It is midday. The cherry pie tree waves at me through the rejas. Its tiny, white-edged, deep purple flowers smell of bubblegum or play dough. Beyond it, the vine hangs drunkenly from its makeshift support, groaning under the weight of this year’s crop. Large bunches of grapes are gradually turning colour, from pale green to a sweet, coppery blush, while the leaves droop in the heat, beginning to turn to brown from their joyful, early summer green. Sparrows flit about amidst the sweetness, sharing the feast with wasps and smaller insect life.
Over the railings, past the baby grapefruit tree and the cucumber wigwam, the chain-link fencing of the dog pound is already aging, dulling, disappearing into the grey and beige of the parched soil. Beyond the pound, the sunlight picks out the yellowy-green bumper crop of figs on the huge old tree that marks the start of the next terrace of our land.
The new green and old grey of the orange trees, gradually responding to being irrigated after years of drought, merge into the landscape of the river valley beyond the terrace of olives and the bamboo stand. Behind them, on the other side of the riverbed, is the arid slope of the hill opposite. The peak is a slightly wonky digit, scantily clad with yellowing scrub and fallen boulders, pointing to the huge Andalucian sky. Normally, this is a bright, improbable, virtually sapphire blue, but today there is a heat haze and the sky looks grey – almost British!
The view from my window grows smaller but infinitely larger at dusk. Lit by the night sky, full of out-of-town stars and the Spanish moon (which is bigger and cleaner and brighter than its English cousin) there are shadows where the garden is by day. The vine hangs, a dark mass, shifting slightly in any passing breeze, defining the limit of the paved terrace outside the house.
The eye is drawn to the winking patterns of tiny pinpricks of light. The Milky Way is clearly visible here and the heavens are a stately bustle of stars, satellites, night flight aeroplanes and meteorites. Time to ponder eternity in the crisp, unscented, soundless vastness up there…
Moths, attracted to the light in the study, meander about on the window. From the tiny, almost too small to see, to the large, pale beige behemoths that lumber pointlessly about, they all appear unable to just sit. Maybe they are driven to continual exploration, hoping to find a way to be closer to the light they crave.
Unnoticed, at the side of the frame, a tiny head and two tiny hands appear. A little, pale, milky underbelly hints at the rest of the body beyond. I cannot see the eyes, which are on the top of the watcher’s head. But I know they are watching. Each time one of the moths approaches the spot where he is hiding, the hunter shifts slightly, tentatively extending a leg, turning his head for a better view, edging slightly further onto the window pane.
I am gripped. The daytime distraction of the landscape and its many attractions are forgotten. The starscape and the gentle moon fade out of mind. The world is me, my neglected laptop and the life and death drama unfolding just inches from my desk.
A small brown moth comes close enough for the hunter to come out of his hiding place. The little pinkish gecko creeps toward its prey. The tiny legs move stealthily, the head sweeps to check its surroundings and assess the moment. I realise I have forgotten to breathe. Surely, the demise of the moth is a foregone conclusion. Until something, not even necessarily the sight of the looming killer, spooks it and it flits silently away.
The gecko scuttles back to its hideaway, still alert, still hopeful, still hungry. Its little fingers are tense, the soft underside of its throat throbs silently as it waits for the big, fat moth, currently weaving its way into the danger zone.
I switch off the laptop. I glance apologetically at the tiny predator, knowing that when I turn off the light and go to bed, he will have to hunt without my unintentional help luring his prey to his doorstep.
“Good night, and good hunting!” I murmur, imagining him glaring at me for frightening his prey away.
Death, lurking in a two inch body, is too engrossed to reply or even to notice my departure.