You are out walking one clear, bright morning, breathing in the dewy air, joyfully, lungfuls at a time, gorging yourself, thinking this is what a hunter longs to feel! You consider taking off your cap and coil deeper into an overgrown orchard. A path reveals itself among the nettles and sharp-tipped hemp and you find yourself in a bee garden, where, to the right is a small shed - an amshanik - the door slightly ajar, inviting; and as your eyes adjust to the lack of light you note the fragrant smells of mint and melissa and then the surprise. At the back of the shed is a mummy. She is laid out on boards, under a cloth. You move closer to look: the head is sunk and withered, pin dry skin the bronze colour of an icon painting, a blade for a nose, white teeth in a lipless mouth and yellow wisps of hair. At her chin, where the quilt is pulled down, you see two tiny bronze hands with fingers like sticks, moving, slowly.
You turn to leave and the mummy calls out to you. Alex. Alex.
The face is awesome but familiar nonetheless.
Could you give me a drink of water? Her voice is like rustling marsh sedge.
Unnerved, you reach into your backpack and root around for water, and say: I’ve only got sparkling. OK?
You half-open the cap, let the excess fizz hiss out, then twist it off and raise the bottle to her lips and she drinks very slowly, like watering a plant, her fingers wiggling, and when she has had enough, you ask, do we know each other?
No, I don’t think so.
OK. You don’t want to press the issue. You twist the lid back on the bottle, put the bottle back in your bag and zip it up. You give a polite wave as you move to the door and jack-knifed at the frame, eyes blinded she whispers an old French saying you have heard before: A dry fisherman and a wet hunter have the same sad look!