I did stop and have another chat with Domenico. This time I took a bottle of Absinthe. I was just a little tired of Cassis.
-What is the occasion this time? he asked as he opened the bottle with no hesitation.
-No occasion and I was getting sick of your Cassis so I thought you could do with a change.
-My Cassis! I hate the stuff. I only drank it to save your feelings.
-But I thought you said that Yianni drank it with you that last night.
-We did. It was the only stuff we had in the place that late at night. Yianni always drank Ouzo or this Absinthe. How did you know I liked the Green Fairy?
-I must have remembered somewhere deep in my tiny little pink mind.
-When Yianni came to Australia in 1952 he brought with him a bottle of Absinthe. This he told me years later. They had come from Greece and they were in France and the only stuff that was anything like Ouzo was Absinthe. You know why they call it the Green Fairy, don’t you?
I did know why they called it the Green Fairy and there were few people in the shop and it seemed likely that Dom was in a talkative mood.
-No. Why don’t you tell me. If it’s important.
-Absinthe and Ouzo and Whisky are all important. How would a shy and tongue-tied Italian like me ever say anything if we didn’t have vino or Grappa. And you, Inglese, would never open your mouth if it wasn’t for Whisky. What was I going to say?
Sometimes he called me ‘Inglese’ as a sort of insult but he never meant it as an insult. He had been here long enough to know how to swear at a friend with warm good humour. He was going to talk about why they called Absinthe the Green Fairy but I saw an opening and took an unfair advantage.
-You were telling me about Yianni coming to Australia.
-I was, he replied and sat down with two glasses of Absinthe; one for the storyteller and one for the audience.
-After the war in 1945 Greece decide to have for themselves their own war. The Communists think they should have their own way because they fight against the German Fascisti. This means the Greek Royal Family get kick out. But the Inglese and the Yankees don’t want the Comunisti to run Greece. So while all Europe is try to get on with life and get over the war the stupid Greeks want to have more war. For me, I think one war is one too much.
So Yianni never tells me if his family are on the side of the Comunisti or the side of the King.
-Dom. Is this going to be a history lesson or the story of Yiannni?
-Listen to me Mr Bloody Inglese. You have for how many years work as a history teacher. You know this already. But to know the story of Yianni, God Bless him, you must make your mind think of these things.
-I am sorry. I interrupted. Pass the bottle.
But like I say about my father, there was much work to do in Australia and many men were needed to start to make a new country. So the Government of Australia start to ask Greek peoples to come to work. And one very bloody good idea the Aussies have is to have a lotteria and the first prize is a one way trip for all your family to Australia.
Every afternoon Yianni’s father went down the hill from the olive grove where the family lived and went to the taverna. There he had a Turkish Coffee and every day he bought a ticket in the lotteria. Yianni’s father could not read and he did not know what the prize was for winning, but every day someone won something; maybe a basket of fruit and maybe a chicken and one day his friend Andreas won a donkey.
But one special day when Yianni went to the Taverna he saw his numbers on the wall and he had won the big prize; A ticket for all his family to Australia.
No body in Yianni’s family had any idea where Australia was. They knew what USA meant. But no one could read and when they saw AUST it looked like USA with the letters out of place. When they learned that Australia was so far away they were very frightened and very upset but Yianni’s father told them it would bring bad luck if they did not go. Yianni’s mother was very strong and she said, “NO”.
That night, maybe God was saying something to the family because that was the night that the KKE (they were the Comunisti) came into the village and took three young men from the village and killed them and left their bodies on the doorstep of their family. One of the young men was the cousin of Yianni’s mother.
And she said, “Tomorrow we go to Australia.”
-So that is how Yianni comes to be at my shop one night and drinks Cassis with me, and now I am cold and there is no more Absinthe. Tomorrow, Inglese, you come and I will have Grappa and I will tell more of Yianni.