Πέμπτη, 1 Σεπτεμβρίου 2016

ΤΗΕ VOLUNTEER 1: THE ANNOUNCEMENT


Harry carefully opened the kitchen cupboard. It creaked the last few days making a creepy sound and he didn’t want to wake the others up in the house. Jonathan had promised to fix it but he still hadn’t done so. He took the tin can with the coffee. Damn, the coffee was nearly enough for his thermos. He had to remember to stop by the market in the morning after work and refill it.  He was very loyal to the golden rules of cohabitation but he really hated the sudden restocking. Sylvia was the backbone of organizing the house, like most of the females have inherent that capacity of running a house without making a fuss about it. Harry simply preferred to leave an envelope with his share for the bills and the grocery of the month. He lived in this house for two years and he felt a member of it by now. During the global crisis’ years, it was very common for families to rent their houses’ rooms to cope with the expenses and their maintenance. The law urged the families, therefore with more space to rent, to choose families respectively so the children have company to play with, couples to choose couples or singles, depending on the size of the houses. The good thing with this two-storey house was that he shared it with an elderly couple and two young twin brothers who lived upstairs. He had chosen it because it was not far away from the center of Bowieville and because the children of the family were grown-ups and lived far away. The best thing with the house was that everyone had their privacy. Its owners, Jonathan and Sylvia, spent their time in the garden at the back of the house and watching old movies at their schoolmate’s cinema downtown every Friday night. They were both retired English professors with a library full of books, open for the tenants of the house. Cooking was not Sylvia’s highlight, she was very nervous and hasty with everything, but her apple-pie was really something. Some Sunday mornings everybody gathered in the kitchen because they were driven there by the smell and they looked like schoolboys eagerly waiting for the pie to be cooked to taste the still hot first piece. The twin brothers from Japan, Tatsouo and Shigeru, always studied for exams or they secretly spent their weekends in the girls’ rooms at the university campus. At least, that is what Harry wanted to believe because they both were very smiley the next day. They looked very much alike but you could easily distinguish them by the height and Shigeru’s beard. He was taller and he tenderly caressed his beard all the time. Sylvia enthusiastically tried to learn new words in Japanese with her morning coffee which she would have forgotten by night time and that was their everyday game. 
Harry spent his evenings at work. He was a night watchman at Sierra, the big research center, that multi-storey glass building that could be seen from every part of the city. He poured the hot water in the paper filter with the coffee and watched it being sucked from the thermos. He tightly closed it and put in the special compartment of his backpack. He gazed abstractly the city lights from the kitchen window. When he first came to Bowieville, he stared as well the tall building of Sierra and he had visited it on his first week to ask if they were in need of night watchmen. His experience from his wanderings had taught him that the night watchmen were disposable and that knowledge had tremendously helped him when he was looking for odd jobs in the cities from which he had passed. He started the following day and two years had passed since then. He always preferred the night shift. The fewer colleagues he had to get in touch with, the better. He was accustomed to his loneliness and the unnecessary conversations with the crowd in the corridors and the elevators were not his best quality. He tied the laces of his sneakers and he locked the door behind him. First day of September and the heat was still intense, even at two o’ clock in the morning, when Harry would walk down Cave road to reach the metro station. Kevin’s bar was in the corner. He would visit it on his day off to have his black beer. The blinds were down and the door half open. They would wash the last glasses before they lock down the store and drag the big black garbage bags into the trash can. He always walked by the bar to take a quick look at Branca. She was that slender Portuguese waitress with the short hair who flirted him from his first night there. She now had the key of his room and he would often find her lying on his bed when he returned in the mornings from Sierra. He would just lay beside her and embrace her warm naked body and listen to her sweet - talking in her language in her sleep. When she happened to see him passing by on his way to the metro station, she would smile at him with her face glowing. The customers at the bar at this hour were few on the weekdays and sometimes she would even send him a kiss. Harry assumed that all the Mediterranean people carried a lot of sun within them and spread it around when talking or laughing. He could be wrong, though. 

Two in the morning. He always liked to walk around late at night, especially on weekdays when he didn’t meet many people in the streets and in the subway. It was his favourite time of the day to straighten up his thoughts. He had a routine in his daily life in which he felt safe. He felt good with himself after a long time, at least more carefree in this town with its microcosm and its people. One of the most sympathetic guys was the newsdealer outsider the Karthapark underground station. For Harry, a paper lover, this old man looked like a hero. Newspapers were now a useless product all over the world since everyone got informed electronically. There were only a few left who undertook the printing of thin newspapers, which they handed out for free, accepting no money, driven only by their love for paper and printed news. The news of course had a personal color and they were not synchronized with the events. They were usually articles and analyses occasioned by what had happened during the week. This whole procedure was an attempt to keep the old world alive. This particular old guy was at the same spot every week late at night and did his job without saying much. He would just greet his few familiar customers with an almost conspiratorial nod. He gave them the feeling that they belonged to a forgotten elite group of friends, to the last romantics of the post modern times. Harry truly appreciated these efforts and finding out if there were any newspapers in the cities that he had visited, was a key factor of whether he would spend some time there. The smell of the paper was a pleasure to which he would easily give in to. He also liked the writing style of this newsdealer with the white moustache and the smudgy, from the ink, fingers. He would absorb the thin newspaper in the subway on his way to the Sierra building and he would keep it in his backpack until his return to his room where he would put it in his special box, where they were all kept chronologically and geographically. Branca used to tease him not only for reading it but also for keeping it.
«Harry, come on, you look like a scavenger”, she complained. “ You don’t have that space in the room for this”. Harry would not be intimidated. Τhe newspapers formed something like a diary of his trail and his route. They were a part of him, no matter how much space they needed. 
When the newsdealer saw him approaching, he gave him the newspaper and said to him softly, as if someone was listening and that would disturb the order of things: “The winner of the competition on page 7”. Harry then remembered the announcement of the big contest about three months ago. “A big contest for the journey of your life”, according to the title that was almost hidden in the corner of the newspaper and could easily be overlooked. But Harry had seen it and was stimulated. A journey as a gift without the destination being specific. The only thing you had to do was to cut the coupon, fill in a few personal data and send it via mail to a post office box. He had done it. He went to the post office and dropped the coupon that had been creased in his pocket in the yellow box. He felt as if he was somehow obliged to do so, to help this man in this way who had found a sponsor for this and assumed that the newsdealer had received money for this ad, a small relief in his lonely effort. Time had passed and Harry had forgotten all about it until now. The dirty subway car stopped in front of him making too much noise. An old mechanical beast ready to die on the pier. He walked in, sat in his usual seat by the window with the graffiti and took a sip from his coffee. He opened the newspaper on page seven, for the first time disrupting the order of his reading, and there it was. On the upper right corner there was a small announcement in bold: “The winner of the contest is the tenant of block 37, apartment 205.Instructions will follow. Congratulations”. He was taken aback and he closed the newspaper. The winner was himself!


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