A walk down Athens

I’m walking down Athens that morning, the first of the long summer days. I stop at the corner of Xerxes’s Place, and I can see its narrow, cobblestoned lane, its sagging houses. A hush comes through the air, and out comes my old friend, the old man with the hat I last saw at the d├ębutante ball.

“So you got a plan, Mr. Leos?” he asks.

“A beautiful plan. You could call it, ‘To sell a girl into marriage.’ I really think you ought to make about three or four times what the Iktinos-Rothschilds could make in Maltese real estate.”

“Well, you get back to us when you’re done.”

“I will try, Mr. Grant. By Zeus, I will try. ‘You always gotta milk the shit out of your cow’ as the uptown saying goes.”

We both let out gracious, nosy, upper class laughs and part ways. An image of an udder slowly dissolves through my mind as I walk down to the amphitheatre.

He had a party that summer and paid all the bills on the side and gave me $3,500 and offered $55,000 for a girl with her maidenhead. I must have gone mad on hearing that promise. The woman who runs the underground scene, a lady named Blanche, gave me the bill for my chariot fare to the Hill of the Nymphs, where fifty brides were waiting for their suitors. Ophelia was hypnotically beautiful, and delicate. We discussed her name and remembered I had one time saved her from being a prostitute. Her mother almost had me put on trial and lynched. But everyone knew the girls at Temple Corinth, and they get good, good money.

Mr. Grant asked me if I had found the right girl. I said maybe I had, but I still had to give Lady Blanche the marriage papers. I took Ophelia to his apartment. He gave me the money and I walked out of there. I began to think of my other affairs. I had some business in Argos. I liked the atmosphere. I thought I could make a good living there. I did not want to take any chances and lose my life and my freedom, so I got water from the fountain, heated it to wash my face, and departed. It was raining that day and I remember the hypnotic drumming of the droplets unravelling the mystery of how work gets done and money gets made.