It would have meant demolition of family life. Me, the mother of four, the upright citizen known for honesty, reliability, sobriety and religious faith, being invited to the police station for an interview.
At that time we used to keep our farm animals at a field not far away, which meant visiting twice a day, two minutes by car. That morning was different because no dew had fallen during the night, meaning the goats could be taken out of the barn earlier. Eating grass wet with dew brings on parasites in the digestive system. It wasn’t too chilly so I set off on foot, passing houses and small olive groves, for the ten minute walk.
I greet the goats on arrival as always. But through the crack in the door of the barn I glimpse someone walking along our lane, silhouetted against the sunrise – an illegal immigrant, one of the many who have come south for our warmer winter. An orange grove on one side of the field hides the barn from the road, the nearest house is long abandoned and half covered in bramble bushes and the only occupied house is too far away. There is no dog to bark at strangers.
A stab of fear is followed by a brief second of sadness, then clarity takes over. The shovel is leaning against the grey wall beside me, its long shaft fashioned from sturdy oak wood, tight in the metal socket of the scoop which is still a cheerful sky-blue colour just like new. The edge of the shovel is black and stained from clearing out the barn, from being thrust and scraped and grated across the rough concrete floor. I am standing on stinking damp straw, I see dung and some grains of corn fallen from the feed pans, and a toothpick dropped by the husband. He always has one in his mouth, like others have a cigarette.
All-powerful and calm now, I take the shovel and raise it above my head and wait. A goat squats to urinate noisily. Then another slowly gets to her feet wanting to be milked and to go outside to graze. I wait… Then through the window of the barn in the distance near where the lane disappears behind tall reeds I see the illegal immigrant continuing on his way, unaware of his brush with death.