THE GOATHERD, THE WRITER, HIS WIFE AND THEIR CITROEN DS - part 6.


The incline is steep, Gilbert estimates perhaps 1 in 3, and soon his right leg has turned an icy cold. He is thankful for Vantaris' arm around him. "He was a big goat - massive eggs huh?" he turns and smiles at Vantaris who surprises him with a scowl. "The goat is strong ... plenty of power but ... but he only gets weaklings ... and his owner ... that Sifis ... he is a scoundrel ... is that correct? ... scoundrel? ... he has never served the same herd twice with that goat ... no repeat business ... but Sifis ships him around the island to poor goat herds who have not heard." "Scoundrel is a good word Vantaris, very good. And very apt."

The ice in Gilbert's leg has turned to hot needle points but he disregards it - they are entering the churchyard. Now they are in shade. "Give me a cigarette Gil." Gilbert reaches out a pack of Assos and they both light up, gulping the smoke hungrily and smiling. "How many packs these days Gil? When are you going to stop?" Vantaris' head jerks back and his full throaty laugh echoes off the church. "Did you write about the church yet? And the magic tree?" "Not yet ... well yes ... and no ... we are writing it now ... one pack, perhaps one and a half ... two when you help ... and I'll stop smoking the day after I die ... come on ... tell me what you need the rope for ..." Vantaris puts a finger to his lips and cocks his head to one side to listen. "Sit down Gil and rest your leg ... you will see ..." And then he is gone, bounding up the sheer rock face among the goats, his ragged boot laces trailing him like the tails of Chinese stunt kites.

Gilbert wakes from a dreamless sleep. All Gilbert's sleeps are dreamless. He peers through the basketweave of the hat that covers his face and gently rouses himself. The sound of goat bells rings around his head. Removing the hat completely he is amazed to see that his legs are covered in softly yellow butterflies. He is entranced and beguiled by this gentle blanket that delicately takes to the air air as he stirs and shows a pale green underside. He thinks of Marquez and grins at how appropriate is the word butterfly for these beautiful insects the colour of unadulterated butter (Gonepteryx cleopatra - ) and wonders about the origins of the Greek word petaloutha. His Marquez moment is brutally broken by Vantaris' huge, bell-like voice, "Gil, get the rope ready". The sun has passed over and he can clearly see Vantaris loping down a near vertical slope with a brown kid held around his neck like a living shawl - he is holding all four of the kid's feet, two in each hand. "Look ma, no hands ...", Gil thinks. .