my way back to Ibiza town with sick little Flipper beside me, there were
three items of special interest about Paco and Maria, my two Ibicencan
passengers. They were, in order of their importance to me; first,
that their help would afford me immediate access to a vet; second, that
they seemed to have commanded a lift from me instead of asking for one;
and finally, that they were carrying rucksacks. Why carry
rucksacks on a local trip?
to their connection with a vet, I was soon to learn that on Ibiza one
could almost count on discovering that any one Ibicencan in whom one had
an interest, was, in all probability, cousin to another one in whom one
had an interest. This, it was claimed, was because over the
centuries there had been excessive intermarriage as a result of the
isolation of the island. Whatever the cause, the case was clear.
There was a generous supply of cousins available, really a surplus of
the same, and almost everyone involved was drawing on that supply.
But I was not aware of this state of interfamily, island affairs, during
my early days in residence. So I was especially astonished when I
learned that Paco not only knew the vet in Ibiza town, which is
what he had told me initially, but that he was also closely related to
him. Was, in fact…you guessed it…his cousin. It seemed such an
outsized coincidence that I should have picked up a vet’s cousin when I
needed a vet urgently. And it was a coincidence bearing such good
tidings for me and my dog, that I could hardly believe that it was
entirely exempt from celestial intervention. Paco would be able to
do all the explaining needed about Flipper’s condition, to say nothing
of his being able to ensure my immediate access to his cousin, no matter
we were in or out of office hours.
to the their seeming command that I stop to give them a lift, instead of
asking for one, this had come about because Paco had raised his arm with
his palm flat to me, instead of using the usual itinerant thumb signal.
He had used a police gesture which orders one to STOP. And so I
had stopped, in an almost knee jerk reaction. Why had he used that
autocratic gesture? His manner in the car was not authoritarian.
Quite to the contrary. He was quiet and calm, courteous and
responsive, grateful for the ride and warm and loving with his
companion. So why the command for me to stop? The answer
could be found in the Ibicencan condition. He simply did not know
the usual thumb request signal which asks for a lift. He didn’t
know it existed. He had signalled in what was to him the most
natural way to let me know; ‘would I please stop and give them a ride?’
He had never asked for a lift before. His life had been entirely
restricted to a small portion of the west coast of the island. He
had, indeed, never been further into the island’s greater land space
than the little fishing town of San Antonio Abad. And to that he
had always walked. He and his companion were on their first voyage out
of their homes and into the big world. They were on their way to
Ibiza town, not only the biggest village on the island, but also its
capital as well. Ibiza town was where the great ships docked,
Ibiza town was where people from the great world could be seen, Ibiza
town was where their sophisticated cousin, the vet, lived, this trip,
Paco told me, with the broadest grin imaginable, was their honeymoon!
They would have had a carriage, but it was needed on the farm. I was
their chosen chauffer, it would seem, and my Renault was all the
carriage they could ever have hoped for.
as for the rucksacks, they became self-explanatory. They were on
what for them was a long, long voyage, one of perhaps several days, and
so they needed their things. They needed clothing changes, they
needed toothbrushes, shaving material, hair-do accessories, the lot.
They even had with them, Maria told me with pride shining in her eyes,
her wedding dress, which had been made somewhat less ornate so as to be
usable as a best dress, in case she should need one. Right then
and there, I decided I would see to it that she would need one.
There would have to be a party to celebrate their honeymoon and our
happy, if accidental, meeting. And I would give it.
began to tell them about it, improvising as I went. About who would be
there. There would be their cousin the vet, of course, and any
other friends or relatives they had in the Big Town, there would be
Chinese Rita, Dundee Doreen, Hungry Hannibal, Ernesto, and perhaps even
Emilio Schillinger. With the mention of each person there were
expressions of delight from the newlyweds and they obliged me to
describe each of them in detail. Once again the language
difficulty had to be overcome. (To this day, so many years later,
it remains a serious problem for me!) And somehow it was.
With patience, using the few words we had in common, and with much
facial contortion, body motion and hand gesticulation, I managed to
convey the essence of the characters and personalities of the people
involved. And my new friends could not get enough of it. For
friends they had become, almost instantly. There was an immediate
positive chemical reaction among us. The immediate common purpose, which
was to get help for Flipper and as soon as possible, seemed to cement a
personal bond among the three of us. And laughter was no stranger
to the interior of the little Renault 8. We almost laughed our way
into Ibiza town. Every gesture of mine, every wince, grimace,
smile, intake of breath that I used to make my meanings clear were
greeted with a smiling, bubbling glee that somehow seemed to portend
good things for all of us…and especially for little Flipper. He, poor
fellow, did not share in our pleasure, but continued ill and
silent, lying immobile on his cushion, head on my old hat.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, as we drove along, there was a nagging
question brewing. The nature of that question remained quite
obscure to me until Maria brought it to life with a question which was
right to the point. Where, she asked, was the honeymoon party
going to be? The answer, it suddenly came to me, was that the
party could be in one of three places. Or in all of three places,
for that matter. It could be in the Delfín Verde, which had
assumed an air of old hunting ground familiarity; or it could be at a
beach kiosk I had heard about, on a near-to-town beach, called Playa den
Bossa; or it could be in another bar than the Delfín, one selected by
Paco’s cousin, the vet, who would surely know where best we could all
go…where there would be good music, good food, and good people.
so at last, we rolled into Ibiza town. In no time at all we were
at the office of Paco’s cousin, Vicente, who turned out, luckily, to be
there. He greeted his cousins with an effusion of emotion, with
loud assurances of his joy at their unexpected arrival, and with genuine
pleasure at meeting me. He was professionally dressed in white
smock, white shirt and trousers. He was smoking a cigarette, which later
became almost his trademark, as it had been with Juanito. His office and
surgery were spotlessly clean. His general manner was such that I
became satisfied about his competence and as my confidence in him grew,
I was happy to hand Flipper over to him. Paco ran down the history
of Flipper’s misfortunes and then Vicente began his examination.
Wearing surgical gloves, skin tight plastic things, Vicente turned out
to be a very good vet, indeed. His examination was efficient,
thorough, and exercised with speed. There was much compassion and
feeling for the patient. In no time at all Flipper was full of
antibiotics and energy builders of all kinds. One could see that
given further treatment for his damaged feet, Flipper was going to be
all right. And it was with the feet that Vicente proved to be
quite expert. With a gentleness that was almost feminine, he
disinfected the damaged pads. Then he encased each paw in healing
salves and bandaged them so that the salves would give their balm
securely. In the end Flipper slept. Vicente lifted him into
a small bed in a small cage and took another cigarette. “He will
be fine,” he said reassuringly. “His fever will come down soon,
and then he will feel much better.” I breathed easier as I thanked
him for his help. Paco had told me that Vicente was always right with
his prognoses. And in fact, Flipper went on to live four more
years until he was age sixteen. But more of that in due course.
thing to do now was to organize the party I had promised the newlyweds,
the doing of which turned out to be an adventure in itself…and to find a
permanent home for me, in or near Ibiza town.