Summertime in Lindos
    Valerie Polichar
She was standing on the east side of the Mediterranean when the war broke out. The hotel bar had long since closed and a tour bus was making its long, slow climb up to the Akropolis of Lindos for the night show. She was almost alone on the beach and she heard the sirens very soft, far away, like a fog horn. On the far shores of the mainland she could see lights beginning to go on.

At the other end of the hotel's fenced-off section of shoreline, the German couple from the suite next door was getting up and dusting off sand. "Halloo," Marilyn called down to them. "You heard the sirens?"

The woman wiped wet strands of hair from her chunky face as she approached. "Ya, I heard," she said. "It is all the time, here." She looked pointedly at her husband and said a few words, quickly, in German. He nodded and began to run back along the sand. "I have forgotten the bag," she said to Marilyn with a smile. "Every day I forget it now! I think he would kill me, you know?" She laughed broadly.

"The sirens," Marilyn repeated. "You heard them? They're fighting over there!" She thrust a frantic arm out towards the water, but the woman just shook her head.

"It is all the time, here." Her husband ran up, panting; she took her purse from him and they turned back towards the hotel. "We will maybe be here a while longer, perhaps. Good evening," she said, kindly.

Marilyn didn't answer, just stood staring at their backs until they disappeared into the lit lobby. In the dim light she could just make out her toes, half-brown with sand. The water was a puzzle of moonlight and murk; she squinted hard and looked for boats, but there was no way to be sure.

Jerry would be in the room by now, she thought, ordering bad Greek wine and olives, hoping he could pass for a native Athenian vacationing in the islands. He thought they didn't know he poured the retsina down the sink a minute after they left. It lived up to its name: retsina for resin, like bitter tree sap. The olives were salty and tasted like the ocean; Jerry would save her a few, she thought, if she went up soon. Otherwise he'd give up and eat them himself. It was hard to worry Jerry; he wouldn't even wonder why she was gone, just solemnly sit and eat olives and watch Greek newscasts on the tiny black-and-white TV. She stared out over the water.

"Halloo there!" She turned, startled, and saw the German woman waving merrily from her room on the second floor. "You are sleeping on the sand? It is cold!" The words floated blurrily down. Marilyn waved back.

"No, I'm coming in soon," she yelled. The war is coming, she wanted to call, run, we have to hide, something, there's war on the mainland. She forced a grin, turned back towards the sea. The woman laughed and shut the window with a bang.

Marilyn dragged her toe through the wet sand one last time and decided to go in; there was nothing for her out here but the water and the faint noises on the far shore. She pushed open the lobby door with effort, dragging her muddy feet on the carpet. The night girl eyed her curiously.

"You heard," Marilyn asked, slowly, "the sirens?"

"Yes, I heard."

"The war," said Marilyn. "It is the war, isn't it?"

"It's the war." The girl picked up a magazine and began flipping pages.

"But -- " Marilyn said, helplessly. "What should we do?"

"It is always the war," said the girl. "What do you want to do?"

The elevator creaked up to the second floor and settled with a bump. She hurried out into the hall and found herself running towards the suite, glancing over her shoulder now and then. Not knowing quite what she was running from, she fumbled the keys out of her skirt pocket and jittered the door open, locking it behind her. Jerry sat in the middle of the warm room, staring at the television. The sound was off; fuzzy figures moved back and forth. "Hi, kid," he said without turning around.

She dropped her keys on the carpet and walked over to him, taking small steps. He looked at her, finally, and grabbed her hands.

"Mar, you're shaking, baby, what's wrong? Did anything happen? Did one of those goddamn Greek bastards try to talk you up?" She pulled away, shook her head. "Baby, what's wrong? Talk to me, hey?"

"Are there any olives left?" she asked.

"On the counter, I think. Unless I ate them all. Hey, you okay or what?"

She found the olives, carried the plate over to the bed and sat down. "I'm all right. -- Did you hear the sirens?"

"Sirens? Like police sirens? No."

"No, the public sirens, the loudspeakers. You know. Across the water."

"Dunno what you mean, baby. But no, I didn't hear anything. Something wrong?" But even as he asked, his eyes were turning back to the television set.

Marilyn waited a moment. Jerry's fingers drummed against his knee. An attractive young woman appeared on the screen and a slight smile spread over his face.

Marilyn reached a stiff hand out, took a few olives. She ate them mechanically, one at a time, putting the pits over on one side of the dish. "No, nothing wrong. I just wondered if you heard them."

Through the window she could still see the lights on the far shore. They were brighter than before; she knew some of them were fire. She felt herself beginning to glaze over, like an old photograph. Her gaze wandered to the television, where muffled figures waved brightly from limousines, and back to her plate, where the pile of mud-brown olive pits grew slowly larger.

Valerie Polichar has published poetry, fiction and nonfiction in a variety of journals and trade magazines, including South Dakota Review, Bridge Magazine (upcoming), and Futures Mysterious Anthology. She has published a chapter in a book on distance learning, and is currently trying to find an agent for her first mystery novel.


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