THE GOATHERD, THE WRITER, HIS WIFE AND THEIR CIROEN DS - part 7 - ends.


Vantaris leaps into the churchyard where Gilbert waits with the ropes. Gilbert rubs his eyes and thinks immediately of the great god Pan - the great god Pan is dead he repeats to himself. "Which one?" Vantaris takes a short rope from the proffered bunch and hobbles the goat by its hind legs. He lifts the young goat from his shoulders like Jason removing the golden fleece and puts him gently down by the church door. The kid struggles briefly against the hobble which is attached to his upper thighs but soon settles. He pets the kid behind the ears before coming to sit himself beside Gilbert under the mulberry stand and pulls off his boots. He trousers are covered in burrs and grass darts, he is coated in a pale red dust but his smile is broad. From his back pocket he pulls a crumpled red pack of Sante and offers one to Gilbert who scans the blonde woman on the box lid before taking one. They light their cigarettes and a silence descends as they savour the first hits of the smoke to their throats. "Tsikourdia?" asks Vantaris? "Why not?". Gilbert is still coming round. Vantaris strides over to the church door and reaches up above the door lintel whence he produces a rather simple Yale type key. He opens the door and disappears into the gloom. emerging moments later with a plastic water bottle of clear spirit in his left hand and a long thin grey stone in his right.

They sip in turn from the tsikourdia, the native Cretan spirit. "OK Vantaris, what's the plan? Does the kid have to go to the vet in Vrysses? Becky will be expecting me back - can you manage now? You can give me the rope back on Thursday." Vantaris produces two knives from one of the infeasible number of pockets that beset his trousers, one of which Gilbert is sure he recognises. "That curved knife ..." "Yes, Becky gave it to me ... said it was her very first lavender knife ... said it was blunt now and you didn't know how to sharpen it ..." Vantaris strokes the curved blade carefully across the stone concentrating intently. "But her knife had a pale blonde handle ... beech I think ... but that one - - ..." Vantaris laughs but sticks at his task "Blood Gil, blood will darken wood ... I changed the tip a little ... reground it ... it is a wonderful knife for cutting throats now ...". Gilbert now looks carefully at the other knife and feels a prescient twist in his stomach - it is a skinning knife, of that there is no doubt. He looks at Vantaris who looks up, his task complete, and holds him with his dark brown eyes and nods. He takes up the second knife and reapplies both it and himself to the stone. "Not here surely? ... the pappas will go berserk ..." Silence save for the blade on the stone, a distant cicada, the first Gilbert has heard this year, and a goat bell somewhere. Eventually Vantaris lays the knife and the stone to one side.

"You think I care what some black shrouded eunuch thinks? With their new religion? With their canting? With their churches built of our stones? With their gospels written in our language? You think I give a straw? My people were killing animals here before their Jesus was born ... before the Ottomans ... before the Venetians even... before the siege of Troy ... back in the times of Minos ... long before that arch-clown Evans "discovered" Knossos and made of it some archaeological joke? My people were in Egypt mummifying their Pharoahs when the Jewses were captives, slaves. Fuck the preist ... and fuck the truck he drives in on." Vantaris laughs long and loud. "Hey Gil, you know Zeus was born here? Of course you know. Near Psiloritis. You know how we know? Because Zeus killed his father and fucked his sister - how could he be anything other than Cretan? A Sfakian."

"Enough?" he says waving the nearly empty bottle?" Gilbert nods assent and Vantaris gets up and puts the bottle and the stone back in the church, locks it, and puts the key back in its hiding place. He bends and strokes the neck of the goat that stands perfectly still. He looks across to Gilbert "Come on Gil ... killing time ... for Manousos's baptism"