I put a stronger lock on the bodega door, because the key stopped turning in the cheap one. It´s a detail, a tiny difference in the everyday. But everybody knows. (They ask me if I´ve heard of gypsies in the area. Gypsies are the local bugaboo. They come from the east and north, and I am told they steal everything that´s not nailed down. I go to Carrion de los Condes every Thursday, eastward. So maybe I have heard something, maybe I know. One can´t be too careful, not with Those People!)
Last week after Mass, I went to Santiago de Compostela for a congress of people like me, loonies who let strangers stay at their houses, with some bishops and nuns and Anglicans thrown in for righteousness´ sake. I was gone for four whole days. In the interim Patrick went to the bar one evening, to see a football match. While there, he had a scary, embarrassing coughing fit. Everybody knows. And after church this morning everyone said "Welcome back, Rebekah! How was the trip?"
Everybody knows now how the convention went -- the bishops blathered on and on. They know too about the day I skipped out, I flew up to Sarria and back down in a top-down convertible Fiat 550 with two merry Dutchmen, one of them a priest, a dear friend for many years, a majo who visited Moratinos, who helped us, didn´t he? plaster the ceilings at the bodega, he is so tall! Big hands! Good teeth, despite those cigars! Yes, we remember! Yes, we know! Lucky you, Rebekah, such fabulous friends you have! (what about your husband, here all alone, choking in the bar, and you gadding about in a Fiat with tall Dutchmen?)
When we moved to Moratinos my friend Tino, an expat Gallego Spaniard from Xunqueria de Amba, a somewhat-small town in darkest Galicia, gave me a stern warning. "Rebekah," he said, "we have a refran, a wise saying: "Small town, big hatred." Watch out for that. Small town, small minds."
"Tino," I told him then, "this town is only 16 people. You can´t afford to be too hateful in a town so little. People need one another. No one will survive otherwise."
And so it has proved, even as the town has grown -- we now are 23 or 25 year-round people, depending on how you count. There are frictions and factions, yes. One of our neighbors is sure our dogs trampled the pea-patch in his un-fenced garden. He followed us around for three days to make sure we kept every one of our dogs on a lead anywhere near town. (Never mind the other three or six dogs who regularly wander loose through town.) He has a point, however. So we put all the dogs on leads while we walk around in the town. We adjust. Everybody knows. (Everybody rolls their eyes heavenward, too, in sympathy.)
Dogs attack one another, run off together, kill hens and harass cats. Visitors park their cars in the wrong driveway. We fail to cut the high grass, which goes to seed and spreads to the field alongside. Neighbors spread manure on the very day the abbot or the Junta or news reporters are due. We plan and publicize beautiful concerts, and almost no one shows up. That´s life in a tiny pueblo. It does not always go our way.
But there is an up-side, too. We have, apparently, landed on a marketing list.
For some reason, producers and PR guys are sending us top-class regional cheese, honey, and wine to sample. They apparently believe The Peaceable is a destination for high-end tourists. Their shiny packages often arrive at the same moment as the most lowdown homeless travelers. Once I figured out I do not need to send back items I never ordered, I started inviting the pilgrims to taste the goodies, too -- who knows? One of them may be a true connoisseur. At least two of them were shepherds of decades´ experience, professionals who know ewe´s milk cheese better than anyone I can think of.
So yes, it´s true: We give delicacies to derelicts and wanderers, and their "feedback" we send back on the "tell us what you think" ratings cards provided. The honey, like the "artisanal beer", all tastes pretty much the same to me. Jam? Jam is jam. The wine, though... the wine I keep and taste and judge for myself, now that Lent is through.
And this explains the Audis and BMWs rolling up here lately, looking around, the glossy drivers stamping their pilgrim credentials, wondering what this place is, asking odd questions. We have been mistaken for somewhere else. I am finally figuring this out. But I bet everyone in Moratinos already knows.
Meantime, the queue outside the doctor´s office on Monday means Rebekah´s asthma is kicking up, Raquel´s bad knee is worse, Manolo´s stiff wrist needs seeing-to, everybody´s blood-pressure medicine in running low. (My blood pressure is always low, it is genetic. Everybody knows.)
The fields are green, heads well-formed atop the rye and soon the barley, the soybeans blossom bright yellow. May and June and the steady breeze turn our campo back to a shallow sea, soft waves flutter these days green instead of blue, grain instead of waves of water. We fall into the rhythm of the grain, and we forget the conflicts that so irked us earlier on, we let them go as we walk out to the huerta, the orchard, the garden, the bower of backyard jasmine. We drink the wine. The cheese melts softly on our tongues.
I know. Everybody knows. But we forget, at least for now, because the sun is out, the swallows are in the barn and ´round the church tower, and soon again the farmers will cut the grain. There will be enough for the rich and the poor, the pijo, the gitano and the presumido, too. Enough for all of us.