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Something Is Dying (standard:drama, 1442 words)
Author: Charles RudolphAdded: Mar 15 2004Views/Reads: 2096/1353Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
An incident on a Greek island evokes generational and cultural conflict.

Click here to read the first 75 lines of the story

The woman shrugged. “We are good travelers. The puppy might be a little
difficult, but we will manage.” 

“How will you get to Copenahgen?” Clare asked. 

“The ferry will arrive at Piraeus at five in the morning. Then we will
take a bus to the Athens airport and be in Copenhagen by evening.” She 
shrugged again. “We’ve done it before. Not with the dog, of course.” 

“Might have been easier to get a dog in Copenhagen,” Harry said. 

The woman lifted her chin with a hint of defiance. “We had no plans for
getting a dog until this one attached itself to Anna, my daughter. And 
it was homeless. We all felt right with each other.” She ran her 
fingers around the puppy’s neck. “You are American?” 

“I am.” Harry nodded at Clare. “She’s English.” 

“Do you both enjoy Greece?” 

“Love it,” Clare said. 

“Yes, the remote islands like Koufanissia are still nice.” The woman
smiled softly. 

“Exactly where is Koufanissia?” Clare asked. 

“To the south, between Naxos and Amorgos. It is still not developed. No
hotels, two tavernas, one decent beach. We found a cove and had it all 
to ourselves.” 

“How adventurous you are.” Clare was intrigued. “And with the dog!” 

“Yes, of course, always with the dog.” The woman raised her eyebrows. 

“Actually, one time it became a little too adventurous. I had Anna sit
on the pebbles while I swam near some rocks. A small octopus seized my 
face and its tentacles covered my nose and mouth so I could not 
breathe. I almost panicked as I struggled to remove it, finally gasping 
for air. My mind was filled with the terror of Anna being abandoned as 
I drowned!” She shuddered. “Still, we found Koufanissia to be 
beautiful, very quiet and lonely. But the other islands, like this one, 
are getting to be more like Europe. We came here to Naxos only to get 
the ferry to Piraeus.” 

She gave Clare a sad look. “Europe is dying.” 

Harry thought about the financial pages of The International Herald
Tribune that he had scanned a few hours before. “I wouldn’t say that.” 

“It is true,” the woman said. 

“Why do you think so?” Clare asked. 

“You feel it. You feel it everywhere.” 

Harry studied the woman’s face. Another damned free spirit, more of that
lingering Sixties residue he despised. She was probably approaching 
forty – his daughter Margo’s age. He felt the old twist in his stomach, 
the image again of Margo giving him the finger, telling him to fuck 
off, then his leaping at her, holding her neck against the wall with 
Helen, his last wife, screaming for God’s sake to let her go ... 

He hadn’t seen Margo now for eight years – only the occasional call from
somewhere in northern California, desperate for money.  Yet the woman’s 
powerful blue eyes held him, and he admired the bulges of her breasts, 
the curves of her lean calves, and the long toes at the edges of her 
worn sandals. 

“The Europeans,” she said, “are ruining these islands the way they
ruined Portugal and Spain. Now, all around, you hear the terrible cell 
phones ringing.” 

“I’d say that cellular phones are evidence of higher living standards,”
Harry said. “Probably a result of Greece’s membership in the EU.” 

The woman gave a harsh laugh. “I don’t believe that. The Danish people,
you know, voted against the common currency, one of the EU’s so-called 
‘improvements,’ but still the bureaucrats will force us to conform. Now 
everything comes from Brussels.” She paused. “I tell you. Europe is 
really dying.” 

“Can you provide some tangible evidence?” Harry asked, hearing in his
voice an echo of the old arguments with Margo. 

“Not really. You just feel it. Something is dying. It’s the loss of old
beauty. The loss of the old differences between people and places. The 
loss of caring and kindness.” 

“Kindness?” Harry snickered. “Like the death camps?” 

The woman stared at him. “That’s not what I mean. You know that’s not
what I mean.” 

“Where would you rather live?” Clare asked quietly. 

The woman thought a moment. “New Zealand. We might go to New Zealand.
Things there are still green and slow.” 

“Very slow,” Harry said. “When you land, set your watch back fifty

“I would love to.” 

After a silence, the woman turned to Clare. “I am thirty-eight years
old. I can still live wherever I wish, however I wish.” 

“Of course,” Clare smiled. “You seem to be a strong person.” 

“I want only what is best for Anna.” She looked down at the child. “Now
I must wake her.” 

The woman stood up, revealing her full statuesque height, motioning with
the bill for Marta who came quickly. The woman paid it. Then she set 
about getting her backpack in place, placing the canvas bag on the 
lower level of the stroller, gently touching Anna’s cheek, all the 
while holding the dog’s leash. “Goodbye,” she said to Clare. “Enjoy the 
Greek islands – while they last.” 

Off she went, pushing the stroller into the shadows beyond Thoma’s

Clare watched her leave. “She may be right, you know.” 

“About what?” 

“Europe dying.” 

“Rubbish. What’s really dying is the damned counterculture that
destroyed her generation.” 

“But you’ll have to grant that she certainly is a strong woman.” 

Clare had a wistful smile. “A lot stronger than most of us.” 

Harry finished his glass of wine and twisted the stem. “All right, I’ll
grant you that. A hell of a woman.” He reached for Clare’s hand. “But I 
like your kind better. A lot better.” 


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