Sunday, January 1, 2012

M&R; Stan’s First

Stan’s left hand grasped the arsonist’s throat, pinning him to the ground. His sledge-like right continued to make hamburger out of the guy’s face. The servants shoved the other soldiers around. His maternally cook Nana cursed the officers for the soldier's stupidity. The maids cried and screamed. The end of a rifle barrel pressed itself into Stan’s cheekbone. He kept beating the offending soldier.

Out of the corner of his green eyes he saw his elderly butler thrown to the ground, his face pushed into the dirt and a pistol pointed at his head. It had been a practiced act. The soldier pinning him down was scarred, older then the fresh recruits being shoved by the servants, his face hardened by experience, to Stan's quick judgment a seasoned veteran from the recent war.

The fist stopped wailing and the index finger on Stan’s right hand pointed in accusation. Stan spoke out of habit in his father’s language. He accused in his mother’s and the soldier’s native tongue to no affect. He threatened in the Greek he’d learned in school; nothing. In his last attempt at civility Stan said, “Quos ego…”

One of the officers snapped to attention at that, kicked the soldier off the old man and helped the red-jacketed butler to his feet. Apparently, he’d studied Virgil in school also.

The day had started out as any other Stasinopoulos (Stan) Scamander spent at the family home. He owned a large estate by the banks of the river, fair with orchards, lawns and wheat-growing land. After an early breakfast served by Nana he headed downstream for his favorite swimming hole. He followed the sandy riverbank beneath the grassy fields and gnarled trees. He waved “Hello!” to one of the field hands releasing water from the irrigation channel above. The Kazdagi Valley still waited for him as it always had.

The Karamenderes still meandered towards the Hellespont. Tenant farmers above and below his home tended their fields already . A few light clouds specked the morning sky. His thick thighs and muscular legs carried him towards the high dirt embankment overlooking a stretch of deep water. A smile crept on to his face upon looking into the deep-eddying waters, as usual. He shucked out of his clothes and dove in.

Stan was an “oops” late in his father’s life and much younger than his siblings. If it were left up to him, he’d do nothing but, swim in the river, lie in the sun and sit in the shade with some sweet young thing. However, the death of his beloved parents and departure of his relatives had left all the family fortune and sizeable influence in his hands to tend. In addition, there was Nana to answer to. The family cook had been more of a guide, mentor, disciplinarian, and protector than his own lovely mother. While at home, business and Nana left the mornings to him. He had swum for sometime this morning before a wisp of smoke caught his attention. He’d turned mid-river to see smoke rising from his home. Unbelievably his impossibly wide shoulders could carry him upstream. He swam directly against the current to the closest point on the river to the billowing white smoke. The water was shallow there and mud too soft for walking. Stan glided through the water until it was inches deep, then bellowing like a bull, he shoved out on the dry land, and ran naked towards home. The military officers had come, hat-in-hand for an audience. While they waited for his return, their escort milled around outside the house. Nana had chastised one pimply-faced recruit for wandering into her kitchen in muddy boots. He impishly retaliated by knocking over the water she had boiling on the stove. It was a skillet of grease. The fire had just been knocked down when Stan arrived. The servants had to restrain him again when Nana told him the mosaic in the dining room had been damaged in the fire.

Stan cancelled his business trip to the capitol. His maternal grandfather was very understanding. The ministers who’d hoped for his assistance in propping up the government could wait. And the nouvex rich spawned by the war and consequent expulsion of the Greeks would be there to fawn over him another day. Stan stayed to oversee the repairs. The days began to return to normal. With the exception of the angry servants glaring at the soldiers, workmen scurrying out of sight whenever Stan was present and even higher-ranking officers dancing nervously about. A cloud of sullenness hung about the place like the lingering whiffs of smoke. Stan almost regretted returning home from his midday swim.

But, on the third day after the fire, he arose from the river and ascended the sharp embankment with some excitement. He hurried along the sandy trail towards home; dressed this time. The expert sent to restore the mosaic would be arriving midday. To Stan’s surprise, rather than the moody silence hovering over his home as of late, he heard Nana’s loud laughter and the modest tittering of the blushing maids. They’d set up a canvas just off the kitchen under which the expert could work. He stood at the door to the kitchen flirting with Nana, who kept insisting that he come in while he insisted on waiting for Stan. The man had the round head, olive skin and black short hair of his entire race. He, also had the national moustache, heavy eyebrows and perpetual five o’clock shadow. He was shorter than Stan, most men were, muscular and handsome with sky blues eyes and a dimpled chin. Atop his curly, ebony locks laid a stylish Fedora stained with plaster.

“Master Stan!” he called with a smile as he bowed and doffed his hat.

“Master Stan” was an expression used only by Nana and she beamed at the youth beside her. So Stan had to smile back. But, he was a little surprised at the man’s youth. They were about the same age; early twenties. Stan too had jet-black hair, but his was straight. He had a hairless body, surprisingly pale considering how much time he spent outdoors; a barrel chest, a square jaw and green eyes. His green eyes continued to look at the young man a little perplexed as Nana introduced him to “Timoleon”.

“You were expected someone older weren’t you?” he teased. “I’m a third generation restorer of roman mosaics, been doing this since I could follow my father and my uncles into their shop. Shall we go in?” Tim suggests.

Part of the plaster wall had been knocked down during the effort to stop the fire. Stan knew the entire mosaic would have to come down, so the wall could be repaired. The other workmen feared to help in that task. So it would be left up to Stan to help Tim remove it.

“Oh my God!” stumbled from Tim’s plump lips. “ I’ve seen this mosaic before at the Gaziantep Museum in Zeugma, er you know Seleucia. It’s an incredible copy.”

Neither Stan nor Nana corrected him. Tim peered closer . The right bottom portion of the wall had collapsed during the fire suppression but most of the mural was intact.

Before him sat the Titan Oceanus and his wife Tethys. The god was portrayed with a protruding forehead, shoulder-length hair and a long face. He was tan, with a long bulbous nose and high cheekbones. The protruding forehead came in handy since a pair of lobster claws sprouted from his forehead rather than horns. The goddess Tethys was as fair as any Slav from beyond the Northern border with fine white skin, long straight black hair, the round head typical of her nationality and eyes of a deep but clear light blue. Tim now stared harder at the wall.

“This must be an original by the same artist?” he said to himself with hesitation and self-doubt.” Neither Nana nor Stan corrected him. “How odd?” he mumbled before turning to Stan. He stopped, frozen as he stared into Stan’s deep, but clear light green eyes, fine white skin, shoulder length black hair, long face, long bulbous nose, rounded head and protruding forehead. Oh, Stan sported the dark national moustache. Tim began glancing between the art and Stan.

Nana laid a comforting hand on his forearm. “Stan’s father bought it due to its similarity with him and Stan’s mother Makbule.”

Stan and Tim spent the rest of the day carefully removing, arranging and cleaning the mosaic pieces. Nana stepped out of the kitchen several time to double check whenever she heard chuckles or loud laughter coming from the two men.

The next day Stan’s swim took a little longer than usual and in a hurry to arrive on time , once again swam directly to his normal diving spot, and threw himself up on the bank. He startled Tim.

The artist sat beneath a tree; shirtless and shoeless. In one hand a hardbound book in the other he’d just lifted a sandwich Nana had made. When he recovered from the shock, he glanced at his open book and then burst into a grin. He quoted from the open volume, then glanced at the ruins situated on a hill across the river.

Stan was shaking the river water out of his long black hair when Tim spoke. He stopped his head instantly, “You are reading The Iliad in the original language?”

Tim laughed and told about his attempt at college to learn Ancient Greek as Stan dressed and then accompanied him home

“I was thinking you should stay for dinner.”

An invitation that was a big shock to Nana and the staff.

That began their routine after that. Tim,after working all morning on the mosaic, would walk to the river to fetch Stan for lunch. After which the two young men worked on the mosaic all afternoon. Stan who had never entertained informally, proved a gracious host. Eventually Tim moved into a guest room and even rose early some morning to join Stan and Nana for breakfast. One day the mosaic was repaired and in place. After a splendid dinner for the officers and workmen involved in the repairs, Stan and Tim shook hands and parted ways.

The next day Stan stumbled down for breakfast and listened to Nana chirp away as she flitted about the kitchen. Stan strolled the sandy bank beside the gliding stream just like every morning of his life. He dove into the deep stretch beneath the ancient ruins and swam as he always had. Close to lunchtime he glided to the shore and bellowing like a bull, he shoved out on dry land. He rose from the water smiling. It was not that his smiled faded, just waned for a moment. He strolled home beneath the cottony clouds and between the swaying fields of wheat. Nana stood by the door of her (new) kitchen as she always had. Stan noticed the missing tarp. She lead him to the family dining room beneath the (like new) mosaic. She’d made his favorite lunch. He smiled wider at her in thanks and began to eat silently.

“Miss your friend?”

Stan wiped his lips with a napkin, before asking, “Who?”

“Your friend Master Stan.” Nana asked quietly indicating with a node the place where Tim had sat.

Stan’s deep, clear, light, green eyes stared quizzically at his foster mother. He glanced at the empty chair and then thought for some time. The concept of “friend” had never crossed his mind before. He looked again at the empty chair in the heart of his home. He smiled wide and nodded his head enthusiastically as he returned to eating.

Nana knew that her charge was finally going to start working on filling those empty chairs around the table.

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