The boy was crying, blathering on about sour donkey brains and his father's big hands. "He's going to kill me," he said, resigned, spitting out his proclamation as if it'd already been chiseled in marble. "Look at the hay," he said, a twirl at the end of the word hay. "The whore donkey didn't want to get her feet wet."
He couldn't have been more than twelve years old. Imagine -- speaking like that, using that word?
"What about your mother," I said. "Don't you have a mother?"
"Fuck you," he answered back. "You, and my mother, too."
He wanted to know if I could help him get the hay back onto the donkey, maybe coax the beast across the stream. "We live in Paliokeratas," he said. "I have to cross this stream."
He said it was unfortunate that we'd met under these circumstances. He was angry because the beast had been shocked by the water, bucking the load of hay. If I could help, please?
Most of the hay was wet, useless if it caught mold before it could get to the animals. "Do you have a lot of animals?" I asked.
"None, besides this donkey," he said. "My father makes saddles." He went on to say that his father used the hay to stuff the saddles when he couldn't get his hands on any straw.
"Saddles?" Saddles for horses?
"For small horses," he said. "The kind that pulls carts."
I'd always though they brought those over by ferry, from some big manufactory on the mainland, so the tourists could have something more than just Yaya in her black dress to photograph. Gypsies kept small horses. They'd load their stolen melons onto the cart, and take off down the highway. Clop, clop, clop, pulling a switch knife on who ever gave chase -- so not too many farmers ever gave chase.
"Are you Gypsy?"
Gypsies overloaded their carts. And each time was like the last time, filled to the brim, just in case they'd have to hide for awhile, lay low before taking the cart out again.
"We are," said the boy, slapping the donkey, barely getting a nod out of the beast. "So, will you help?" he asked, perfectly prepared to accept a beating for wasting his whole day, first because of the donkey, and then because of me.