In the violet hour the two women and their donkey passed the cemetery and entered rat's alley where dead men lost their bones. It was then I noticed that the women were not women at all, the one dressed in white was a Dominican monk and I recognized the big woman on the donkey's back as professor Hubnoth in a rather opulent frock designed to thrill, flatter and flourish, but failing miserably on all three counts due to the rather bulky figure of the retired classics professor.
I ran out and waved at them. “Come on in!” I shouted and saw how their faces lit up with relief. Even the donkey smiled. Deborah, the worried woman, hovered near the gate as the others entered the courtyard. I helped the professor off his donkey and noticed his ankle was bandaged. “Wrong country, wrong shoes,” he explained. “Sprained my ankle.” Moshe Cohen greeted Shmuel Eregast like a long lost friend.
“How long has it been, Shmuel?” he cried.
“Too long, Moshe! It must have been ages.”
I tied the donkey to the fig tree and followed Marcel Hubnoth into the kitchen. Shmuel did not bat an eye when he saw the diva hobbling across the threshold with one stiletto shoe on his foot and the other in his hand, but bade him welcome in his humble abode.
“Have you travelled far?”, he asked.
“It was like crossing T.S. Elliot's Wasteland. We felt like hooded hordes swarming over endless plains, stumbling in the cracked earth,” professor Hubnoth answered. “And spraining an ankle,” he added with a smile.
“Food is almost ready. Why don't you go freshen up a bit and then we'll sit down and eat.”
A little while later we all sat down and Shmuel asked me to pour the wine, while he brought in a steaming dish which he put on the table.
“Rice and beans is what's on the menu today,” he said apologetically. “If only I had known...”
Shmuel walked over to the head of the table and recited a short prayer in Hebrew.
As we started eating there was talk all around. Moshe and Shmuel talked about their past in Israel, and how they fought side by side in the Yom Kippur War in 1973. I wanted to know from Marcel how they had ended up in this remote abandoned village in Andalusia. And did he have news from Yosht?
“Our car broke down near that house down in the valley.”
“My car broke down there,too,” I exclaimed. “Near La Casa Embrujada? There must be something wrong with that house.” From the corner of my eye I saw poor Deborah lingering with longing near the kitchen door.
“But why were you there in the first place?”, I asked Marcel.
“Looking for Yosht, just like you. We came to the hotel you said you were staying at and they told us that you ran off with a real estate agent.” Professor Hubnoth roared with laughter. “Doesn't this sound like the beginning of a lovely homo-erotic novella?” He repeated the joke for the benefit of Shmuel and Moshe. There was laughter all around.
“And did you find him? Yosht, I mean.”
“O yes, we found him. He'll be here any minute now.”