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Greek-American Stories: Mourning Becomes Yiannis

October 9, 2018
Phyllis “Kiki” Sembos

Yiannis eagerly asked his buddies in Dixon’s,“Did any of you read last Sunday’s National Herald?”Dimos and John nodded. Kipreos asked, “Why do you ask?” Whipping out the edition, he indicated one article in particular.“Listen to this; ‘Andrew Pappas, a recluse, died at age 89. Lived on 79th Street, no known living relations,never married or had children. The landlady calledthe police and reported,‘Quiet guy, a loner. Paid his rent on time!’“So?” George asked. Yiannis smiled like the Cheshire cat.”Notice we have the same last name? We could be related.” George grew suspicious.“Yeah like maybe he left money, or something.”Dimos interrupted. “Yiannis! There are ways of locating relatives. They have to go to court to prove it. A lawyer searches for information,certificates, something.”

John added, “that’s right! Besides, maybe there’s a will.What are you thinking?” George stirred his coffee, slowly. “Can’t you guess? It could take years given that there’s a thousand Pappases around.” Yiannis shrugged. “So, where are they? As a ‘Pappas’,I intend to mourn him like family.” Dimos shook his head. “Well, that’s a very noble thought.”Kipreos said, “Maybe no one is mourning him because he was so mean and miserable!” Yiannis shrugged. “So? He’s dead!Besides, all his stuff will go to the heap, anyway.”

What Yiannis didn’t mention was that he’d already contacted a lawyer who didn’t want any money until the case is over. Yiannis handed him letters with his name on them proving who he was.The lawyer shook his head. “This doesn’t prove you’re related to Andrew Pappas. There may be other Pappases that’ll come forward.”Yiannis pressed on. “Ignore them! Th’ guy was a recluse!”The lawyer shook his head. “You’ve got to have more proof than this,” he handed back his letters. Growing desperate, Yiannis leveled with him. ”Look! The poor guy got no one to mourn him. Think of all his stuff going to waste! Can’t we do something to make it look like I’m a mourning relation?” The pleading look in Yiannis’ eyes got the lawyer thinking. “Oh, I get it! Yeah! Maybe we can figure something out. Gimme a little time, ok?”

The lawyer worked out a deal with the landlady who was willing to witness – for a price –that Andrew Pappas told her of the relationship. The lawyer filled out some papers that Yiannis signed and the court, seeing no great discrepancies or complications, allowed the lawyer and Yiannis permission to the deceased’s worldly goods.Inside, Andrew Pappas’ bank book, nearly depleted, contained numerous withdrawals. The furnishings, clothes and personal items proved of no value.But, an oak tag envelope on the bureau, with the deceased’s’ name on them, appeared of interest. The lawyer studied it, carefully. Then, turned to Yiannis and said, “This is very interesting! Well, these papers show what th’ guy was worth. Youstill want to be recipient of whatever he had?” Staring at the envelope, hungrily, Yiannis nodded, “Yeah! Yeah!”

Stuffing back the contents of the envelope the lawyer told him he can have it all, “After you pay the landlady what I promised her for swearing she’d seen you visiting the deceased.” Yiannis frowned. “How much?”“Thirty bucks!” Swallowing hard, Yiannis handed over three tens. “Now, I want my share. I told you I wanted no money until the case was over. It’s over!” Sweating, Yiannis asked, ‘How much?” Doing quick math, he said, “I’ll take forty bucks.” His mouth dropping open, Yiannis objected, vehemently.“You c’n go to jail for bribing the landlady, you know!”The lawyer smiled. “And, you c’n go to jail for conspiracy and falsifying information, buddy.” With anxious hands,Yiannis handed over the forty, grabbed the fat envelope and left. With nervous fingers, sitting on a park bench, he opened the envelope and shuffled through the contents – all stubs from horse racing events. All losers! One short note, written in pencil, caught his eye.It read, “Andy. Last warning! Cook up the cash or you’ll be wearing cement boots! Signed, Freddy, the Fist,” That next Sunday, having learned he’d gained zero out of the deal,they were impressed that Yiannis continued melancholy.Sympathetic,John said, “Must have been sad that only you and the landlady were the only mourners.” Looking up, Yiannis nodded, assuring them that his mourning was genuine. After all, seventy bucks was hard not to mourn.

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