Zenon’s tenth birthday party was planned for Saturday afternoon. He wanted Best Beloved to do a souvla, he wanted a cake with DragonballZ from Zorba’s, and he wanted a crowd of friends over for games that included water balloon paintball and three-legged races. So we complied, planned, invited his friends and their parents, and prepared for the day.
At about 10, Best Beloved went out to buy the souvla meat, and as soon as he came back I left to collect the cake. As I passed the turning to the dam, just past the end of our road, I noticed a horse standing by the side of the road.
“That poor thing!” I thought to myself. It stood hunched in the blazing sunshine, its head hanging. As I drove down the road I wracked my brains to think whom it belonged to: there are few horses in Cyprus, and I thought I knew most in the neighbourhood. “I’ll take it some water as soon as I get back, and I’ll call Yianni (a friend who keeps racehorses in a nearby village), he must know the owner.”
Resolved, I continued on the cake mission, and a moment later my phone rang. It was Best Beloved: “Did you see the horse?” I told him that I had, and what I had decided to do about it. “Keep Yianni out of it for now,” Best Beloved advised. “It got hit by a car last night and the police are looking for the owners. When you get back, we’ll take it some water together.”
The cake collection was completed in record time, and back at the house Alex and I filled eight four-litre bottles with water, put them and a big bucket into the Land Rover, and headed toward the horse, stopping to pick up Best beloved from the field en route.
Close to, the horse was smaller than I thought – only about 14 hands – and standing awkwardly, tied to a boulder with a rope, chain, and too-large head-collar. She was resting a back leg, a gaping slice carved out of her side midway between hip and shoulder. Blood still trickled down her matted coat, and the flies clustered hungrily.
As Alex and I approached with the bucket and water bottles, she lifted her head and whickered, moving painfully toward us and plunging her nose deep into the bucket. She drained four litres in a gulp, so I gave her some more and more and more. After four bottles, she slowed down and I decided to wait before she had any more in case it made her colic.
She allowed me to stroke her nose and examine her wound: her shoulder was bruised, and her stifle, and I went around the other side to see if I could see any other injuries. There were none visible but a slightly swollen fetlock on her near hind leg. While she had some more water we discussed what to do and Best Beloved filled me in on the story as he knew it.
Billy had been drinking at the Cousin’s Café until late last night, and one of his companions had been the man from Choletria (the next village up) whose wife had been murdered last year by the man who had lost his grandkids and his mind in a tractor accident five years earlier. This man spends his life now in a bottle, and when he left at two in the morning (after Billy had gone home) instead of going up to his house, he inexplicably turned south – and hit the horse broadside. He returned to the Café with a broken windshield and an incomprehensible tale. Then went home.
At some time in the morning the police came, tied (and left) the horse and breathalysed the driver, finding him still well over the alcohol limit. Billy was trying to find the owners of the horse.
We called Yianni who said that he was working thirty miles away but would come with painkillers at about five. We called other people in the village, but nobody knew the horse or the owner, so we finally called Paphiakos Animal Welfare, the only people in the country who do large-animal rescue and who are fortunately just down the road. They said they would be with us in half an hour. Meanwhile the horse downed another twelve litres of water
They were as good as their word. Half an hour later two men pulled up with a trailer. “Still no word on the owner?” they asked. And when we said that the matter was in the hands of Kouklia police, and that we had advised the Boys in Blue that we had called the Rescue Service, the lads went into action. Examining the horse gently, they tried to lead her forward, but she rolled her eyes and refused to move until they put a rope around her hindquarters. They half-lifted her up the ramp into the float, and securing her head-collar set out for the animal surgery in Kato Paphos.
“Well, that’s the drama of the day over with,” I said to Best Beloved as we rolled up to our house.
“The party hasn’t started yet!” was his reply. “Sixteen ten year-olds are descending on us in a couple of hours…”
And so they did – with their parents and their old clothes. And a good time was had by all.
Marcos, the son of our former land-lord, broke the piñata with a brilliantly placed swipe, and showed his practical side and engineering skills in building towers with balloons. The teams drew in the paintball water-balloon war, with Kay’s little Marios switching sides like a demon. And we never got to the three-legged race. The souvla, hoummos, salad and spuds, cake, jelly, and baklava were cleaned up with just enough left-overs for Sunday lunch, and people began to trickle away at around seven-thirty – tired, happy, and full. The way that people should be after a good party.
I will call the Rescue Service next week and see how our Lady is doing. I did think about trying to adopt her if her owner doesn’t show up, but we have no place to keep a horse properly and no time to build one, so I’ll keep that idea in fantasy land and refrain from mentioning it to my children.