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The Four Gardens

The Four Gardens

One fine evening, a man on a boat approaching its final destination is immersed in his thoughts alone on the deck. He ponders his dislike of long voyages, and the fear that the e dark sea waters generate in him. He thinks of his hometown, to which he is returning after a long absence. A stranger approaches him as the boat passes by the last of the small uninhabited islands before entering finally into the port. Our narrator confides his thoughts and fears to this man who reciprocates by telling him his life story, while the boat sails by an extinct lighthouse. The stranger confesses that he was, until recently, the lighthouse keeper on that small island. He was taken there by his father as a child, and took over when the old man died. He describes his solitary everyday life there, his care for the function of the lighthouse, where he had to keep a fire of wood burning all the time to produce the light that warned ships and boats off the rocks. He talks about cultivating the land to produce all he needed for food. He also talks about his vast library, which he inherited from his father, and where he used to repose and read. Finally, he points out in the distance the south part of the island, where he had created a protected area of vegetation divided into four equal pieces; four gardens, each with a different character, around a spring of water which forms a small creek. The stranger continues his story by telling our narrator about a terrible storm that broke out one late autumn day. For three days and three nights torrential rain hit the little island and all the stranger could do was to watch from inside the lighthouse. On the third night he saw a distant light on the horizon and realised that a boat was coming straight to the island. He suddenly realised also that he had not fed the fire of the lighthouse for three days and it must have been extinct by then. In his attempt to save the boat he sets fire to part of the lighthouse; the boat safely evading the rocks. The following day he realises that the boat had docked at the bottom of the four gardens. He approaches discreetly and finds out that each one of the four members of the crew had taken on a garden and that they appear intent on staying there, for a while at least. The group consists of three men and a woman. She seems to move freely amongst them and treats them all the same. Our stranger observes their habits from a distance and is perplexed and vexed because they do not seem to acknowledge him at all. For a while he retreats into the lighthouse, repairing the damage and watching over the four people from a distance. When he finally meets with the woman his anger and vexation evaporate and he is seduced. A series of games and misunderstandings between the two culminate in the woman having dinner with him in the lighthouse and then, after a few drinks she falls asleep there. The following morning the stranger visits the three men in their gardens and announces to them that the wish of the woman is that they leave the island immediately while she will stay behind with him. He returns to the lighthouse and announces to her what he did. She will never forgive him, and only accepts him begrudgingly ever after. It does not turn out as he expected. She helps him with everyday tasks but avoids him as much as possible, preferring to take long walks on her own. She tries to escape but her attempts are thwarted. Their final confrontation takes place one night when she manages to steal a gun, but in the darkness he finally kills her. He buries her in the four gardens and leaves the island straight after. When the narration finishes our hero suddenly loses the narrator in the crowd as they disembark. He walks up to the family house, which is locked up and dark because he had informed nobody of his arrival. He doesn’t feel like knocking on the neighbour’s door. He walks back to the port, negotiates a boat with a local man, and then sets for the little island. He docks at the bottom of the deserted four gardens, uproots the wooden cross that marks the burial place of the woman, and he walks up to the lighthouse. He lights up the fire on the top and gets it working again.

Published in Greek: Οι τέσσερις κήποι, Stigmi, Athens, 1996.

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