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.
Old Shmuel Eregast was in the kitchen cooking and I listened to the sound of pots and pans, that somehow made me feel at home. I sat by the window and looked out over the empty street, the empty houses, the Christian plot where Deborah's father lay buried and couldn't find rest.
'This used to be a thriving community, you know, Christians and Jews side by side. No Arabs, of course. We lived of the land and had everything we needed, but the young ones wanted more and left. The old ones died or moved away to live close to their children.
'How come the cantor, Deborah's father lies buried in a Christian plot?' I asked. 'Was there no more room in the Jewish graveyard?'
'He died alone, everybody had already left. I was in America at the time, visiting my older brother. Apparently he collapsed in the street and was found a few days later by passing strangers who buried him. They notified the authorities and that's how we found out.'
Wonderful smells were emanating from kitchen. Outside...
The old man introduced himself as Shmuel Eregast, the last Jew of the village. He wiped some crumbs from the table and let the dog lick them from his hand.
'What is it that brings you here?' We clinked our glasses and drank.
'Just passing through,' I replied. 'I am looking for a friend of mine. I know he stayed at that old house in the valley, just down the road.'
'The consul's house, I know it. It's haunted, you know? People call it La Casa Embrujada. What was your friend doing there? Are you hungry?' He looked at me quizzically, his head tilted sideways and his right hand playing with the long, silver and curly white hair of his sidelocks. He didn't wait for an answer, but continued talking. 'They all left some years ago because of the draught, the land brought forth nothing but weeds and bitter herbs. There was no work. They left.'
'And you stayed.'
'Yes..., yes,' his old eyes wandered around the room as if looking for something or someone. 'It was a sad day and I didn't want to leave. W...
The following morning I went looking for the fountain where I was to meet the Bruja. Even though she walked ten paces behind me, she did not give me any directions, so I followed a winding path that brought me to a small grove of trees and from there I spotted a distant pueblo in the immense emptiness of Lorca's Andalusia of tears. I continued my walk and as I came closer it became clear to me that the village was deserted. There was only one unpaved street and the houses were boarded up or empty, no doors, windows or shutters. You could see straight through them into their backyards. The roof of a tiny chapel was half gone and a feral dog moved around the cemetery. As soon as he noticed me the beast raised his hunches with the hair on his back standing on end. As I made my way through this sad pueblo in search of a water well, with the Bruja close behind me, it felt as if I was being watched, as if dark eyes followed me. There was dirt and dust and dry leaves everywhere, it was obviou...
As you, dear reader, may have come to realize, I write reports. I do not make things up. Actually, I am quite often accused of being unimaginative. I thought I'd mention this as the following account might seem like a figment of someone's imagination. Not mine, I have none. What follows is an actual account of what happened last night in La Casa Embrujada.
I met the lady of the house, the bruja or witch. It must have been around four or five in the morning when I woke. The moon had lowered itself into the window of the master bedroom, where I slept curled up in the sleeping bag Yohst had left behind, and smiled upon the skull of the mule on the windowsill. The room was bare and grey, the plaster was peeling and the bedroom door was gone. I heard music seeping through the wood panels. From the darkest corner of the room a female figure extricated herself from the shadows and suddenly she was there, in the middle of the room, stunningly beautiful and all dressed in black, her face hidden...
Just when I got of the phone with Marcello, professor Hubnoth called.
'Did you find him?' he inquired.
I told him that I was getting close. An acquaintance, Marcello, would take me to a haunted house somewhere and that I expected to find Yosht there.
'Keep me posted.'
On the way to La Casa Embrujada Marcello told me a lot of Spanish ghosts stories.
'What happened to the consul?' I asked.
'Well, he was only an honorary consul of some East African country, I forgot which. His wife had died and he lived here alone for a couple of years and one day he just disappeared. Was never seen or heard of again.'
We drove through an empty landscape with dark distant mountains and black clouds sailing in from the east. We drove through a ghost town, or really a tiny village, where everybody had left. Empty streets, deserted houses.
'They all moved up north,' my companion explained. Not much to do here.'
We turned onto a narrow, unpaved road with treacherous potholes and crevices that Marcello negotiated with...
So you've found me. I wasn't sure if you would come after me. I am touched by your love, but I'm not worthy of it. You should see me here on the windowsill of the abandoned building that many years ago belonged to the consul of a foreign power. The house is surrounded by moaning poplars and along the path the cypress trees tremble with birds. I chew sorrow like the oxen chews his cud. If I close my eyes I can hear Estelle singing between the withering flowers.
She has left me, Erik. She's gone to unimaginable places, beyond reach. I came to her and we talked for hours. I lost my way in the green of her eyes but she didn't know who I was. She has retired into another world, put up a wall and posted signs everywhere: No Entry! Danger!
She had her moments of clarity, she could remember places and names, even yours, but she couldn't remember me. A love affair of more than 35 years has come to an end, just when I was sure that this time, this year, she would agree to marry me, or at...
I stayed up for days in that crummy hotel waiting for the sad eyed man from the lowlands to show. He didn't. On the bed I read Lorca cover to cover, listened to Bob Dylan all day long and I found him a wonderful match with the Spanish poet. Yosht and I considered ourselves serious Dylanologists and in this dismal room in sunny Granada I came to the conclusion that Dylan must have found duende early in his career and had kept the rest of the world at more than an arm's length to guard it and not lose it.
In the guestbook underneath Yosht's message I had written: 'Why don't you come see me, King James' (which of course referred to that wonderful Dylan song Queen Jane approximately) and underneath it I added the name of my hotel and my room number. He didn't show.
Every morning I went to the farmhouse and looked at the guestbook to see if he had left another message for me. He didn't. Several times a day I went down to the lobby to ask at the reception if there were any messages. There were...
In my rented Seat I was on my way to Granada in search of Yosht and duende, and while driving through the night I listened to Bob Dylan singing about flesh-coloured Christs that glow in the dark. The only thing that glowed under the gigantic Spanish night sky were the snow-capped mountaintops that winked at me every time the sickle moon sliced through the clouds.
It's true that I had to look it up, duende, and I am none the wiser. I bought Collected Poems and read that duende is the heightened state of emotion which is needed to create true art. Think flamenco.
Professor Hubnoth and Moshe Cohen sent me on my way. 'Where should I start?', I asked rather desperately, but they shrugged their shoulders. I pushed for more information and they suggested I'd start in Granada or, to be more precise, Fuente Vacqueros, where Federico Garcia Lorca was born in 1898. 'It's a museum now,' Moshe Cohen offered.
'Or you could visit the house in Valderubio where he spent most of his adolescence and where t...