It didnt take more than half an hour
to install me in Casa Paput, after which I was off to check
on Flipper who was still installed comfortably in Vicentes
veterinarian clinic. Jutta stayed behind and at home, preparing
lunch for herself and Emilio, while Dutch Rita and Dundee
Doreen joined me in the Renault for the ten minute ride back
to Ibiza town. As soon as we began to roll it occurred to
me that in impulsively agreeing to let Casa Paput I had completely
forgot about the rock dust on the road in front of it. And
I had also forgotten the implications which could be drawn
from its presence. The implications were that heavy truck
traffic would seriously disturb my time at home in Casa Paput.
The noise would be excessive. How could I have overlooked
such a negatively pervasive factor and committed myself to
a house in which I probably would never be able to get a silent
siesta or a decent nights sleep? How could I have done
Well, the fact was, I had. I had done it.
And there was no going back. But as I ruminated on this looming
disaster and went over the mornings events in my mind,
it all became clear to me. I understood how I had done it.
And it made me feel good. Things came full circle as I tooled
the little Renault along the rock dust road. The recollection
of past events is always instructive, if one will only look
at them impassively, but in this case it was also entertaining.
What had happened was that I had been overcome, in the first
instance, by the charm of Chinese Rita and Dundee Doreen.
Both of them, from the first, had been actively after me to
take Casa Paput, for a reason which I had avoided thinking
about, but which, upon reflection, was quite understandable
and which I could now quite happily accept. They had had,
in fact, two reasons for pressuring me. And they had pressured
me in the sweetest way imaginable. The two reasons were self-interest
and my interest.
Taking the last reason first, they genuinely
believed Casa Paput was for me. They loved the neighbourhood
for me in general, and they loved it for me in particular,
because they knew that Big Mimi, who lived a stones
throw away from Paput, would surely help me along in adapting
to it. They loved the house itself and Juttas palace,
near where it stood. And, it would appear, they were genuinely
fond of me. Putting those items in tandem and I could see
why they had been anxious for me not to overlook Casa Paput.
Their other reason, self-interest, was also
comprehensible. Chinese Rita was living on a small pension
from Holland. A very small pension. Anything she could pick
up as she went along in the way of added income was to be
welcomed. And if I rented Paput, as a direct result of her
efforts, and they had been clearly influential, Jutta would
undoubtedly be willing to let her have a small commission
commensurate with the small rental involved. It finally had
filtered through to me that informal commission lash-ups were
a way of life in Ibiza in 1965. They were quite usual in land
deals even when only a simple referral was involved. They
were the rule in tourist touting at ship arrivals. And they
were always connected with accommodation rentals. Commission
payments of this informal kind are commercial stigmata in
all poorer societies, and in those days, if you can believe
it, Ibiza was just such a society. Poor.
As for dauntless, audacious, Dundee Doreen,
she would have joined forces with Rita if only to help her
friend along. She herself, a working girl with a steady job
as barkeeper in the Delfín Verde, could manage without.
And so it was no surprise to me when she said, Well,
youve done your good deed for the day! She meant
me to understand that having taken Casa Paput was a good deed
and a good deal for all concerned, especially me, but there
was also a hidden meaning buried in her words. She was thanking
me for having made it possible for Rita to have earned a commission.
I was learning the byways of Ibiza very quickly.
Something else suddenly dawned on me as
we drove along in the glorious sunlight of a clear day in
January. I could not hear the road noise of my tires rolling
along on the rock dust! The Renault 8, with its motor mounted
in the rear, instead of under the bonnet and in front of the
driver, was an especially quiet little car. The normal engine
noise of a front mounted power plant usually obliterated tire
noise entirely, but with the Renault 8 that didnt happen.
So, as I became aware that the usual tire noise wasnt
to be heard, the reassuring idea was born that it was the
loose packed rock dust surface, soft and yielding, which was
absorbing it. The last and only major objection I had had
about taking Casa Paput, viz., that it would be hellish because
of the noise of passing heavy trucks, was probably improbable.
Even engine noise would be dampened by the noise-absorbent
character of the thick, loose layer of gray-colored rock dust
that covered the track. Casa Paput would prove to be home,
as it happened, in the best sense of the word. Even Flipper
But he was not to see it, just yet. As we were
passing a small villa on our left, Dundee Doreen demanded
we stop and go inside.
Theres Big Mimis place,
she said, She always loves visitors, so lets go
It was then that I realized that this was
the same villa to which I had delivered Big Mimi only the
night before, after my party at La Parra. In the few minutes
it had taken to drop her off and turn the Renault around,
and in the dark, I had hardly even seen the place. It didnt
take much prodding from Doreen to make me park in the small
driveway to the house. Flipper would wait for me another half
hour. I wanted to see how Big Mimi lived.
We all piled out and Doreen ran ahead, burbling
with excitement. Chinese Rita, was just ahead of me, humming
quietly to herself. She was fluttering her hands gracefully
to accompany the tune. I was soon to learn why she always
did this, why her hands were seldom still...
The house was small, tidy, and told a simple
story. Its occupant was financially strapped, despite she
owned a tea plantation in India, she was orderly and regular
in her habits and she couldnt resist a hippy. Rita said
there were always two or three of them slouched about.
Find Big Mimi, find a fellow.
Find a fellow, find a fag. (Fag was slang for cigarette!)
Find a fag, its got-a-be pot, she said, while
her hands undulated gently like the wings of tired butterflies.
And the living room smelled of it. Its characteristic
odour was strong. A young man dressed almost in rags, with
long, dark hair and a friendly, relaxed way about him, immediately
poured wine for us and made us comfortable. Big Mimi was nowhere
to be seen. We were sitting in rather skimpy stick-like chairs.
The walls were bare of pictures. Only the light was luxurious
and the windows let it in freely. They were spotlessly clean.
As were all the floors. A slinky black cat stole in. It sat
itself down with great dignity right in the middle of the
floor. The hippy, whose name was Len, drew gently on his fat
hand-rolled cigarette. He offered me a drag, which I politely
declined. We were all waiting for something. And then Big
Mimi came in. She was, of course, the something for which
we had all been waiting.
There was cheek-kissing all around, as was
the fashion, murmurs all around about the wonderful party
of the night before, and then Big Mimi brought in a bundled-up
girl-baby whom she was looking after for people who had had
to go to Barcelona. She was always looking after children
of people who had to leave the island. Baby farming,
she said, comes to me naturally. The infant had
started to cry, but in no time Bib Mimi had her laughing and
cooing. When it had settled, Big Mimi let Rita hold her. The
hippy, Len, had Indian music going quietly in the background
and Bib Mimi, pointedly talking privately to me, let me know
a little of Chinese Ritas background.
She would have been a concert pianist,
she said, but there was an accident and she never got
What kind of an accident?
Well, you see, said Big Mimi
in her usual diffused way, she was living in Hong Kong
or China or somewhere like that, and she had been preparing
for her first professional concert. She was to play one of
the great concertos, with one of the great orchestras.
Big Mimi paused and seemed to be trying to remember what she
had been saying. She was only sixteen. There was
a long pause. At last she said, Ah, yes, I remember.
After the piano, she loved riding best. There was another
long pause. Then, with shattering unexpectedness, she said,
She was thrown from her horse!
Thrown from her horse? I was
incredulous. Just before her concert, she was thrown
from a horse?
Exactly, Mimi said, suddenly
authoritative. She had a very bad fall. She was jumping
it over a low wall and somehow the horse stumbled and she
She was badly hurt, I take it, and
she missed her first concert?
She missed all her concerts. She could
not play the piano after that. In the fall the horse trod
on her hands and her heart at the same time. Her hands were
never right again. Big Mimi got up and went over to
Chinese Rita, who was still holding the baby.
Give her to me now, she said.
Then she kissed Rita and came back to me. Leaning over me,
with the baby quiet in her arms, she said with great intensity,
but under her breath, And thats why she waves
her hands all the time. Shes playing a concerto in her
head and her hands are working over a keyboard. I knew you
would want to know why she always waves her hands. Then
she walked out of the room. From inside the bedroom into which
she had taken the baby, came muffled sounds of sobbing. They
didnt sound at all like the sounds of a baby crying.
Immediately, both Chinese Rita and Dundee
Doreen rose and quietly walked out of the house. I followed.
And as I left, the hippie, Len, turned up the music just enough
to drown out the sound of Big Mimis pain.