Love Under Aegean Skies

by Willard Manus

The house sat at the edge of town, overlooking a small bay where Saint Paul had once preached Christianity to the local pagans. Now the descendants of those converts had flocked to the bay to honor the Saint’s memory with a festive night-long ceremony.

Albie Knolls stood on the house’s patio, looking down on the bay whose curving strip of white beach was dotted with villagers. He raised his arms and cried out, “Hail! Your emperor salutes you! Have a ball tonight! Party on, my people! Party on!”

Then, chuckling, he turned away and crossed to the table where he spent much of his time, under a trellis of grapevines and bougainvillea. He sat down, took a whiff of oxygen from the cylinder beside him, and shouted, “Nicole! The sun has slid down behind the yardarm! It’s time for a cocktail!”

A tall, statuesque black woman appeared, carrying a pitcher filled with tomato juice, ice cubes, and vodka. She was attired in nothing but a straw hat.

“Here you are, massuh,” she said with a smirk.

Albie filled his glass and drained most of it in one long, thirsty swallow.

“You should go easy in this heat,” Nicole said.

“I don’t see why,” Albie replied. “My goal is to get pissed.”


“My dick is dead, woman. I’m in mourning for it.”

“Drinking vodka will only make things worse,” she said. “It doth impair performance.”

“I’ve always been able to handle vodka. It has never had a bad effect on me.”

“That was before you came down with emphysema. And decided to rent a house in the Greek islands.”

“My emphysema is not to be blamed. Same goes for the Mediterranean sun.”

“What’s causing your problem then? Are you no longer attracted to me?”

“Don’t be silly. I’m still crazy about you.”

“What then?”

“Blame it on mortality. The march of time.”

“Stop it. You’re not that old.”

“I am no longer able to fuck or write. My life has run its course.”

“You’ve just hit a bad patch, a psychological block. You’ll get over it.”

“My sex drive might conceivably return, but there’s no hope where my drive to write is concerned.”

“Why is that?”

“The doctors have forbidden me to smoke. But I can’t write without smoking. The two things have always gone together with me.”

“Why not give one of those nicotine patches a try?”

“They don’t work for me. I started smoking when I was fourteen. It’s second nature with me.”

Came the braying of a nearby donkey, followed by a pounding on the courtyard door.

“Oh no,” Albie said. “It’s Zalichey.” He glanced at Nicole. “You’d better go put something on.”

“It’s too hot to wear clothes.”

“Zalichey is a village woman. She’ll have a shit fit if she sees you in the nude.”

“Her problem, not mine.”

Albie shrugged his shoulders and turned away, shouting, “Embros, embros!”

Zalichey, an old crone in widow’s black, entered, carrying a tray.

“Thelete yiaourti?” she shrieked. “Do you want yogurt?” Then, having spotted the bare-assed Nicole, she gave a horrified cry, “Aiiii!” and began crossing herself frantically.

Albie shot another look at Nicole. “If you don’t get dressed, the poor woman will die of shock.”

Nicole turned and sauntered slowly toward the house. Zalichey’s gaze didn’t leave her until she had disappeared from view. Then she turned to Albie and croaked, “Ilthe i yineka sou.”

“I don’t understand,” he replied. “Dhen katalaveno.”

Zalalichey struggled to find the words in English.

“...your woman...she come...”

“My woman? Which woman?”

Zalichey held up her left hand and tapped the ring finger. Albie cried out: “What are you saying? That my wife has arrived?”

“You’re right about that!” came the sound of another voice.

Albie turned and saw his wife, Kathleen, standing in the doorway.

Smiling brightly, she stepped forward and cried out, “Avon calling!”

* * *

“You’re a day early,” Albie said later as they sat over wine and a dish of feta and olives.

“Nicole was supposed to have left by now.”

“Olympic Airways lost her luggage when she arrived. They promised to find it and deliver it. She’s still waiting for that to happen.”

“Surely you don’t expect me to live in the same house as her?”

“You don’t have a choice. There are no rooms to be had in the village, owing to the festival. You’ll have to tough things out for a few days.”

“Why don’t I just return to the airport and catch the next flight out?”

“Not possible. All flights are booked until the end of the week. Why not just hang in and try to enjoy yourself?”

“Albie’s right,” a voice said. “There’s no reason why we can’t live in peace and harmony together.”

It was Nicole, wrapped now in a bright red and yellow African sarong. Kathleen stared at her, with obvious distaste.

Albie sipped his wine and said, “This has the makings of a very interesting weekend.”

* * *

Later that night Albie sat alone in the courtyard under a full moon. On the table was his portable typewriter and a stack of papers. His oxygen tank was nearby. He typed a few sentences, then ripped the sheet out of the machine and crumpled it up, crying out “Shit, shit, shit!”

Kathleen’s voice was heard again. “Someone doesn’t sound happy. What on earth could be the problem?”

She was clad in a tight summer dress and was short of breath from her climb up the hill from St. Paul’s bay. With her balled-up underwear in hand, she crossed to a nearby stone basin and began to rinse it in cold water.

“You’re back early,” he said.

“Early? It’s midnight, remember? And I’m jet-lagged.”

“Did you and Nicole have a good time at the festival?”

“I can’t speak for her, since we went our separate ways down there. As for myself, I had quite a jolly time.”

They both looked down on the bay. Its horseshoe beach was festooned with lanterns and covered with tables at which the villagers sat over mounds of grilled lamb, pork and goat, drinking glasses of beer and wine. In a far corner of the beach, perched on slab of concrete, four musicians played folk tunes from Rhodes and other Greek islands.

Everyone present seemed to know the words to these tunes and often sang along with the vocalist, a hefty woman who sat on a chair in a red satin dress and red shoes, belting out the lyrics with cigarette in one hand, wine glass in the other.

Cries of joy went up when the vocalist quit singing and the band leader picked up his accordion and began to squeeze out the first few notes of a waltz. The romantic sound got everyone up on their feet, husbands and wives, boys and girls. Standing face to face with their arms wrapped around each other, they tromped around in rhythmic fashion, grinning happily all the while. All of this happened with a bright yellow moon shining directly overhead and the sea lapping away at the shore, specks of luminescence shimmering in the foam.

“It’s like something out of a romance novel,” Kathleen murmured to Albie. “You should have come with us.”

“I was happy to be alone for a while. It was a chance to try and get some work done.”

“And did you?”

“I was unable to write a single fucking page.” Albie gave a wail. “I’m finished as a writer. Finished! I cannot create without nicotine!”

“If you start smoking again your lungs will quit on you. Not even your oxygen tank will be able to save you.”

“That’s the bind I’m in. I need to finish my novel, make some money. But to do it I’ll have to start smoking again. Every cigarette will be like another nail in my coffin.”

“Then give up writing. Find another line of work.”

“What do you suggest? Carpentry? Nursing?”

“Do what most writers do for a living. Teach English somewhere.”

“Talk about writing instead of actually doing it? I’d rather blow my brains out!”

Kathleen dipped her spoon into a clay bowl filled with Zalichey’s thick, goat-milk yogurt.

“This is the best yogurt I’ve ever had,” she said.

Albie scowled. “Why are you trying to change the subject?”

“Because we’re going in circles here. All you do is complain about not being able to write.”

“That’s not the only thing I can’t do any more. My dick–-“

”I know all about your dick as well: your dead dick.”

She eyed him and said bluntly,“That’s what you get for shacking up with that bimbo of yours.”

“Nicole is not a bimbo. She is a highly regarded professional woman, a hypnotherapist.”

“Who likes to have rough sex with you.”

Albie shook his head and growled, “You’re such a prude, Kathleen.”

“Disliking rough sex does not a prude make.”

“You ought to give it a try. It might resurrect our marriage.”

“What would resurrect it is if you ditched your black concubine.”

“That would be a mistake. It would upset the balance of power.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’ll put it another way, a culinary way. You’re my meat and potatoes. Nicole is my champagne and caviar.”

“Fuck you and your insults.”

“I’m not trying to insult you, just explain myself.”

“It’s always about you, isn’t it?”

“That’s normal behavior for a man whose dick is dead.”

“Again with the dead dick. You’re a stuck record.”

“What can I do?” he cried out. “My life is all messed up.”

“I’m well aware of that and so are all the villagers. They know Nicole’s your mistress and that she’s living under the same roof with us.”

“The Greeks don’t give a damn. They think all foreigners are crazy anyway.”

“You’ve put the horns on me. How do you think that makes me feel?”

“I’m sorry about that. It was just bad luck that we’ve ended up here together this weekend.”

“You don’t get it, do you? You don’t realize how awful you’ve made me feel.”

“Quit talking like that. You know I still love you.”

“You’ve got a strange way of showing it.”

“Lighten up, will you? So I’m having an affair. What’s the big fucking deal?”

She glared at him. Then she suddenly smiled and said, “I fucked one of your Greek pals tonight.”


“I think you heard me.”

He took a long, desperate whiff of oxygen. “Who was he?”

“All I know is his first name: Takis.”

“Takis, the guy who takes tourists up to the acropolis on his donkey?”

“You got that right!”

“Where did this happen?”

“Down at the festival. We danced a few waltzes and tangos together and then he asked me if I wanted to take a walk.”

“And you said yes, just like that?”

She nodded. “We left the beach and climbed the hillside and sat down behind the little church up there.”

“Don’t tell me you fucked Takis behind St Paul’s chapel?”

“It was quite an experience. He pinned me to the ground and shoved his cock in me, the biggest cock I have ever felt in my life!”

Albie squirmed around and cried out, “Holy shit!”

“And then we got up, walked back to the festival together, and when he saw his cronies he flashed them a thumb’s-up sign.”

“So now the whole damn village knows what happened.”

“Oh yes, they know, all right, they know that your wife has cuckolded you.”

“With a donkey boy!”

“That’s right–-with a donkey boy!”

Albie jumped up and went at her. “You bitch!”

She dodged him quite easily. “How’s it feel, doctor? How’s it feel to taste a bit of your own medicine?”
Nicole entered the courtyard just then. She stopped short when she spotted Albie standing there with his angry, contorted face, wheezing like an old diesel engine. “What’s going on?”

Kathleen turned and said, “Your boyfriend seems to be in need of medical attention.”

Nicole picked up the oxygen tank and carried it to Albie’s side. He sank into a chair and began desperately gulping down air.

“What happened?” Nicole asked.

“Let’s just say your boyfriend heard a bit of news he didn’t like.”

“What kind of news?”

Kathleen looked at him and asked, “Should I tell her?”

Albie lifted the oxygen mask from his mouth. “It would appear that Kathleen just got it on with Takis, the donkey boy.”

Nicole burst out laughing. “That’s just about the funniest thing I’ve ever heard!”

“I fail to see the humor. It’s a low blow. I may never recover from it.”

“Get off it, Albie. You know you enjoy things like this.”

“Not true. I am deeply and truly upset.”

“Bullshit. You’re a dirty old man. And a conniver. You’ll find a way to use this story in your new novel.”

“But it’s a novel I can’t finish, not without cigarettes.”

“You’ll finish it,” she insisted. “Nothing will stop you from getting what you want. No matter what, you’ll eventually push through.”

Nicole turned to Kathleen. “I’m going back to the festival. Do you want to come with me?”
Kathleen shot a look at Albie.

”Stop worrying about him,” Nicole said. “He’s indestructible. Come with me,” she repeated. “We’ll do some Greek dancing.”


“I’ve already learned a few of the dances. They’re not all that hard, just a few tricky steps. You’ll get the hang of them and we’ll dance the rest of the night away!”

“You sound just like a village girl.”

“I feel like one! Maybe I’ll forget about going back to the USA. Maybe I’ll just stay in Lindos and marry a Greek boy–-“

”A donkey boy!” Kathleen said with a whoop.

“That’s right, a donkey boy! And I’ll make yogurt for a living, just like old Zalichey.”

“Great. I just might join you!”

Nicole laughed and put out her hand. “Come on, then. Let’s put on our dancing shoes!”

The two of them skipped out the door, leaving Albie sitting behind the courtyard table. He sat there quietly for a while, not moving, lost in thought. Then, after taking a big whiff of oxygen, he lifted up a garden pot and brought out a pack of American cigarettes.

He broke open the pack, tapped out a cigarette, and lit it. He drew deeply on it, giving a cry of ecstasy. Then he turned to his typewriter, stuck a fresh sheet of paper in it, and began typing. As he smoked and wrote, the musicians down in St. Paul’s bay began to play again, a catchy and clamorous tune.

Albie grinned and kept writing, piling up page after page as the night went on.