Island Summer - Part 1
by Jack Rowan Jack_Rowan@hotmail.com
People who have read some of my other stories may be surprised to find
that this one has almost no BDSM in it.
The Island and the village of Sant Pau will be easily identified by anyone who knows the area, so it's all the more important to insist that none of the characters in this story exist, and any resemblances to real people are coincidental.
For people, places and things mentioned in this part, please see the end. Further notes about the story appear at the end of part 8.
All parts of Island Summer are copyright © 2000 Jack Rowan. You may copy the story, archive it and print it for your own use, but all other rights are reserved. In particular, please do not make it available through the web without my permission.
Stories by Jack Rowan: http://members.xoom.com/jack_rowan
I still think of the Island sometimes, even dream of it.
Usually I'm lying on my back, pine needles beneath me, and I'm staring upwards through the trees, the tall trees, to the impossible blue sky. The trees are stirring, just stirring, their clean, chemical, resinous smell wafts across me, and I can hear the sound of their cicadas, scratching like clocks being wound in the flat, dead, noonday heat; and the voices, the Island speech with its hollow vowels, as the others doze off. I can feel my limbs, every inch of them, in the hot air, my neck, my face, my bare feet, and although I'm not aroused, the moment is as sensual as sex, as conscious. My arms are stretched out sideways, my legs apart, I'm on my back, completely open, completely vulnerable, completely safe. And in the background, the sea endlessly lapping.
Yes, I still think of it. It's part of me, and always will be. Island afternoons; my life on the Island, one thing after another, day following day, no plans, no thought.
I miss it now, I suppose, in the way you miss your parents. Just as I missed it all that year in England, at school, my last year of school. For various reasons, life there had been unpleasant, even painful; but I was always able to reserve myself, to keep a detachment, because real life was the Island, where my parents were, where my friends were. It was waiting for me, and I longed for it, as I had since my parents had decided five years before that I must be educated in England. I had done what they wanted, and now I would take a year out. I would shed England like filthy clothes at the end of a long day, and disappear into the life of the Island, a fish into a pool, and be lost and dissolved.
As always in the plane, I strained to look through the windows on both sides, straining for the first sight of our destination. And there it was: the burnt, dried land with its walls and clumps of mata, the brown tracks, the tiny fields and the whitewashed farmhouses, first just an edge, and then pouring beneath us. We shot out above The Port, and turned to land.
The heat engulfed me as I went down the steps, and suddenly I was laughing and running for sheer joy. The tourists with me, shreds of England, stared at me in puzzlement, already sweating, the plump, overdressed men, the women in their polyester shorts, the whining children, and I discarded them. Waiting for my luggage I could see them already, Pere and Bisbe, my oldest friends, looking through the glass, Pere smoking and Bisbe, his teeth attacking a bocadillo, smiling at me.
"Man, you're here, then?" said Pere, as I struggled towards them.
I slipped without effort into the Island speech, the speech of my childhood.
"Damn, you're as white as a fish!" said Bisbe.
We laughed and embraced. And there was Pere's ancient red 2CV, rusted and filthy, among the rows of neat tourist cars, and we were into it and away.
It wasn't a bar for summer, really, this one. It wasn't a place that tourists came to much. We went there in the off season, long afternoons as the tramuntana howled down the little streets, and inside it was warm and crowded, with the sour smell of gin and dark tobacco, the rain trickling down the windows. Everyone knew everyone; the games of brisque, duels of gesture and hint, were complex and intimate, each group with its own history. And the talk! Here the Island speech had lived underground through the long years of the dictatorship, and here it still rejoiced in itself, the wordplay, the jokes and conversations spanning hours and days, stories, gossip, rickety towers of metaphor and allusion; and the rhymes, the rhymes made up on the spot by friends together. "Very close," Cion said to me once about these times, her ironic eyes suddenly serious, "Very us..."
But now the bar was quiet and cool. We each had a gin, neat, the Island's lifeblood. Pere offered me a Ducado and I drank in the dark smoke, feeling my shoulders relax, and gave an easy smile, a summer smile.
"When is Sant Pau?"
The fiesta of the village, of Sant Pau, San Pablo as the signposts said, was the pole around which the calendar revolved. Pere gave me a strange look. Indeed, I had been away.
"Three weeks. Joan will be riding."
"He will? Does he have a horse?"
"His uncle's. He's been practising all the time. He's very serious about it. He's given up drinking. And smoking."
We looked at each other, and burst out laughing.
"So, what have you been doing there in England, at your school?"
Suddenly I didn't want to discuss it. Work, swimming and running, friendships and enmities, alliances and wars, timetables, masters, exams... Above all, the deep and sour disquiet which had so unbalanced my life this year. Another world. It had no intersection with this one, and that's how I liked it. And in any case, it was over.
"I've finished with that. I took my exams, and passed. That's it. Now I'm here."
"Here? But for how long?"
"A year, maybe. I've... I've missed this place. Missed everyone."
"Of course. This is your home. Here you're at home."
I closed my eyes briefly, and felt a happiness and a completion which almost overwhelmed me. I was on the brink of tears.
"I must go and see my parents," I said.
"I'll give you a lift."
The car ground through the heat on the three-mile run to the beach, to the Son Fadrí urbanisation where my parents had lived since they inexplicably moved from the village three years ago. In summer this road was almost the high street of the village, a journey one made several times a day, and every turn, every clump of bushes, every viewpoint was familiar, heart-wrenching. "I could drive this road with my eyes shut!" Joan had yelled one drunken night, and then, to my horror, he had done exactly that...
I could hear the cicadas as we passed each one, even over the bronchitic growl of Pere's car. High above us a kite circled. I let the wind blow my hair, and luxuriated.
"Some things have changed, you know," he said.
There was a strange edge to his voice, and I looked at him. He was the same as ever; taller than me, thin and with dark hair. His face, so often humorous and excited, reminded me of his father's, but there was an addition, something hidden, something thoughtful, even melancholic at times, and his eyes seemed blurred, unfocussed. His gestures were still the same, too, sharp and unexpected, individual.
"I'm walking out with Maria."
I jumped. I thought of certain things, and suppressed them hurriedly.
"Maria d'es Forn, of course." Maria of the bakery; here one scarcely used surnames, since everyone had two out of the same six or seven. What were Pere's surnames? Camps Ferrer, weren't they? My mind fled after irrelevancies, because for some reason Pere's news dismayed me utterly. I remembered Maria; a lively and pretty girl, small, who had always had a thing for Pere, ever since we were in kindergarten. I had always liked her, and somehow that made it worse.
"They're very traditional, her family," Pere went on. "I had to go and see her father and everything. Now at least they let us walk on the street together."
My life trembled. It was only a matter of time before they were married, then. I looked away, out of the window.
It was an appeal. Only Pere used my English name. I made myself smile at him.
"Man, that's really good. I'm happy for you. I've always thought she's a very nice girl."
"Kip, you're my friend." Somehow he understood my distress. "My best friend. Nothing can change that... In any case, we can't get married until I've done my mili. Now I'm working for Cisco. We need to get a bit of money together. Anyhow, this year it'll be the same as ever."
"She's a very nice girl," I said firmly.
Then the sea was before us, dark blue in the afternoon sun. We turned into the urbanisation. The white houses passed us one-by-one, each with its outlandish patch of green grass shrieking at the dusty road and the harsh grey stone walls. Pere knew where to go, and in any case, our house was different; instead of the neighbours' flowers and lawns, alien, bloated with sprinkler water, my parents had planted an Island garden: rows of lettuces, potatoes, aubergines, melons, tomatoes.
"Eileen!" I head my father yell, "He's here!"
My mother bustled out onto the patio and hugged me.
"Oh Kip, dear..."
"Welcome to the Island," said my father, and hugged me in his turn.
"Come inside for a while, Pere," he said. "We haven't seen much of you recently."
"No, thanks, Max." Pere's English was good, though we never spoke it together, and it always sounded strange to me when he used it. "I must go and work now. Kip, I'll see you - Sa Tanca this evening?"
"Fine." I switched back to the Island speech. "And... Man, believe me, I'm very happy about Maria."
We hugged, and he left.
Inside it was the usual chaos: my father's computer - a new acquisition - surrounded by drafts of the latest novel, furniture covered with books and papers. I could smell the meal my mother was cooking in the kitchen at the back.
"Let's have a drink," said my father, and we went out onto the patio with gin-and-tonics. A jungle of oleanders, sunflowers and aloes stood between us and the garden, and mesembryanthemum sprawled across the tiles.
"How's England?" said my mother.
She hadn't been there for five years or more; she didn't miss it in any way. My father went several times a year, to meet publishers and so on, but she never joined him. Short, plump and tanned, she spoke both Spanish and the Island speech almost as well as I did; tourists took her for an Islander. They had been here since before I was born.
"Wet," I said, and she laughed.
My father and I sat in the evening breeze at Sa Tanca, the bar by the beach, and watched the huge sun setting, the red light licking towards us along the tops of the little waves. Most of the tourists had gone back to their hotels, and Islanders were starting to arrive, because this was Friday evening. I was completely at peace.
"You need this, don't you?" he said.
"I've been longing for it."
"All through summer at school, and the exams, and everything..."
"But you did well. Four A's. That's good."
I smiled. "You're pleased?"
"Very. We've - we've ridden you pretty hard these last few years, Kip. We've been tough on you. You know why. But now - take some time for yourself. You've earned it. Don't worry too much about meals and where you sleep and so on. Just - just let yourself go. Disappear. We know this place, remember. We know how it works. And you're eighteen now. You can look after yourself."
I smiled at him.
"I think - I think you're pretty damn good parents."
"I dunno. But we're pleased with Richard, and we're pleased with you, so I guess we haven't done too badly. Have you got any money?"
"I've left fifty mil in your bedroom. We won't ask what happens to it."
"Fifty mil! Jesus! Thank you, dad!"
"Let me know when it's gone." He paused. "Apart from exams, how have things been going?"
"Okay, I guess."
My insides clenched.
I was in agony now. The Island - here, at least, I had hoped to be free from all this.
He smiled at me strangely.
"I don't know if you know, but you - are - blushing, Kip."
"Dad, there's been nothing like that."
"Really? Look. Your mother and me, we're not blind. We - we've wondered for some time if girls are really quite your thing. We - well, we would have expected some activity in that area by now, and there hasn't been any, has there?"
"I - I just haven't started yet, that's all."
"Not with girls or boys?"
"No. Really not."
"Well. Things can be confusing, can't they?"
To my horror, I felt tears rising.
"God, dad. Yes, they can be. Fucking damn confusing."
"Well. If you're taking a year out, this might be the time to sort them. If you can do that, really sort them out, it'll be a year well spent, I can tell you. Here."
He passed me a handkerchief, and I wiped my eyes.
"Take your time. There's no hurry. But - but don't avoid it, Kip."
"Let me say it. I'll say it, shall I?" I nodded, appalled. "We're talking about the possibility that you may be gay, aren't we?"
"Yes," I whispered.
"Well. Just so you have one less thing to worry about, let me tell you that we couldn't give a tuppenny damn whether you are or not. Just get to know yourself, Kip, that's all we ask, okay?"
"Walk along the beach a bit, then come back here and meet your friends." He touched my shoulder. "As for me, I'm off to bed. We'll see you when we see you."
I did as he said, and walked out along the shore. The sun was nearly gone now, just a sliver of dark red, and the sea was flat, lapping quietly on the sand.
I stood and watched as the sun disappeared, and the sea enchantment fell on me; I could feel it shifting in its bed, immense, powerful beyond imagination, and now quiet, benevolent.
I couldn't think about it. That's how it had been for a long time, and that's how it was now; the pain was too great. But my father's words had been a vast comfort, I suddenly realised. Even in this, they were with me, and I wasn't alone. I started to cry again, thinking of my parents, and my Island friends.
Then I wiped my face with my father's handkerchief, and walked back to the bar.
The yell came from them all as I walked up the steps; Pere, Maria, Bisbe, whose real name was Miquel, Pablo, Joan, Cion. Our group, our rancho. I fell into their midst, hugging and kissing. This, this was it, this was everything.
"Where's Sito?" I said.
"Mili," said Pere. "They sent him to Melilla, the bastards."
"Won't even be back for Sant Pau," roared Bisbe. "Fascists!"
He was not tall, but wide, huge, a massive slab of a man, and fantastically strong. When, as now, he allowed himself to get worked up, his neck seemed to swell, and his face darkened ferociously. We knew this, and it didn't disturb us. We listened peaceably to his ranting, smoking as the shadows fell and the lights on the hotel shone out across the sea.
"Your family! They were the worst, thousand cunts!" Bisbe yelled at Maria, finally. "The bakery, it's always been a nest of fascists in this village, damn it to hell!"
Cion shrieked with laughter.
"Right! And then there's you, the great revolutionary, Miguel the Bishop!"
"So? I wanted to be a priest. So? So? What's that got to do with it?"
"Right!" shouted Cion. "And now it's off to the casa de putas and ego te absolvo, you great idiot, and everyone else is a fascist!"
"Kiss my arse! Those ladies are better brought up than some people I could mention!"
"You mean you couldn't get it up?" She nodded meaningly.
Bisbe couldn't keep a straight face now, and we all fell about.
"Let's go to the hotel," said Pablo. "There's a dance tonight. Lots of tourists..."
"Yes!" said Joan. "Let's find a nice girl for Tofol!"
Tofol was me. And a nice girl was the last thing I wanted just then.
"So, I come all the way here from the land of English girls, and all you want to do is send me back?"
"No, no," said Cion. "They're all Germans. They're desperate for it! Go on, Tofol!"
"Leave him alone," said Maria. "My cousin will be here for Sant Pau. Tofol can wait for her!"
Everyone laughed. But we went to the hotel, and as I expected, Pablo disappeared almost at once, but no one else got off with anybody; we danced in our little corner, and the tourists, who were in fact mostly British, avoided us like barbarians. I spoke only the Island speech, drank far too much, and rejoiced. In the end, inevitably and hilariously, we were asked to leave.
"Let's swim!" said Cion, as we walked back to Sa Tanca. The bar was shut now, and we all stripped off and dashed wildly into the sea. The still, warm water slipped round my body like oil, and glittered in the moonlight. I could hear shouts and laughter all round me, but could see only the shadows of moving bodies, plunging and reappearing like dolphins, and the showers of glistening drops. It was surreal.
As we emerged, I saw that although Maria had kept her underclothes on, Cion had stripped off, like the men. But no one ever took liberties with Cion.
"Oh Pere," I said, as the water slid off me, "I am so, so glad to be here!"
Seeing him naked, and drunk as I was, I felt myself suddenly and violently attracted to him, and I realised that I very much wanted to hug him, to press his body full-length to mine, to fold my arms round his long, muscular back. And here, now, for the very first time, although the moment passed, the acknowledgement of such a desire did not dismay me at all.
Shortly after, they all left for the village. I stayed, alone but blissfully happy, lying on the sand. And there I fell asleep.
When my father awoke the next day, he found me sitting on the patio. He brought me a cup of coffee.
"The vines need sulphur," I said.
"I know. I'll need to go to The Port to get it, and they're in fiesta this week... The prickly pears are good."
We contemplated the morning is silence.
"We went to the hotel," I said. "They were trying to fix me up with a nice German girl."
"And? Did they?"
"Nope. In the end we were slung out."
"Time for lecture number one, maybe. I've left you some other things in your room, as well as the money."
"Can't be too careful, Kip. These days, especially. The boys, do they go to the casa de putas at The Port?"
"Oh lord!" I remembered what Cion had said, and laughed. "Yes, some of them."
"If you do that, use a condom. And always be respectful to the women. And generous. They're doing a job of work. It's pretty low to be rude to a whore."
"Do I really need to do this, I wonder? Oh well. Be careful with the Island girls. You may find sometimes that one of them will put out. If so, respect her good name, and tell absolutely no one. This is not England. Tourists are another thing, of course."
"Oh, for pete's sake..."
"The correct response is: 'Yes, oh father mine, I will heed your words of wisdom'."
He laughed. "How about some breakfast? Eggs? Sobressada? Tomatoes?"
"Yes to the lot. I'm ravenous!"
"We haven't let the house in the village over the fiesta," said my mother, as we sat to eat. "I thought we'd move up there for a couple of weeks, make it our base."
"Oh, yes!" I said. I loved the old house. "Mum, that'll be great. We can have people in, and..."
"Do the whole thing, yes. One has one's social duties."
I kissed her.
"Tell you what," I said, "If you like, while we're in the village I'll organise some folk to whitewash this place. It really needs it."
"I'll pay you twenty mil. You pay them and find the materials."
"It's your turn to do the washing up," said my mother. "And have a shower, for pity's sake, you smell like a dead dog."
"Remember!" yelled my father as I retreated to the bathroom, "Water's ten duros a tonne down here!"
"If I use a tonne, I'll buy you a beer!"
Washed and in clean clothes, I stood for my mother's inspection. She held me at arm's length, and looking down at her, I realised that although I was still short for my age, I had grown since we last met. Her hair was greyer, but her gaze was as sharp as ever.
"God, you're a handsome bastard, Christopher Branford!" she said. "Those eyes!"
"Oh, mother, honestly!"
"Don't sell yourself short, Kip. You're worth every penny. Make 'em beg."
"Max told me what he said to you yesterday, and I'm with him all the way." She hugged me. "Never give yourself anything less than respect, Kip, no matter what."
She patted my bum.
"Now. Off you go. The Island's yours. Go and get it."
And with that, I sank into the life of my homeland.
Fiesta time in Tallers, and we are all there, all the boys and Cion. The folk of Sant Pau like the tallerencs, and there are many family connections. We feel at home here.
The horses have already made one turn of the little town, and from the square on the hill we can hear the music, wild and repetitive, the tune which says fiesta time to all of us; it's in our blood, the Island song of rejoicing. The streets down here are mostly empty now, but they're deep in hazelnut shells and broken plastic beakers, drifts of them lie crushed against the kerb-stones. There is bunting overhead and on the other side of the road a group of ten-year-old girls are dancing frantically, hilariously.
We charge up the hill and into a bar. Inside the crush is fantastic, the sound deafening. The tables and chairs have been piled to one side, the tiled floor is slick and perilous. The atmosphere is a bit wilder than we like, groups heaving, cheering and pushing as we force our way to the bar. Joan hails the barman by name. Pomada, the bittersweet, sickly mixture of gin and lemonade, the drink of fiesta - as always, treasonously, I hate it but drink it as fast as I can, my body quivering its revulsion. We are already more than a bit drunk, and it's only eleven o'clock in the morning.
Bisbe throws his drink backwards over his head, and there's a yell of laughter and rage. His target turns out to be an old friend, and his rancho has obviously been dancing with the horses, their tee-shirts are torn and soaked with drink and sweat. We fall into each others' arms like long-lost brothers.
Then it's up, up the hill, through the tiny ancient streets to the square, and it's packed. The band plays the magical music on its platform at one side and from the banner-wild windows on the second, third stories, kids and their mothers are watching as below the horses rear and twist, charge through the swirling crowd, eyes mad, and the crowd screams its approval. We cannot get close to the horses, and in any case, this is not our place, we are guests here.
I am too short to see, and Bisbe yells in my ear: "On my shoulders!" Pere gives me a punt up, and then my legs are round the stout trunk of Bisbe's neck, and for a moment I feel him stagger. I hold my hand aloft, as the horsemen hold their peaked hats, people near us cheer, and in front of me I can see the square packed full and churning with dancing, rejoicing people. And I remember doing this with my father, years and years ago, in the square of Sant Pau, and the terror as a horse came nearer and nearer, its nose snorting in my face, and me gripping my father's forehead with both arms.
I dismount, and then we're away, all our rancho, pushing through the mob, which parts for us tolerantly. And this is the genius of the fiesta: everyone expects you to be wild and mad, everyone allows for it, but never in all the years I did this did I see a punch thrown and scarcely an angry word. "Of course not," said Cion, when I mentioned this. "Aren't we all a village together?"
Another bar, and another.
"Let's go and see Marieta!" says Pere.
She's his cousin, and Maria's, somehow, and as we charge up the stairs to their large room, the wildness is switched off like a light. We may be drunk, but we behave. Marieta's mother screams with delight as we arrive and gives us chilled water, and sausage, cheese, bread, tomatoes, juicey with olice oil, beautifully cut and spread. Pere calls her Aunty and uses polite pronouns, and soon we are sitting, chatting. All the windows are open and the room is full of people, leaning out to shout to passers-by, catching up with a year's news, drinking, eating, shouting, joking.
"So, Tofol," she says, eyeing me in a calculating way. "And how old are you now?"
"So polite! And so handsome, now!" She pinches my cheek. "Isn't he handsome, Marieta? Don't you think so?"
Marieta blushes. This is an old story; she fancies me, has for a long time. I know it, her parents know it, everyone does. She blushes, and I smile at her in a resigned sort of way. Despite everything, we are old friends, and suddenly I feel desperately sad. She is pretty in an Island way, slender, with neat, youthful breasts and auburn hair in ringlets, made up and wearing her best dress for this day; but I feel nothing, nothing sexual at all. I never have, and I've always tried to ignore it, but in my half-drunk state it seems now so tragically unjust and unfair to both of us that I can't speak. It bears in on me, fearful and unavoidable.
"Hey," Pere whispers in my ear. "You know... Now you have time..."
For some reason I switch to English.
"Pere, I can't, really. It's..."
"Don't you like her, Kip? For many years she likes you."
"She's nice, but..."
"But." He looks at me in a way that is suddenly very adult, very canny, and I am terrified. He sees it, and smiles. "Don't worry, Kip, you will be my friend always."
I'm on the point of tears, but suddenly Bisbe says: "Let's go!"
And we're off again, shouting our thanks to Marieta's parents as her mother laughs and shrieks her protest. We will see them later, when they come to visit our fiesta.
Around the town again and again, visiting friends, stopping here for a bite, there for a chat, moving along the sideshows and stalls, sitting sometimes in a bar for an hour or more. The day drags on and on, but we are indefatigable. And now it is dark, and the atmosphere is still wild on the fringes of the dance in the square, and we drink more and more, laughing and shouting with different groups of friends. Pablo has found a girl, Cion and Joan have gone home, and now it is just Pere, Bisbe and me.
Bisbe passes me a bottle of gin, nearly full. The music from the dance nearby is deafening, obliterating conversation. I am already staggering, but beneath the wildness there's a reservation, a holding-back which I have never felt before, a sudden worry about who I am and what I'm doing. I look at my two best friends in the world and feel a stab of sadness.
Then I hook my finger through the bottle's loop, throw back my head and drink the spirit, gulp after gulp after gulp. It pours over my face and round my neck and down my back, and soon I know no more.
We have a paleful of kitchen scraps, Joan and I, and we're going to feed his pigs. His mother is careful about this, and the pale contains no sausage or pork. Pigs do not eat pig.
Evening is falling, the quiet, easy time, and on this side of the village the valley is already in shadow, cool and darkening. We strole down the winding path together, between the rough stone walls, saying nothing, in the silence of friendship.
The entrance to Joan's hort is neat, the keystones and the ends of the walls precisely whitewashed, and the tiny plots are squared finely, raked to perfection. Not an inch of ground is wasted. Here at its heart you can see the Island genius for exactitude, tidiness and precision.
The pig pen is whitewashed too, and clean and neat, and the two pigs are clean, atheletic and rangey; they seem almost a different species from the vast, slug-like porkers in England. Joan dumps the scraps in their eating bowl, as I go to unroll the hose pipe, and fill their drinking trough. They descend on the food voraciously.
We lean on the edge of the pen and gaze at the pigs philosophically, in the approved style. The pigs look back at us with their sharp, cynical eyes.
"The pig, you know, is an intelligent creature," says Joan, after a while. "More intelligent than the dog. Far more."
"Then it's surprising that we eat pigs, but not dogs."
"They ate dogs during the famine." Joan is referring to events nearly fifty years before, the first months of the dictatorship. "My dad ate dog as a child."
"What was it like?"
"Stewed, with onions and tomatoes, not bad. Remove the head, remove the innards, skin it, chop into joints... Not bad. Cat isn't so good. Rat is delicious, but one must cook it well, because the rat is not a healthy creature. Three or four, stewed in an olla, into the oven for two hours... Not bad."
I shiver. I'm still a little delicate after the weekend, and the discussion is making me feel queasy.
"Tomorrow I'll take them to Cion's orchard. There are a lot of fallen apples, and they can have a run."
"A run? Pigs run?"
"Yes, the pig is a running creature, certainly. The more they run, the better the meat."
I look at him. He's tall and dark, and his eyes are serious. In a way he's a strange partner for flaming, volatile Cion, but there's strength there, and endurance. I know that she loves him deeply, and this impresses me; it's the one thing she never jokes about.
Our conversation pauses easily.
"It's strange," said Joan, after a while.
"You being here."
"What? Man, I've been here all my life. I was born here."
"Yes, but you're English. Your parents - well, I know they speak Spanish and they've lived here all this time, but they're English, aren't they?"
"Well, yes, but..."
"But you, Tofol, you're like one of us." He chews over the puzzle slowly. "Your family are people of wealth, aren't they? Important people, your father writes books and he knows ministers in the government, doesn't he? One day I suppose you will go to university and have an important job. But you spend all your time with us, and who are we? Farmers, carpenters, workers..."
I look at him in amazement and alarm. I have honestly never thought of it like that before. The Island, its people; they are a given, my perennial life.
"Man, what are you saying? You've always been my friends. We've been together as long as I can remember. All that stuff..."
"Who cares? We've always been together. But when you think about it, it's strange..."
My mouth is hanging open, and he laughs at me.
"You look as if you've seen a grave open! But it's like pigs. Everything changes, you know. The pigs grow, and then you kill them. And that's a bit sad, but then you get some new piglets, and things go on. Things change, Tofol, and one must be prepared for this."
"You think about things, Joan."
"I'm going with Cion. You learn this and that. Let's go back."
I walk behind him, my mind churning. The sky is dark blue now, a few stars are appearing. Above us the village is brightly lit on its hill, and the sounds of evening drift down, calling us.
I am walking the road from the village to the beach. It's the height of the day and all sensible Islanders are inside and asleep. The sun is almost vertical, and the heat is tremendous, but I love it. At my mother's insistence I'm wearing a wide straw hat like the ones farmers use in the fields.
It's a flat, high tableland, and out here there are no trees, no buildings, no shelter. The heavy, relentless radiance of the sun is uncontaminated by any shadow; there are no birds, and even the cicadas are few. In the wide ditches by the road the brown summer vegetation is as brittle as glass.
I walk easily, slowly, in the Island way, using the minimum of effort. There's a place along here which I know and want to visit. The fields on either side are brown and dead, the dusty earth showing between the cut stalks left by the harvest, and the tortured stone walls snake across the plain. Further back are the mounds of mata bushes, dark green, heavy and motionless.
Perhaps fifty metres from the road, I see it, the huge flat stone in the middle of a field, and I scramble through the ditch and over the wall and walk to it. I kick off my albarques and feel its heat, and then it's beneath me, I'm lying on it face up, spread-eagled, eyes shut.
I am not sun-bathing; not like the tourists on the beach, suffering to turn themselves brown. The heat is brutal, but it's my world, my dimension, and I worship it; I offer my body to the sun, and it penetrates me, violates me.
Maybe for ten minutes I lie there, passive and unmoving, my mind stilled, intensely, painfully aroused. High above, a kite slips sideways on the air, scanning, wheeling. I sigh, and pull my hat over my face.
Later, I walk to the beach and along it, past Sa Tanca and onwards, to the area where nudity is permitted. I slip out of my clothes and allow the water to caress my body, and a sudden upsurge of emotion, of undirected sweetness, engulfs me. I am in love; not in love with anyone; just in love. I am young, and happy, and in love.
I decide to go and visit my parents. It's been several days since I've seen them.
|People, Places and Things|
|Eileen Branford||his mother|
|Max Branford||his father|
|Richard Branford||his brother|
|Pere (Pedro)||PAIR-uh||Kip's best friend|
|Maria d'es Forn||Pere's girlfriend|
|Miquel (Miguel) el Bisbe||BEEZ-buh||friend of Kip|
|Pablo||friend of Kip|
|Joan (Juan) de Na Cion||Joo-AHN||friend of Kip|
|Cion (Asuncion)||SEE-awn||fiancee of Joan|
|Marieta||cousin of Pere and Maria|
|Cisco||SEES-koo||father of Bisbe|
|Sant Pau||Sahnt POW||St. Paul; the village|
also called San Pablo (Spanish name)
|Tallers||Tuh-LYEHS||nearby small town|
|Son Fadrí||Sawn Fuh-DHREE||holiday development on coast|
|The Port||capital of the Island|
|Sa Tanca||Suh TAHNK-uh||beachbar near Son Fadrí|
|albarques||uhl-VARK-uhz||a kind of sandals|
|bocadillo||boh-cah-dhee-lyo||(Spanish) a roll cut in half
with egg or cheese, etc
|brisque||BREES-kuh||card game, bit like bridge, but
partners to signal to each other
|casa de putas||(Spanish) brothel|
|duro||DOO-roo||a small coin|
|mata||MAH-tuh||lentisc (?), a grey-green bush,
|mil||British expatriate slang: a thousand|
|mili||slang: compulsory military service|
|olla||AW-lyuh||a brown earthenware pot|
|pomada||poo-MAH-dhuh||a mixture of gin and lemonade|
|rancho||(Spanish) group, gang|
|sobressada||soo-bruh-SAH-dhuh||a kind of sausage|
|tallerenc||tuh-lyuh-RENK||someone from Tallers|
|tramuntana||truh-moon-TAH-nuh||the north wind|
|Jack Rowan Jack_Rowan@hotmail.com|