It was on her final full day in the village before flying back to Dublin, with her and the old man on their third or fourth round of the nine holes, that she played her most memorable stroke of what she came to refer to ever after as her Spanish golfing holiday. The flock of chickens had been a nuisance to them all morning, for some reason known only to themselves choosing to concentrate their foraging on the first and second greens. In spite of the golfers’ repeated shoo-ings and handclaps, the chickens were showing a reluctance to abandon their determined inspection of and picking at the greens and would always scarper back to the islets of fresh grass when their tormentors’ backs were turned. Out of exasperation and ignorance of the damage a dropping golf ball might do to a chicken, she teed off on to a fowl-crowded first green, aiming as always for the pole. With a damp thonk, the ball came down not on grass but directly on to the bowed, probing head of a scrawny young hen. Without even so much as a final cluck, the bird collapsed, like a black-feathered puppet whose strings had been cut.
She blanched, mouthed an “Oh, shit” and turned to the old man with a look of horror on her face. “I’ve killed a fucking chicken.”
The old man removed his straw hat and wordlessly strode towards the green. After bringing the limp form to his ear to listen for a sign of life, he gravely shook his head at the woman, who was still frozen in post-swing stance. Then his smile returned. “No pasa nada. La culpa es mía.”
He started towards the house, holding the dead hen aloft before him and calling for Alvaro’s mother and aunts.
“We’re having chicken today!” she heard him shout. “One of those dumb animals got in the way of my shot. We’re having chicken!”