Under the circumstances Luke and I decided to stay away from work for a while. Once again we consumed every newspaper we could find. Every day was spend trawling through every article to find out the particulars of the repercussions of our actions in Miel’s house. It wasn’t long before elections were called and with a massive rift having opened in the ruling party there were resignations and grand pronouncements up and down the island. Most of all, the people who had long known and never spoken of their mistrust of their former enemies unloaded years of sentiment that had festered. Once the gate opened and the words of truth began to rain down Griton knew that he would never be elected President. And while he was no fool, Griton was as bitter about being ousted as his former constituents had been about him having risen to power in the first place. Mulaar, Dene and Taryn all slipped into the smoke that surrounds people with money and connections and before anyone knew what had happened Magar Bethoe was found dead in her home from an apparent suicide. Miel tried to keep a hold on what power he could wrangle from a growing opposition but in no more than a week he too slipped out of the country. However, Griton remained. He lied and slandered and played a game that only he seemed to be playing. Everyone else knew that the elections would rid them of his presence, but he clung to the vain hope of maintaining his limp grasp on power. It was sad. He had been a lion once, and though a poisonous one, to see him caged and weak was to see a man broken and flaccid. I didn’t pity him, he was my enemy in essence, but I remember thinking what a tragic fool he was for wasting such a strong will and sharp mind. He could have done great and terrible things.
The day that we returned to Zarinah’s Luke and I were half expecting it to have been burned down, but she stood proud and ready to continue our work as is nothing had happened. We had been looking over our shoulders for the whole week that we had kept out of sight and when we returned the restaurant that same feeling intensified. We knew that of all the former regime members only Griton remained, however, despite his solitude he still posed a massive threat. He was still in power and he still held a command within the government. It was a bitter time and, although we were certain that we had done a good thing, we felt exposed. And so it went for another three weeks before the inevitable happened.
One evening, while Luke and I dressed the table in Zarinah’s the door opened and in walked a man in a suit with a face like a brick wall with a moustache. He didn’t say anything, he just glanced around the room and then stepped back and opened the door again, whereupon Griton walked in. He had his usual blank expression slathered across his face, but he had aged a decade him since had last seen him. Behind him another two men in suits entered, one of whom close and locked the door. The locking of the door sent a chill down my spine and into my boots.
Not wanting to play into any plan Griton may have set for us, I welcomed him as if nothing had occurred at his home and pulled out a chair for him. He didn’t even look at me, lost in dismay. I would have felt for him but for his tyranny – he wasn’t a man at all. Welcoming the three guards too I sent Luke to the kitchen to prepare and I poured Griton a glass of wine. He didn’t look up at me and that worried me, but I had to continue the charade. I was scared and the men around Griton leered at me in judgement, as is the way of such men. I wanted to vomit form the tension. Griton was sullen and it was clear that he had crumbled into himself. For all of his posturing in the newspapers in private he was a wreck. His expensive suit and tailored manner where both ill fitting, he had lost weight and his hands wavered as he reached for the wineglass. Luke soon came back out and I gave my ceremonial speech to a non-receptive audience – Griton himself not listening at all, lost inside his own troubled mind. Lemon water was soon followed by a potato and onion soup, a simple dish of almost no value whatsoever, but of course, the instant that the three guards tasted it they disappeared into themselves. The Vice President didn’t raise his head from the bowl though, he kept his chin down in silence. At first I thought that he was sleeping, but a second spoonful of soup rose to his lips and again he sat there motionless, staring down at the bowl in front of him. He was a dour shambles. I must admit that I did feel I twinge of gratitude in seeing him suffer so, in knowing that he too was pained, as were so many people whose lives he had destroyed. Then I noticed his shoulders quaver. And then his breathing choked as he dropped his spoon and rose his hands to his face.
As if unaware that anyone else was in the room, Griton sobbed into the palms of his hands as a man consumed. He was condemned and he knew it. I felt almost like I was feeding him his last meal but instead of a remorse or pity, I felt gratitude. I felt like I had served the people as Griton never had. It was correct that he suffer. It was correct that I witness it so that that suffering is a surety and not just another of the Vice President’s lies. It was not easy to watch, but I did watch and I did witness his pain, for the people. For his people and my own.
Once the guards had gulped down their soup Griton dragged himself together, then emptied the his own bowl and slide forward. I collected the bowls, delivered them to the kitchen and returned with slices of tenderised shark meat. The three guards rushed onto the meat but Griton looked up at me and smiled the most pained and sorrowful smile a man can offer. His eyes were glazed with tears and his mouth trembled at the corners, but I just nodded, playing that he had not made a connection between my brother and I and his downfall. As he took the pleasure of the meat into him he sat back and again tears ran, but without any sobbing. His shoulders had drooped and he took on the air of a child. Luke pressed forward with a desert of roasted pears and I poured the second serum in a glass of fruit juice to end the meal with a toast to Griton, for good measure. When the guards arranged to leave Griton took me aside to thank me. His voice shimmered with a pain that was so strong that I could feel it in myself. He had come to enjoy my cooking one more time before “the end”. Then he left, shuffling out onto the street.
Luke asked me what he had said but I didn’t mention Griton’s comment about the end. We were both shaking with energy and just stood there in silence looking at the table still scattered with plates. After what felt like hours we tidied up the still warm plates and poured ourselves a solid drink to calm our nerves – we still had a party of five attending that night.
To be continued…
© Stephen Fahey