Read YANNIS (Cretan Saga Book 1) Online

Authors: Beryl Darby

Tags: #Fiction

YANNIS (Cretan Saga Book 1) (5 page)

BOOK: YANNIS (Cretan Saga Book 1)
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‘Do you often eat lobster?’ he asked hopefully.

Yiorgo shook his head. ‘I often catch them, but they sell for a good price. This was a treat for Elena’s birthday.’

Elena smiled happily. Yiorgo never forgot either her name day or birthday.

When Yannis awoke the next morning he had mixed feelings as he washed and dressed ready for school. He walked between Annita and Andreas feeling conspicuous. Every child who greeted them looked at him curiously and once in the playground Annita began to introduce him to her classmates. There was a note of pride in her voice as she told them Yannis was her cousin, but the children seemed unimpressed.

‘Where have you come from?’ asked a plump, rather foolish looking boy.

‘Plaka,’ answered Yannis, and was about to explain where the village was when the boy stuck out his tongue and waggled his fingers above his head.

‘Village boy! Village boy! Looks like a donkey!’

‘Take no notice of him,’ said Annita, taking Yannis’s arm. ‘He’s not as clever as a donkey.’

A bell rang from inside the building and the children began to enter. Yannis followed Annita to a room where a young man was busily writing on a blackboard.

‘Good morning, sir. I’ve brought my cousin, Yannis.’

The man turned and flicked back the lock of dark hair that hung down over his eyes. He wiped his hand down his black trousers, leaving white streaks, then extended his hand to Yannis.

‘How do you do?’ he asked politely and not waiting for Yannis to answer he continued. ‘I’ve had a letter from your teacher at Plaka. He seems to think you have some promise. We’ll see. I’ll put you next to your cousin for a few days until you find your feet. I shall expect you to work hard. I won’t waste my time on lazy boys. Ask me if you don’t understand, now, take your seat and don’t talk.’

‘Yes, sir.’ Yannis followed Annita to a spare desk and chair.

‘Here you are,’ she said, pushing pen, pencil and ruler towards him. ‘Mr Pavlakis will give you any paper or book that you need.’

‘Shh,’ said Yannis.

Annita laughed. Mr Pavlakis had already turned back to the blackboard ignoring the children who were noisily entering the room. ‘He always tells us not to talk.’

Gradually the children settled and Mr Pavlakis turned to face them. ‘Now don’t talk,’ he said, flicking back the offending lock of hair. ‘We have a new boy with us, Yannis Christoforakis, Annita’s cousin. Make him feel welcome, please. Now, turn to page fifty six of your Homer,’ he passed a book to Yannis, ‘And Yannis will read for us.’

Yannis was pleased. He had borrowed a copy of the book from Father Theodorakis and thoroughly enjoyed reading about the siege of Troy. Yannis read fluently and with expression.

‘You’ve read this before, I think?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Then you can answer some questions for me.’

To Yannis the questions were simple, the answers to all of them being found in the text he had just read.

Mr Pavlakis pushed back his hair and looked at Yannis speculatively. ‘Now, no talking. Mental arithmetic.’ As he spoke he was passing out sheets of paper. ‘Name on the top. No cheating.’ For the next fifteen minutes he reeled off subtraction, addition, multiplication and division. Yannis found it difficult to keep up and was relieved when the teacher stopped and asked for the papers.

‘Now, no talking. Whilst I mark them you can draw a map of Africa.’ Mr Pavlakis marked Yannis’s arithmetic paper first and was pleasantly surprised. The boy had done well. Nearly all right. At the sight of the blank sheet of paper Yannis handed to him later he raised his eyebrows.

Yannis flushed and wriggled uncomfortably. ‘I didn’t know the shape, sir.’

The class tittered and Mr Pavlakis frowned. ‘Everyone else seems to know all about the country. Let’s make sure.’ He fired questions at the children, which they struggled to answer. ‘Not quite as clever as you all thought,’ observed the teacher. He made a quick note on his pad. ‘Come to me after school, Yannis. You have some catching up to do in that area.’

Yannis felt most embarrassed and hoped he would not be asked to do other things he had never heard about. When the children were given a short break he found himself surrounded and being bombarded with questions.

‘Did you really not know what Africa looked like?’

‘Did you know it was a continent?’

‘Did you know the people there are black, really black?’

Yannis shook his head miserably. ‘We didn’t learn things like that in the village school.’

‘Donkey! Village donkey!’ The mocking voice of the fat boy drifted over to him.

‘Take no notice of him. I’m Costas.’ A swarthy, stocky boy pushed himself to Yannis’s side. ‘I come from a farm just outside Aghios Nikolaos. Tell me about yours. Do you have animals or just crops?’

The morning passed quickly for Yannis and by the end of the day he felt quite at home in the class. When the bell rang to signify the end of school Yannis went up to his teacher.

‘You asked me to see you.’

Mr Pavlakis handed him an atlas. ‘Have a look at that and familiarise yourself with the shape of the countries, which ones they border and their main towns. Give yourself a couple of weeks. I don’t expect you to learn it all overnight. When you’ve caught up on your Geography I’ll make you a book list. You can join the library and read them as you want. Reading is the best way to education. Reading, observation and travel.’

Yannis was delighted. ‘I love reading. I’ve read every book in Plaka.’

‘It might take you a little longer to read all the books in Aghios Nikolaos,’ remarked Mr Pavlakis dryly. ‘Off you go now.’

Annita was waiting for Yannis by the gate. ‘What have you got there?’

‘Homework.’ Yannis held the atlas up for her inspection. ‘Mr Pavlakis is going to give me a book list.’

‘Pappa won’t be very pleased if you have your head stuck in a book all the time. He expects you to help him.’

‘I’ll help him all he wants,’ replied Yannis. ‘I can read in the evenings.’

Annita sniffed. She enjoyed school, but saw no need for any homework.

‘Where’s Andreas?’ Yannis looked around for the younger boy.

‘He’s already gone,’ Annita called as she ran down the hill.

Yannis caught her up. ‘What’s the rush?’

‘I just felt like running,’ she panted and came to a stop. ‘Look, there’s Pappa just arriving. Let’s go and meet him.’

‘How did it go, Yannis?’ called Yiorgo.

‘Fine. Mr Pavlakis is going to give me a book list and I’m going to join the library.’

When Yannis handed the atlas back to Mr Pavlakis at the end of a week the teacher looked at him in disbelief. ‘Have you done all I asked?’

‘Yes, sir. Annita helped by asking me questions and I’ve drawn all the maps from memory.’

Mr Pavlakis pursed his lips. ‘The proof will be in the work you do for me. Here’s the book list I promised you.’

Yannis studied the list. ‘I’ve never heard of some of these,’ he admitted.

‘Don’t worry. They’ll have them in the library. When you’ve had enough of those you can start on the classics, and, Yannis, don’t forget the Bible.’

‘I won’t, sir, and thank you.’

The days passed swiftly for Yannis. He found he could easily keep up with the class and was accepted by them. After school he would either sit and read or help Yiorgo with the nets, at the weekends he went with him to the fishing grounds and he began to enjoy the sea. Whenever he finished a book he would wait after school and talk to Mr Pavlakis. Yannis found the teacher fascinating. He seemed able to talk on any subject that was mentioned with knowledge and insight, often giving new ideas to Yannis.

‘How do you know so much, sir?’

Mr Pavlakis smiled at the eager boy. ‘I’ve read widely and I’ve been to University in Athens.’

‘University.’ Yannis said the word with awe.

‘All teachers have to go to University,’ explained Mr Pavlakis.

‘I should like to go so I could become a teacher,’ sighed Yannis wistfully.

‘There’s no reason why you shouldn’t if you continue to work hard.’

Yannis shook his head. ‘I have brothers and sisters. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to University.’

‘They do give scholarships, you know.’

Again Yannis shook his head. ‘You’d have to be very clever to gain a scholarship.’

‘We shall see.’ Mr Pavlakis did not want to raise the boy’s hopes. At present he had all the makings of scholarship material. ‘Now, I must go or I shall be late.’

‘Late?’ Yannis looked surprised. School was over for the day.

‘I work in a taverna in the evening,’ explained Mr Pavlakis. ‘I’m saving up to visit Italy this year.’ His eyes glowed with enthusiasm. ‘I want to see Rome, Florence, Venice, two weeks will not be long enough for me.’

‘Have you been to other countries?’ asked Yannis as they walked together.

‘I’ve been to Egypt twice, to Turkey and also to Cyprus.’

Yannis gazed at him in wonder. ‘Please, sir, when you have time, will you tell me all about them?’

They parted company at the school gate and Yannis ran down to the harbour where he could see Yiorgo examining his nets.

‘More books, Yannis? Can you put them down long enough to come out with me tonight?’

‘Oh, yes.’ His eyes shone, his uncle had been promising him a night trip for some time now.

‘What time do we leave?’

‘After supper, about nine.’ Yiorgo turned back to his nets.

Yannis waved his hand and rushed off down the street. Excitedly he told his aunt he was going fishing that night.

She frowned. ‘You should be in bed, not out fishing.’

The interval before supper dragged for Yannis. He could not lose himself in his book and continually fidgeted until Annita asked him what was wrong.

‘Nothing,’ replied Yannis. ‘I’m just excited. I’m going fishing tonight.’

Once away from the shore the excitement drained from Yannis. It was difficult carrying out his uncle’s instructions with only the light of the moon to help him. He fumbled with the ropes, his fingers becoming numbed with the cold far more quickly than they did during the day, and he was relieved when his uncle told him to take the tiller and keep the boat on course. They had rounded the headland, but in the darkness Yannis had no idea of their direction.

The slap of the waves against the hull seemed far louder than usual and the pitching and rolling of the small craft more pronounced. He was thankful when Yiorgo lowered the sail and told him to take the oars.

‘Aren’t we going to drop the nets?’

‘Not tonight. I’ve a delivery to make.’

They strained at the oars rounding the end of the long finger-shaped piece of land until they were running into the channel between the island of Spinalonga and Yannis’s hometown. Skilfully Yiorgo manoeuvred the boat alongside the quay and made fast the rope.

‘Don’t make a sound,’ ordered Yiorgo.

Yiorgo swung himself over the side of the boat and within a few moments was swallowed up in the darkness. Yannis sat on the gently rocking boat for an age before he saw Yiorgo a short distance away. Two large, unwieldy bundles were passed up to Yannis and Yiorgo disappeared into the night again. Yiorgo returned twice more with bundles that he handed up to Yannis before climbing aboard, casting off quickly and exhorting Yannis to row as fast as he could. Yannis obeyed and they were soon through the channel and back out to the sea.

Yiorgo raised the sails and then took the oars from Yannis. On the horizon there was a wink of light and Yiorgo steered straight towards it. The light became larger as they drew closer, until Yannis could make out the hull of a trawler. Yiorgo dropped the anchor before taking the lantern from the cabin. He lit it carefully, shading it with his hand he began to swing it back and forth until an answering flicker came from the trawler.

Satisfied Yiorgo blew out the lamp and passed it to Yannis to return to the cabin. They sat and waited until the splash of oars could be heard, Yannis straining his eyes in the darkness. Finally a rowing boat came into view and Yiorgo sent Yannis to the hold to pass up the bundles. ‘Stay down there until I call you,’ he ordered.

Yannis was not sure whether he was excited or frightened, but he was certainly not going to disobey. It seemed an eternity before his uncle called to him.

‘Yannis, come and get this lot below.’

Boxes of fish were pushed towards him and he placed them carefully, the weight evenly dispersed on each side, as Yiorgo had shown him. Cautiously he made his way back on deck and looked around. There was no sign of the trawler.

‘Take the tiller, Yannis. We may as well return; we’ve made a good catch.’

‘Yiorgo,’ Yannis spoke tentatively, ‘I don’t really understand.’

‘It’s quite simple. I store a few things for some friends of mine. When they collect them they give me a share of their catch for my trouble.’

‘Why don’t they come to Aghios Nikolaos for them?’

‘They have their reasons. Nothing you need to worry about, and you don’t tell anyone. The other fishermen might not like the idea of a trawler catching fish for me.’

‘Do you do this every time you go out at night?’

Yiorgo shook his head. ‘Only occasionally. Now, any more questions, or can we make for home?’

‘Where did we go when we moored and went along the beach?’

‘Spinalonga.’

‘Spinalonga!’ Yannis gasped in horror. ‘But the lepers…’

‘Did you see any? I didn’t. That was why I told you to be quiet, didn’t want to wake them up.’

Yannis swallowed and shuddered. ‘I hate that place. You can see them sometimes when the boats deliver their supplies and they come down to the quay to collect them.’

Yiorgo shrugged. ‘There’s no harm in going onto the quay. Now, let me get those sails up and we’ll get going.’

It soon became routine to Yannis to go with Yiorgo on some of his night fishing trips. Gradually he became accustomed to the night sounds and was able to perform his duties on the boat by touch. Yannis yawned surreptitiously. He had been out the previous night with his uncle and felt decidedly sleepy in the hot classroom. Mr Pavlakis was explaining an exercise to them and he was finding it very hard to keep his eyes open and concentrate.

BOOK: YANNIS (Cretan Saga Book 1)
8.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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