“Are you sure you’re ready?”
Min and I stood in the butcher’s shop; the sight of the hanging goat’s head had put her off. “He might be one of Henry’s relatives” she hissed at me, but she followed anyway as I walked in.
“I don’t know if I’m ready,” I answered honestly, “I don’t even know what some of this shit is.”
“I think I recognize the chickens.” Min stepped forward and as she did, a tall thin man unfolded from his chair in the back, both the man and the chair previously hidden from our sight. He began to speak to us and we looked at him in complete incomprehension.
“I really wish some of these Greeks would speak English. It’s really hard to not understand them.”
Min cocked an eyebrow at me. “You don’t think that maybe we should learn their language? I mean, they didn’t move to the US, we did move to Greece.”
“Well if we have the most nukes, they should speak our language.”
“You know that makes no sense.”
“I never considered sense important in life. Should we try for some of Oscar’s relatives since we can’t identify these other things?”
“If the goat is named Henry, the chicken is named Oscar.”
Min sighed and turned away from me. I stepped closer to the display and pointed at the chickens. Then I held up my hands, seven fingers up.
“So you do speak English!” I said delighted.
“Hokay laydee.” He bobbed his head in pleasure.
Min’s arm thumped around my shoulders. “He sure does laydee. See if he has any nukes stashed back there as well.”
The market was small and Daniel had told us to get there early in the day. The stalls reminded me of farmer’s markets I had gone to all through northern California. Exactly the same but completely different.
“Look at the color of this.” Min held up a handful of leaves.
“Nice. Um … what is it?”
“Spinach.” Kate held out the leaves to the man whose stall it was. “So Kate, do you even know what you’re cooking now that you’re a restaurateur?”
“I have a feeling you’re mocking me nature girl.”
“Mild natured fun.” She pulled on my sleeve. “Look at that cabbage. That’s some brilliant cabbage.”
“I thought you hated cooking.”
“Not really. But a little.” Her head was bent over the pile of cabbages. Red hair, light green vegetable. She was the crayon box with all the basics. “I hated cooking for Patton. He was so damned regimented. If I tried to make something different he’d refuse to eat it and insist we go to the steak house for dinner. I just got plain wore out trying to do what I wanted and I stopped.”
“You should have stopped cooking for him. Or even better, cooked only things he didn’t want till he was broke from going out.”
“Damn it Kate.” Min stood tall and glared down at me. “Why weren’t you there to suggest it when I needed it?”
We both started laughing together, the tension thankfully absent from Min’s shoulders. I’d been getting used to seeing her with her shoulders up near her ears. “Well you know I love to cook,” I said picking up a tomato, “but I don’t know shit about it.”
“Like moving to Greece?”
“Oh you’re wounding me.”
“You do seem to jump into things with both feet.”
“I thought that was one of the things you liked about me.”
I was stung. It was silly but the sudden criticism from Min struck me deeply.
“Oh Kate.” Min took the tomato from my hands and handed it to the stall owner. “I followed you to Greece without even having thought about it for five minutes. What does that say about me?”
“That you really wanted to cook with feta cheese?”
“That I really wanted to cook with feta cheese is exactly it.”
Shoosh hadn’t arrived at the taverna so we were free to unpack the food we had bought and then sit at the table and stare at it. ‘I think we’re supposed to cook lamb, we’re Greek now.”
“I don’t know how to cook lamb.” I picked up a pomegranate. “I don’t know what to do with this either. Any suggestions?”
“Shit if I know.” Min picked up one of the cabbages. “If I were home Patton would want the chicken grilled with a side of slaw and some roasted taters.”
“Well even I could cook that. Hell Min, that sounds pretty damned good right about now.”
“Getting tired of our dining experiences already?”
I slumped. “I miss McDonalds so much that it’s making me sick.”
“I miss peanut butter.”
“If I start listing all the things I’m homesick for, I’ll never survive.”
“Well I know one thing I’m not homesick for.” Min dropped the cabbage to the table, “I am not homesick for cooking for Patton.”
I climbed to my feet and got what I needed to start cutting chickens up. “Do you miss him at all?”
“Pass me that long knife there? Thanks. Yeah, I miss him. I was married to him too long not to miss him. But you know how that worked out.”
“You ended up in Greece with your internet girlfriend.” I gave Min an exaggerated wink and she snickered.
“You know, Patton’s convinced you’re gay.”
My knife clattered on the counter. “He is not! Why?”
Her knife was making short work of the cabbage. “Well you’ve never been married which is highly suspicious to a southern mind. And y’all are a damned Northerner which is a mark against ya.”
“You sound like Minnie Pearl. Yee-haw lil’ doggie.”
“That’s get along lil’ doggie you ignorant Yankee.”
“Well at least I’m a business owner you damned parasite.”
Min snickered and so did I. I felt lighter than I had in ages, and it felt so right to be in that place at that minute with that woman. “I did have some thoughts about that ya know.”
“Well spill. Although if you’re going to turn our home into a brothel, I don’t do anyone named Stavros.”
“There goes half our damned clients. Seriously though Kate, how would you feel about a few more goats? I was thinking…”
“That since you got rid of a jack-ass you’d start collecting goats?”
“You don’t like?”
“We can talk. But you know that damned Henry ate my lipstick. And where the fuck am I supposed to find a tube of Revlon’s Ravenous Red on this island?”
“We’ll talk,” Min said trying to hide her smile. “So look at me here. I just sliced and diced this cabbage for slaw. Think Patton might be coming for dinner?”
“Bite your tongue woman! Anyway, I doubt anyone will be coming for dinner. And once they taste my cooking I doubt they’ll come again.”
“Well then let me show you a better way to cut that chicken and we can make a good down home barbecue sauce to go on it.”
“Down home Greek style.” I had to laugh. “Only us Min, only us.”
Aristotle’s Taverna reopened with very little fanfare. Shoosh was moderately appalled to find the crazy American women actually in the kitchen. I think she expected that we’d sit up in our house avoiding the actual work.
We were far from ready to be anything but what we were: a small tavern with limited fare. Shoosh had gestured long and hard, finally going to the butcher and returning with a wrapped brown package containing lamb. She ignored us as she seasoned it, her displeasure with us clear in her set shoulders and stiff back.
“She’s your employee,” Min hissed at me, “make her happy.”
“Why are you whispering? She doesn’t speak English.”
“It just seems rude to talk so openly.”
“Now you’re making me feel guilty.” I made a face at Min who made a face back.
Shoosh stiffened even more when I came to stand by her. “I’m sorry. I know this has been your kitchen for awhile now but I want to cook. I can’t explain it but I need to cook. And I’m hoping you’ll help me be a good enough cook to take care of the people on this island.”
I knew she didn’t understand me. My heart felt painfully small in my chest. Then Shoosh handed me a knife and began to show me how to cut the lamb.