P bowled into H’s flat in the suburbs of Athens. H had been living there studying how to yodel without breathing, and P was joining him to study how to live in Athens without purpose. Between them they owned twelve books, a slab of beer and a lamp.
“Jesus Christ, P, you fucking lick-spittle. How did you get here?’
“I fucken flew in one of those new-fangled aeroplanes, you dud,” said P, taking a seat and cracking open a can of beer H had hurled at him from the kitchen. “What have you learned so far?”
“That the bottle shop is less than a hundred metres from that couch.”
“Good information, that’s a fact.”
P looked around. The flat was sparsely furnished.
“Is the landlord a bastard?”
“He’s a woman called Maria,” answered H. “Lives on the ground floor."
“You know, I could’ve picked you up from the airport,” said H, scoffing a handful of peanuts and offering the bowl to P. P couldn’t reach and H made no attempt to accommodate him. He placed the peanuts back on the arm of his chair.
“You don’t have a license!”
“License! Bah! This is Greece!”
“But you don’t have a car either.”
They took long draughts of beer.
“So, you got work for me?” asked P.
“I told you already, I’m folding t-shirts at a factory.”
“What sort of factory?”
“A fucken t-shirt factory, you out and out lesbian!”
“Well, I thought maybe you folded uniforms or something.”
“Fuck that. I’ve told you in my despatches that I fold t-shirts. You get paid for every box of a hundred.”
“How much?” said P, noticing a green smear on the wall behind H. The smear appeared to be moving.
“Far below the minimum wage which I suspect they don’t even have.”
“So it is the minimum wage then?”
“It fucking may as well be.”
“So can I work there?” asked P, taking another gulp.
“It’s a shit job.”
“But I have no money.”
“They shouldn’t have let you into the country.”
“Correct,” said H, considering. “Ok, yes, you can fold t-shirts assuming you have previous experience.”
“I fold my own.”
“That should do.”
“Good. When do I start?”
“Tomorrow. You just rock up. No-one knows who’s who. Just stand in line and start folding.”
“Good. Hey! Remember L from Generic High?”
“You know, the guy that fucked up the lights during your play in year eleven.”
“Oh that cunt! How could I forget?”
“Why is he a cunt?’
“He fucked up the lights!”
“Jesus Christ that was five years ago!”
“It was an important scene. I was going to yodel Oh Suzanna, beginning the first few notes in pure darkness. Rather than waiting for me to begin, as scripted, that dick-nosed wombat brought the lights up as I was walking onto the stage! Lucky I’m a fucking professional or who knows what might have happened.”
“He was drunk,” protested P.
“Yeah, who wasn’t? Anyway, what about him?”
“He’s in Europe somewhere as we speak. He’s going to make his way here and sleep on the couch. Have you got work for him too?”
“Yes. He can fold fucken t-shirts like everyone fucken else!”
“Well, you stodgy fuck, what do you think of the job?” asked H, flicking a bug off the t-shirt he was about to fold.
“It’s not too bad,” said P, admiring his latest fold. “You’ve been exaggerating.”
“Well, my ridiculous friend, wait until you’ve folded your thousandth t-shirt and tell me that.”
“No it isn’t, it’s horrendous. It’s mind-numbing and I fear I’m losing valuable fractions of my intellect with every fold.”
“At that rate you’ll be out by lunchtime.”
“Ha fucking ha.”
“It’s alright. They let you smoke. No one hassles you…”
“You’ve only been working for two fucking hours, you skinny twat.”
“Well you asked me what I thought. I can only report back on those two hours.”
“You could guess about the future.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake.”
“When’s your friend Mike arriving?”
“I don’t know anyone called Mike,” said P, returning to the fold.
“Your fucking lighting friend!”
“L? I don’t fucking know when. Why, do you love him?”
“Do you know how many girls I’ve fucked?”
“No, not interested. Do you count your sister?”
“Well if I had a sister, and if I’d fucked her then yes, she would technically count.”
“I suppose. Unless she didn’t want it.”
“What are you saying? That I raped my sister!”
“You don’t have a sister!”
“Oh yeah. Fuck off.”
“How many girls have you fucked?”
“Three. If you count my cousin.”