Posted on: March 1st, 2009 Patmos Like Pink Elephants

by Nick Mamatas

“Did you know,” Rob said to me as we waited for the sweaty waiter-slash-owner of the little pillbox kafenio to come take our orders, “that the only question about Revelations is whether John of Patmos ate the magic mushrooms purposefully in order to have a vision, or whether it was an accidental ingestion?”

“Well, that’s a relief, isn’t it?” I found Rob boring. He had attached himself to me earlier that day, when the cave tour was cut short for safety reasons. He’s of the type who is ready to go anywhere, do anything, put anything in his mouth, but really only feels comfortable among white people who speak perfect English and say “Please” and “Thank you.” Tough luck for him on the Greek isles. Plus, the day was very hazy from the fires, and the air smelled funny.

“Are you supersti–religious?”

I shrugged. The waiter saved me. “What you like?” he asked. Rob ordered the yiouvarlakia avgolemono. “That’s finished,” the waiter said. Yiouvarlakia kokkino? Also finished. Beefsteak? Finished. Strapatsatha? Finished.

“Well, what on the menu is available?” Rob finally asked, flustered.

“Whatever you want!” said the waiter. He owned the place; he could talk like that to paying customers. Of course, so could an ordinary waiter. Lamb yiovetsi it was.

“It’s a lucky dish. People eat it in August, for the holiday,” I said.

“Is there any mushroom in it?”

“No. Not a lot of mushrooms in Greek cooking. Old ladies go picking them sometimes and use them for flavor.” Rob looked very interested in me just then. “I’m half-Greek.”

“I thought so,” he said. He opened his mouth, then shut it, then opened it again and complimented my hair. He was probably going to say something about my nose at first. “Are you here for family? A pilgrimage?”

“Work,” I told him. “International relations.” Our waters finally came. Mine had a scoop of banila in it. “You?”

“I’m into,” he said, his lips in a tiny smile, “extreme experiences.”

I just started laughing at him. I slapped my hand over my mouth, then snorted, then took a long gulp of water. “Sorry, sorry,” I said. I leaned forward. Men like that.

“That’s okay. I’m looking for Amanita muscaria.”

“The mushroom. Should be easy enough,” I said. “Just take a walk into the hills. Nibble on what you find. If you get a stomachache, wrong mushroom. That’s the Greek way.”

“Have you done it? Why don’t we go together? Get some wine; make a day of it. I hear there are good swimming holes up on the mountain.”

“Really? You heard that?”

“Heh,” Rob said. “No, I guess I didn’t. Something about water. Nerro, right? Must have been about the firefighting.” Our lamb came. I didn’t wait for Rob to start eating first. He stiffened in his chair.

“So,” I said between two bites. “Are you religious?”

“I’m…a seeker.”

Luckily my mouth was too full of lamb to laugh again. “Don’t you know that you only find what you’re looking for when you stop looking for it?”

“Do you really think that’s true?”

“It works for my car keys all the time.”

He laughed, then coughed.



“Do you have family on this island? Are you worried about the fire?”

“Oh no, my father’s family is from Samos. And I helped start the fires. Like I said, I’m here for work.”

He put down his fork. “I thought you said you were in international relations.”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“And you set fires? What are you, a terrorist?”

“Anti-terrorist,” I said. My water was gone. The owner had swung his legs over the sill of the only window in the small café to smoke a cigarette and was slumped over, giggling. I got up to get my own water from the pitcher. Rob was up, trying to tower over me.

“If you were some kind of secret agent, you wouldn’t be telling a stranger. I could be…I dunno, a German spy.”

“Well yes, I hope you are,” I said. “That’s the whole point. We’re taking care of it. Gene-splicing. Aerosol technology. Crazy stuff.” Rob had noticed the owner and turned to me, fists up.

“No more fighting,” I said between sips. “There are lots of mushrooms in the hills, and lots of Amanita muscaria all over the world. It grows in Siberia, Central America, the Hindu Kush. Man, I’m glad I wasn’t assigned to the Hindu Kush.”

Rob’s knees began to buckle. “Wow,” he said.

“Yeah,” I said. Then there were dragons and 1000-foot-tall whores everywhere.

Filed under: bad-ass, stories

4 Responses to “Patmos Like Pink Elephants”

  1. harry Says:
    March 17th, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Excellent! Am forwarding it along…

  2. harry Says:
    March 17th, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Excellent! Am forwarding it along…

  3. carlos azabache Says:
    April 23rd, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    the first round of comments were just amazing…

  4. carlos azabache Says:
    April 23rd, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    the first round of comments were just amazing…