way to Sfakion. This house is built on land that his mother brought to the marriage. A plot on what used to be nothing, fields, but that is now just inside the village boundary. The road that runs past the end of the drive leads left into the village and right out to the lake. When he was a child he would come this way only to help his grandfather with the olives in November or December. Now he lives here with his family from July until September. It is a good place. It is good that he gets the first hour of the day to himself. he sits on the terrace and looks down toward the sea, across the valleys to Kavros.
It is early but not so early that the shepherds have not taken their flocks past. He smiles to himself as he recalls how, as a child he would get up before the sun in the summers so that he could take the flock out with Antonis. His beloved Antonis. His best friend in those days of long dry summers. Adonis, who taught him how to smoke. Summers that seemed never to end. Nowadays, his two months here seems to pass in the twinkling of an eye. He leans back in the chair and sips from his coffee. He lights another Assos and thinks of his cardiologist in Munich who keeps telling him he should give it up. But if a man has no pleasures in life why would he continue to live? The sun is well up now and the heat, gentle twenty minutes ago but growing in intensity by the minute now warms his old bones through as he watches a shepherd move his flock over toward the lake. He passed the house some time ago and is clearly in no hurry. Why would he rush on such a day? He has all day. Nikos is, in contrast, very much aware of how little time he might have left. Time goes by so quickly in Germany with its rush and bustle. The endless business of business. There is always something to attend to there, while here there is just ... Just the being.
He leans forward again and empties the ashtray over the wall. It wouldn't do to let Maria and Sofia see how much he has smoked. Without thinking, he reaches the red and white pack across and lights another. They will be about soon. His time his coming to an end. He looks down and sees the sun light up the shoreline far below. He shrugs into the warmth of the day.
Around the bend to the right of Nikos's house there are two small houses built by one of the village boys for rent. They are rented now to English. In the first there lives a woman who, while not old, is strange and moves like an old person. She is harmless. Her Greek is awful and, despite lessons every week for which she goes to Xania on the Thursday bus, not improving. She affects a purple beret summer and winter and strolls around the village passing the time with anyone who will. Mostly, it is the old people who give her time. Apart from young Markos who runs his father's ceramics shop. Markos is an odd fish - the woman is old enough to be his mother and yet he seems to flirt with her. Everyone thinks it is odd and everyone laughs but not in his face. As we said, Markos is an odd fish. Odd but violent.