SHORT STORY SHARE
Welcome to the March Short Story Share.
This month's story is a bit of flash fiction with some history thrown in. Happy reading and let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Death by Kahve
As soon as the peasant, Aristotle walked into the largest kahvehane, coffee house in Peloponnesus, his senses were immediately assaulted with the robust flavor. The aroma sailed through his nostrils, and the clamor of all the lively conversations pounded in his ears. He furtively glanced all around him looking for his party.
He sat down cautiously at one of the few empty tables. His hands were sticky, and he wiped them on his shirt. Then, he cupped the curb of his sabre. For what reason, he wasn’t even sure.
He wasn’t sure of much these days. He barely knew how he was keeping himself and his family alive. A sense of urgency bit into him like the Hydra, and when he tried to shake it off him, more urgency took its place. Underneath it all was a lingering anxiety about an uncertain future.
He wasn’t alone. Whenever he entered the kahvehane, the raucous conversations ricocheted between collective anxiety and unified, righteous indignation. Nobleman, peasant, and merchant alike anticipated the winds of change. They hoped the gods they no longer prayed to would harness those winds to the point that they became a typhoon.
Aristotle had no interest in anyone’s gods. Not the gods of the Greeks or the god of the Ottoman Turks. He believed in what he could touch with his hands, feel with his heart, and work through with his own brain. The illiterate peasant had a knack for astounding the illustrious noblemen with what he could concoct in his naturally adept mind.
Konstantinos, his unlikely ally, valued Aristotle’s facility with strategy, although he would never tell him so. The educated son of a merchant could recite the words of enlightened Frenchmen and speak eloquently of their overthrow of tyranny but had no real skill to navigate devious political minds. He needed Aristotle but would never admit to needing a peasant.
Their unexpected collaboration started when Aristotle sipped his kahve. He marveled at how richness, bitterness, and sweetness could exist in one place but still be enjoyable. In the middle of his musings, he heard Konstantinos spew discontent over the state of the Greeks. Another spoiled, educated brat who has no understanding of real suffering. He thought to himself.
At the same time, his intoxicating idealism drew in everyone near him. In spite of himself, it drew in Aristotle. Since a peasant has no choice but to be practical, he had to inject some realism into the conversation.
“And what would you have us do, boy?” he said.
Aristotle had no idea how his off-handed, irreverent challenge would alter the rest of his life and the lives of the other Greeks in the kavehane.
Here he was a year and a half later helping that same boy figure out what to do. Konstantinos never liked Aristotle calling him boy considering Aristotle wasn’t much older. He chuckled at the thought taking his sweaty hand off his sabre.
Konstantinos barreled through with a group of men that included 2 teachers, 4 priests, and 2 doctors. One of the priests went with Aristotle to the mountains to enlist the aid of the self-professed militia who some saw as common brigrands. He hugged him warmly. He gave a quick handshake to the others, including Konstantinos.
“Are you well Aristotle?” he said as he sat down.
“As well as these times will allow,” he replied as he waved a server to their table.
He flashed his rogue smile and asked for ten cups of kahve. He watched the server walk away and took in the whole kahvehane in one fell swoop.
“Did you secure the agreement of the Russians?” Aristotle whispered, unconsciously putting his hand back on his sabre.
“We did. I told you we would,” Konstantinos said.
“I never had a doubt.” The rogue smile made another appearance.
“Oh, but you did,” Konstantinos laughed, shaking his head.
“What word from Istanbul?” Aristotle asked one of the priests.
“Ready and waiting for word from us,” he said.
Aristotle paused as the server placed kahve in front of everyone.
“Do you think the Russians can be trusted, Aristotle?” one of the teachers asked nervously.
“Can we really trust anyone at this time? Why should the Russians be any different?”
“We can trust each other,” Konstantinos said.
Aristotle nodded and took a slow sip of kahve.
With flourish, Konstantinos gulped down most of his kahve.
“Is it time, Aristotle?” he blurted.
“It is time,” Aristotle said, as he took another slow sip of kahve.
Aristotle’s words rang true with their success in Kalamata. The spirit of Aries overtook the peninsula, and the Turks could not match it. Aristotle and Konstantinos shook off their titles of peasant and merchant’s son and embodied the title of warrior. When the battle was over, the two men parted ways after Konstantinos was appointed as one of the first senators of the Messenian Senate, and Aristotle joined the pursuit of the Turks to Tripolitsa.
He saw the young senator again when he came to Tripolitsa to congratulate Theodoros Kolokotronis on his victory. They saw it as only fitting to meet in a kahvehane since that’s where it all started.
This time, when Aristotle entered the establishment, the conversation that buzzed in his ears was filled with collective exhilaration at the possibilities of independence and the restoration of former glory. No one noticed him.
When Konstantinos arrived, cheers greeted him. He shook hands warmly and received the adulation, already playing the role of a politician. Aristotle shook his head.
“I hope the politicos don’t eat you alive,” he said, as he drank his kahve.
“You don’t think I can handle the snakes?” Konstantinos asked.
“Of course not. I never doubt you.”
“Oh, but you do.”
He laughed and took a deliberate sip of kahve.
Revolutions are born with kahve... And empires die with kahve.
Until next time... look behind and beyond the veil...
Sameena K. Mughal, Author, Freelance Writer