“You fucking deserve it.” Jake smiled at George. The sun smashed onto the sharp waves of the Mediterranean and scattered into a thousand glinting shards. It was so, so hot but they were safe under the canopies of the restaurant. The question which Jake was so resolutely putting to bed was whether they should broach a brave fourth bottle of retsina. George, his face red from the heat and the wine, gurgled with pleasure like a baby.
They would, I suppose, have made a slightly odd couple elsewhere but this cliff top restaurant above the harbour was used to all forms of strange and mismatched British tourists, peeling in the sun and drinking too much. In fact, with their blotchy red skins and loud voices, they began, curiously, to all look the same. The waiters paid them no real heed, concerned only to ensure that the service was sufficiently average to ensure a tip.
“We deserve it.” George waved his glass around in a vague triumphant circle.
“Are you,” Jake sipped a glass of water, “much of a classical scholar?”
George was leaning back in his chair to give added room for his swollen belly, his head tilted back, like a fish gasping for air. He moved only his eyes, rolling them to his right to regard Jake with confusion.
“You fucking what?” Four courses of sea food had not dulled his conversational gambits.
“No. I thought not, you ignorant oaf”
George roused himself with some difficulty, Jake shot a hand out to rest on his companion’s large forearm, “Jokes, mate, take it easy.” His smile as brilliant as the sun.
“This island is almost certainly on Odysseus’s route home.” In response to the older man’s blank stare, “You know, the Trojan Horse? Beware Greeks bearing gifts? Mind you quite how you reconcile that with not looking a gift horse in the mouth is beyond me.”
“You fucking what?” George never tired of this particular bon mot.
George settled himself back into his distended comfort. “Why isn’t Alec here?”
“He can’t stand the sight of you. No, mate, no, more jokes. He is really sorry, and really grateful to you. But you know what he’s like. Busy busy.” Jake’s smile had somewhere underneath it, far away, a very sharp line. “But a job well done, George, a job well done.”
“Let’s get the bill shall we? Did you check out of the hotel – what name did you use?” George felt the need to take a stroll in the early evening air. His head was feeling the effects.
“Oh” Jake smiled, “A nobody’s.”
George grunted his approval as he levered himself out of the chair and tottered to the door. The pebbly path from the restaurant to the village wound along and down the cliffs. The view out across the sea at sunset was transfixing.
Jake stood at the first turn of the treacherous path, watching as the ripples from George’s entry spread, as the sound of his scream faded.