Martin Hixon tiptoed through the titties.
Hundreds of topless women lay shoulder to shoulder on the patch of
beach, sprawled on towels and mats, exposing themselves to the Greek sun
which beat down from directly overhead with a liquefying intensity. A
few of the women lay on their bellies, reading or dozing, but most chose
to recline with their bare boobs pointing skywards like so many gun
Martin's boat, a small wooden skiff, sat hauled up on the beach,
awaiting caulking and painting. Scrunched up in its shade were a woman
and a young girl who took turns smearing lotion on each other, basting
themselves like roast lambs at Easter.
The woman, who was wide and bulky with blindingly white skin, began
oiling her own hefty breasts, going about it with a vigor and intensity
approaching masturbation. Martin tried not to stare, but it was hard
not to, considering the way her nipples popped out like brown olives.
The girl, who was a redheaded teenager and had small, modest breasts,
began massaging herself in similar fashion. She used copious amounts of
lotion, perhaps because her skin was pink and freckled. Rubadubdub,
rubadubdud, they both kept oiling and kneading themselves, eying him as
he came close and set his toolbox and paint cans down.
"Sorry," Martin said as he shifted the uptilted boat's position, "I've
got to finish my work."
Upset at having been deprived of the only shade on the beach, they
grumblingly picked up their things and moved off. Martin tried to focus
on his work, but was constantly distracted by the many topless women
surrounding him. They were of all ages and shapes, with breasts that
varied in size from gargantuan to Liliputian. Features hidden under
hats and sunglasses, they lay there soaking up the blowtorch sunlight,
their naked torsos taking the brunt of the heat. They tried to cope
with the temperature by sucking down mouthfuls of water from plastic
bottles or by occasionally throwing themselves into the sea, where they
flopped around like seals for a while. Then, energy spent, they returned
to their mats, broke out their bottles of sun lotion and began the
lathering ritual all over again.
These women weren't made for Mediterranean summer, because no matter
how much sunblock they applied, their skin kept reddening -- especially
the skin on their breasts, which was even more sensitive to the sun's
rays. Martin understood, though, why they were torturing themselves
like this. He knew what northern European winters were like: month
after month of grey, wet, ghastly weather that obliged you to bundle up
like a Puritan. It made you dream of sunlight and warmth, of being able
to shed your garments and go naked by the sea, the Eden-like blue
Martin had lived for many years in the Greek islands and had been
present when the first beaches went topless in his village, a heretofore
small, provincial community under the thumb of the Greek Orthodox
church. Toplessness was a byproduct of tourism and since tourism had
become king in the Aegean--even the church went on its knees before
it--women could do whatever they wanted on this beach, even though it
was considered a fisherman's beach, the only beach in Lindos without
umbrella concessions, pedal boats and snack bars.
There was just a half-moon strip of sand framed by jagged brown hills
studded with patches of thistle and shrubs, and a rough-hewn quay
jutting out into the sea. Towering over everything was an ancient,
thousand-foot-high acropolis that had become a major tourist attraction.
A half dozen fishing boats were anchored in the bay at the far end of
which sat a tiny, white chapel where Paul the Apostle had once preached
Christianity to pagans and brigands.
No doubt the prudish St. Paul would have been shocked to discover what
had become of his bay, which now held an army of Anglo-Saxons who
thought nothing of exposing their sex organs in public. St. Paul would
not have understood, either, why these men and women persisted in lying
naked in the merciless Greek sun, especially after all the scare stories
about the ozone layer and skin cancer.
Breasts and ultra-violet were particularly incompatible; that much was
obvious. Even though Martin tried hard to keep from staring, he
couldn't help but notice how many of the boobs on display were showing
signs of distress--skin glazed with red, like so many jellyapples;
nipples smeared with protective coldcream.
It was unnerving to be stuck in the midst of all this sweltering,
putrefying flesh. There were a few sleek, browned bodies --they usually
belonged to the Italians--but for the most part, the sunworshippers were
a misshapen, overweight bunch, all bulging boobs and paunches.
Martin, who was protected from the sun by a straw hat, long pants and
sleeves, concluded that what St. Paul's bay required was a tit and belly
inspector: a man--no, wait, better make it a woman- -who would stand at
the beach entrance and decide who could enter or not.
"Sorry, lady, nobody wants to see those ugly, shriveled-up dugs of
yours. If you want to swim here, you'll need to cover yourself up."
"You, sir, with the pendulous beer gut and drooping pecs. Either put
on a T-shirt or pay a 50-dollar fine for indecent exposure!"
Martin amused himself with these sardonic thoughts as he slapped paint
on the hull of his boat, sweating profusely all the while. Then a shadow
crossed over him. He turned to discover the the woman he had uprooted.
She reeked of sun lotion--it was a smell that hung over the beach like
the smog in Athens.
"How's it ye speak English?" she wanted to know.
"I don't speak English, I speak American," he replied.
That got a chuckle out of her.
"We figgered yew was a Greek, until we talked it over," said the young
girl as she joined them.
They were mother and daughter, from Scotland. They were down on a
package holiday which had started last night, when they went out to
Glasgow airport, put themselves on a charter stand-by list, and were
tapped at the last minute to fill a couple of unsold seats.
"It's the cheapest way uv enjoyin' a hoaliday in the sun," the mother
explained. "Wi' a wee bit uv luck, yew could end up some place gallus."
"How do you like it here?"
"It's aw'right," the girl said. "But just where in bluidy hell are we?"
They hadn't a clue where their plane was bound when they boarded the
flight. All they knew was that it was heading south, to the sun. When
the plane landed they'd been met by a pullman bus which had dumped them
outside Lindos at dawn. They were surprised and delighted to learn that
they were in Greece, on the island of Rhodes.
"Ah've always wanted tae go ta Greece," the mother said.
"I was hopin' fer Spain," the girl admitted. "Or Portygal."
They put their towels down and leaned against the dry part of the boat
"Is it always this bluidy hot?" Regina, the mother, asked. "Ah'm meltin' away to a greasy spot."
Martin handed her his canteen, which was wrapped in wet burlap to keep
the water cool.
"Ach, that's luvely," she sighed after a long swallow. She gave the
canteen to her daughter, Doreen, who drank from it even more thirstily
"You ought to get out of the sun," Martin told them.
"Where can we go? There's nae shade about."
Martin pointed out a cave in the hillside where they could sit and escape the mid-day heat.
"Ah'm no climbin' up that fookin' hill," Doreen said. "Ah'd pass out from tryin'."
"Have it your way," Martin said, returning to his work.
They watched him wield his paintbrush; then the questions started to
come again: what was he doing living in Lindos, how long had he been
here, did he like it, and so on. It was mostly Regina asking the
questions; Doreen simply didn't have the energy to open her mouth. The
girl sat with her back pressed against the boat and her eyes closed,
half-stupefied by the sunlight, which continued to pour down mercilessly. Her breasts were small, dovelike things that could fit into the palm of your hand, but they were so red and angry-looking that it pained Martin just to look at them.
"Wouldn't it be a good idea to put your bra on?" he asked her.
"What's it tae ya what ah do with me bra?"
"You've made it my business by going topless."
"Oh, and how's that?"
"I can't help but seeing what the sun's doing to you."
Doreen looked down at her now-blistering tits and made a face.
"He's right, ma. Ah'm really hurtin' somefin' awful. Can't we go up tae the village?"
"Listen," her mother said firmly, loudly. "Ah've paid for sun and it's
sun ye'll get!"
* * *
As the afternoon went on and the sun shifted its position, Regina and
Doreen took up new places on the beach, over by the fishermen's shacks
which sat at the edge of the hillside. Martin opened the door to his
shack and encouraged them to escape the sun by sitting inside, but
Regina wouldn't hear of it, not for her daughter anyway. Doreen was
obliged to remain in the sun's glare, exposed to its penetrating heat.
Each time Martin took a break he checked Doreen out, noting with dismay
her reddening skin, blistering breasts and numbed expression. It was
obvious that she was beginning to suffer from heat exhaustion, but still
her mother persisted in keeping her out in the sunlight. It was as if
she wanted Doreen to sponge up, in one day, all the light and warmth
that life ordinarily denied them.
The temperature began to get to Martin as well, so much so that he had
to put his paintbrush down, strip his clothes off and throw himself into
the sea, diving as deep as he could to find water cold enough to chill
It was when he resurfaced from one of those dives that he heard
Regina's scream. Scrambling up the beach, he rushed to the boathouse,
finding Doreen doubled over with cramps and Regina frantically shaking
With the help of two German tourists, Martin carried Doreen up the hill
to where his car was parked, a rusted-out Mercedes diesel. With the
near-hysterical Regina sitting in back, moaning and wailing as she tried
to force water down her daughter's throat, Martin drove as fast as he
could to the nearest medical clinic, in the town of Archangelos, twenty
The lone doctor on duty was someone he knew: Panayiotis, an Athenian
serving his internship on the island. He had seen a lot in his two
years in Archangelos, which is why he registered very little surprise
when three foreigners in bathing suits came barging in, one of them
moaning in pain.
Panayiotis' clinic was reasonably well-stocked, but he could come up
with only a couple of ice packs. To help cool Doreen down, he soaked
several towels in cold water and wrapped them tightly around her.
"Keep giving her water," he told Martin. "And keep massaging her
As Panayiotis went off to call the hospital in Rhodes city for an
ambulance, Martin tried hard to make the inert, pale, slow- breathing
Doreen drink. Regina was of no help. Slumped back in a chair, she
stared at him with non-seeing eyes. Overwhelemed by the enormity of her
stupidity and guilt, she could neither move nor speak.
When Panayiotis returned, he joined Martin in massaging Doreen, digging
his strong, skilful fingers into her flesh, working to relieve her pain,
prevent her system from shutting down.
Doreen was sitting up and drinking water on her own by the time the
ambulance arrived, a brand-new, gleaming-white Fiat van. Her breath was
also coming more easily and her cramps had eased, but she was still
unable to speak.
Her mother was equally mute. She glanced at Martin as she followed
Doreen into the ambulance, mouthing some words of thanks, all the while
holding tight to the body cloth she had wrapped round her remarkable,
blazingly red breasts.