It was about nine thirty in the morning when Maite’s little Fiat pulled up again outside of Goikoetxebarri, the baserri where Kepa lived with his mom.
“Mil esker for the ride,” said Kepa over a repressed yawn as he opened the door. “Are you sure you don’t want to crash here for a while, before driving home? If you are as tired as I am…”
“And sleep in that creepy room with those pictures of your uncle?” Maite replied, shaking her head. “No thanks.”
Buber’s Basque Story is a weekly serial. While it is a work of fiction, it has elements from both my own experiences and stories I’ve heard from various people. The characters, while in some cases inspired by real people, aren’t directly modeled on anyone in particular. I expect there will be inconsistencies and factual errors. I don’t know where it is going, and I’ll probably forget where it’s been. Why am I doing this? To give me an excuse and a deadline for some creative writing and because I thought people might enjoy it. Gozatu!
Kepa did have to admit that the middle room was a little creepy. His ama insisted that they keep the photos of his aita’s uncle, Domingo, up on the wall. Domingo had died fighting for the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War as Franco’s forces had sieged Bilbao, and the family had always honored his sacrifice by having many photos of the then-young man around the house. They had all gotten consolidated in the middle bedroom upstairs and now the shrine to his great uncle gave the room a very disturbing atmosphere.
“Fair enough,” Kepa said. “But, at least come in for a coffee. I’m sure ama saw us drive up and already has a glass ready for you.”
Maite smiled in defeat. “Ados,” she said as she turned off the engine and got out of the car.
The smell of coffee filled their senses as they passed the foyer into the small kitchen.
“Egun on!” said Kepa’s ama as the two entered the kitchen. She placed two glasses of coffee on the small table, beckoning them to sit. The table was already filled with cookies and biscuits.
“How are the fish, Mari Carmen?” asked Maite as she took a seat at the table.
Ever since they were children, Maite had always asked Kepa’s ama, Mari Carmen, about her fish. She and her parents had come to dinner at the baserri one night and Mari Carmen had served the best fish Maite had ever tasted. She had assumed that Mari Carmen must have a personal pond full of the best and freshest fish in the Basque Country and ever since she had asked Mari Carmen about her wonderful fish. Even when she grew older, she kept the conceit going as an inside joke.
Mari Carmen smiled. “The fish are wonderful, as always. How was the fiesta?”
“It was great,” said Kepa as he shoved a few of the cookies into his mouth and took a sip of his coffee. “Koldo’s new band is really good. They have some excellent songs and all of them are great musicians. I think they could do really well.”
Maite nodded enthusiastically. “I agree. They’re better than all of the other new bands I’ve heard and better than most of the ones that are on the radio. They are really talented.”
“Pozik nago,” replied Mari Carmen. “I’m glad Koldo has finally found his place.”
Kepa knew what she meant. Koldo had struggled to really find his footing as an adult. He had tried various jobs, working at one of the factories, taking classes to be a mechanic, tending bar, but nothing had stuck. He seemed to only be happy when making music.
Maite finished her coffee and stood up. “Well, I better go. Thanks for the coffee Mari Carmen.”
“Ez horregatik, neska. Ondo ibili,” replied Mari Carmen.
Kepa walked Maite out to her car. “Thanks again for the ride. I really appreciate it. And sorry for being so grumpy at the beginning.”
Maite laughed. “If you weren’t grumpy, you wouldn’t be Kepa.”
Kepa leaned in to give Maite a kiss on each cheek, but Maite grabbed his head and planted a kiss on his lips. “Ikusi arte,” she said with a devious smile.
Kepa just stood there, befuddled, as Maite drove off.