"Charlotte" by James Prineas Stories from "A Village on Kythera"

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In the late summer, after the August gales bluster back to Africa from whence they came, and the few foreign tourists have deserted the windy island vowing never to return, the days are still so hot that Auntie Katerina's donkey Charlotte is hidden in the dusty shade of the stables at our family house. Greek summer shade is a cool, almost liquid oasis echoing the cicada's scream from the blinding shine outside. The chickens peck the dust around Charlotte's hooves as if she were a wheelbarrow. She stands there stolidly - no designs or aspirations, no desire for attention.
Nor does a change of scenery enliven the beast. No matter how much candid advice you give a donkey when you tie it up in the middle of a field, within a few minutes it will have totally immobilised itself, mixing its legs up in its tether or wrapping itself around the only tree in sight, without a thought to walk in the opposite direction to unravel its simple self. But it isn't their complacency which impresses me - it is their silence in the face of immobility. There is no struggle when faced with an almond tree as a knotty dancing partner, nor do they ee-aw once they have lassoed their own four legs rodeo-style and fallen on their sides in the dust.
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At dusk Auntie Katerina comes to lock up the chickens, and the mouse-grey donkey is led into the field in front of the house - Charlotte trotting out like a churlish pony led into an circus arena - to be tied up for the night. This ritual is my assurance of summer. A few weeks later, with October almost upon us and the first clouds since spring waiting on the horizon, this donkey's rhythm is turned on its head, and Charlotte spends a night followed by a day in the field. From now until the last rains of next spring, she will bathe all day in the leftover sun and spend the nights sheltered in her stable. This change from a desire for coolness to one for warmth heralds summer's end. It is time to begin packing up a house which, like me, is not built for the windy wet Greek winter.
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Cover | Introduction | Tarzan's Boots | Charlotte's Tail | Chez Stamatakos
Yanni Sklavos | Koula Entertains | Photo Gallery

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