Saturday morning in the village, the visitors appear from wooden cottages and sit at tables on porches or in yards to nibble on cold meats and last night’s bread, sip hot tea, and choose from soft pastries the wives just bought at the nearby stands.
The voices are quieter and deeper as they retell what made them laugh not too many hours before, when each sat on moveable stumps–tree trunks recently cut and arranged around the fire–and ate and drank and sang.
After breakfast the visitors go inside, to put on bathing suits and fill their backpacks. They come out again and walk in groups along the main street that leads them to the pines, and the narrow path that winds through them.
The scent of the green needles above and dry needles below confirms that the sea is very close. Conversation becomes excited as the visitors reach the boardwalk which takes them to the top of the dunes and the open, far-reaching sky. And then down to the sea, and to the wide, flat beach, bright in the sun, but cool and smooth on the sole, the rising waves coming at an angle, from the southwest, from Stockholm.
I don’t go anymore to the sea, like I did when I was a boy. Now a man I spend mid-days in the village, sitting with my back to it. But in late afternoon when many visitors are napping, the sound of the waves makes it here, and cool air touches my neck.
I sometimes sit across from the weathered garage where I used to work, and I peer over at the worn cars. Visitors drove them here, three hundred kilometers from Vilnius and Kaunas, and they need repairs before the return trip can be possible. Years ago, few of the villagers had the skill to replace a belt, or a radiator, or a wheel. Now, men from other countries move here. They work on the cars for less.
The owner kept me. Each morning I would go there and sit. I would watch the others arrive and begin on the cars. They acted kind to me, let me deliver this or that. They didn’t tell me to go. I left without saying. Stood from the bench and walked away. Past their backs, their heads disappeared between open hoods and lifeless engines.
Each day I stop by the churchyard. The nun there washes my clothes along with the rags she uses for cleaning. I like to clip the grass around the wooden carvings of the saints. Sometimes there a visitor will give me a coin. Most days I accept enough to buy bread, or a piece of fresh meat, or a piece of smoked fish from a cart.
Yesterday while walking along the road in the direction of the bus station, a woman asked me if I had enough to eat, if I needed newer clothes. She said I reminded her of her grandfather, my blue eyes and light hair. She gave me these coins saying I might want to go to the city.
Tomorrow I will use them–to sleep one night here, in the smallest cottage by the sea.
One response to “The Village by the Sea”
Excellent, Jim – you really put me in the place. Your writing is very lean and efficient, hardly a wasted word. I like how you started with essentially a travelogue about a beautiful place and then subtly shifted to the tragic outcome of one of the natives’ life in the same locale. Passages I really like include the “open, far reaching sky'”, “the rising waves coming at an angle, from the southwest, from Stockholm”, “But in late afternoon when many visitors are napping, the sound of the waves makes it here, and cool air touches my neck.” “Saturday morning in the village, the visitors appear from wooden cottages and sit at tables on porches or in yards to nibble on cold meats and last night’s bread, sip hot tea, and choose from soft pastries the wives just bought at the nearby stands.” “Most days I accept enough to buy bread, or a piece of fresh meat, or a piece of smoked fish from a cart.”
Heck,the whole thing is wonderful!