The stranger finally woke up, stretched, and belched. The dogs did the same, (except for the belch). He sat down at the table, and the dogs laid their faces on his knees. They had found a soul brother.
His name was Tomas, I think. That´s about all we learned, as he spoke none of the languages we do, and we spoke none of his. He looked Slavic to me, grey-eyed; Russian, Ukrainian, or Slovak, but his language was definitely Germanic. So maybe he´s from way up north, where the Russians meet the Scandinavians. Finland, Lapland, or maybe Norway or Sweden. What is strange is most Nordic people have good English, or at least some German, and he had neither. He was carrying the Confraternity of St. James (UK) Camino guidebook, which is how he knew to seek us out. He pointed to our page.
How he can understand an English guide without speaking English is a mystery... but then, I read Spanish much better than I can speak it.
He ate everything we put in front of him: black beans and rice, bread, paté, vegetable soup, a pork cutlet. (We were clearing out the fridge.) He drank two glasses of milk and two glasses of wine. He then had an apple, which he peeled with a knife in one long, continuous strip. He didn´t smile or laugh or commune much with us, but he enjoyed Una and Tim and his lunch.
He put on his jacket and put three Euro coins beside the salt shaker. Paddy helped him put on his backpack, and gave him a strip of duct tape to repair a tear in his pants. As he headed out the gate he turned and made the sign of the cross. He put his hand on his heart, and bowed.
We had to hold back the dogs. They were ready to follow this guy all the way to Santiago. When the gate snapped shut they barked and barked, which signaled every other dog in Moratinos to bark him farewell all the way out of town.
I thought about "angels unawares," and the old statue in our church of St. Roch: a worn-out pilgrim with a dog alongside. And I thought of a piece of a Celtic blessing I know from somewhere:
"I saw a stranger yestere´en.
I put food in the eating place,
drink in the drinking place,
music in the listening place.
And in the sacred name of the Triune God
he blessed myself and my house,
my cattle and my dear ones.
And as he moved on
the lark said in her song:
Often, Often, Often,
goes the Christ in a stranger's guise.
Often, often, often
goes the Christ in a stranger´s guise."
If that is so, Jesus was last seen heading west on the Camino, wearing a red and white waterproof jacket. He needed a shave. And he´s probably got several dozen dogs trailing him along by now.