Saturday, September 30th 2017 The Aude. France.
The Mas Roland’s vendage was complete. Its dusky, black Grenache grapes all gathered in, despite the encroachments of an unexpected number of wild boar who’d dug up most of the oldest vines’ roots, planted by their owner, Giraud Roland himself twenty years ago.
The multitude of empty Vittel plastic water bottles he’d personally placed near the dry, grey soil, hadn’t repelled them, but nevertheless the ageing viticulteur could rest content. His yield, thanks to the efforts of the good folk of St. Chamas, keen to add to their meagre earnings as fruit sellers or burger flippers in nearby Limoux, was a pleasant surprise.
But what puzzled twenty-eight year-old Irène Lougon, teacher at the local École Primaire, was why the Book of Condolence had been left outside José Sanchez’s modest, terraced house in the Rue des Prêtres for only one day. Bad weather couldn’t be blamed, for the whole of September had been blessed with cloudless skies. A sudden spurt in the ripening.
José had been one of the best, most reliable of workers. A dark-skinned, hard-muscled man driven to provide enough for his wife and two young children. Whatever it took. Because he was the sole earner in one of the most beautiful but impoverished corners of France. His old Ford truck had been re-sprayed green so many times, but at the end of each vendage, rust had always been the winner.
And now he was dead. A frightened boar had lunged at him from behind the last row of unpicked vines as he’d dragged his latest load towards the truck. His heart ruptured by one determined horn. His raging screams were followed by a shocked silence once the black, snorting beast had fled.
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