It wasn’t even half past three when Angelís woke up. He’d set up the alarm clock for four but his excitement couldn’t wait. Sundays were the best, there was no school and he could do whatever he liked with his time-usually hunting or playing football. He got up, pulled on his dad’s old military fatigues, an old woollen jumper with holes, thick socks. He had a quick glass of milk, looking out of the window. It was still pitch-dark. He put on his coat and wellies, grabbed his bag, turned the key in the door and found himself outside in the crispy cold.
They slowly walked through the muddy paths to the edge of the village where they usually did their hunting. They usually set their lime sticks in specific trees and even specific branches in an old olive grove. The grove was one of those which weren’t producing many olives any more. The trees were ancient, their trunks hollowed out, the size of small rooms. These occasionally doubled as hideouts or tree-houses during various phases of afternoons full of games. The grove belonged to old man Kongolís who hadn’t even bothered fencing it as he didn’t mind the children playing in it. He sometimes tied his mule on one of the trees and Angelís and his friends had endless fun with it.
There was neither mule nor Kongolís that morning. The boys moved as swiftly as the red soil mud would allow them to. They picked their trees carefully in advance and they had each taken his share of the spots in the grove. Angelís pulled out a bunch of his lime sticks and placed it on a branch on the first of ‘his’ trees. He climbed it with some difficulty, as his muddy wellies slipped against the ancient trunk. When he was up and secure, he picked up the bunch of lime sticks, all glued together, and with great skill he picked one out, held the tip with his mouth and cut it out of the bunch with his knife moving outwards and away from his body. He placed it across an opening in the branches, ready for the birds to rest on. He placed them all, one by one, with great care and attention. When he finished the first tree, he moved on to the next one, and then the next one, until he had placed all six of his lime stick bunches. He put his fingers to his lips and threw a swift whistle in the direction of Paráskos, who whistled back in acknowledgement. Paráskos was slower and was still setting up on the fourth tree. Angelís gave him a helping hand, and together they emptied Paráskos’ koukkourká in no time.
They picked up all their things and started walking fast away from the grove towards an orchard a few hundred meters away. They had to be done and away from the grove before the break of dawn, and they could already see the rosy horizon in the east breaking into two. They sat down and rested their backs against the trunk of a carob tree. All they could do was sit and wait, so they leaned and waited, dozing off but waking up from the cold. The first birds started singing as the dawn chorus started rehearsing the day’s performance.
*custom-made reed basket for lime sticks