Filipe’ motioned me into the faded-wood barn, holding open the side door barely wide enough to allow my belly to pass.
“A little wider, huh? I’m no teenager anymore, skinny from running these hills like we used to.”
Inside, the barn felt cool and musty like all barns do. Light striped in between the shrunken slats and a huddle of pigeons burst from their roost and beat their way out the high loft window. Filipe’ led me along the empty stalls that used to host their families’ six milk cows. When we were young I would hike the steep road to his farm and help with his chores. Milking the cows came with perks, free butter that I would bring home to my family. My father would nod ever so slightly when he saw the brown, ceramic bowl full to the brim. Most times his eyes avoided my side of the table.
Another perk was I got to see Cecilia bustle about on her own duties, her field dress swooshing as she chased the cats from the chickens, her fine legs, the color of sweet milk caramel flashing in the morning sun. When she caught me looking she never frowned, only hitched an eyebrow and smirked with those lips like bruised berries.
“Hoy, Miguel, you lost? Here she is.” Filipe’ leaned over the half-gate of the last stall. “What do you think?”
“What the hell is that?”
“It’s a goat.”
“That is no goat I ever seen in my life.”
Inside, standing near the far wall, munching on what looked like thick green tortillas, was the ugliest goat that ever cursed the steep mountains of Southern Chile. It had long black horns, knobby from growth, that curved around in a loop. Its snout spread like a camel’s. Its tail, long like a cows, twitched in contented idleness. And its body swelled like a hippo’s, udders dangling like octopus legs.
I had to remember to close my mouth. “So this is it, eh? Your discovery?”
“You don’t believe me,” Filipe’ said without guile. “I don’t believe me. But it is true. I will show you.” He fetched a pail and a three-legged stool and approached the beast which turned with docile eyes to regard them. Filipe’ touched its hide, coarse, curly white hair covered its back and when he stroked it, drawing his fingers down the top of its head, it gave a low, half cow-half jaguar. “See, it likes me to scratch it between its horns where it cannot reach.”
Filipe’ let his hand glide down its swollen belly to where he could grasp one of the churro-thick udders. With the bucket strategically placed, he applied both hands at milking the creature. Tinny sounds came from each squirt until I could hear the liquid splash. “That’s plenty. Here, come taste.”
Never a fan of warm milk, I waved him off. “I think not. I have had body temperature leche. It’s sticky and later it smells like cheese in my nose.”
“I think you will like this kind.” Filipe’ rose, fetched a small ladle and dipped. He smelled it like it was wine, the grin on his face crinkling his eyes. He sipped and said ‘ah’ like he would on a hot day with a cold cerveza. “Try it.”
I wrinkled my nose but took the ladle to control it. Holding my breath I sipped and had no choice but to cough at the sensation. “What did you do? Did you sneak it in while I was gawking at your funny goat here?”
“No, no. It comes from her.” Filipe’ took the ladle back and gulped it this time. “Have some more. You will like it as you drink more.”
It tasted like honey and vanilla and much more. I know why my friend thought I would enjoy it. “Let me try again.”
Filipe’ smiled his gap-toothed smile and refilled the ladle. “Go easy, my friend. It will surprise you if you are not careful.”
This time I took a full mouthful and swirled it around. How could this be? I tried to imagine the biological processes but failed to understand. It didn’t matter. I swallowed and drank again. This milk was intoxicating. Literally.
“How much alcohol is in this stuff?”
He dipped the last bit and finished it off. “I think around fifteen percent.”
“Whoo-wee. I can already feel it.” I set my hands to hips and took a deep breath. “Are there others like her?”
“Only one. A male.” Filipe’ hung the bucket on a nail and dropped the ladle within. “He is wild and crazy and he nearly killed me when I captured Borrachita.”
“That’s her name, Borrachita?”
“That green stuff she’s eating, what is it?”
“Ah,” I said as she maneuvered her snake-like tongue to retrieve another slab of prickly pear. “We must capture the male. Breed them. But first,” I moved to fetch down the bucket, “introduce me to your ugly friend here and her leche de Diablo.”