Here’s a little story I wrote for my writing class, inspired by an image of an old man. I hope you’re having a wonderful week, and I hope you enjoy the story. Don’t hesitate to let me know what you think! Happy reading 🙂
The disappearance of Angelika Leos is what brought me to a small Greek island five years ago. The way she had vanished without a trace had sent a chill down my spine. Admittedly, the paycheque also sweetened the deal. It’s not every day that you get assigned to a missing person case. I rented a motorboat, and though I didn’t quite know what I was looking for yet, I knew where I was headed – Angelika’s hometown. The sea was calm that day, but the sun beat relentlessly down and left me with a sunburn the size of Pangea across my shoulders. Only an hour into my trip, the engine made a noise like a clogged drain and sputtered to a halt. Just like that, I was trapped in the middle of the Mediterranean, near an island that I couldn’t pronounce, with a touch of heat stroke and a fatigue so great all I could think about was taking a nap.
I woke up to the sight of an old man standing over me. The shock nearly made me tip the boat. He was possibly the oldest man I had ever seen: lips puckered around a rancid smelling cigar, and wiry eyebrows covering a pair of swampy green eyes. I felt inexplicably jealous that he had managed to get such a rich tan, while I looked not unlike a cooked lobster. He nodded wordlessly and extended a calloused, hairy hand, which I took after a moment’s hesitation. In an instant, he tied my plastic boat to his and we sped away, skipping over the waves like a pebble.
The old man’s house was perched atop a hill, looking dainty as a bird’s nest and just as fragile. I noticed how nimble he was, as he tied up the boat and hauled the rental onto the shore. He looked up and said in broken English; “I fix… later.” I tried to tell him that he didn’t have to, that I would call for a water taxi, but he had already started up the hill, and so I followed.
The inside of his home had the feeling of an empty tavern – warm and inviting, yet strangely sad. The decor consisted mostly of fishing paraphernalia, and in the corner, an old dog that I’d mistaken for a brown rug snoozed away. I got the impression that the dog was his only friend. “I make tea,” he shouted from the kitchen. “You like peppermint?” No, as a matter of fact, I thought peppermint tea was repulsive. “Peppermint’s fine!” I lied, unable to will myself to argue with an old man. Alone in the living room, the warm tavern feeling had shifted. Something was off, though what it was, I didn’t know. I listened to the clanking of cookware, making sure that he was still occupied while I sifted through papers with the name “Nico L.” printed on them, which I guessed was the name of my rescuer. He shuffled back into the room before I had a chance to find anything substantial. My heart beat fast, and I was worried it might shut down like my boat’s engine had. I nodded thanks as I took the mug in my hands. We sat for a while, sipping our lukewarm tea, bound by a rope of silence. I watched him carefully. He looked constantly on the verge of crying as if he was replaying a sad memory in his mind. I couldn’t help but feel bad for him. He was nearing the end of his life, and his solitude was causing him grief. I looked at my lap, not quite knowing what to say. It was then that I saw, lying on the floor, those unmistakable green eyes looking back at me, contained in the prison of a photograph: Angelika Leos. My whole body stiffened. He noticed me staring. “Ah. You look for Angelika,” he croaked. I took a moment to breathe. Steady, heart, steady. “You… know her?” I stared at his creased brown face, which was twisting into a horrible grimace. “Nico,” I whispered. “What happened to her?” He got up and hobbled over to the window, looking down at the sea. “You are lucky,” he began, “that your boat did not sink.” he looked down. “I told my daughter before she left. They don’t make those boats like they used to.” Nico turned to face me then, and his stony expression had turned soft. The tears that I thought would fall never did. He wore the stoic look of a soldier, of a father, of a man that was done crying. “She never listened.”