SPOILER ALERT! This post is an epilogue to The Unquiet Mind..
If you haven’t read the book you may not want to read on.
‘Yanni, you know we might need more than two donkeys soon.’ His Mama greets him as he joins her by the well.
‘We’ll manage, Mama.’ Yanni arches his back to stretch. He scans the small plain that until recently had been his home all his life. The ground is flat and bare, not green like it is around the new house. Perhaps new is the wrong word, but it is new to Yanni, and newly renovated, just a stretch of the legs away along the ridge where the cicadas called their love song well into September, only stopping when the rains came. So much rain!
The deep black mouth of the well flickers back his image in the water.
‘It was like this when your Yiayia was a girl,’ Yanni’s Mama says.
‘Global warming,’ Yanni replies.
‘Nonsense, it’s just back to normal.’ His Mama takes her bucket of water to pour into a trough for the chickens. The feathered creatures jostle together, bunching raucously around her legs. Yanni fills two bowls, one for Suzi and one for Mercedes. Mercedes fidgets from foot to foot in anticipation and the impatience of her donkey youth. Suzi, her long ears greying, lifts one heavily-lashed eyelid to close it again. For her there is no hurry.
As his beasts drink Yanni’s gaze drifts along the east ridge, drinking in the endless blue sky, and to the left and down, as usual, where the sea is like oil reflecting the early morning sun. But what he is really looking at is the dark shape that is now home. The rough stone building up along the ridge. It faces down the uninhabited southern side of the island that cannot be seen from here. Some mornings he can stare out across the Aegean as far as Crete, hazy in the far distance. The roof, which he rebuilt before the end of the summer, is brightly orange, and at odds with the surroundings, with its neat straight lines.
‘Kalimera son.’ Yanni’s Baba rubs a hand through his thinning hair as he steps out of the family home. He reaches for the sky, stretches and then rubs a shoulder and pulls a face as if he is in pain. ‘Everything alright?’ he adds as he rotates his shoulder and walks to the well where he splashes his face with a ladle of the icy water.
‘I was just saying that Suzi is old, and maybe she and Mercedes are not enough,’ Yanni’s Mama continues. Suzi’s head hangs down, eyes closed, ears twitching at flies.
‘You worry too much. We have more goats this year and that means more cheese.’
‘Ah, but we need more of everything.’ The old woman lifts the lid of a barrel and with a plastic bottle that has its bottom cut off she scoops out corn for the chickens and sows the kernels across the barren ground.
Yianni closes his eyes. A line puckers between his brows. He twists his moustache with his left hand, and his right reaches into the breast pocket of his loose shirt for his tobacco pouch.
‘Your Mama might have a point.’ Yanni’s Baba glances sideways at his son, his voice as quiet as a prayer.
Yanni lights his cigarette and sighs deeply as he exhales, re-pocketing the pouch. His Mama is waiting for him to say something.
‘Baba, will you tell him.’ Yanni’s Mama finishes scattering the grain for the chickens and begins to pull the washing from the line.
Yanni’s Baba says nothing. He has taken his shoe off and is pulling the sole away from the toe. He disappears back into the house and re-appears with a tube of glue.
‘No one listens to anything I say round here,’ As she takes the washing inside she moves easily, her hip moving easily these days. Perhaps she is sleeping better too, on her own new mattress. The two men remain silent, exchange a glance. She returns presently and sits at the outside table with her knitting, the pink wool bright against the scrubbed pale wood surface.
‘Yanni, you need another donkey. There, I have said it.’
Yanni strokes Suzi’s neck and gazes across to the stone house, his new home. Just one glimpse would be enough before he heads into town for the day’s work. Next to him Suzi’s head drops to drink, curling her lips to suck in the water.
‘Look at her.’ Yanni’s Mother stabs at the air with her knitting needle in the direction of the stone house.
There she is! Leaning back slightly as she walks, one hand over her rounded stomach, the other shielding her eyes as she looks back across at them. Yanni lifts his own hand to wave. The wave is returned and he grins, satisfied now, at least for a few hours.
‘She’s been great with the milking and the cheese, and we all know I was right, her help with the tourists has given us all new beds. Bless that woman.’ Yanni’s Mama waves her knitting, holding it up as if the progress she has made on the little jacket could be seen from this distance.
‘But now it is our turn to look after her, so I say Suzi, being steady in her old age, should be for her use and you Yanni,’ she turns to look at her son, ‘need another donkey.’
Yanni rolls his eyes.
‘Mama, will you ever be satisfied?’
‘Son.’ Yanni’s Baba puts down his tube of glue and stands shoulder to shoulder with his boy who is now a man, taller than him now that he is in his shrinking years. ‘You have a lot to learn about women.’
And he raises his arm and waves his shoe in salute to Sophia.