A huge shark circled furiously, and his protruding eyes flashed in every direction. He was hungrier and more dangerous than ever. The white sea surface shimmered calmly about ten meters above him as a small black object rather like a necklace with a pendant broke the surface.
The shark swam around a little, waiting as the unusual object slowly sank down. Then he recognized it as a rosary. Its hunger-contorted mouth stretched into a content smile, and then spread wide open, as if preparing to swallow a tanker rather than a small set of prayer beads.
On the small cross, the face of Our Saviour was actually Siniša’s. His eyes goggled wide with terror.
Siniša started from sleep; he pushed back the sheets and jerked up so rapidly that it petrified Tonino.
– Ha! Ha… Aha… The commissioner gasped for breath.
– Man, what a dream… A fucking crazy dream.
– Hey, it’s ok. It’s fine. Everything is fine now. We’ve just arrived at Trećić Bay.
Siniša stared drowsily out the round, droplet-covered window. Nothing seemed unusual, except that the sea had calmed.
– Are we there yet?
– In a little while, ten minutes or so.
– Is there a mirror anywhere? Or a toilet?
– There’s a mirror in the bench beneath you, but as far as a toilet goes… Well, let’s just say, I use the stern…
– You don’t have a toilet?
– Not on Adelina. There’s no need for it. But I’d advise you not to go out right now. Can’t you hold it for another half an hour?
Siniša folded the blankets carelessly, set them on a small table, and then lifted up the bench seat. There wasn’t a mirror in the bench, but he found it on the underside of the seat. He glanced up resignedly at the smiling Tonino, kneeled down, tucked his lower legs under the fixed table and started brushing up the reflection in the crack-brained mirror. Tonino walked out to the stern and throttled the engine down to a pleasant hum.
Siniša lowered the mirrored lid, walked around the small table, grabbed a fresh can of Foster’s from the facing bench and ambled out to the deck.
– Her e is! The aicht Trećić poveri is brawlike sae faur!1F – Tonino shouted, and crossed from stern to prow in three leaps.
On a rather small waterfront, in front of a short row of rundown single-story houses, stood some twenty people under umbrellas. One man stepped out of the crowd, grabbed the rope that Tonino threw across, and tied it around a crumbling stone column. Not knowing what else to do, Siniša raised the beer can a little, as if proposing a toast. In reply the crowd on the waterfront raised their black umbrellas for a brief moment, as though before a conductor.
The crowd’s sudden gesture was a pleasant surprise to Siniša, and he raised contentedly the beer can once more, slightly higher this time, but no one acknowledged the greeting.
– Tonino, you can’t possibly all live in these few small houses? – Siniša asked quietly.
– Oh, no. Heavens, no. This is just the harbor. The village is up there, behind that hill.
– Behind the hill?
– Hold on, man. What’s the rush? You’ll see it all.
Now let’s get off Adelina, and make sure you don’t slip.
Siniša walked to the head of the prow, leapt forward with his left foot first and skillfully landed on the wet waterfront, right next to a man who stepped out of the crowd to give him a hand. Siniša patted his shoulder gently with an air of superiority, smiled at him, and then aimed the same patronizing smile at the rest of the crowd:
– Good day, fellow men!
– Fair faw, poveri! We walcome yesse tae Trećić! Tae this stane tear! Tae this lachrima makitt o kamik!2F – One man replied readily, and others nodded.
He didn’t understand much of their dialect, but he gathered from their friendly tone that this must have been a polite welcome.
– Thank you very much – Siniša said, and gave them an impish look. – It seems to me we will understand each other just fine. Of course, I will need some time to get acquainted with your dialect and customs, but I promise to be a fast and diligent learner. You will have to help me, of course, and I believe it is in both your and my interest that we deal with this situation promptly. I would like to start right now, if you don’t mind. For example, why do you insist on calling me “poveri”? Tonino called me “poveri” on the boat and now you call me “poveri”. As far as I know, “poveri” in Italian means poor, miserable or something like that. Surely you don’t find me miserable?
The islanders started to exchange serious looks and Tonino, with a bundle of freshly arrived newspapers, jumped off the boat:
– Hold on, mister commissioner. This is obviously a misunderstanding. “Poveri” doesn’t mean poor or miserable man, indeed. The new word “povjerenik” was too hard to pronounce and we shortened it to “poveri”. “Poveri” is short for commissioner in the Trećić dialect. We meant no harm.
Siniša looked deeply into Tonino’s eyes. They were lit up with innocence and sincerity. Still, he was surprised with the formal tone with which Tonino addressed him. Obviously, he too wanted to feel a bit authoritative. What the heck, Siniša thought. It seemed Tonino was going to play a far greater role here than that of a mere interpreter. The silence was too long and Siniša felt all eyes on him. He knew he needed to say something and he knew that the future behaviour of these drenched hypocrites would depend on his speech.
1. Here he is! The eighth Trećić commissioner is the best one so far!
2. Welcome, mister commissioner! We welcome you to Trećić. To this stone tear, to this tear made of stone!