The Shepherd at the Aqueduct in Kamares, Larnaca, an oil painting by Theo Michael

The mad goat man they whisper, all of them too fearful to even meet his penetrating eyes

The Shepherd at the Aqueduct in Kamares, Larnaca, an oil painting by Theo Michael

He knows! Yes he knows what they think of him.  He hears the gossiping and the mumbling of old black garbed crones gathered in little collectives on porches throughout the forlorn village like vengeful crows waiting to pounce in a scene from a horror movie. “Belos, Belos” mad man, mad man they mutter furtively in their Greek peasant dialect with the universal finger to the head gesture signifying that he isn’t all there in the brain department. “Never got over his wife Rosa leaving, strange one she was” They go on in their village Greek. “She had an affair with a neighbour, good strong woman old Rosa was, you knew who wore the trousers in that house”.

Same story circulates in the village coffee shop where the men collect for their compulsory black sludge that goes under the name of Greek coffee.  The mad goat man they whisper, all of them too fearful to even meet his penetrating eyes.  He’s still a big man after all, might be old and time and other trials have left their deep honed ridges across his face like a map of a forgotten, exploited jungle. 

He knows they think he has been driven to this solitary, silent life by Rosa going. They think his lonely existence and the goats are a self imposed punishment for not being able to keep his wife in her rightful place under his power and control.  He has the last laugh of course. He loves his infinitely forgiving goats.  He loves that he doesn’t have to make nonsensical small talk with villagers whose only business in life is to stick their not inconsiderably sized noses in other people’s business. He doesn’t have to listen to endless, inane natter, natter natter.   No he thinks to himself I’m a happy man, a very contented man. I have a home, I have food, I have my splendid goats for company and, he chuckles I have Rosa.

Every now and then he feels the inexorable need to visit Rosa, not as much as he did in the beginning he admits to himself.  Now maybe every couple of years he trudges up to that lonely and bereft place up in the high mountains. Originally a shepherds’ mud brick hut when in times gone by, goats and shepherds ranged over the high hills and solitary mountains. It now stands forlorn and neglected, overgrown with devouring weeds.  But it holds and hides its treasure well.

She’s still there, Rosa. Sitting, well maybe not quite sitting anymore, time and worms having eaten away at the once voluminous skin and fat.  They had a good meal, the worms and other earth dwelling creatures, that’s for sure.  In her now semi reclining position, you can still see the meat cleaver whose previous life before ending its days in the left side of Rosa’s skull, had seen the dispatch of many of the goat herder’s favourite billy goats. But you can’t get sentimental in this game. Man needs meat and dead goats are meat. He loved that cleaver, it had done him a good service.   He mourned its passing in his wife’s skull and had been sorely tempted to remove it at the time but it seemed wedged as if she had super glue for brains.  Probably her revenge, he thought, not giving him his beloved cleaver back.

But all in all, he’d won. He had the last laugh on her, her lover and on those pesky, gabbling geese of villagers. And he stood with a grim smile on his face on the high, green hills with his favourite hairy companions all around him.  

Story by Liz Michael

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