She felt a sweat drop slowly dripping down her back spine path, while her maternity sleeveless wrap dress stacked up on her swollen belly that was pulsating in baby’s move on one side. Mariana gently pulled the dress down while rubbing the moving rise when she suddenly noticed a man crawling across the narrow street and entering the house through the whole that looked like a primitive dog’s door entrance. She couldn’t believe what she saw, and soon after she heard a loud man’s voice at first howling, then turning into a weeping sound, and finally, she listened to a persistent cry of an adult man.
Mariana remembered that before a few days ago she heard the same noises, but couldn’t detect the origin of the troubling sounds at that time immersed in the busy town evening. Now, at the dead heat hour she became fully aware that the howling and weeping came from the same source–the dark, closed, and normally silent house at the end of the street across the market place. Confused and scared she moved as fast as she could back to her art shop, grabbed the rotary telephone, called the police station, and reported everything she witnessed. Being relatively new to the town she didn’t know what to expect.
The chief of police’s friendly laughter surprised her. Calmly he said: “Thanks for calling us and reporting the event. You must be relatively new to our town. I assure you that we are fully aware of Žigula’s strange behavior. As far as he doesn’t offend anybody there is nothing we can do. Žigula is our resident who recently returned from Australia and he sometimes acts strangely. I will send our officer in an hour to check is everything in order around your art-shop, just to make sure, but nothing to really fear about, Mrs. Oblak. Žigula is not dangerous in any way. We guess that he has experienced traumas; first he was a sailor, but then he decided to work for several years in Australian remote areas as a fire-fighter. We do not know did he face some traumas at that job, but we know he was invvolved in one of the larger wild fires’ rescue before an year ago. The sad part of the story is that his mother died while he was on a way back home. To earn more money he boarded on the ship as the sailor, the stroke struck his mother just a week before he returned, so he didn’t have an opportunity to say goodbye to his mother. He needs some time to overcome his excessive mourning.” Mariana thanked the officer for his time and hung-up. She quickly stepped out to see if anybody might come, hoping to sell at least some postcards. She thought that her presence outside could attract a few tourists to stop by the shop.
The violet bay glare swelter seemed to escalate through the sudden bongs of St. Joseph old cathedral bells competing with the cicada opiate dithyramb; both pushing the blue sky higher, heat through the tight island streets, and bouncing off of the surrounding lavenders strewn hills. For over one month a white cloud had not appeared over the horizon. At the pinnacle hour the sun triumphed in domination over every tree, old stone house, and a shrub not leaving space for any shadow.
The emanating, grilling heat blasted from the riva’s old stone blocks smelling sultry. Mariana looked around the bay’s lungo-mare, but she couldn’t see a soul. All native islanders done with the morning’s work; men waiting for a meal, exhausted after the lavender harvest in the fields, women finished with daily shopping spaced with small talks around the market place, a few specialized stores, and the riva.
The market place in the corner stood with its wide-open empty mouth spreading the foul fish odor from the fisherman’s early morning catch. The ancient marketing stone stand’s teeth shone ghostly white. Everybody huddled in their lower parts of the houses waiting for the women soon to serve lunch, and a variety of old grumpy man called out the common village demand to the women: “Do you hear noon bells? Where is pietanca?”
The narrow streets carried the common aroma of the same menu as though all women shared a global consciousness in making decisions what to prepare for the lunch–the daily market fried fish, mackerel or sardines–and minestrone soup.
A stroke of heat plucked Mariana’s hidden worries again. In the last two weeks , surprisingly, business had drastically slowed down during the peak July season. Mariana thought: “If this bad luck continues, Ivanko will be forced to give up on his studio, the art shop in Split’s Diocletian Palace, and accept a dead-end job with the fish factory.” Ivanko’s uncle recently became the small factory’s director and he offered for Ivanko to work in the factory as a worker and earn additionally honorarium money for product label designs. Ivanko had received rewards on his paintings. He had a great opportunity to join the Australian artists’ colony via the cultural Croatian Society in Perth. The plans about adventurous trip seemingly had crashed for the family when Mariana had found that she was pregnant again. Mariana and Ivanko were able to find a shop in Vela Luka’s on the island Korčula for a reasonable rent hoping that working in two vibrant tourist places they could pay rent and save enough money for the winter, but at this point the plans were not working the best.
Mariana turned towards the Jardin park and saw several tourists desperately hiding from the sun in the thin shield of shade. She hoped that someone would move towards her shop filled with the outside display of decorative shells, island mementos, lavender and rosemary oils, shellacked collection of the rare stones, crystals, and the rack of postcards. Nadalina, the neighbor, stepped from her summer cellar caring a small pot of minestrone soup.
She approached to Mariana from behind and commented through a strong island dialect: “Isn’t this something. Look the poor tourists and their red-skin like freshly grilled lobsters! When you see them you do not know would you cry or laugh?! You can always see these Czechs, Nordics, Germans, city people, and tourists hiding from the sun during the mid-week. They all have those special creams, and they think they will not burn. Everything burns under this sun…. Well, anyway, I brought for you and girls some minestrone soup knowing that you don’t eat meat, although when caring the child you should eat at least some meat..”
Nadalina made her way between the small shiny shell stand, boutique dresses, and post-card racks to the decorative Venetian metal table standing hidden behind the outside shop display and set the pot on a table. Marianna profoundly thanked her, “Very kind of you signora Nadalina. I am ok, I eat from time to time fish.”
Nadalina continued fast, “Right now we rented the attic rooms to the three Czech girls. Yesterday they spent all day swimming in the sea, they came home, and each showered for more than half an hour. I prevented Nevenko to turn off the water supply while the third gal showered. He was so upset, you should hear him talking—–‘They spent all day bathing, they come home and bathe again spending all warm water reducing the water supply from the reservoir! It is not worth even renting the rooms to the girls.’ Can you imagine he told me to ask Margarita from the tourist bureau to find some boys next time. He thinks they are less expensive, at least they do not shower so much, but he doesn’t think…. Boys drink too much, so what is better to spend more money on water or to buy new linens?”
Mariana pointed to the Jardin park pines and shrubs and said, “I wish some of the tourists stop by the art shop. Yesterday I didn’t sell any postcards. You know, I wish to sell at least some postcards?!” Mariana sighed with disappointment.
“You have to worry about another little baby coming, let men take care of the business! Ah …. the tourists. You never know. Before a week I saw you and girls having a good sale throughout the evening. It is not so bad! This is heat! Every year the same, the slam of the mid-summer heat! Everybody suffers the dog’s days of summer. It is too hot for the burnt tourists to stop by your stand right now. They might be afraid that their sunburn would crack. As the Maestral pushes in this afternoon, they will all visit your shop.” Encouraged Nadalina.
“Nadalina, how do you know that the Maestral will push in? This is the third day without any wind, and this could turn into the “shiloko,” a light south wind, which might bring the unbearable irritability to young children and older people. We just need shiloko to push cranky humidity with this heat….. ” Mariana said skeptically.
Nadalina slapped her arm trying to kill a biting fly. She palmed a hand across her forehead to wipe away the sweat. “Oh, I know, the mistral will push in, don’t you worry. It is too bright, humidity is too low, and our old Dida doesn’t have any bone ache or headache, he said this weather will turn well this afternoon, but he predicts that the tramontana might develop later.”
Before Mariana could say anything back in response, Nadalina continued fast as though she would never stop talking. “Look at the tourists piled under the biggest pine tree in Jardin! They do not know that the best sun protection is our island’s combination of the olive, lavender, almond oil, lemon balm, Fall molasses, and local healing mud. This traditional combination is much better for this sun then all of their creams. They should all go and spend the morning in the healing mud baths in Kalos, that would help them immediately. I told my three Czech girls, who also suffer from sunburns to go to Kalos, but they would not go even though I could arrange for them the free entrance by Marinko, our cousin.”
Nadalina moved closer to Mariana and began whispering as though someone could overhear their conversation: “I would send any girl his way, it is his time to marry!”
She laughed heartily, “I am sure these three blond Czech girls would make a difference for him this week, but no, they wouldn’t go….” She continued laughing even louder, and when Mariana wanted to jump into the conversation, Nadalina was again much faster, “You know what? I have an idea, you should begin selling this traditional pomade concoction. Not joking Marianna!” Reasoned Nadalina’s loudly not noticing her strong, church singer’s voice reverberating from the shore promenade to the market place.
“You are right Nadalina, I should actually talk to Ivanko and get him to process a license for selling this oil and balm combination!” Nadalina looked back at Marianna with surprise.
“What license, I have two pints of this old-fashion pomade. When you see the lobster tourist in your shop just offer him or her one small bottle of pomade for a little bit of money. Dinar by dinar and you can soon buy this whole retreat place along with the restaurant. Did you see Ingrid, the Netherlands woman? She is the wife of our city mayor, Tonko! She came here with nothing, but in two years she turned around the whole Island! She began, like you, selling little shiny shells and stones, but she pinched every penny, via the tourist businesses, her connections back home, she managed to draw armies of tourists from the Netherlands giving them tours, translating for them, dragging them from tavern to tavern, and look at her now. She owns the biggest town restaurant and all Germans, Czechs , and other Nordics go there. You know, my Nevenko said that she is in the witch business.”
Nadalina calmed her voice to a whisper and pulled Marianna closer. “Nevenko told me that Ingrid rented all available kažuns in the valley, and then she installed some sort of a pyramid construction inside, filled the little stone huts with five flowers, bowls of crystals, burnt Jasmine incense and told young married couples that they will conceive if they follow her directions and have sex in there. This is a witch business…. Now, I do not care about the witchcraft, I have my church and faith!”
Nadalina crossed her chest and continued, “If the witchcraft doesn’t hurt anybody who cares…. You should meet Ingrid and join business with her. Those Nordics and German women, they do not miss any opportunity to earn more money. You can learn a lot from them! If you hook with the Netherlands woman, you know, you might earn money so fast and buy this pansion! The old owners died, their children, now in charge, all moved to big cities. I would like you guys to buy this historic place. It’s sad no one to live in the old pansion…..” Nadalina prompted Mariana to respond so she could see were any such plans possible.
“We could not get the bank approval to buy this place and we do not have such money Nadalina!” Irritated Marina firmly assured Nadalina that there were no such plans.
“Look here I am selling the sea-shells to pay the past due rent! As the artists, we earn the most money during the summer season, and in the winter we live of my art teacher’s pay, which is barely enough to get us through the month. Do not forget, we still live with Ivanko’s mother. It is hard and tight, end even with her pension we can barely have money for the basics.”
Nadalina shook her head in understanding, “Who knows, there might be some luck for you, a coincidence, you never know, angels always smile! It would be great for you guys to buy this place, we can see each other every day. I love to see your baby grow up here. Would you like to move to the island?”
Mariana gave up on being grumpy and laughed. “If you would have asked me this before a few years ago I would say absolutely no, but considering that in the city is much tighter with money and schedules, I do not know… I might consider this option now, but these are just castles in the air, there is no way we could ever buy this pansion!”
Nadalina continued offering her help. “I am telling you, begin with selling pomade, if nothing you may have some extra money for you and girls. All under the table, no one needs to know, just you and me. Talk to Ingrid and I am sure she will send your way some tourists. You can also sell our sweet wine, prošek, tourists like this sweet vine. Besides, once when they drink prošek, they will not suffer from burns any longer and they will spend more money. Just pour it into a small glass and hand it to them as they look over your tables.” Marianna laughed and wished she had Nadalina’s naïve simplicity and faith. She just nodded her head in approval knowing that it would be impossible to explain to Nadalina that she couldn’t just offer the pomade or alcoholic prošek without the license paying lots of fees and a lengthy procedural approval.
“Ohhh, Mariana, you know my son Lovro? Well, he works for the police department now. He wanted to check with you about Žigulo, but I told him I will talk to you. I heard you called the police about the poor man today….” Mariana couldn’t believe that Nadalina so quickly had transformed into a detective role and that she was able to convince her young son to scout and investigate for her.
“I wanted to tell you about our neighbor Žigulo. You know that he was a sailor man who went to live in Australia for two years and as he traveled back home his mother passed away….” Nadalina sighed, “You saw Žigulo. Did you notice that he sometimes behaves like a dog? Poor thing…. From my upper terrace, when I hang the laundry, I see him going into the house like an animal. I heard him howling, as you did, today. No one knows how he turned to dog’s nature, but he behaves this way from the moment he returned to the town, but I think I know the reason.”
‘Really?’ wondered Mariana hiding a slight ironic smile across her face, knowing that the explanation would be fun to hear.
“Well, before a few days ago I had some leftovers from our dinner, just some greens and fried sardines, and I bravely decided to knock at Žigulo’s door. The poor thing! He crawled from his house in the same way you saw him going into–like a dog. I talked with Žigulo and he told me that in Australia he bought many times, by mistake, dog food instead of liver pâté. Žigulo ate those cheaply sold cans for a long time not knowing the embarrassing truth, until he finally heard one of the Polish workers who made fun of him for eating the dog food.” Nadalina looked keenly for the expectation of Mariana’s surprise.
“Nadalina, you do not really think that the dog food caused Žigulo to behave this way?” Mariana tried not to burst into laughter, she pushed on,“The poor man is suffering from trauma! The chief of police told me that Žigulo’s mother died while he was traveling on the ship back. This is the cause of his out of ordinary behavior, not the dog food! Perhaps, his mother was the only person who truly loved him.” As soon as Mariana said that another idea occurred and spark over her eyes, “Tell me Nadalina did his mother have a dog?”
Nadalina said, “Oh Yes, the old dog named Bronko. When Mirka died, as often happens the old dog died too. You know, we thought that might be a good idea to use the dog’s collar as her funeral effigy.”
Mariana asked with the surprise, “What is a funeral effigy?”
Nadalina answered, “It is a person’s special belonging that is buried with a deceased into the grave—could be a favorite jewelry piece, anything that you are very much attached to, we bury the effigy with a person as an after death comfort.” Mariana’s face brightened-up, “That’s it! Žigulo returned home and he found nobody. No mother and no old dog to greet him. Don’t you understand Nadalina, this is it! He behaves so strangely because….” Nadalina interrupted: “Because of the dog, the old mutt! Ohh, come on, now, no, he was not so close to this dog, it must be the dog food.” Nevenko, Nadalina’s husband called impatiently: “Nadalina, the soup will cool down! We are all waiting at the table for you to serve us the lunch! God didn’t give you mouth just to gossip all day!”
Nadalina’s face reddened and her voice escalated “Ahh, Nevenko, you cannot tie your shoes without Nadalina, I am not your mother! These last ten years you forgot that I am your wife!” Loudly responded Nadalina, “Ah, men—they cannot even pour the cooked soup into the plates, have to go…. You do not worry too much Mariana, let your man take care of the money! They cannot carry baby for nine months on this heat!” advised Nadalina while leaving.
More than an hour passed and the town dosed in the sacred time of siesta. The town seemed ghostly at this hour as everybody vanished. During this time the whole bay stood for a zephyr breeze, Maestral, to push-in, but nothing happened. The dead heat hung oppressive overtones atop every dwelling: men couldn’t sleep, small children were too loud in their rooms, shushed by their young mothers, a few dogs barked, older women puffed saying “This is the time where all candles will melt in the church……”
Throughout the siesta time Mariana worked with her daughters and their girlfriend neighbor, Ivana, shell projects, adding sparkles on the shellacked shells and colored stones. In the midst of the busy work during the town’s silent time suddenly Mariana heard a strong bass baritone voice slicing the town folk’s sweltering states between dream and awake.
Following the voice allure Mariana found herself standing in the tightest town street under the old vault. The tall, blond, middle age opera singer wearing a peculiar straw hat sang in the enjoyment of his scaling voice reverberations. The baritone stranger didn’t seem affected by the sun or heat at all. He turned and noticed blossoming Mariana. One expression on his face seemed as though he recognized her. He sailed on the Flying Dutchmen aria giving to a full voice wings just for Mariana:
“On southern shores, in distant lands
I have thought of you;
through storm and sea, from Moorish strands
a gift I have brought for you.
My girl, praise the fair south wind,
for I bring you a golden ring;
ah, dear south wind, then blow!
My lass would fain have her gift.
Hoyohe! Halloho!” …..
The stranger had no clue that behind old shutters everybody sweated in their beds with closed eyes, turning restless from one side to the other while hanging on a silence void to push them into an unconscious state. His full bodied voice broke again the town taboo and he began echoing the rest of the aria. In this moment of aesthetic enjoyment Mariana felt a sudden weakness and a similar sensation to a morning sickness smelling the oleander oily scent vapor in a sizzling heat. She stepped back, and leaned against the stone house wall under the vault. The baritone sang on that empty stage subduing the cicada love chorus under the gap of a heated blue sky balloon handing all of his tragic aria passion to Mariana. She never heard anyone singing so passionately ever before; Mariana’s heart pounded in her throat, face blushing.
“The time is up, and once again seven years
have elapsed. The sea, sated, casts me
up on land … Ha! Haughty ocean!
Shortly you must bear me again!
Your stubbornness can be changed, but my doom is eternal!
Never shall I find the redemption I seek on land!
To you, surging ocean, I remain true
until your last wave breaks
and your last waters run dry! –
How often into ocean’s deepest maw
I have plunged longingly;
but alas! I have not found death!
There on the reefs, fearful graveyard
of ships, I have driven my ship;
but ah! the grave would not take me!
Mocking, I challenged the pirate
and hoped for death in fierce affray:
“Here”, I cried, “prove your deeds!
My ship is filled with treasure.”
But ah! the sea’s barbarous son
crossed himself in fear, and fled. –
How often into ocean’s deepest maw
I have plunged longingly.
There on the reefs, fearful graveyard
of ships, I have driven my ship:
nowhere a grave! Death never comes!”
At the crescendo aria moment the singer’s veins and capillary vessels pumped with exaltation over his throat and temples. Long dramatic baritone tone shattered every sound of a background noise; the seagull’s scream, the far motor-scooter rumble, and flush of chirping flying birds. At that moment, the stranger plucked a small bunch of the oleanders, fell on his knees, placed to Mariana’s hand the flower bunch, and he left. His aria sailed touching everyone’s loneliness while awakening the old stone secrets of broken love vows from the past.
“This is the dread sentence of damnation.
I ask thee, blessed angel from heaven
who won for me the terms for my absolution:
was I the unhappy butt of thy mockery
when thou didst show me the way of release?
Vain hope! Dread, empty delusion!
Constant faith on earth is a thing of the past!
One single hope shall remain with me,
it alone shall stand unshaken:
long though the earth may put out new shoots,
it yet must perish.
Day of Judgment! Day of doom!
When will you dawn and end my night?
When will the blow of annihilation resound
which shall crack the world asunder?
When all the dead rise again,
then shall I pass into the void.
You stars above, cease your course!
Eternal extinction fall on me…”
Big hands began to open the old fashioned, sweltered pine, well shellacked shutters from house to house. Messy, sweaty, male red faces popped out from window to window. Mariana heard comments: “It’s siesta time! He doesn’t wake up with the sun rise to harvest lavender….” “Oh, these tourists, I cannot wait for summer to be done…..” …… “What is with the Meastral today?” “It still didn’t push in through the bay, even the tourists act crazy with this heat?!” “What is with this men? Basta! Does he need to sing operas around? Does he need to wake our little children and hard-working people?!”
When Mariana returned to the shop konoba, she found her daughters, Ana and Barbara, dressed in the store’s boutique new dresses with the intensive red lipsticks on their faces. She noticed that the neighbor girl, Ivana, was still working the art project and had not followed her daughter’s game, which made her even more upset “Girls, I cannot leave you for less than five minutes and there is trouble. How many times have I told you should not touch the boutique dresses or my make-up.”
While Ana and Barbara stripped out from the big dresses back to their shorts and shirts, Marianna kept looking at the display of the postcards in the shop’s racks. She swiveled her head left and right: “Something is wrong with these postcards.” Ivana stood beside her and said: “They are nice, you cannot see where the blue sky begins and sea ends….” Mariana suddenly brightened, “Thank you Ivana, now I know what is wrong!”
She gathered the postcards in her hands. She looked at each as facing the question of survival. Finally, excitement flashed across Mariana’s face: “Girls I have an immediate job for you. Take the nail-polish and cotton balls from the bathroom, bring them here and will do one very important art project.”
After a few minutes Mariana and the girls diligently worked on the postcards creating white clouds with the nail polish and pressing cotton balls on the infinite blue sky. Mariana kept saying, “You see girls, this totally blue sky is wrong! Lots of tourists are coming from Northern, Middle Europe, and Russia. They do not have the experience of our forever blue sky. They do not want to buy postcards, because they do not seem real to them. If we create white clouds, they will buy the postcards, because the tourists and those they are sending the cards to will be familiar with the white clouds in the sky…..Our created white clouds should attract tourists to buy postcards–everybody likes what they know!” The girls seemed to enjoy this unusual art project, although they couldn’t understand such a funny logic at all. Ivana commented at the end, “Look, the same postcard picture, but each of the postcards have different clouds….. This is funny to see…. People will think that you sell only specially made postcards for each person….. Ohh, now I get it! How are you feeling Mrs. Mariana? It doesn’t seem that is so hot any longer, I hear wind outside….. ”
Mariana smiled, “The cool wind feels good and the little baby seems to agree because I am no longer being kicked.” Ivana asked with surprise: “The baby kicks you? Really?” Mariana said,”Yes, Ivana, all babies kick their mothers.” Ivana opened her brown eyes and looked puzzled. Mariana enjoyed Ivana’s company often thinking that she would like for her girls to be so attentive to adults and good hearted.
The Maestral finally pushed in and the heat aired out within minutes. Soon the light north-west wind twisted into the strong west Tramuntana and the Summer day turned breezy. The promenade, riva, filled with people at sunset. Soon, Marianna’s art-shop resembled a bee-hive. At the end of the day the sluggish morning had turned into the triumphant late afternoon miracle–the small drawer beneath the cash desk was bulging with money. Later, the little town huddled-down into a mild, cozy night topped off by the midnight church bongs. Far off a roll of thunder sounded in the black night. Mariana quickly took in the postcard racks and artifacts from outside and placed them in the little apartment separated by heavy curtains and then rubbed her belly, “It’s ok, we’ll go to sleep now…” Mariana patted her belly and said: “My little love all will be all right.”
White cotton ball clouds floated in the morning sky. Mariana looked up and with a smile saw that the fast fleeting clouds looked just like yesterday’s melded clouds on all of the sold postcards. She deeply breathed in the cool fresh air. Friendly chatter from the market place carried in the North wind showed the restored natural benevolence and harmony of the islanders.
In front of Mariana’s shop the line of tourists waited to purchase the postcards before she was even able to finish breakfast with the girls. When Mariana heard the high noon church bells pounding and cutting the day in half, she brought the sign “Closed Until 5 p.m.” and pulled out Nadalina’s note. “Girls come here,” she said. “I have an exciting adventure for you. We are all going on the bus. I have the address in the village Blato, where there is a litter of puppies. We will choose the two Dalmatian poppies and bring them home on the bus.” Ana squealed “Puppies!” They both jumped around as if excited enough to fly to the clouds. Mariana gathered them into her arms, “I want you both to be very responsible, there will be lots of work around puppies.” Barbara asked, “Why two poppies mom? Do we each get one?” Mariana explained to the girls that one poppy was a present for one of the close by neighbors and the other was for the family.
During the bumpy bus ride back Mariana thought that her plan seemed risky and silly: “Why am I doing this? Why am I getting these two dogs? With a dog in a small Split apartment we will be so tight and the new baby… My, oh my, I should not have done this…..” Despite the obvious reasons not to get the dog for the girls, some inner voice kept pushing her to do so. Girls couldn’t wait to get to the shop and play with their poppy, but a decision was to be made, which puppy to keep. Mariana held each puppy in a hand. Standing in front the two girls, she said: “What is it? Boy dog or girl dog?” The girls yelled in unison “Girl, girl puppy!” Mariana handed the girl dog to Ana. “What about me?” cried Barbara. Mariana said “We will take turns. Ten minutes each until we get home, but you both have to agree on a name for her. Start to work on that.” Names bubbled out of each girls mouth like a soda-pop fizzing at its top.
When Mariana passed their shop and turned to the tight street with the market place on the corner the girls wondered, “Is this poppy for our friend Ivana?” Mariana answered, “No, not for Ivana. This dog is for a heart….” The girls look puzzled. Mariana collected all courage to break the wall of resistance. With cold-sweaty hands she knocked at Žigulo’s door. She expected him to come out crawling, but this time Žigulo opened the door, he was shaved, and nicely dressed.
“Hi, I am your neighbor from the corner, we thought that you might like to have this dog. He needs care, and I was thinking you are alone and still very said about the death of your mother. Would you like to have this little dog?” Žigulo looked for a long time at a little wiggly poppy. He stuttered, “Yes, I wwwooould llike to hhave this ppppoppy. Tha, thank you sssoo much…. Ass you hhhear, I dddon’t sspeak ssoo well, ccome on in.” Mariana hesitated for a moment to enter to Žigulo’s house, but Ana and Barabara burst into the house saying, “This is his sister” holding the puppy up for Žigulo to see. “We do not have yet a name for her.” The girls said excitedly.
The girls and Mariana spent more than half an hour in Žigulo’s loggia. The wall of distance was fully mended. Mariana listened to Žigulo’s story as he held the puppy on his lap. He finally talked about the Australian wild fires, hardships he faced for two years, and trauma when he heard on a way home about the death of his mother. The shaft of the afternoon light sprouted from the white cloud when Žigulo kissed the little poppy and named him “Little Bronko.” Mariana, touched, couldn’t stop a tear. She hoped that the Žigulo’s dog’s nature paradox would be solved by this act. Time will tell was her intuition right. She thought that even if she was not right, Žigulo needed someone and he should not be so isolated and alone. On a way out Mariana said, “I would like to see you and little Bronko to take a walk every day in the park and on the riva. When you walk the dog do not forget to stop by….” The big ferry horn interrupted Mariana’s talk and she said in a hurry: “Oh boy, this is the five afternoon ferry arrival! I have to open the store immediately. “Žigulo, stop by when you walk your dog, I would like to see how are you two doing.” Mariana sped as fast as she could to open the shop. Ana yelled, “and he will probably want to see his sister.”
Just when the girls, the poppy, and Mariana entered the shop the telephone rang. Mariana knew that was Ivanko, she was eager to tell him that the double rent might not be such a huge problem as they thought before a few days ago. In the last twenty four hours Mariana earned great money—she sold almost all boutique dresses, several of Ivanko’s early paintings, and who knows how many postcards, shiny shells, stones, and crystals. She was ready to order more dresses from Split. When Mariana picked-up the phone and heard Ivanko’s voice she felt so happy and they both began talking at the same time. Ivanko managed finally for Mariana to hear him. At first Mariana spread her eyes wide open, her face went ashen, but after this first moment she began screaming and then crying in excitement. The poppy began to yap loudly. “What’s that?” Ivanko asked. “Ohh.. That’s the new member of our family.” “What?”Ivanko said. “We just got a dog, so you have another girl to deal with.” Ivanko laughed. “Wooo, I was a bit worried. I have something better, listen.” He spoke for some time.
“What? What? What?! You are telling me you sold your full painting collection?” with excitement asked Mariana. “Tell me one more time….. For how much?” Mariana plopped onto the chair. “Ohh, what will we do with all of that money?” Ivanko said, “Pay the rent,” and he laughed, then he continued telling other news. “What? Are you serious? I now sit in my own house. This is our house? I cannot believe this my love, this is so wonderful!”
Ivanko spoke for a long time. “Tell me more, one more time who was the gentleman who bought your collection?” Mariana asked after the first rushing responses. “Klaus Fitzcarraldo?! Sounds Italian. Is he an Italian gentleman?” Wondered Mariana out laud and Ivanko went on.
“He is the opera director? In Peru? How odd?” Suddenly, Mariana’s eyes blinked rapidly, she felt sudden heat in her face and grabbed the magazine from the office table close to the cashier’s desk to fan her burning face.
“He is the known opera singer and you sent him here? To the island before two days ago? Is he the tall guy, German looking, and blond, always formally dressed, and with the distinctive straw hat?” The stranger’s aria seemed to reverberate within her at this moment. She gently smiled remembering that it seemed to her as though the stranger knew who she was.
After a long talk Mariana stepped out of the shop gasping for a cool breeze of the daily Maestral. She set at the chair of the metal Venetian table hidden behind the racks of postcards understanding that what just happened today would be the biggest part of her life-story worth to tell one day to the grandchildren. She looked at the old, stone house of the private hotel retreat and dreamed about walking soon through all eighteen rooms. “There are wonderful two rooms downstairs, we could join them in a big studio for Ivanko and I can have one room on the second floor for my projects!” Ferociously planned Mariana falling into a mesmerized, hypnotic dream state. She saw Ana and Barbara playing in the big loggia with the puppy dog, and the new baby boy crawling into the large kitchen while she sang the old island song “There is no one to pick the olive tree, weight is crushing the olive bough, it will break in the upcoming wild storm….”
On the horizon the sun dripped low idly sinking into the sea, and two white clouds wondered playful changing the color into the red and purple scars inflicted by the last sun rays. The small boats docked at the riva bounced in the rhythm of the gentle Maestral waves. A large tourists group sent by Ingrid stopped by and each of the visitors bought several postcards and other island memento artifacts. Mariana glowed. In a moment of rest after a busy store time, she looked to the Jardin park and saw Žigulo carrying the poppy dog in his arms. Several elderly men stopped Žigulo and talked to him. Mariana knew in her heart that this was her home now. She welcomed the future by drawing the design for the new private pansion retreat name “The Cloud Shifter.” The whole island town suddenly tasted like a new dream home, the baby moved vigorously in Mariana’s belly as celebrating with her years to come. “Mom the puppy peed on the floor!” called Barbara.
First published, 05/05/2013; republished 05/08/2014