The house in Vourvoura
Here is the promised chapter. As a set up we had survived storms at sea and arrived in a remote village. To our surprise, a promised rent-free house turned out come with an old lady, Thia, and her great niece, her husband and two daughters.
The Day That David Invented the Doorknob
The house lacked many conveniences, such as full plumbing and electricity, but the thing we missed most was a doorknob on the front door.
All the houses in Vourvoura had handles and little thumb latches instead of doorknobs. Thia’s latch was broken. When it was windy the only way to keep the door closed was to shoot the bolt, locking it from the inside.
We often came back from shopping or a walk and found it locked because when it was left unlocked it blew open and wind put out the lamps in front of Thia’s icons, a matter of great concern to her. Then pound as hard as we could there was no way to get any response for Thia was hard of hearing and her room was at the back of the house. Unless she happened to leave her room, which wasn’t often, or unless Athena or Yorghia were there, we had to go back down the steps, out the courtyard door, climb a steep hill to get to the back of the house, scale a four foot wall, clamber through a small storeroom window and walk through the house to finally unlock the front door. It was a windy summer and this happened frequently enough to be a real nuisance. One day after we had gone through the routine twice David announced he was going to make a doorknob.
He found a broken limb from the apple tree in back and carved it into the proper shape, with a tongue-like flange for a latch, and installed it. Thia came out to replenish the oil in the icon lamps and stayed for a few minutes to watch David at work puzzled. He tried to explain what he was doing by gestures. She walked back to her room shrugging, sure this was again proof we were crazy, a conclusion she had reached the day after we had arrived.
Later that day I was sitting in our room which overlooked the front door and saw Adonis come in from the fields. He mounted the steps, sighing when he saw the door closed, prepared to shout for one of us. Then he saw the doorknob and stopped dead.
He looked at it a long time before he slowly reached out to touch it. He pulled it, nothing happened. He turned it and the door opened. He closed and opened the door again and again. He looked at both knobs and the latch very carefully. Then he didn’t come in; he went downstairs and out to the street where Soteria was unloading sacks of grain from the donkey.
She followed him back up and he showed her the doorknob. She looked at it suspiciously. Then he opened the door. He closed it again and tried to persuade Soteria to open it, but she balked. He went inside, closed the door, then opened it and came back out. Finally Soteria reached for the doorknob and turned it. When the door opened she threw her head back and screamed with laughter. Her laugh was as hearty as the rest of her. She started shouting for the neighbors.
A few of the women came to see what the fuss was about. Soteria demonstrated the door, and Maria, our milk lady crossed herself. She had been interrupted at her baking and was covered in flour, she wiped her hands on her apron and tried the knob herself. All of the women laughed and went to get Thia. She came out of her room grumbling at being disturbed. Then the crowd gathered to show her the new addition to her house. Adonis opened and closed the door a few times to demonstrate. Thia stepped back and like Maria, crossed herself, but was finally coaxed into trying it herself. She opened the door and grinned a big toothless grin.
Finally the women left to return to their chores but Adonis returned with all the men he had found in the wineshop. They were all fascinated and played with the door, talking excitedly together.
They found David in his studio, shook his hand, then dragged him down to the wineshop where they all took turns buying him a drink. Every time someone new drifted into the shop some of the men would take him to the house to show him the new wonder. Two of the men fetched the village priest and took him to the house as well, which impressed Thia enormously. He returned and bought David a drink, too.
That Sunday there was a wedding at the church and Adonis proudly showed the doorknob to all the guests. In fact, the doorknob became a tourist attraction and we grew used to having strangers show up from other villages to ask to try it out. Soteria laughed every time she saw it, but all the men were convinced that David was a genius.