A Hilltop Feast

Image of Short Story
Behind the white washed villa stands a rugged barren hill and as you slowly walk up the incline you feel the sensation of clay, sand and silt trickling in-between your toes through the gaps of your sandals, you feel the welcoming touch of the Mediterranean mountain breeze against your almost naked body because its blistering hot and you are still in your bathing suit, gingerly wrapped in a linen oversized shirt. Your hair has formed wispy curls which you never knew you had because the sea salt loves to leave it’s imprint on every inch of you after you have embraced it’s briny waters during your morning swim. That same pure element resembles that of a lovers, who has left you at dawn and you don't want to shower away the traces of his passion that rest on your skin, you want to hold onto the layers of aromas that have now become fainted scents, just like you want to hold onto the substance of the sea. You’re nearing the plateau, your body beckoning with movements of subtle excitement and curiosity towards the unknown vista. A lone dove flies low and coos, it’s murmuring sound competes with the droning noise of the August cicadas which you have now become accustomed to because their presence permeates day and night and lovingly reminds you of their mythic and folkloric representation of carefree living and immortality.
Your body becomes transfixed when your eyes are lured to the site of an idyllic pastoral enclave immaculately lined with evergreen olive trees, their silvery green foliage and their small white feathery flowers is a sharp contrast against the dark brown rocky soil where wild mountain herbs creep up against their gnarled and twisted trunks. You bend your body as you weave through the short and squat olive trees and you remember as a child reading Homers Odyssey where Odysseus crawls beneath two shoots of olive that grow from a single stock and how the olive branch is a symbol of abundance, glory and peace. You feel the tranquility as you walk amongst the groves in a dreamlike state and suddenly you spot a clearing, a perfect space where you can place a long wooden table and chairs. You can almost feel the soft texture of the weathered white embroidered table cloth as your tanned hands are patting it evenly on the table. You walk a little further and there are large patches of wild tall yellow mullein flowers, you smile because you can see how their placement on the table would present a beautiful bright contrast against the white tablecloth, but they are not alone, the honey bees are busy sucking their alluring sweetness. The bees that inhabit this southern island produce a dark floral scented honey that you will have at the table along with yogurt, local cheeses and fresh cut figs. There are still more olives left in a few canisters from last years crop and aged olive oil in glass bottles. There is a charred olive wooden bowl which will become a display for a mixture of tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onions. Your salivary glands react to the glass jar of Santorini caper leaves that have been pickled in sea salt brine that will add such a unique flavour to the salad. You recall that along the back of the villa walls there is a trellis covered with grape leaves, they can be picked and gently blanched and stuffed with wild rice and herbs infused in a creamy lemon sauce. Tomorrow you will rise early and go to the fish market on the seafront and buy fresh red mullet “barbouni” or “barbarossa”, you love listening to the fisherman loudly enunciating the names of these foreign fish, “bar-ba-rossa” which means “red beard” named after the fish’s colour and whiskers. And what is this fish, Bonito? You will take some of that as well. As the fisherman is wrapping the fish you stare at him and his calloused hands and wonder what seafaring tales are ingrained in him and in the few moments that follow, amidst the exchange of pleasantries, you will look into his eyes and thank him while nostalgically you are thinking of your grandfather and wish he was here with you now. You tenderly remember walking with him on the cobblestone alleys in the Medieval Old Town to buy fresh bread, you believe the bakery is situated near the clock tower through the entrance of “Eleuftheria” Liberty Gate, yes of course near the ruins of the Temple of Venice.
You think of ouzo on the rocks and cold white wine and lemons from the lemon tree that line the villas courtyard and iced cold water that sits in glass bottles in the fridge. The table in the clearing by the olive groves is looking like a painting, tranquil and alluring, splashes of colours, yellow flowers, green herbs, red tomatoes, purple figs just to touch the surface. There is music, perhaps someone will play guitar or bouzouki but mostly there is talk and laughter and sunshine on this hilltop far from the sea because today they say that this is where the lonely olive tree will thrive. This is also where you will have a feast with friends that have just spent the morning in the company of the sea, they are ravishingly hungry and full of life and someone will sketch this moment and another will write about this moment— on the top of the hilltop in the clearing amongst the olive groves not too far from the sea.