Tin Can Gamble

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Literature Text

Fotis collapsed, exhausted, against the damp brick wall.  He was relieved to finally allow his breath to catch up with him and assess the day's small victory.  The trophy of that victory was a meal.  The other children seemed to make a game out of this daily struggle.  It was sometimes as if they didn't grasp the high stakes gamble of their almost daily escapades.  Sometimes, they had to abandon their mission.  Other times, they succeeded but at a cost, sometimes physical but always psychological.

It wasn't too long ago that this would all be completely inconceivable, playing the mouse end of cat and mouse with occupying soldiers and planning elaborate heists just so you and your family and neighbors wouldn't starve.  If they made these gambles for much longer, they were bound to lose big someday, but if they didn't gamble at all, they might lose anyway.  Maybe it was better that some of the children could see it as a game, that they didn't know what was at stake.  At times, Fotis wished he could still possess that naiveté.  With luck, maybe he could at least convince others that he did.

But for now, he had his dinner, one small tin of something.  He hadn't eaten anything the day before.  They donated today's treasures to the neighborhood, and Fotis claimed this tin for himself.  He felt lie a stray dog, having dinner in an alley, but something else had come up, and he seemed to be endlessly running.  At least he could replenish some energy before rendezvousing with the other children before curfew – he hoped.

He pulled back the lid and wiped his hand on his shirt.  Etiquette had no place in a damp alley.  As he readied himself to consume the hard-fought morsel, Fotis was frozen by a rustling sound.  "Just a stray cat?" he hoped aloud.  But the rustle was followed by a groan.

Fotis followed the noises deeper into the alley and found his unexpected dining companion, an emaciated old man.  The man was just as startled by company but sighed in relief to see the Greek youth before him.  "What brings a healthy young lad to my dark corner?" the man breathed slowly.

"Just finding a quiet spot," Fotis answered.

"Ah, this is a peaceful spot," the man said back, letting his eyelids fall.  "But I am waiting for death, which is the most peaceful of all."

Fotis was scared to see this man in his state, talking like he was.  "Don't say things like that, Mister." He said, touching the frail and cold shoulder.  "The truth is, I came to bring you your dinner.  We missed you when we divided up rations."

"It's no good to lie to an old man," the man said with a smile.  His eyes met Fotis's, and the eyes shimmered with his knowledge.  "I now that's your dinner, and you should have it.  It would be wasted on me.  I am already gone."

"If you're talking, you aren't gone," Fotis argued.  "It's yours, and I won't eat it."

"I can see you are a stubborn boy.  You won't allow me to refuse?"

"No, sir.  Take it."  Fotis set the tin in the pale, thin hand.  "I can get more easily enough."
I can claim no historical or even canonical accuracies in this. The truth is, I was a little nervous to make a writing attempt for the talented and very knowledgeable Tantz Aerine [link] , but I owe her one, so I bit my lip and made a stab at it.

This is a brief narrative related to her work of graphic fiction Without Moonlight [link] , set in WWII era Greece. (I am completely ignorant to the setting, I'm afraid. I sought mainly to make a character piece.)

Anyway, I hope this is okay.
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TantzAerine's avatar
This is great! Actually it fits pretty perfectly with how it felt (according to actual accounts of actual youngsters of the time) being not just a leaper but a citizen in occupied Athens.

And you captured Fotis' personality so well! He would do that, though his strategist self would be telling him the old man was right. Very candid, not overly dramatic, and heartwrenching.

Thank you! I really enjoyed reading it :)