Artemio, the rubbish disposal man, encounters a visitor from the underworldby Panos Karnezis / May 20, 2004 / Leave a comment
The pick-up truck was so old that it left a trail of nuts and bolts as it drove down the dirt road. Its bodywork resembled the skin of an ageing animal mottled with scabby wounds. Artemio coughed. Because the driver’s window had no glass, a cloud of dust filled the cabin and he could neither see where he was headed nor make out the potholes. Every time the wheel fell into one of the deep lunar craters his head hit the roof and after a while this had begun to give him a headache. So when he saw the dark mass on the side of the road next to a concrete milepost he drove past it in his dizziness, thinking it was a dead dog. It was not until several minutes later that he wondered why a dog would wear a helmet and carry a spear. Artemio hit the brakes and turned back.
The man lay in the dust, snoring carnivorously and stinking of alcohol. He was dressed only in a short pleated tunic and a pair of leather sandals strapped around his thick hairy legs. The dress had once been white, but now it was soiled and ripped, as well as speckled with blood from the thistle cuts on his legs. The helmet he wore sported a crest. Next to his spear lay a heavy round shield.
Artemio was so intrigued that he did not try to wake the man up. He sat down on a rock and scratched his head for a long time before concluding that the stranger had perhaps been on his way back from a costume party when highwaymen had robbed him, beaten him up and taken his car. But this assumption did not satisfy Artemio, as there had been no sighting of a highwayman for over a century. Also, it was August and he had never heard of a carnival taking place in the summer. Artemio shrugged. There had to be another explanation. While he observed the sleeping man in the vain hope that he would somehow reveal his secret, he could not but admire his unusual attire: the helmet was clearly made of hammered bronze and was shaped so that it covered the neck and most of the face including the nose, while its crest was made of white horsehair. Beautiful copper plumes surmounted its crown. Whoever he was, this man had a…