'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.
|All Tax Arrears will be expunged|
It was on all the channels, all day. Scenes of flames licking at the clear night sky, filling it with grey smoke. Firefighters had the block surrounded, but if you asked me it didn’t look like they were putting their backs into it. The newsreaders seemed to be hiding their mirth, desperate to keep up the appearance of toeing the party line. Crowds were gathering like Beatles tickets had just gone on sale and the riot squad were tooled up and ready to extinguish any outbreaks of euphoria. The concrete block that housed the tax department was being purged, dear blogees and paper ash fell like snow at Christmas.
I pulled the door behind me to the sound of dinnerware colliding with the table and my shrilled name. I stopped in guilt seasoned with fear and a slice of chilling realisation. I unclunked the door and casually strolled back into the house with a smile that was the yang-opposite of the wife’s. I kissed her firmly on the mouth and told her I loved her and wouldn't be late (guilt). I necked a glass of wine sitting next to my dinner plate (fear) and grabbed the Vespa keys from the rack (realisation). Then I headed back to the door, trying to ignore the barrage that followed me, not because I am oversensitive but more because I found it quite difficult not to imagine some of the things the wife was suggesting. This one was actually giving me a backache. I peeked through a crack in the doorway and blew a kiss. A warm bread roll narrowly missed my eye.
Mike the IT guy was already downtown but weaving my Vespa through the crowds was not going to be easy. People were spilling onto the streets like it was one of those big football championships where we actually had a chance of winning.
Ground zero was inside a ring of police and armoured cars just waiting for things to get messy and Mike was inside. Walkie-talkies bibbled and squawked all around me. The air was thick with smoke, jubilation and testosterone. I parked the Vespa out of harms way in a little side street and looked for an unguarded alley to slip through. Nothing. Remembering that I was actually an elected official I bowled up to the cordon and offered my credentials, well I offered them but had forgotten to actually have them with me. The officer called for a superior. The superior looked me up and down and asked who I was.
“I'm the mayor of—” He looked me up and down again and ordered the subordinate officer to tell me to fuck off. He followed this order with fervour and I fucked off with my tail between my legs. Should have brought the wife.
It wasn't long before the problem was solved; Mike was ejected through a gap in the cordon. He fought off the heavy hand of the law while still managing to grip his phone to his ear.
“Fascist pigs!” in one direction. “Sweeet!” to the phone.
He saw me and ran with eyes like whirligigs.
“Quick, we gotta find a TV!”
We found one soon enough. Every cafe and bar with a big-screen TV had turned it onto the street. This was New Years Eve in the summer but there was no one was singing Auld Lang Syne. I ordered a couple of tax-free beers. Mike kept urging me to pay attention to the screen. Talking heads were soberly discussing the implications. They were not expecting any casualties. Of course! it was Saturday night and the nice people in the tax department wouldn’t dream of hanging around much after they pulled down the shutters on a queue still clutching unstamped forms on a Friday afternoon. The offices were in the middle of a run-down light-industrial area of the city, so homes were not in danger, that said, a couple of adjacent brothels had been evacuated which gave the news team some nice scenes of guilty Johns with shirts pulled over their heads and scantily-clad working girls spilling onto the smoke-filled street. The beer arrived and I ordered some chasers. Mike looked up from his phone and tugged my arm, nearly spilling the beers.
“Any second now,” he whispered.
A distance siren was echoed on the screen as the newscaster interrupted some blathering pundits to go to a live feed of police and firefighters panicking. Security services have gone to red alert as fire breaks out at two more regional tax collection offices!
Mike clinked my glass and smiled. “No more paper trail!”
I really should have understood what Mike meant by that but I was too busy trying to balance all the glasses I was holding. He started dancing a jig and the whole crowd joined in. The police were beginning to make their presence know and I must confess this made me nervous. My face had only just healed from the last time I enjoyed their hospitality. Mike was oblivious, dancing and singing. A chant had begun that made me particularly nervous.
Build a bonfire, Build a bonfire
Put the taxman on the top
Put the coppers in the middle
And burn the fucking lot!
I drained a couple of glasses which not only freed up my hands but eased my uneasiness. This was going to get ugly and I didn't have much beauty left to lose.
I was so frightened that my phone began to quiver in my pocket. Then I realised that it did that when someone was calling. I rested the remaining glass and retrieved the vibrating article from my pocket, the screen said it was Socrates; shit!
“I didn't do it!” I answered.
The voice on the other end paused and replied in a qualified tone. “I know, son.”