The Manuka Millionaire
On an island in the Aegean Sea lived a man who made money from honey. He had a name but no-one remembered it. He was very rich so all the locals just called him ‘the millionaire’. There was only one millionaire on the island, as far as anyone knew, so this caused little confusion.
The father of the millionaire was Thanos, or Thanopoli to strangers because it sounded impressive. Thanos was a dark Greek with an enormous forehead and a v-shaped brow that funnelled down his nose to a mouth that always hung slightly ajar. His habitual expression balanced somewhere between prophet and cretin. If Greece had witches then Thanos was a hairy one.
‘Have you heard what happened in the Platia Kotzia yesterday?’
‘Andrei Mallas got drunk and fornicated with the fountain again?’ This caused weak laughter to filter through the group, like pneumonia through the island in winter.
Dmitri sighed, ‘Yes, probably, but that is of little consequence. I mean what happened to the millionaire.’
‘He got richer?’ said one.
‘He drowned his sister in honey?’ interjected another.
The old man fingered the tablecloth irritably and glared at his friends, ‘If any of you actually wanted to listen…’ he fell silent and made a disapproving face, lips and forehead meeting at the tip of his nose.
‘Please tell us…’ said one, ‘Yes, tell us Dmitri’. A half-hearted murmur of assent arose from the group. It was not that anyone really wanted to pay attention to Dmitri, only they had nothing else to listen too. Just the soft island wind and the sounds of their own mortality. They assented as one.
‘So,’ he continued, ‘the millionaire was walking to his warehouse on Benaki street, the one with the old fig tree growing through the roof, when he stopped suddenly in the middle of Platia Kotzia.’
‘Probably saw Alexis Demopoulos. The karpoúzi on her would stop anyone...’
Dmitri threw an olive at the speaker and went on, ‘He stopped, then he started dancing up and down and running around the square. He was assaulted by insects!’
‘Insulted by insects? That’s quite impossible. How can you be insulted by insects?’ a man on the edge of the group croaked indignantly.
‘Assaulted by insects!’ hissed Dmitri. ‘Assaulted. Attacked. Something attacked him and he started running like a madman all the way up main street until he reached the sea. He dived in and began ducking his head up and down like a demented….’ he paused, ‘seal. And he wouldn’t come out until Gregorios, who saw the whole thing, told him that his drachmas were getting wet!’