“No, the tips! Spray the tips first!” From the way the Village Eldest was yelling at me in the vineyard, it seemed she was convinced I was the one with hearing problems.
The 20 liter tank of blue liquid I was carrying on my back had a leak, I could feel it dripping in between my shoulder blades down my spine. Although I didn’t like spraying copper sulphate on plants, I had offered helping out the village eldest. She was paying me to do it. I went from vine to vine, spraying them turquoise, trying to ignore the screeching behind me, ”the tips!” until I reached a point where I yelled at her to go home and leave me to it.
The vintage generation wasn’t always the easiest of generations.
“Son dura coma pedra!” I’m hard as rock! she yelled at whoever wanted to hear it before going out into her veggieplot armed with her hoe.
I painted Village Eldest, not exactly a portrait, but how I saw her.
“Why doesn’t she just take it easy.” Villager M said.
“She is 92, she ought to go and live with her daughters.” Villager C added.
“We’ll find her dead in a field one of these days.” Villager J concluded wryly.
There was one evening where I was indeed very worried, dusk was setting in thick and fast and I had not heard the clang of the shed door where she kept her tools, indicating she was back. I was just about to alert the other villagers of her missing when I spotted her at her house, climbing the steps, her voice as if she was talking in tongues, a monotone voice. I thought the Village Eldest had gone round the bend. She didn’t see me at first, but when she did she stopped. “I am praying.” she switched for a moment to her normal voice, and then continued in her monotone voice.
A few weeks later I found her on her back in her salad bed, thrashing around, unable to get up.
I thought of Kafka’s metamorphosis.
It was raining that day and it was during lunch hour, she was lucky I was alerted by her screams. The village decided if it wasn’t for me, she would have had to spend significantly longer in that field, drenched to her osteopathic bones until someone would have walked past her veggieplot.
She moved to an old people’s home after that, unwilling to move in with her two daughters.
Her nails are no longer black rimmed now, but varnished bright pink by the nurses.
I never showed her the portrait.