Standing on the edge of the plateau, one could see, way down, a dirt road going round the perimeter of a horseshoe-shaped elevation. The pale yellow road could be accessed, on foot, from either side of the plateau.
On this plateau, stood a tent, invisible to occasional transportations or wayfarers. The old threadbare tent was set up near a very narrow slow-flowing spring, the precious drops of which were carefully collected in a pool. The permanent resident of the tent was a shepherd called, Yusef, 20. He had about 300 sheep and goats, a dog and a donkey. The original owner, once a week, drove his jeep to the tent and delivered Yusef's weekly necessities.
In a way, Yusef was self-sufficient. He had his supply of preserved gourmé, Turkish word, consisting of chopped lamb, braised in fat, placed hot in a seamless natural kidskin and tightly sealed. His own sustainable yogurt kept in another kidskin, constantly refilled by adding warm milk, straight from the sheep or goat's udder and his supply of cube sugar and black tea. Although Yusef could bake bread on a convex iron plate placed on the fire, he preferred his employer's delivery. The shepherd did not mind, at all to eat dried bread crumbs.
Days in days out, he attended his flock, never meeting a soul, let alone having conversation. Once a week, when his boss drove in, accompanied by his friends, it was the shepherd's happy hours. The occasion was memorable. He counted the number of times the sun rose or set, until he could see the motorcade engulfed in pale yellow dust.
Yusef's first task was to prepare the charcoal pit. Next, hot water. Then, 15 minutes before serving, his tea. Boss and his companies would not use Yusef's mobile yogurt or gourmé. But any leftover would be manna for Yusef. However, there was one festivity he would not change for the world, smoking the opium pipe.
The red charcoals enshrouded in tiny blue flames and the intoxicating Co. and Co2 gases, the tea aroma and above all the aromatic fumes of the opium entrapped in the tent gave him ecstasies only found in poetry books.
Although he was his boss's shepherd, he, in this particular occasion, demonstrated utmost servility hoping his boss would allow him one or two opium servings. After the second serving, he would do his chores on his fours. If asked why, the reply would be: "Yusef has entered the threshold of absolute ecstasy or hallucination." Normally Yusef was denied the third serving unless there were no chores around, because he
would fall in deep sleep, his eyeballs moving round and round, his weather-beaten-etched-ebony face remained tranquil.
Withdrawn and forlorn, normally he would sit on a crag, throwing pebbles at either a shrub or a white spot on the rocks and singing his sad songs. Next, he would take his flute and play a melancholy song which echoed throughout the mountain valley. When he was silent, the only sound heard was the large bell of the leading goat, lifting his handsome horned head, glancing at the dog for any signal or surveying the surrounding for threats.
(To be continued)