Greek-American Stories: Yiannis’ Dog Days

Dixon’s regulars were seated comfortably, coffees in hand, donuts centering the table, as usual. First to reach out for a donut was Yiannis, going for the sprinkled one before Kipreos got hold of it. “I got news! But, I want no comments when I tell you, especially from you, George.” Grinning, George looked up. “Sounds like it’s something I’d comment about. Let’s hear it!”

“I got a job. Not much but from how it looks its easy money.” Coffee cups slammed down on the word, ‘job’.  George almost choked on the coffee he was about to swallow. Yiannis looked at him, annoyed. “Trouble with your coffee, George?” Waving his hands, George defended himself. “Hey! It was the word, ‘job’. Next time give me a warning.” Ignoring him, Yiannis explained about the job. “I was reading my newspaper when…”

“The one you borrow from your neighbor’s door before you put it back?” said Kipreos, stirring his coffee, nonchalantly. Yiannis pretended not to hear and continued. “A woman from my building, nicely dressed, holding a dog by the leash, came up to me and started to talk. She handed me the dog’s leash and a paper bag. She talked but I couldn’t understand her much.  But, I realized she wanted me to walk her dog.”

“You couldn’t understand her?” asked John brows rising. Yiannis shrugged. “No! She warbled, sorta, like yodeling. Cli clu cli clu. But, I got it! She wanted me to walk her dog. I said to myself, hey! Easy work – dog’s on a leash, I get a bag of cookies and easy money, too.”

Dimos was confused. “She could have wanted to get rid of the dog.” Yiannis, smiling, shook his head and said, “Nah! I understood when she opened her pocketbook and took out a few bucks.” Pausing to sip his coffee, he continued as the others listened, avidly. “I folded the newspaper…” Kipreos blinked. “And, you put it back under the neighbor’s door, right?” With an intake of breath, Yiannis nodded and continued. “I took the dog around the block and down the avenue. I went to a pizza place and got a slice and ate it and went around another few blocks until an hour went by. Then, I went back to the stoop and there she was, taking the leash, smiling and she handed me a few dollars. She made sign language saying could I please do the same tomorrow. Her apartment was being painted and didn’t want the dog in the way. I said, ‘sure’. She went her way, I went mine.”

“How much?” asked George, curious. “About five bucks, that’s how much,” said a pleased Yiannis, finishing the last drops and getting up. “Gotta go, guys! Back to work. Her apartment will be done by today, I think. Hey! Another five bucks! See you all, later.” They all watched as Yiannis rose, took another donut and headed for the exit. Dimos and John nodded in approval that Yiannis was doing something nice for a neighbor and getting paid for it, too. Kipreos agreed. John said, “now he might buy his own newspaper.”  “When he reads one free?”  George grinned. Giving the matter thought, Kipreos said, “maybe, he’ll treat us to donuts next time around.” Nodding vigorously, George said, “and, maybe, Yiannis’ll become an archbishop.”

About to call it a day, they were all surprised as they witnessed Yiannis entering Dixon’s, heading in their direction, limping and his hand wrapped with bandages like a boxing glove. “What happened?” asked John, pulling out his chair. Shaking his head, Yiannis looked glum, hoping his injured hand would conjure up a coffee from one of them.

“Damn dog! She handed me the leash. Instead of going round the blocks I went to the park down the street. That stupid dog saw a squirrel and chased after it. He’s not a small dog. He’s a horse! He jerked, knocked me down and ran like a tractor. I landed on my stomach and got dragged a few feet.” He raised his hand, displaying the wrapped hand. “And, it’s my right hand, too! How am I going to get coffee? Or, donuts.” No one moved.

He continued. “I didn’t get paid because it wasn’t an hour, she said. And, those cookies, ugh! They’re the worst! Only Greeks know how to make cookies. Here! Try one!” Biting into one from within the paper bag, Dimos broke into a laugh. Dimos lifted the package inside.  “These aren’t cookies, Yiannis. They’re dog biscuits!” Yiannis looked glummer; no cookies, no money.  And, no coffee.


Just before she was stabbed to death outside an Athens police station by her ex-boyfriend after being refused help inside, Kyriaki Griva was told by an operator on a police hotline after asking for a patrol car escort home, “Lady, police cars aren’t taxis.

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