“Do you want something to wash that down with, Stelios?”, asked the wizened old man, seeing that the other was eating a dry biscuit.
The old man was accustomed to this kind of attitude, the looks that said, “Go away and leave me alone, old man. I have no interest in you or in anything you might say”. He was accustomed to it, but it still hurt each time he encountered it.
“You think I’m just a silly old man, don’t you?” he replied, “You think all I want to do all day is to try to sell some of my goat’s milk to make a little money. Well let me tell you something, Stelios…”
“Go on then,” Stelios said, a note of resignation in his voice. “You will any way, no matter what I say.”
The old man started his tale. “I haven’t always been like this. I still thank my lucky stars that Sophie and I decided to buy our little house here while we still had money, before the ravages of life took my companies and my fortune, and broke them like the waves from the sea break against the rocky shore.
“You see, my company had been an international success story over many years. My Papa started it as a simple import/export business in London, he then opened branches in the Americas, Africa, Australia and Asia. Just before he died, I had an accident and broke my back. That was when I met Sophie; she was just my physio at first, but became so much more while I was on the road to recovery. And what a road that was. We had some adventures, I can tell you. Even though I was in a wheelchair, we went skydiving, speed-boating, scuba-diving; we even helped foil a gang of master criminals while scuba-diving off one of the Hawaiian islands; we didn’t let my disability get in the way of having adventures. You see, my Papa sent me off to run his African business as soon as I finished university, so I never had the fun that young men were supposed to have in those days. Breaking my back in that stupid accident; I just slipped down the stairs in my house; made me think about my life. That’s why we did nothing but have fun for some time.
“Sophie and I eventually married and had a son, David. That was why we bought our house here, so we’d have somewhere to come for breaks; somewhere away from the rat-race; somewhere quiet, where life was still real.”
Stelios interrupted. “So what happened to Sophie and David?”
“Oh, the company went from strength to strength. Papa had floated it on the stock exchange and converted his interest in the business into a vast fortune, which I inherited on his death. It turned out I had a half-brother, the spawn of a fling Papa had enjoyed in his youth. I gave him a good settlement, and got him installed as a director of the firm. If I’d know what a back-stabbing worm he was, I wouldn’t have given him a brass farthing, but at the time I thought he was a decent sort. Anyway, I did something stupid, something I don’t want to talk about, but it drove Sophie and David away. My fault. My fault entirely. Shouldn’t have done it. Did though, and no point crying over spilled milk.”
“Even spilled goat’s milk,” Stelios said with a chuckle.
“Even spilled goat’s milk,” the old man replied wistfully. “But after they left, I lost interest in the business; lost interest in everything, really. What use was all that money I had? It couldn’t bring Sophie and David back. I spent thousand upon thousands just trying to locate them. I thought if I could find them and talk to them, there was a chance they would come back. I spent nearly ten years and all my fortune trying to find them. My bastard half-brother wormed himself into my position and had me thrown off the board; even had me declared unfit to be a director of any firm. That was when I moved here full-time. I may not have much now, but I have my memories…”
“And your goat,” Stelios said.
“And my goat,” the old man replied.
“That’s a grand story, old man. What did you say your name was?”
“I didn’t, but it’s Hannice, Hannice Knight.”
“Like I said, Hannice Knight, that’s a grand story, but I still don’t want any of your goat’s milk.”
This short story was written in response to Kreative Kue 9, issued on this site a few days ago.