Friday, September 05, 2014

Vendetta



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Sparta, Peloponnese, Greece

11th of July 2006

Only days. It has only been four days since I last saw their smile. I know they are behind this. Our family ravaged, gone.

The Venetians held the Mani peninsula for centuries, this arid dry land.
My grandfather used to say: the only thing that grows here, is stones. They held this land just to prevent our ancestors from pirating their ships. And today Italians think they brough us the notion of Vendetta. Heh. As though we needed them to teach us to kill each other in a land so devoid of everything that removing a person meant one less mouth to feed. I caress my grandkid’s hair. He is the last Liakogkonas apart from me. He is named like me. Lefteris Liakogkonas. Like my grandfather before me, too. The vendetta with the Christeas family has run since before his time, but I do not know if the names of my kin were the same back then.

A vendetta is not something you casually walk into. Rather, you are born into it. Your parents are farmers wetting the land with their sweat day in, day out. You hear tales of cousins and grandparents dead by the filthy Christeas family. Then, one day, your father does not come home, and you learn that on that day, the Christeas family chose to make your father wet the land with his own blood.


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Your mother swears revenge, and, armed with an antique “Carlo e figli” shotgun, kills four of the Christeas before she gets killed by their dogs.

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You get spirited away by your grandmother, change your family name, grow up in even poorer conditions. You grow up, fall in love. You have kids, and are scared for them. You stop sleeping at night, jumping at random sounds, seeing hounds at every shadowy corner in your town. You make your fortifications, your plans, and life goes on.

You relax after some years. Your kid grows older, she has kids of her own. One of your grandkids goes to Athens, the capital, to study.

Your wife, your daughter and your son-in-law go to Athens to see her on her graduation day. You stay back to take care of the house and Lefteris. You teach him how to shoot a hunting rifle, you tell him of your life and how the vendetta almost ruined everything. Then, that night you learn that your wife, your daughter, your son-in-law, your precious granddaughter, Martha, all of them are no more.

And you know. You know that you did not choose the Vendetta. You were born in it.

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Githio, Mani Peninsula, Peloponnese, Greece.
6th of September 2006

There are, I know, few ways to end a vendetta. The price of blood has to be paid. In the end a family disappears. We were informed, my grandson and I, that a car accident was the cause of the death of everyone we ever loved.

Now, the night already shrouding us, we have arrived at the house where lives Giannis Christeas. The last of the Christeas. He never got any kids, I learned. We have thrown some spiked meat in the garden to eliminate his german shepherd dogs.

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My mother’s scattered shot costed him his family and his fertility. I gave a weapon to my grandson, and told him to go through the back door. His hair is like my daughter’s. He is so young. For a moment I hesitate. The shadow of Christeas in the front room brings that to an end.

The man I see before me is probably younger than me in years, but he seems very tired. His front door is unlocked, and he is sitting at the table in an austere living room. On the table, next to a discarded meal, is a chess board. Only three pieces remain upon it.

He looks up to me. He seems more tired than surprised. His voice is slightly higher than I expected it to be.

“Welcome, Lefteri. I was deeply saddened to hear about your loss.”

I see red.

“Bastard! You did it. You did it!”. I have problems speaking. The weapon in my hands shakes, the confirmation of my almost certainty still filling me with wrath.

He stays silent for a bit while I gather my hate. I want to kill him but that will not be enough.

“Why don’t you call your grandson in? he can keep an eye on me while you torture me.”

“Shut up”, I bark.

Moment’s later however, I follow his advice and call out to my grandson: “Lefteri, come inside. And you, Christea, don’t move or I will shoot your face off” I tell him as he went to move the pieces on the board.

He smiled that hateful smile of his, and I am seething with anger. My grandson comes in. I motion him closer to me.

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“Take the handcuffs off my pocket and tie him to his chair, Lefteri”

His face is hard set and he obediently grabs the handcuffs.

Christeas extends his hands to him, for Lefteris to cuff him.

“You know, in chess, the situation I am in, is an untenable situation. You are going to move up, torture me and then kill me. I should have taken my own life, but I waited for you. From the day your family died, I feared you would come.”

It happens too fast for me to understand, too fast to react. Had my judgement not been clouded by rage, I would not have let this happen, but my rage turns into bowels-churning, heart-aching stress when Christeas grabs my grandson, lifts him up and places him in front of himself, a shield between us, his hand around Lefteris’ neck.

“Or rather, Lefteri, I feared you would not come. See, life is not exactly a chess game. Winning and losing are a bit different here.” His grip on my grandson’s neck intensifies. I am stunned:

“Don’t! Stop! You are choking him, don’t, please, mercy I…” I plead, lowering my gun, extending my open hand in front of me towards him.

“See, I do not care about winning. I will let you win. You can kill me.” Lefteris’ eyes are bulging in their sockets, his face red, swollen. He thrashes. I drop the weapon and explode towards them, punch Christeas and hold my grandson in my hands, trying to help him. I already know.

His windpipe is crushed. I see him still panicking, his thrashing intensifying and then slowly, painfully subsiding while he is in my hands. His lifeless eyes stare at me and I wish my head would snap, that I would go crazy, that I would feel anger, wrath, anything.

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While I am in my state of muted shock, Christeas moves behind me and gathers the weapon.

“And now, you can rule on an empty chessboard” he sais, putting the barrel of the gun in his mouth and killing himself.

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