Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A-Z Challenge - I = Inside the Village

Dona Rosa sits in the shade of an orange tree just outside her whitewashed cottage, crocheting a waistcoat for her husband, Joaquim, which he'll probably never wear.
She looks across at the sandy beach, empty except for piles of nets, buoys and a couple of upturned skiffs that are waiting to have their hulls patched.
She squints against the glare of the glittering waves as they break on the shore. The sea's in a good mood today and, hopefully, she'll yield her fruit willingly so they have a good catch. Another hour and the sardine fleet will be in and Joaquim will be ready for his dinner. 
Seventy-five years old and still out at dawn and sometimes again during the day, he says the day he can't go to sea will be the day he dies. Dona Rosa had a quick word with her son-in-law, the skipper, and now Joaquim's job is restricted to measuring the fish and checking for bycatch. 
Caldeirada - fish stew
Joaquim will be hungry but Dona Rosa's caldeirada has been simmering all day with fish they brought back yesterday with the sardine: squid, bream, cuttlefish and hake. The onions, tomatoes, coriander, garlic, lemons and peppers she took from their small back yard; the olive oil came from the local press and the wine from Serafim's vines. Further along the street Serafim's already getting his bar/café ready to receive the fishermen  by setting cold bottles of beer and plates of petiscos, still warm from Prazeres's frying pan, on the metal tables outside 
petiscos 

The children will be back soon from school on the bus. They'll gather round Dona Rosa for their daily song in English (today's will be A Life on the Ocean Wave) and then she'll let them pick the ripe oranges from the tree that's burnt from the sea air but produces the juiciest fruit every year. The strawberry tree in the small backyard is full of fruit too and they can pick those so that Joaquim can make his heart-stoppingly strong medronha brandy at the weekend.
Dona Rosa sits in the shade, squints at the horizon, and prays to Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes for the sardine fleet's safe arrival. 

Dona Rosa, her husband Joaquim and Serafim are characters from my WIP. It is set in a fishing village in the Alentejo.