Friday, 19 August 2011

Strange Goat Incident

That’s what it says in my notebook, followed by a few obscure scribbled notes. This is why I must write stories regularly. You, dear readers, are saving me from having nothing more than a notebook filled with things like ‘Strange goat incident!!’.

So, this is what happened a couple of weeks ago. It started when I was indoors working and heard a strange commotion in the garden. By the angry sound of Pavlos’ voice, I thought it was maybe the Rabbit Returned – for weeks Pavlos has been threatening to shoot the pest for rabbit stew for eating all his melon plants. Then I heard hooves. A couple of goats had got in and were hungrily eyeing all the flowers and plants. Pavlos was shouting at them outraged for sneaking in – though to be fair to the goats, the gate was wide open. Pavlos, in his red football t-shirt and baseball cap and shorts, had been working on the honey again inside.
The goats ran across my garden and leapt over the wall. Wherever you walk in Tilos, goats leap away over walls or the edges of mountains with proverbial agility. They’ve clearly heard the stories: they know that when it comes to a treat, there’s no meat Tilians like better than a bit of roasted goat. So these two nimbly leapt over the wall – and one of them got trapped between the wall and the fence.
It was a black and white short-haired one with average horns and a big belly. Some Tilos goats are beautiful, noble-looking creatures with chestnut-coloured or jet black flowing hair so glossy they should advertise Pantene shampoo, with twisting wide horns and long beards; some are pretty pale faun-coloured ones.
This one was your average Joe goat, albeit with a slightly scared look in its eye as Pavlos grabbed its horns and pulled it back over the wall. I also noticed it wasn’t wearing a tag.
‘Bring me a knife!’
He was still yanking the goat up by the horns. ‘Bring me a knife! We’ll put it on the spit…’
‘No!’ I said more quietly, laughing. Was he joking, gentle Pavlos, the guy who won’t even put chemicals on his vegetables in case the birds eat them? He had a determined look on his face, though, winding rope around its horns to keep hold of it at a distance. He’s been working hard, and his wife is in mourning after the death of a very close cousin so he didn’t get to go to the paniyiri for Ayios Panteleimonas as it wouldn’t have been right, sosto. And a big part of a paniyiri is the free goat stew and potatoes that gets cooked up in huge vats on the coals.
Muttering something about finding a place to tie the animal, he pulled it out the gate and went to rope it to a tree on the slope of the hill just out of sight. Then I heard him drive off on his motorbike.
Was he off to get a knife, seriously?
I heard the goat scrabbling around, then it stopped. I went out to take a look. It seemed to have got the rope twisted around itself in a panic, and was lying with its hind legs pulling the tope taut, front legs somewhere trapped underneath its heavy body, and head twisted below at an awkward angle. I approached carefully and tried to help it get upright, but the rope  tightened around its neck and it was panting heavily, gasping for breath, its tongue hanging out. Then it stopped moving, the panting stopped. It looked like it was dying a nasty death: surely Pavlos hadn’t intended that? Reaching out, I managed to untangle it somehow, pulling it this way and that until the rope was no longer strangling it. Still it didn’t move. Then suddenly the breath came again. Somehow, pulling the rope away here and there, I got it onto its feet again.
Was it the right thing to do, interfering? It’s a village, and you have to respect the way people do things in the country, their relationship with animals. I thought I’d get out of the way before he came back. Whatever he wanted to do with it, at least it hadn’t strangled itself in the glaring sun. I had to go up to the village anyway.
I took overgrown path through the field, the shortcut, which brings me out halfway up the road into the village. Just then the bus was coming round the corner. I stood to one side to let it pass but it slowed down. ‘It’s OK!’ I said, but it turned out he was just stopping to give me a lift the few minutes’ walk up the hill. ‘Eh, it’s difficult in this heat!’ I arrived at the shop with a big smile on my face. Eleftheria, juggling two mobile phones and a land line, managed to stop long enough to sort me out with what I needed. The KEP office gave me the key to my new post office box – I am a local citizen with my own village post box! Outside, I noticed the deep magenta bougainvillaea, the lush green of the village trees and the view across the valley to my stone house on the wild brush-covered hillside. What a place to live…

I came back with a couple of bottles of retsina clinking in my bag, and as I approached the house I saw the red splash of Pavlos’ t-shirt as he bent down over the goat. My heart sank.
Then as I approached, the goat came tearing down the track then leapt away up the hill and out of sight.
‘I freed it,’ said Pavlos.
Maybe he’d asked Maria for a knife and she’d said no. Or maybe he only intended to give it a scare.
‘I don’t think it will be back,’ I said.

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