Friday, 29 August 2014

Episode 16: A place in the sun and a roof over your head



from under dark clouds
From Under Dark Clouds

From Under Dark Clouds

'From Under Dark Clouds...' is a Gonzo fictionalisation of current events in Greece as seen through the eyes of our unnamed hero as he fumbles from paranoia to public office, under the mentorage of the shady Socrates.

Each episode is based on real events. Readers are invited to share their experiences for the Under Dark Clouds treatment. Many have been included in cameo roles, can you spot them?




See link below for contributions

I sat at my desk, willing myself to drink the coffee Mike the IT guy had made me; how it is possible to screw up instant coffee. The grumbling and complaints had emptied from the offices and the town hall had survived another day, barely. I stared at the cold hard truth in front of me willing it to change but like the coffee it remained bitter. Dear Blogees, we were in dire straits and I don’t mean the 80s soft-rock combo.

basement
Home sweet home
What I had found in the basement pained my soul. Camp beds, mattresses and blankets on the floor with suitcases and gym bags for wardrobes. Half of my staff had taken up residence in the town hall. I called a meeting, the second of the day, it’s what mayors do. This time it wasn't round the cobbled tables in the conference room but in the back room of the Symposium taverna. They were cleaning up after the lunchtime service, such that it had been and Kostas, the owner was overjoyed to see such a big group of diners until I told him that this would be his treat. He writhed and wriggled in pain but I pointed out the favours he owed me. He gawped in disbelief. I told him I had averted a visit from the fire service about his safety licence for him, which may have been true.    

There were 12 or 13 of us round the connected tables, most were singles apart from Niki and Alex, a couple in their early 30s who both worked in the offices and Despina, a recently divorced lady who had her 11 year old boy with her. The salads and chips arrived and Despina’s boy dug in greedily.     

Mike, the IT guy had been the first to move into the Town hall Plaza after being evicted by his landlady with 6 months arrears. One by one, I went around the table; evictions, loan foreclosures, bereavement, divorce. Tasos the janitor had followed after some protracted bureaucracy with his pension. “You’ve retired, Tasos?”  He shrugged his shoulders and looked at the floor. “So why do you come in to work every day?”  He mumbled that he had nothing else to do and besides he was with friends. Many around the table averted their gaze and pursed; no, I hadn't thought him a popular man either. The one factor that they all had in common was that the council hadn't paid them properly for almost a year.

“THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS!” I leaped to my feet some moments after the information had been processed, “and who is responsible for this shameful situation?” The table went quiet apart from the slurps and lip smacks of Despina’s son who was still grazing the table clean.

“Well,” began Mike, the IT guy. “That would be the Mayor, Sir, Mr. Mayor.”

I smiled and reached for my mobile. “We’ll get this sorted out in a jiffy!” I called the well-assembled secretary as she always seemed to know the answers.
She took a good time before answering, “Yes, Sir.”

“Listen, we have this huge misunderstanding but it appears that some of the staff haven’t been paid for ages and well,” the line seemed to go quiet and then I heard a conversation in the background. “are you there?” I heard the bleeping of a supermarket checkout. “Are you busy?” She replied that she was at the supermarket. “I’ll call when you’re finished. When will that be?”

“About 9.30, tonight.”

She called me back 20 minutes later and explained that no one had been paid properly, something that she had told me before, but that there were nowhere near the funds to pay everyone, which she had also told me before. How the fuck was I supposed to remember all these details, being the Mayor is tougher than it looks.  But, she would have a look at the books the next day to see what could be done and that she had to get back to her checkout.

drunk again
Just letting the food digest
I slumped in my chair at a loss for what to do. I couldn't pay these people and I couldn't have them living in the basement, or could I? NO, I couldn't. I ordered industrial grade retsina for everyone and drank most of it.

The room was empty and the lights had been dimmed when I woke. Retsina is a sneaky bastard; it slips down like rain water then switches off power at the mains, without any warning. The cleaner, who was just finishing the dishes after evening service, made me a sit-up-and-beg cup of coffee and soon I was out in the night air looking for where I had left the Vespa.

After about 20 minutes I still hadn't found the Vespa but I did bump into an apartment building, and that isn't figuratively, for rent. I remembered it from another trip round the town and I also remembered who owned it. Oh, and I also remembered that my Vespa was parked right outside the town hall.

The next morning I arrived a little late into the office, the offices had already begun to fill with grumble and complaint. Soon I was sat at my desk, willing myself to drink the coffee Mike the IT guy had made me; how it is possible to screw up instant coffee but practice makes perfect and the well-assembled secretary was occupied with something on the PC and far too busy ignoring me.       

When the coffee kicked in I made a sweep of all the offices throwing all the grumblers and complainers out of the front door and locked it. Then, I called a meeting, that’s what mayors do, after all.
We assembled in the lobby.
“ladies and gentlemen, I have a plan." I had expected rapture but what I got was muted groans and shuffling. “When we shut up this afternoon, I want you all to go down to the basement and get your belongings and meet me here.” This caused some confusion. I had forgotten that not everyone was living down there. They were a hard audience and I was visibly floundering, “Trust me.”

I then sent them back off to their offices and opened the doors. As the punters took their grumbles back to the appropriate departments I heard one say, “Well, I didn't fucking vote for him!”

After the days play, all the residents of the Town hall plaza had gathered in the lobby and I entered through the main doors looking a little shabbier than usual but with a huge smile and a clear head. Despina’s boy had returned from school and was the first to approach me, “I'm hungry.” I patted his head and ushered the rest to follow me.

despina's boy
where's the buffet?
We eventually arrived outside the apartment building that belonged to the previous mayor that now wore a huge hand-painted banner greeting ‘Welcome home’. Inside I allocated a room for each of the ex-transients. I flicked a light switch with pride and the room was illuminated, Tasos had hijacked a live power line. Some of the apartments had hot water from solar panels on the roof and Mike had even managed to get Wi-Fi from somewhere. The furniture had been found around the building, left by previously evicted tenants, the rest were futons made from pallets and some clothes racks from a fashion store that had closed down in the high street.


Despina approached with misty eyes and hugged me. Her son said one word, “Souvlaki?”          








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