Achilles’ Long Journey

When did your grandfather leave?

It was in 1968.

You see how much good was for him to get back home…

Sir, my grandfather turned his head before arriving here. It was those days the tanks rolled in Czechoslovakia.

I see no relation…

I am not aware of these details… Just what I heard later on. The invasion was of great significance.

What invasion you’ re talking about?

I’ talking about the Soviet one in Prague. It was not merely because of the deaths that the invasion shocked the Czechs, but also the Greek political refugees. It was then that the “arch-comrades”- as grandfather labeled them- grabbed the party archives from the Central Committee while the “other”, the “loyal, the orthodox ones” transferred the party headquarters to Ostrava. Since then any party line was coming from this city.

There were the ones professing that what had be done was the right thing to do. Anyhow, the party was halved, or more precisely, most of its rank and file members, including my grandfather, became a “fraction”.

A “fraction”? Your grandfather who had crisscrossed and organized the guerillas in Northern Greece?

He was calling him “revisionist”.

Who was doing so?

My father.

It was neither rain nor drizzle but something like a bone piercing moisture in the foggy mist that rolled down from the mountain and like a grey sheet covered him in mourning. The lake seemed calm, deceptively serene.

-Uncle Achilles, never trust the weather, the water, not even the boat. -But weren’t you telling me that the boat is a fisherman’s home?

-Yes, uncle Achilles, but in the village we fish in the lake, close to the shore. Rarely do our boats sail across. Very rarely. So be careful!

He ignored the warning, took his waterproof jacket and wrapped up the plastic bag with the register as if it was some kind of gospel for a relative’s burial. He jumped in the fishing boat that shook abruptly, grabbed the oars and shouted without looking at the shore behind him. -I’ve got to go and hand in the register. Quite a time has passed and I owe it to my brave lad to do it as soon as possible.

The fog descending on the water that welcomed him looked eager to swallow whatever sailed that evening. The unexpected serenity encouraged him; he worked hard at the oars that gleamed in the dark grey water. He carried on with fervor. The mountain came to weigh above the lake; he felt its oppressive volume. A wind blew like a carrier of souls whispering Homeric odes, like a Nekyia one hears but cannot touch. It blew stronger shaking the boat and its passenger in the fog.

He paused for awhile and crossed himself. He thought of his deceased wife whose death he had to report to her kin, and crossing himself once more in the middle of the lake he shouted at the top of his voice.

-Helen! I bring you a gift from Achilles.

The bullet passed him close. He shouted even louder.

-Halt! The coastguard shouted.

He carried on.

-Halt or we shoot! They repeated in Greek.

-I have a message for some people over there! He shouted through his aged lungs.

-Halt!

A second bullet hit the boat.

-I am going back, as it is the wish of…

The third bullet hit him just below the stomach.

-You are making a mistake… he just had time to shout.

Blood appeared from the hole in the stomach before gushing like a vomit of a joyless life from his mouth.

He held on to the oar with his left arm while the other caressed the wavy lake.

The guards accosted him and jumped in the boat.

Drawing up his last breath he pulled the register out of the bag and brought it under their faces.

-From Achilles.

-What?

-From Achill to Helen.

-What?

-Nothing…

photo by Petr Machan, PWF 2011
Author: Constantine Kokossis

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