Posts tagged ‘The Last Island’
June 23, 2015
Colin O’Sullivan: The Last Island covers important issues like “environmentalism, animal rights, and the costs of capitalism”. What made you want to write about these issues?
David Hogan: I believe that these are among the paramount issues of our time, and that our responses to them will shape the future. So it would’ve been hard for me not to write about them. In The Last Island the main characters are exiles and in the process of re-invention and redemption. As they struggle to re-make themselves, they are forced to ask certain questions such as: What obligation do we owe our planet and the creatures upon it? What is the nature of desire and possession? What level of cooperation or competition is appropriate? They may not find all the answers, but they are asking the questions. I believe that society too needs to undergo a process of re-invention and redemption, as many of the current answers to these questions become increasingly untenable. We don’t have the answers yet, but, like the characters in The Last Island, we need to continue to ask the questions.
O’S: What do you hope readers will take away from The Last Island?
D.H.: First off, I hope they will find the book transporting and engrossing. And I hope that they will feel that they’ve met some intriguing and thoughtful characters, who offer unconventional ways of thinking about modern life. There are many issues at play for which the novel provides no definitive answers. It does ask a good number of questions, however. In those questions, I hope that some readers might see possibilities.
O’S: Who do you picture as the ideal reader of your work?
D.H.: In Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer, Binx Bolling is on a search, which is described as “what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life.” Binx resists naming the object of his search; it may be God or a greater purpose or something else entirely. It’s a quixotic endeavour with an unclear goal. But what is most important, he believes, is to be aware of the possibility of the search, even if one is unable or unwilling to undertake it. My ideal reader is probably no different than the ideal reader of many other writers. It’s someone who, like Binx, is aware of the possibility of such a search and may read novels for that reason, among others.
O’S: Who is your biggest literary influence? Which writer, living or dead, would you most like to meet?
D.H.: I’ve a whole stable of writers that I keep returning to: Dostoyevsky, Joyce, Beckett, Nikos Kazantzakis, C.P. Cavafy, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ralph Ellison as well as Walker Percy, Frederick Exley, and Jennifer Egan. I read the work of playwrights Tom Stoppard, Martin McDonough, and Rebecca Gilman. I’m very much into the American poet Wendell Berry at the moment. I think his Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front speaks to what ails us.
As to meeting a writer, how about this? I’d like to have been in one of those bars in Paris with Joyce and Hemingway. We’d drink, talk books and then, if Joyce got into a fight, I’d have the pleasure of watching Hemingway step in for him. “Deal with him, Hemingway,” I understand Joyce used to say. It’s the greatest tag-team in the history of literature… or is it boxing?
O’S: What are you currently reading?
D.H.: Skippy Dies by Paul Murray, and I’m wondering why it took me so long to get to it. I’m about half-way through and, so far, it’s thoughtful, moving and very funny.
O’S: Do you listen to music when you write?
D.H.: I like to have something quiet and familiar playing in the background, especially in the first draft stage. If The Last Island has a soundtrack, it’s some of the older CDs of the Pat Metheny Group such as First Circle and Still Life (Talking). When I was struggling with one of the scenes in the Aegean Sea in The Last Island, I can remember listening to the glides and builds of First Circle and thinking ‘something like that.’
O’S: Do you have any words of inspiration on your writing desk?
D.H.: No, none, though I probably should. I do have a memo posted on my desk that reads: no ‘and then’ scenes. It’s to remind me to structure events by direct cause and effect, as opposed to episodically. Useful, I suppose, but far from inspirational.
O’S: Do you read the reviews you get?
D.H.: I probably shouldn’t – they say you shouldn’t — but I do. If someone takes the time to read my novel (or see one of my plays) and write about it, I’m interested in what they have to say.
O’S: You are involved in different kinds of writing, novels, screenwriting, etc. Which comes easiest to you? Which is most difficult?
D.H.: Playwriting seems to come easiest to me, though I’m not sure why. It might have something to do with the limitations of the stage, which demands a mere handful of characters and a single setting or two. It’s dialogue-based, and you can count on the actors, if they’re good, to bring out more than what’s on the page. There’s a tradeoff, of course, because what’s on the stage can be something entirely different from what was imagined, for better or worse. Novels are the most difficult for me, but the satisfaction is great, perhaps for that reason.
O’S: Being an Irishman I’m very pleased you wrote about At Swim Two Birds for your novel recommendation. Is there any other Irish novel or writer that interests you?
D.H.: Many of them. To my mind, the lyrical wordplay of Irish-English is unrivalled. I read anything by Colum McCann, Anne Enright and Kevin Barry. I think I’ll be adding Paul Murray to that list. I’m also a big fan of Irish crime fiction, especially when Tana French, Ken Bruen, Declan Burke, and Brian McGilloway (to name just a few) are doing the writing.
O’S: What does David Hogan do to relax?
D.H.: Less than I used to. Dinner, concerts, the occasional play. The Pacific Ocean lies only a few miles away, and I try to paddle out once or twice a week. My co-surfers call me Big Wave Dave, which, I assure you, is unreservedly ironic.
June 6, 2015
Excerpt from David Hogan inspiring novel The Last Island
“You’ll be the first person to see this,” she whispered.
She grabbed the red towel from the steps and threw it in the water, then pushed me in after it. She began to call Yukon from the steps, whistling and slapping. Shortly after, there was the signature ripping sound at the edge of the cove, and Yukon arrived. We jumped in together. Kerryn put the red towel in Yukon’s mouth and held on to one end. I grabbed the other end so we were on opposite sides of the dolphin as she pulled away.
I felt the immense propulsion generated by Yukon’s fluke with each thrust. It seemed as if Yukon was in a hurry; we gained speed rapidly. My hands strained to maintain a grip on the red towel while the water tugged fiercely at my shoulders and legs. In an instant, the cove was gone, and we were in the open sea. I glanced at Kerryn. She had her head cocked up and forward, her eyes squinted in determination.
I closed my eyes and ducked my head under the surface. The whoosh of the water was gone, transformed into a sort of muted hum. Fighting the pull of the water, I snapped my head back above the surface. I tried to gauge our speed, but there was nothing to measure it against. We were a rocket in space, tearing from one void to another, only the salt shooting up my nose and down my throat made me aware of the distance being covered.
We must have turned at some time because I could now see the island over my right shoulder. Again, Kerryn and I were helpless and naked and exposed and entirely in Yukon’s element. Yukon could take us anywhere; she could pull us under or strand us or crash us into a rock. But my momentary fear was of no consequence; like a child leaping into the open arms of his father, the apprehension and delight sprang from the same source, one was impossible without the other. Yukon was pulling us into the night, and we could only abandon ourselves to her will.
Whether we made another turn or not, I wasn’t sure, but soon we were heading back into the island. It was a part of the island I had not seen before. There were sheer falling cliffs of white rock, descending into the sea. The sea had cut thousands of large and small holes into the rocks, forming mysterious hollows and dugouts.
We slowed and penetrated an opening in one of the cliffs, beneath a jagged arc of sea-bitten rocks, no more than seven feet across. We entered what appeared to be a giant inverted cone. There was a small beach of white sand about twenty feet wide ahead of us. And above white rocks shot toward the sky, closing into smaller concentric circles as they advanced. There was the tiny opening where we had entered and an opening at the top – that was all.
Kerryn let go of the towel and swam to the shore. I followed her. Yukon was last and slid herself onto the sand, dropping the towel from her mouth and keeping half her body in the water. The moon like a bottle cap hung just above the top opening. The light beamed in, gentle and sweet, funneled down by the rock. On the sides of this funneling rock, tiny prisms of crystal angled the vertical white moonlight into a horizontal tangle of red, blue and yellow colors, a thin rainbow streaking across the moon. The moon itself seemed so close and so small, that I felt I could climb through the tangle of colors across the sky and nudge it.
Kerryn sat with her feet in the water, and Yukon flopped over and rested her nose in Kerryn’s lap. Kerryn threw her head back and smiled.
“The sanctuary,” Kerryn said, her voice echoing up into the funnel.
I stared at her, and the way the light from above caught the white rim of Kerryn’s deep eyes reminded me of the eclipse. Her brown forehead glistened with sea and sweat, and she sat with her mouth, pink and moist, partly open. On the sand behind me was a half-full bottle of water and a small statue, no bigger than a foot, a burnt gray and white female figurine with a long nose and a rounded cut-off head. To my eye, the ancient statue was without flaws or cracks, as if it existed in a vacuum.
“Cycladic age, I think,” she said. “Could be five thousand years old.”
“How’d she get here?”
I’d heard there were thousands of sculptures dotting the Aegean floor but few, I was sure, as old or in as good a shape as this one, which could be the prize piece in any museum.
“I don’t know. It was here when I first came,” she said. “Yukon found this place. One night, after we’d been riding further and further out, she brought me here. This was just before the others were leaving, and that’s when I knew I had to stay. I mean, I guess, we had a special connection before that. We’d been riding alone at night. But when she brought me here, I knew, just knew that I had to stay.”
I looked at Yukon’s kind face, the sleek rounded head, the large eyes, the fixed smile, resting in the lap of Kerryn. Yukon shot a sly glance in my direction as if to affirm what Kerryn was saying. I laughed, moved next to Kerryn and petted the side of Yukon’s body. Yukon clicked with glee and I was reminded of the forts I used to build as a kid, cardboard and pillows constructed to keep the real world out and the imaginary one in. The fact that we were naked, like children, and with an animal, like children, was as if I had somehow re-claimed a last slice of innocence.
And here it was. In the present. And it was real.
Yukon lying contentedly right next to Kerryn was real, and the sea was real, and the canopy of rainbow lights was real and Kerryn, her golden skin glowing in the flue of moonlight, was real.
March 24, 2015
February 16, 2015
When I was 17 years old, I dove into a swimming pool and broke my neck.
Until that moment, I’d been relentlessly active, my days taxed with dread of missing something somewhere. I was on the student council and participated in a wide variety of school clubs. I always secured a part in the school play and rode a unicycle in talent shows. I ran cross-country in the fall, track in the spring and was co-captain of the basketball team in between. I was an honor student who worked full-time in the summer and caddied most weekends in the spring and early fall, except on certain Sundays when I served as an altar boy. I’d never had a drink or a smoke, and I rarely swore. Yet that pleasant summer day, for reasons still unclear to me, I plunged into a six-foot deep above-ground pool and slammed the top of…
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February 12, 2015
“A shooting star zipped across the sky. I watched it streak behind the mountain on the other side of the island as I thought about the woman against the opposite side of the concrete wall, so very different from me – or anyone. She was a genuine being, pure in spirit and without pretense, willfully removed from possessions, greed, artificiality, and guided, not by tradition like the fishermen, nor by desire or competitiveness as I’d been, but by her imaginings and passions and, to use her word, interpretations. Either because of or in spite of her past, she’d become a culture unto herself, far removed from anyone or anything I’d ever known and, for that, there was something uncorrupted and beautiful within her – unlike myself, the waste of a man beside her, who’d been given much and only wanted more, and who’d traded love and purpose for the grotesque satisfactions of a smirking man.
I turned around, reached for her dirty hand through the bars, and kissed it; and nothing in mind and memory seemed more honest, more true than this single kiss.”
— Excerpt from THE LAST ISLAND by David Hogan
Available here: http://viewbook.at/thelastisland
February 8, 2015
February 6, 2015
“A full white moon glistened above and lit my way along the dusty road back to the cove. The walk was pleasant, and
I took it leisurely, thoughtfully, kicking up rocks and staring at the sky, until I turned off the road into the unpaved
path that led to the cove. Because of the trees, the path was darker than the road, and I kept my eyes on the light coming from within the tree-tunnel just ahead. When I got there, I cleared the branches away with my hand. Just before I broke through the opening, I heard a chopped laugh and a big splash. Then there was laughter again. I stopped and stood in the loose dirt of the tunnel. Still in the dark myself, I was able to see ahead where the moon lit up the cove like a spotlight.
There, a woman traveled through the sea at incredible speed – but without kicking or moving her arms. In fact,
there was no motion at all and no sound or evidence of a motor or propeller or mechanical device – only a slight
ripping sound. The woman’s head, framed in shadows, was thrust forward and strands of shoulder length hair
flew behind her as she moved through the sea like the cap of a small wave. As she approached, only her head and
shoulders were visible; the rest of her body was beneath the surface but somehow suspended, as if she were surfing on her chest. She stopped at the ladder and sank softly into the water. Grabbing onto the second rung, she shook her
head violently like a dog, spraying water everywhere. She laughed, and the ripping sound stopped as the wake behind
her silently formed a widening V.
Thin, with long wiry muscles, she climbed the stairs looking at the sea behind her. Her smallish breasts bounced
slightly and her stomach flattened and tightened as she rose.
Then she stood naked on the dock and seemed, above all, triumphant, like a predator reigning over the cove.
Another sound began, different from the one before; it was a type of etching noise but with a high pitch. The woman
turned to face the sound, her back to me now. I watched a single drop of water wind down her back, creating a glazed
stream that disappeared into the crease of her loins. Taking two large steps, she hurled herself up into the moonlight, gently spreading her arms and legs, her reflection gliding over the mirror of the sea. Landing in the water, she went down and then emerged, flying once again.
She sped away from me, the back of her head getting smaller and darker. She went to the edge of the cove, to the
start of the open sea, and then began a slow circle back, almost levitating on the water, and rocking ever so slightly. When the circle was completed, she came to rest near the ladder. A sigh escaped her lips as she rolled onto her back. And there she floated, nose pointing at the stars, tiny ripples lilting over her stomach…
I don’t know how long I stayed in the tunnel and watched the woman floating. Eventually, she climbed the stairs and
dried herself with the red towel. When she finished, she spoke to the water and, exposed and proud, walked back to
Then the cove was deserted, silent and calm. And now the bright, limpid moon dangled far away, over another portion of the Aegean Sea.”
— from The Last Island by David Hogan
Get it here: http://viewbook.at/thelastisland
November 27, 2014
From “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” by David Hogan:
“It’s because of this spark that Mary called her brother, Brendan, back to Boston just before Christmas when he’d have preferred to be with his own family. It’s because of this spark that Brendan is now gathering leaves on this grey and bitter December morning. Today will be their final gift as children, a Christmas gift of sorts, and there will be the leaves and an unknown woman and water and a window.”
Read or download GIFTS for free here
October 16, 2014
“I don’t understand these people trying to help animals when there’s so much human suffering in the world. Shouldn’t they be helping humans instead?”
I was asked this question at dinner the other day. One of the characters in my novel, The Last Island, is an animal rights activist. The questioner thought that her passion, like that of many other animal activists, was misplaced. I answered the question as best I could at the time, but after some thought I realized that my response was inadequate. I’ve since come to a new conclusion.
Simply put, the advocacy of animal rights is a matter of compassion. Compassion is a practice, not a resource. It’s not limited and can’t be depleted. Like any other practice — meditation, prayer, kindness, love – it’s something within which one can grow and improve. Given that, compassion for animals does not displace or re-direct compassion…
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September 8, 2014
About THE LAST ISLAND in a Greek American newspaper The Greek Star:
Novel Explores Themes of Redemption, Escape, Love, Our Flawed Nature
Playwright David Hogan offers an intriguing novel, “The Last Island,” based on a fictional Greek island in the Sporades. The Bostonian who lived in Athens for many years and has spent much time on the island of Skopelos, examines the human condition, our flawed nature, and more.
There, he witnessed the island change from a traditional fishing society into a modern, tourist-based economy.
“I wanted to capture something of that transition, what was lost, what was gained and the effect it had on the people, the animals, the island itself.”
“During that time, I was alternately mystified, amused, excited, frustrated, and delighted, as I would have been anywhere else, but in Greece, I think, those emotions were heightened. I can remember moments when I was swimming in the Aegean at sunset or standing on a mountaintop at dawn where the history and urgency and majesty of the place would course through me. At times, I can still feel it.”
Hogan’s protagonist – unnamed throughout the story – is any of us, an everyman struggling with regrets, searching for meaning, asking himself, ‘now what?’
“He’s as flawed as any of us. Perhaps the one thing that sets him apart is the level of his self-awareness when he recognizes who he is and what he’s capable of. This understanding comes to him abruptly and confrontationally. Most of us will never experience such a defining moment, but that’s one of many reasons to read novels.”
The protagonist flees his everyday life as a Boston fireman and heads to a Greek island. His grandmother was Greek, and he learned some of the language as a child. He seeks refuge there, where no one knows him, no one knows he can understand some language; he’s just another person. It’s the perfect place to get lost – to lose his former self and begin anew. But redemption is not so easy.
He finds work at a taverna. Immersed in island culture, he meets a mysterious stranger, named Kerryn, who teaches him much about life, getting back to basics, and also about protecting the environment.
Kerryn, like Hogan, is an environmentalist. She’s shedding all her possessions in an attempt to get back to a simple, more natural life, where man and nature live in complete harmony.
“She hasn’t found an answer yet, hasn’t quite found a new way of being, but she’s searching. I’d like to believe we all are.”
She befriends a dolphin, and risks her life to make sure the waters remain wildlife-friendly. Their growing friendship pulls him into her quest to save the island from losing its old ways, and ultimately, helping the dolphins.
Two unlikely beings, shedding their own pasts teach each other about life, love, and human nature. One has previously crossed ethical lines, while another does it currently. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? What if the end justifies the means? Is man more important than nature? Are the new ways better than the old? Have we made life too complicated, and if yes, can we return to simpler ways and times? Do we know what we are really capable of? Hogan’s adept storytelling makes us ponder our spiritual essence, and to reflect on who we are, where we have been and where we are going – and how things so different can really be so much alike.
“The Last Island” is a contemporary fiction bestseller at Amazon UK, reached Number 1 at Amazon Australia, and was a finalist for the San Diego Book Award. Hogan has recently completed a stage play and is currently working on a new novel.
August 8, 2014
A new review of David Hogan’s beautiful novel:” The Last Island delivers smoothly an unforgettable experience you won’t get anywhere else.” Full review here: http://thereaderandthechef.blogspot.ie/2014/08/book-review-last-island-by-david-hogan.html?m=1
August 7, 2014
Travel to Ireland, Indonesia and Greece with our books KILLARNEY BLUES, FRANCESCA and THE LAST ISLAND featured on www.TripFiction.com
July 23, 2014
David Hogan’s novel THE LAST ISLAND is #1 in Literary Fiction and in Contemporary Fiction on http://www.amazon.com.au!
May 19, 2014
Congratulations to David Hogan whose novel “‘The Last Island” is a Finalist in the San Diego Book Awards (Category: Published – Contemporary Fiction). The winners will be annouced on the 21st of June. Fingers crossed for David!
January 11, 2014
From Chapter 1
“Where you stayin’?” Martin asked me the next day at the taverna.
I told him about the tiny widow.
“She with Giannopoulos or Papakakis?”
“Hope she’s not with Papakakis.”
“You’re with Giannopoulos.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“Doesn’t matter, you are.”
I looked about the taverna and saw the fishermen as the intrepid, doomed warriors they were. Grown where planted, they were the opposite of me, with circumstances so alike that it seemed they could swap lives with one another – one boat, one house, one wife for another – and nothing much would change for anyone. I envied their rootedness and figured if they were Giannopoulos, whoever he was, that was good enough for me.
“Tell me about this Giannopoulos,” I said to Martin.
“He’s tryin’ to preserve the Reserve, but don’t be soddin’ your American brain with that now. Be findin’ about all that soon enough. Thing to be thinkin’ about is where you’re stayin’. Your flat doesn’t sound like much fun, ‘less there’s somethin’ about that little widow I’m missin’.”
“She gives me cookies,” I said, and noticing Martin’s sly smile, added. “The kind you eat.”
“Yeah, sure. But what about a sunny villa on the leeward side, replete with ocean views, full amenities, convenient to recreation and public transportation? Cheap, too, and with a subject of interest.”
“What’s a subject of interest?”
“Woman about your age. Australian and kind of pretty too, if you go for that kind of thing.”
“The kind-of-pretty kind of thing.”
“Yeah, sure. I do know where you be gettin’ your cookies.”
“– The land is owned by an Animal Society, or some group that was here a few years ago. They want to rent it out, make some money out of it, and that’s where you’d be comin’ in.”
I didn’t know what to make of this offer and thought it might be a joke. There seemed to be a trace of insincerity in everything Martin said, though that may have been nothing more that the Greek intonation he’d picked up, the slight upward inflection at the end of every sentence.
“Harry over there is the local real estate agent,” he said, “Far as I know, he’s listed every house that’s ever been for sale here, something which happens every couple decades or so. I’ll go talk to him.”
Harry was the fat fisherman who had been playing cards against Martin and Mr. Giorgos that first day. When he screamed at the one-armed man that first day, I’d figured him as impulsive and hot-tempered, and subsequently avoided him as best I could. But now as I watched him, it looked as if I might’ve gotten it wrong. He talked calmly with Martin, nodding his head and smiling with dingy, crooked teeth. They called the one-armed man over. The one-armed man also nodded his head as they talked to him, and then Martin returned to me.
“You’re in,” he said. “They just wanted to know what crime you’d committed, figurin’ you had to be on the run from somethin’.”
“What’d you tell them?”
“If I was CIA, why would I come here?”
“And the right one is?”
“Why wouldn’t you?”
As with so much else that Martin said, I found there was no real response. Martin was pleased with himself and squinted into the bright sun for a long time. “See the place?” he said eventually.
“Duty calls.” I said, gesturing to the fishermen, who were drinking and playing backgammon.
Martin looked about the taverna. “No duty here. They’ll take care of the place. What would they steal anyway? Where would they go? And what would they do when they got there? Besides, you work for me, and I order you to leave this taverna and go see the villa, or I’ll dock your wages.”
“I don’t make enough for it to matter.”
“Put a bottle of ouzo out and I’ll pay for it.”
When I opened the ouzo, Martin asked the fishermen to keep track of who drank how much and they laughed. Seconds later, I left the taverna with Martin and the two fishermen.
“Met these guys?” Martin asked as we walked down the dusty road.
I shook hands with both of them. Harry, the fat one, smiled at me with brown teeth, and Ari, the one armed man, twisted his left hand over to shake with my right. Then the four of us squeezed into a tiny, rusted Fiat. Martin and I stuffed ourselves into the back, our knees wedged against the front seats in such a way that our feet didn’t hit the floor. Martin winced as he pulled his scarred left knee into position but made no sound. Ari sat in the driver’s side and put the key into the ignition by looping his left arm through the wheel.
“En-ah,” Ari said.
From the passenger side, Harry shifted into first gear with his left hand. There was a pause before the car pulled away. As we started moving, a warm, dusty draft rose up from in the floor. I looked down between my feet and could see the road speeding by through the rusted, golf-ball sized holes in the floorboard.
“Thee-oh,” Ari said looking straight ahead. Harry pulled the stick shift back into second gear, and we followed the dusty road out of the village. The road thinned, and we headed through the flattened area to the other side of the village, the mountain hovering majestically to our right.
“Tree-ah,” Ari said.
Harry pushed the stick up, but the gears ground resistance. Harry looked wryly at Ari and pushed hard again. The gears screeched frightfully.
“Tree-ah, TREE-AH!” Ari screamed along with a stream of unintelligible words.
Harry took his hand off the gearshift and abruptly smacked Ari in the head. Ari screamed at him, reached his arm clear across his body and smacked Harry right back. But Harry was fast; he grabbed Ari’s arm and wouldn’t let go. Miraculously, Ari managed to stop the car just as Harry took his other free hand and slapped the defenseless Ari twice on the forehead. Ari tugged his arm back and got out of the car. Harry got out the other side. The fishermen yelled from opposite sides of the car. After a minute or two of rapid-fire Greek they got back in the car.
“En-ah,” Ari said quietly, “Thee-oh . . . Tree-ah . . . ”
We headed down the road, winding now, and then turned down a rocky, unpaved path lined by trees on both sides. The path thinned as we went. We stopped when the trees scraped the car on both sides simultaneously. About twenty yards ahead, the trees wrapped themselves into a dark tunnel with a single beam of light emerging through the small opening. Martin, Harry and I got out of the car. Ari waited behind.
Knocking the branches aside, we proceeded through the tunnel.
On the other side was a small cove that looked out at the open sea. In a semi-circle facing the water were two weather-beaten shacks. The cove was pretty and raw, a seemingly primitive and untamed place in spite of the two shacks. But the overall effect was neutral, neither inviting nor uninviting, with a shore that was more dirt than sand and stringy green weeds sprouting randomly. A wooden dock extended about thirty feet from the shore, and there was a ladder at the end of it which descended into water that was perfectly still and as blue as the cloudless sky. On the ladder rested a faded red towel, fluttering lightly in the breeze.
We walked to the shack on the left. Harry pushed open the front door to reveal a musty room with a bare bed frame and, against the wall, a stained mattress. There was a small window at eye level against one wall and a single fire-lit stove. It took me all of thirty seconds to see it. It seemed most suited for a monk, a place for prayer and seclusion, which might be just what I needed. But I played stoic and unimpressed.
“You call this a villa?” I said to Martin.
He smiled. “One man’s castle… as you Americans say.”
There was no running water, and the entire shack had the look as if somebody once considered living there, but thought better of it. Walking around, I listened as Martin and Harry talked. My Greek was better than they thought, and I understood most of what they were saying. I heard Harry ask if I could pay in dollars, and Martin replied that I could, though there was no way he could know that.
“Hundred dollars US, every month, in advance,” Martin said when we got back outside.
In Greek, I asked Harry about who lived in the other shack, to check if Martin had been truthful about this neighbor of mine.
A woman, Harry told me. He thought she was from Ireland.
“For feck’s sake, Harry, I’m from Ireland,” Martin said. “She’s from Australia.” Harry merely shrugged, one foreign country being the same as any other to him.
I walked out on the loose planks of the dock and fingered the red towel. A distant tanker glided by on the horizon, barely visible in the midday haze. I looked down past my feet at my reflection in the blue-green water beneath the dock and for a moment didn’t know it was me. My black hair was long and wild. Around my blue eyes, my skin had already turned a few shades darker. My hand ran up to my chin and lingered on the hardened stubble, not something I was used to. It ushered me back to smoother-cheeked days, and in a symptom of longing or arrested development, I strolled through the museum of my youth, gazing at the exhibit of an eager and mystified boy, barely recognizable as me…
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