At least it was cool at night. At dawn, she awoke to a strange sensation. Stickiness fused the top and bottom lids of one eye. The infection had irritated her for days. Persistent scratching brought passing relief but intensified the stinging pain which followed. Like a swarm of angry bees, it spread all over her eye, causing her to cry softly in pain.
She stepped out into the early morning and stretched. Her limbs were stiff after the night’s confinement and she pushed them away from her till her extremities shuddered. She arched her back, casting a perfect crescent-shaped shadow on the ground. The only sounds were the dull dink of bells from goats who grazed on scrub in the adjacent field, seeking nourishment from the desiccated growth which had sprouted and died in the dry earth.
Nothing else moved. Tourists slept soundly on the newly built, whitewashed estate not two hundred metres away. Drunk on sun and local rip-off wine, they mostly went to bed in the early hours, before rising at lunchtime to lie beside turquoise infinity pools which blended into the distant ocean.
She needed to relieve herself. Instinctively she moved away from the place where she had slept. A sharp tug on her neck halted her. The chain was taut. She was accustomed to that painful jerk and yet could not resist the temptation of exploring the possibility that she might gain an extra inch or two of ground. She walked to the right, then left, testing the reach of her tether. It was the same as ever. She squatted to urinate. Dark yellow liquid bounced off the dust and spilled over her feet. She did not notice.
She needed food but her stomach’s demands for nourishment had grown weaker as it shrank and she could accustom herself to inner emptiness. Thirst was more insistent. A dry yellow crust formed a tide mark around the edge of the empty metal bowl nearby which had once contained water. She scoured the surface with her tongue in search of a drop of moisture. Nothing. She began to scrape frantically at the earth. Long ago there had been moisture there too but now the ground was arid and ungiving. As the sun rose, hot, she walked back to her metal shelter and lay down in temporary shadow beside it.
Five kilometres away, seated sideways on his unkempt bed, Costas yawned as he scratched his belly and put each foot in turn through stained sweat pants into his sandals. Rasping the back of his hand against the line of stubble on his cheek, he weighed discomfort against inconvenience and decided not to shave. He put nothing on over his vest. The metal bed springs sang discordantly as he pushed himself up. Standing, he adjusted his crotch and buckled a worn leather belt around his waist.
Next to the sink he saw the milk carton that he had filled with water two days earlier. He placed it on the floor by the door in order that today he would not forget it. Then, smiling at the memory of the money he had won in the taverna last evening, he boiled water, poured it over ground coffee beans then strained it into a ring-stained mug from which he took an inappreciative mouthful. A gathering of flies was defecating on the remains of last week’s loaf. They dispersed into the air as he picked it up and stuffed it into a bag. Stopping briefly to pick up the milk carton and gather the key to his scooter, he left the house.
Sounds alerted her: stones falling to the ground. A single goat bell jangling faster and more loudly than others. She sprang to her feet and opened her good eye, momentarily bothered by the continuing glueyness of the other. One of the goats was attempting to scale the dry stone wall which separated them. This happened from time to time. She barked. Usually the noise would scare the goat back but this one merely paused and then continued its scrabbling assault on the wall. The dog hurled herself towards the intruder. Her domain, her territory. Get out! The chain tautened rapidly and pulled her up onto her back legs. It was attached to a rope collar which chafed the open sore around her neck. Momentarily senseless of pain, she dropped to all four paws and ran frantically from side to side, screaming at the goat which flexed its back legs and sprang onto the top of the wall and then, inelegantly, dropped down to the ground beneath to reconnoitre this new terrain where the grass was surely greener. It paid no apparent heed to the enraged dog save that it kept its distance.
Weakly, the dog accepted defeat. Hot and exhausted, she lay down with her nose on the ground. Pain seared from the wheal around her neck. She did not take her eye from the goat who dinked around, pausing briefly to sniff at the broken remains of the dog’s former companion who lay close by, his neck still encircled by rope. Abandoned bleating from over the wall accompanied the goat’s futile search for luscious pickings.
Close by, in an upstairs bedroom of a modern villa on the edge of a small, exclusive development, Emma slumbered on Egyptian cotton enfolding a pocket sprung mattress. She rolled over onto her side and woke up. “Not that bloody barking again,” she murmured discontentedly. “I wish it would shut up. It’s every night. How are we supposed to sleep?”
“I’ve given up,” replied Lucy from the stool in front of the dressing table. She lifted her blonde ponytail off her back and pushed it messily through a turquoise velvet hair tie in order that it should not prevent the back of her shoulders from tanning. “I’m going to lie by the pool. Maybe we should go and investigate later? Give us something to do?”
Her sister grunted an inarticulate response, curled her knees towards her chest, and fell back into deep sleep.
The dog was first to hear the new noise. A faint, constant buzz which grew in intensity. Her ears pricked. Food? Happily she stood up, looking out for the red motor scooter. Buzz changed to hum, then engine noise, then cut. Costas dismounted, pulled the scooter onto its stand, collected the bread and water from his box and picked his way along the rocky path to the compound. The goat glanced up.
Costas was in a good mood. He would go out again tonight, maybe win some more bets. Next week he might buy another goat, more food. Soon his living would be comfortable, if his luck held.
The dog ran expectantly towards him and jumped up at his legs. He threw the bread at her feet. She fell upon it ravenously, bolting mouthfuls of stale crust and mould. Then, as he bent down to the metal bowl, he noticed the goat. With an exasperated sigh he stood up, dropping the milk carton on the ground. It landed several feet away from the dog’s reach.
Cursing, he fetched a length of nylon from his box and for fifteen infuriating minutes chased the goat, hurling handfuls of looped rope in attempts to lassoo it from impossible distances, shouting, swearing and occasionally bending to pick up stones to throw in anger. Terrified, it skuttered this way and that, occasionally lowering its head to butt, if necessary. Costas charged, the goat sidestepped and trotted away. Costas proffered an empty hand then rubbed his thumb and forefinger together, “Food, here, here.” he trilled. The goat stood and looked at him impassively.
Furious, Costas changed tack. He took two steps backwards, hoping to spark curiosity. He tripped over a tree root and landed full length, hard. Incensed, he reached out for the dog’s chain and yanked at it to pull himself to his feet. The dog yelped in agony.
“Stupid animal!” he railed. “What’s the point of you, eh? Why don’t you keep my stock in their field. That’s what you’re for? I will lose all my goats, all of them. Then what, eh? Eh? You’re useless. Waste of food. Waste of water.”
He kicked out at the milk carton. It crashed into the wall. The plastic lid burst off and sour, milky water spilled out and trickled over the ground, fuelling Costas’s rage. He undid his belt, continuing to bombard the dog with insults. She cowered and tried to back into her oil drum for refuge. He grabbed the rope collar and dragged her out, then raised the hand holding the loose end of his belt.
At first the dog snapped and bit in self defence, barking at her flailing assailant whose blows lacerated, bruised and broke her frail body. The repeated strikes and speed of attack were relentless, the pain excruciating. Instinct compelled her to submit in the face of overwhelming ag-gression. She cowered, yelping and the battery continued until Costas ran out of breath and threw the bloodied belt to the ground. He bent double, drawing in lungfuls of air, then stooped to pick up the belt and set about feeding the goats, jerking the buckle tight.
Hearing a clamour of bells and hooves followed by contented rumination from the other side of the wall, the escapee scrabbled her way back to her field to get to the the manger before it was empty.
Meanwhile the sisters decided not to bother to go that day to seek out the dog which barked at night.
The next morning Emma woke late and strolled barefoot onto the terrace, squinting in the glare of the reflection of sun on white stone. Lucy was already up. Seated cross legged on a mattress within a wooden four poster frame shaded by linen drapes which hung motionless in the absence of breeze, she was spooning muesli from a white china bowl to her peach glossed lips. She turned her head and spoke languidly. “Hey.”
“I can’t believe I slept so long. I didn’t hear that dog at all last night, did you?”
“Don’t think so. Mum’s gone for a walk. She said did we want to go.”
They looked at each other and burst out laughing.
As the day grew hotter the dog became aware of activity around her. An unfamiliar voice, a soft touch, then nothing, then another voice, hands running over her body, then a stronger voice followed by the familiar buzz and rhythm of footsteps . She trembled.
Costas paused. A man, a woman and policeman were standing by to the oil drum. He ap-proached, uncertain as to whether to be aggressive or defensive. It amounted to the same thing. The policeman asked if he owned the goats. Costas did not like his tone. He nodded.
“And this dog?”
He looked at it and nodded again, defiantly.
Did he know how its injuries had come about?
Costas explained that he had beaten it for letting a goat escape.
“When was this?”
“The other dog? How did it die?”
“Same thing.” Costas failed to see why any of this mattered. They were only dogs.
The man looked up. His clean, short sleeved shirt and long trousers suggested a day job, someone who worked indoors. The woman was obviously a tourist. Her pale-skinned nose was peeling. She wore a sunhat, shades, a cotton skirt and blouse, also clean. Beyond that it was not apparent to Costas who they were. The man explained that he was a vet from the town nearby. Standing, he continued. “This lady is English. She is staying nearby. She found the dog this morning and called me. It is severely malnourished and dehydrated, has at least three broken ribs, lacerations, bruising and a bacterial eye infection. There may be internal damage. Without an x-ray, I cannot tell.” His eye wandered towards his medical bag. “It would probably be best…” he paused. “There will be a fee.”
Costas spat. “No way. It will die anyway. What is the point?”
The dog felt a gentle hand stroke her head tenderly. The tip of her tail twitched. It was the faintest wag.
The woman looked up at the vet. “Please try to save her.”
Costas was incredulous. “Why? It is useless. Always has been. I can do it myself. No fee.” He bent down to pick up a boulder.
“Stop it! Stop!” She stood up and stepped between him and the dog to face the vet, pleading “If I pay you, will you try to save her? She must stand a chance if she’s survived since yesterday.”
Irritated by her interference, Costas straightened and looked at her. “My dog. My decision.”
The woman’s eyes flashed furiously at him. “Give her to me.” she demanded.
Costas laughed. “How much will you pay me?”
She hesitated, then turned to the policeman. “Surely there’s a law against animal cruelty here. Could he be prosecuted for what he’s done?”
A slow nod.
Costas looked at him, derisively. “Tuh!”.
Ignoring him, the woman continued. “But if he gives me the dog and I ask you not to prosecute?”
The policeman seized the chance to avoid initiating proceedings which, doubtless, would be time consuming and awkward: a foreign witness, a belligerent local shepherd, all over animal cruelty which, he knew, was a contentious issue in Greece. He replied that that would be possible.
The woman turned to Costas. “Your decision indeed. Either it’s your dog and you are prosecuted or it is mine and you are not.”
He spat again and shrugged.
Spears of pain assaulted her as limply she felt herself lifted, carried and then lain, careful-ly, on a softer surface. The gentle hand stroked her head. Comforting sounds surrounded her. She sensed no more danger.
Costas looked at the dust kicked up by the vet’s car as it drove towards the road, then turned to the policeman. “Why so much fuss? I’ll get another dog. Stupid English tourists! They treat their animals like babies.”
The policeman looked back at him, said nothing, turned and left.
In the early afternoon, the sisters began to wonder where their mother was. They decided to walk down the stone track away from the villa towards the road leading to the village, confident that that would have been the route she had taken for her walk and hopeful that she might return with a fresh local delicacy for dinner. To their right was an area of scrubland in which stood a single tree with a loose chain hanging from one bough. A dog lay motionless beneath it, apparently sleeping. Close by was a dry stone wall. Hearing the sound of stones falling to the ground, Lucy stopped and glanced toward it.
“Look!” she said.
A goat was scrambling from the other side of the wall towards them, followed by another and another, the rise and fall of their bodies resembling the curl of summer surf as they rose, poised and dropped to the other side.
“Do you think they’re supposed to be doing that?”
“Shall we try and chase them back?”
“Are you kidding?”
“Come on. We’d better. They’ll get down to the road otherwise.” She ran towards the goats, shooing them towards the wall with her arms outstretched. Goats scattered in all directions. Emma thought it was the funniest thing she’d seen in ages. Suddenly, Lucy stopped, noticing the dead animal beside the tree.
“Come here. Quick.”
On the taxi ride to the villa from the town their mother was happy. The dog had been stabilised. Its prospects of recovery were good. She held in her hand a piece of paper bearing the telephone number of a local rescue centre which exported abandoned and mistreated dogs to caring animal lovers all over Europe. In a month or so the dog would be well enough to be flown to the UK. She looked down at it and smiled, excited to tell the girls about her morning’s adventure. She wondered if they would think Lucky was too silly a name.
The taxi driver was happy too. Last night he had won back his money from Costas. As he accelerated up the steep coastal ascent out of the village towards the villa his mind travelled continents. Glancing over the ocean a hundred metres below the cliff on his right he was thinking of Brazil, of football, of beautiful women. Suddenly a goat appeared from his left and cantered across his path, followed by more, then more. Disoriented and afraid, they ran all over the road in search of familiar terrain. Instinctively he swerved to avoid them. The right wheels of the car lost contact with the road. Terrifying sounds of bouncing metal filled the summer air.
“What was that?” asked Emma.
“No idea. Come on. Let’s go back to the villa. Mum might have gone back another way. Don’t tell her about that dog. It’ll only upset her. You know how soppy she is over animals.”
Ginny Davis asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work