July 07, 2006


In the morning mist, on the third day after his arrival, it drizzled for the first time in many months in the little town. It was not unlike the region to have a few drops do more than just moisten the dry and mostly brittle ground underneath their feet. If anything, it was a bit late, but not by much – just like his lumbering presence that came into view a few feet away from the flowers and their seller – the unpredictable arrival of an expected guest.

Though, it needs to be said, he was anything but expected there. His arrival was announced in advance only to the old caretaker who now had a definite purpose to his regular scurrying around. With age advancing rapidly on him, the caretaker could only do the cleaning, dusting and stocking up on provisions and firewood at a slow clip. But his pace and gusto was anything but slow in scrambling together the stories of other visitors - regular, irregular and long dead – to be narrated by the fireside, on those long, quiet nights.

On mornings like that, the internal silent debate invariably shifts towards the necessity of any kind of protection against the elements. Not that it acted as a major deterrent against the walk through the milky whiteness of the early morning in the hills, but, significantly enough, it could make or break the desire to extend it, by another couple of hours or a few more miles. The right decision could make the difference between being drenched in a storm of absolute satisfaction, derived from the stunning desolateness of a distant hillside bathed in a shade of moisture-laden vibrant green and having to rush back to the cottage, having taken on board enough droplets to lay to waste any possibility of the desired recuperation.

On the third, in following the end-game of another such debate, he emerged into his usual point of insertion into the town’s market. And as all rural markets go, this one also did not have much more than the hopes and sales of its sellers resting above and underneath temporary flimsy structures. Over the past three days, he had become less of an oddity for the townsfolk. They guessed, intelligently and predictably, thanks to the regular stream of the cottage’s visitors, him to be another of its dwellers, there for a couple of days, a week or a month at the most; for, other than its desolateness, the town had little to offer, to both visitors and its inhabitants.