This Spring weekend Pilar and Mercedes drove Sally and me to an almost deserted village, high in the wooded hills. Before we ate lunch, we took a trail further up into the hills. Sally wore green army fatigues and looked like a woman from one of those movies where bad girls are redeemed by being sent on a dangerous and sexy mission for their country. Mercedes wore the wrong shoes and complained that we were going too far. Pilar and Small romped and played tug-o-war with a stick.

We had lunch back in the village restaurant, famous for its cocido montanes - thick bean stew with spicy red and black blood sausage in it. We arrived at about 4:00, sneaking in just before the dining room closed. Luckily, there was still cocido left and cocido on a brisk day with wine was unforgettable. Oddly, the first time I ate it, I wasn't impressed, but the taste, feel, warmth and surroundings of that dish came back to haunt me.

After lunch we went out into the dusk, through the now un-cobbled streets to one of the ramshackle stone houses. The houses were all built on two levels - cows used to live in the barns downstairs, while the people lived snugly above them. We were going to visit a young man who was a friend of a friend of Mercedes. She was curious about his life here in a crumbling house, in this remote village with the forest waiting to grow over it.

Mercedes had brought some brandy as a gift and we sipped it. The young man rolled a joint, and in the cushioned messiness of his house he told us that the mayor of the town had advertised for young people to come and live free in this town and occupy the empty houses, which the village youth had flown to Barcelona and Madrid to escape. It was primitive, to be sure, no electric light, only a cold tap, but the freedom and the beauty...

Pilar loved the idea. On the way home she tried to persuade Mercedes to move up to the hills with her, then cursed her for being weak and an old lady because she was tortoise-like pulling back her head and claiming she needed electricity and a hot shower. Bah!, Pilar flung out her hand at her friend, "Yo, por lo menos, voy!" And she turned up the Cuban song that was playing on the tape and would not listen to Mercedes, and the words of the song were,

Poeta Ho Chi Min, sereno campesino Ho Chi Min.
Poet Ho Chi Min, serene peasant Ho Ch Min....

And the car purred down the dark highway back to the town, and we four were so happy and so snug inside.

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