January is a grey old bitch, mud tracked-in on wet paws and boots, chapped cheeks, and this year, death. Yesterday we touched bottom.
But today the sun came out. Murphy´s suffering is finished, a new little grave is set up out back by the horsetails. Murph liked to hang out back there. Nabi the greyhound is buried there too. We set to work getting the house back into shape, the wood chopped, the floors swept up and mopped, and all the blankets and towels and cat-beds laundered.
Post-siesta we went to the Bar Deportivo in Sahagún to pay the electrician and the veterinarian. Two dozen men were packed in there, slamming dominoes down onto formica, shouting and swearing and living the life. Paddy loves these old guys, he says their faces are straight out of Goya and Velasquez paintings, and sometimes Hieronymous Bosch. I thank God they can´t smoke indoors anymore. The walls and ceilings of the Deportivo are still a soft yellow-grey from decades of Ducado fumes, but now, without the smoke, you can actually see the television screens. If you want to watch highlights of last year´s bullfights.
When you pay bills here, you meet up with the artisan in a bar. You shake hands and fork over the cash, then buy one another drinks and talk over what was done. No paperwork, and probably no tax.
You´ll remember me clearing out a flooded junction box out back with a turkey baster? Tino the electrican fixed that. He also bought my turkey baster from me, once I showed him how I got that water out of there. That´s brilliant, he said. "Americans think of everything."
The veterinarian nipped over from his little clinic across the street. We have seen him early every morning since last Friday, he took us first thing and pumped Murphy full of glucose and vitamins and iron and God knows what. He apologized for losing Murph, and charged us 24 Euros for everything.
We said No Way, man.
"You are good customers, good people," he said. "You trusted me, but it was not to be," he said. "The liver was too effected. The liver failed, the medicine failed. I failed."
He shook our hands, took our 24 Euros.
I went to the hardware store where we´d left the chainsaw for sharpening. The couple there asked me how Philip´s wedding went, they´d heard I went back to America at Christmas. They heard from the news agent. Who knows Pilar at the bakery. Walking back up the street I was hailed by the homeless guy who sleeps in the alcove. He asked about Murphy. Last Saturday he´d seen me coming out of the vet clinic, looking sad. He´d looked into the carrier cage at the ragged cat. He´d told me I should have got a dog instead, that dogs can eat anything and survive because they know how to puke.
"The cat died," I told him today.
"I know. I heard. I´m sorry," he said.
I do not know these peoples´ names a lot of the time. But people know who we are. We and our weddings and chainsaws and cats are part of the scene now, especially in January, when Moratinos and San Nicolas, Sahagún and Grajal are down to skeleton crews and there´s nothing going on, nobody to talk about. These people do not know us personally, but they know who we are, and I like that. It makes me feel comforted, strengthened somehow.
There is one note of wonderfulness to report, animal-wise.
If you follow my Facebook postings, you will remember Tor, a scruffy mongrel who likes to walk with pilgrims from Calzadilla de la Cueza to Moratinos. He fetches up late in the morning at Martina´s Hostal or Bruno´s albergue, where he is fed and watered and fussed-over. His owner, the driver for a taxi and backpack-transport service, stops in and picks him up and takes him home in the afternoon.
Just before Christmas, though, Bruno came to our door on a Sunday morning asking for help. Tor had arrived as usual, but something was wrong -- he had apparently been hit by a car. One of Tor´s rear legs was torn off at the elbow, the paw dangling horrifically from a scrap of fur, a bit of bone... oh I won´t get too gruesome with it! We loaded Tor into the back of the furgoneta and drove him home to Calzadilla, a pilgrim stop about 18 kilometers east. His people run the hostel there. They were suitably appalled, mentioned a cousin who is a vet, had us put him in a stairwell til the owner came home.
Bruno and I assumed the dog would be put down. We heard no more about him.
Until this morning.
Tor showed up at Martina´s place with a couple of Korean pilgrims, spry as ever, looking for dog biscuits. On three legs. The gruesome stump was swathed in bandages, and he wore a plastic cone collar to keep him from worrying the wound. But he is alive and well and back in the pilgrim business.
Bruno and I high-fived. Moratinos has a history of three-legged pilgrim pooches.
This one the vet won. We rejoice.