From Under Dark Clouds: The story of a burnt-out British celebrity who, after scandal and disgrace runs away to a little village in Greece to seek asylum and get his head together. All he needs to do is keep his head down until the clouds blow over and on no account get elected!
I’ve been feeling a bit of a spare part lately and Socrates suggested I take some time off. The wife and kids are sunning themselves on one of the Greek islands while I have been kept very much in the dark here. Now that he has shed some light on the situation, I want to go more than I’ve ever wanted to go. More than I had wanted to come here in the first place. My legs are already running but I can’t move.
Jonesing for a Podium
I’m no stranger to attention, my previous career put me on a stage, in front of cameras and on front pages. When you learn the art of stand-up, the hardest part is the standing part. Audiences can be vicious; they demand you make them laugh or die trying. People always look to others for their happiness and my job was being one of those others. If you don’t give it to them, they will bring you down until they can dance on you. Now I am in politics but the same rules apply. Politics is like a groupie-shag, they expect to be fucked by a god then wake up to a man with bad breath.
One call from Athens has changed everything. The word is that the gods of government have had their breath smelt and the time is right for a vote of no confidence. When they lose, and they will, there will be elections and Socrates has been grooming me for a big seat. No more plodding around the Town Hall, we are going to stand for the top job and I can’t think of a single punchline. Maybe because I am the punchline.
“For Chrissake, Socrates! I’m not even Greek,” I thought this might be the right time to remind him.
“So. Rehhagel wasn’t either, when we won the European cup!”
“That was football and he was German!”
“This is politics and you are English.” He leaned back in my chair, behind my desk. “We like the English. We give gold sovereigns at weddings and bought nearly as much of London as the Russians!”
Aris walked into the room, touched me on the shoulder then withdrew when he realised the gravitas of the conversation.
“I’m a fucking comedian, Socrates!”
“Reagan was an actor.” He pondered, “He wasn’t very good, either.”
“Listen, Mr. Socrates, if he doesn’t want to do it.” He stepped into the space between me and my desk. “There may be other options.”
“Fuck off, Aris! You stick to your egg farm,” Socrates spat.
Fuck! Was no one taking this seriously?
I scooped my Vespa keys from the desk and left the office. Before I closed the door behind me, the well-assembled secretary caught my eye and pursed a smile. I reciprocated.
I truly intended to buy as much booze as I could carry and drink myself into another timezone, a time when this had all become irrelevant. When all the decisions had been made and I was no longer part of them. Trust me, I can do it. There are few things I can do well but that is top of my list. Maybe I should have called Dr. Alex but I couldn’t tell him about this, not until the news breaks. I wanted my wife.
I woke up in the middle of the night with a head full of broken glass. The empty bottle still in my hand. One bottle? I was getting soft. I could have seen the state I was in by the light of the open fridge but I was back in my body and it didn’t fit so well. Milk, Juice, coffee? I couldn’t decide each had their own healing properties. One of these days I’ll make a fortune selling orange milk with caffeine for suffering drunks. But I was still jonesing so I poured a scotch over a fist of ice and went onto the veranda to smoke. It took me ten minutes to roll the first and by that time the scotch was gone. I couldn’t have one without the other so went back in to splash the ice with a little more.
The sun rose red over the mountain or was that just my eyes. Pretty soon the glass had softened and I made a pot of coffee.
I passed the time reading some drivel on the Internet, some of it these very same blog entries. I’ve come a long way, haven’t I? Now I am on the verge of something meaningful, maybe even great and I crapped myself. I really am a hopeless sack of shit!
I started reading about the situation in this country from some of the news channels, I even read a whole bunch by Jude. He knew his shit. Then I moved to some of the financials, got my card and paid a subscription to the FT. I actually understood some of it. The currency indexes, the GDPs and budget deficits, the macros the micros, the balance of payments.
Looking at my watch, I judged it a good time to call the wife. I went for a shit, shave and hair-wash, I even brushed my teeth and put on some clean clothes.
Sitting at my laptop I hit the video-call button. She was sitting there in her bikini drinking her morning frappé. Christ, she looked good! I hadn’t seen her for a few days and already she looked like the only girl in the bar I wanted to talk to again. We exchanged goodmornings and how-are-yous. She teased me that a young guy had chatted her up on the beach yesterday and I wasn’t surprised if it was true. The boys ran past the camera shouting “Hello Daddy!” I think it’s been a month since I saw them awake.
She said I looked tired and I told her that was only the half of it. I needed to talk to her but I was loathed to break the moment. Funny, the closest we’ve been in months and it was via webcam.
“Listen,” I began. “You know how this place is going down the tubes?”
“Been going since I was a little girl and then some.” She was still smiling.
“Well, it’s coming to a head,” I said. “As far as politics is—”
She laughed out loud, out loud for Christ’s sake. I didn’t want to kill this moment. “They elected you, you dumbass! You are a symptom of how screwed this country is.” I was actually hurt and it must’ve shown because she retracted, “I know you’ve tried hard, sweetheart. But you are a fucking comedian and not a ve—”
“A guy in Athens says they are moving for a vote of no confidence, this means—”
“I know what it means!” she said.
“Of course. Well, that means that there’ll be elections soon, general elections. Like for the government and Prime Minister and—” There was no and but I didn’t want to stop talking. Her tension was creating a very nice cleavage. “Well, Socrates would like us. Well, me but us to go for it. Like to stand for—” Her cleavage was looking so good but I daren’t look any higher.”
The view from her camera toppled to show a stippled white ceiling.
“Christ! You dip-shit, fucking moron! I knew I shouldn’t have left you home alone!”
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