7. The Mayor

A new mayor to our village had been recently elected. He lived on the hill beyond the white steeple of the church. Near the Latin inscription for Anonymous. Our hosts had heard he was willing to receive us. As we went there at sunset the sun was already leaving the valley but the summits remained bathed in a golden light.

He would come any moment, his wife said. He was shifting his flocks of sheep to another field. Meanwhile she prepared something to eat as a welcoming gift. Products of the land spread on a cloth. The family seemed to live in a kind of chapel at the very top where the sun still lingered. Heavy metal machinery was standing quite naturally around the house, as if safely turned in for the night, after work.

When he appeared the mayor looked young and relaxed. He fondled his two children. He answered questions. What was his main task, I asked. Not much, he said, solving practical problems perhaps. People would come to him with questions.

He came from an academic family in Budapest and spoke his languages. Also Arabic and Mongolian. Soon he would leave for Mongolia to study customs and the language. His son now left his father’s knee and went to play at a pile of sawn wood. His toddler daughter crept from her mother’s lap to reach the edible gifts spread on a white cloth. My partner picked her up an carried her around over his shoulder. I asked the parents if they minded. No, they said, even bad feelings, like pain, will be a learning and a lesson. There was no tension in the air when we left.