Way down south, where the land hits the Mediterranean, hotblooded passions run high. Many a township is riven with vendetta and bloodfeuds, some of whom are older than.. well, sometimes they're older than the township itself. Who can forget the unhappy tale of Father Petriki's Goat and the Unfortunate
Olive Salesman? But travellers in this area often wonder at the happy town of Misosbaklava. While other villages up and down the coast wile away the balmy nights in plotting, fighting and pissing onto each others' artichoke patches, the only thing a visitor to Misosbaklava is likely to be struck by is the sense of placid calm which suffuses the little whitewashed village.
But today, the mood is one of great excitement. From the direction of the church is coming a terrible racket - bangs, crashes, caterwauling... ah, no, wait - here comes the Mayor, resplendent in his ceremonial kepi and cummerbund (don't ask), and behind him is the whole village, decked out in their finery, banging on pots and pans and generally having a fine time! Old Lysandros has got his trumpet out and occasionally favours onlookers with a querulous honking blast... and in the midst of the procession, carried on the shoulders of Papados and Stefanos, is the reason for the whole celebration.
St Gida, the Holy Goat.
Anyone unfamiliar with St Gida (which means, everyone except the inhabitants of Misosbaklava) might be a little baffled by her effigy. Apparently made out of random bits of brightly coloured scrap metal, a confused onlooker would clearly see a Sunlight Soap logo emblazoned on her tin shoulder. Her horns are made of twisted coke cans, and in her side there is a mysterious orifice.
Behind Stefanos and Papados, children march, decked out in their sunday best and merrily swinging empty buckets. They sing lustily, although with more enthusiasm than tunefulness.
From the village, the procession wends its way up to the cliffs, with their magnificent view out over the azure Mediterranean. The goat is set down, safely away from the cliff edge, its nose facing the sea. A long queue forms, and each inhabitant of the village comes forward, carrying one of the buckets. Out loud, they silently pour the bucket over the goat, and then turn and begin a long process of shaking hands with everybody else. Toasts are made, and wine is drunk. There is a sense of rising tension.
Finally, when every single person has poured their bucket, Father Nachos comes forward, holding a giant metal key. Inserting it into the side of the goat, he turns it slowly, and the ageing clockwork motor can be heard rattling to itself as it is wound up. Blessing the goat, he inserts the Holy Dynamite Stick. Finally, he steps back, and strikes the donkey on the rump. The goat leaps as if startled, and then waddles forward. The crowd cheer as the animal lumbers up to the cliff edge, suddenly sits down, makes a curious high-pitched barking noise, and finally, with an impressive flip that takes it twenty feet into the air, launches itself up and over the cliff edge.
There is a distant boom.
Much later, as the dying light of the sun tints the hillside a rich purple, and the revellers pick their way back down the path, Father Nachos finds himself walking with Landro the Baker. He claps him on the back. "Another year's grudges successfully consigned to the deep!" he booms merrily.
The baker shrugs. "I'll gather up the parts tomorrow and sneak them back into the church. People don't realize how much effort it takes to piece that goat together. Every year something else breaks, or can't be found."
Suddenly overcome, the priest turns to him and hugs him violently. "It's worth it, my friend. Another year of peace! Each vendetta poured onto the goat is another happy household in our little village. I know you work hard - God knows it - but, Landro, think on this: your reward is not just in heaven, but can be seen every day, here, in your home!"
The baker shrugs, but it's clear he's pleased by his friend's words. The priest throws his arm around his shoulder as they carry on down the hill.
"You know, I was thinking. Your clockwork scapegoat brings so much happiness to our village. Maybe we should make a few more, and sell them to other places. Spread the joy, if you know what I mean..."