This is a short piece I wrote and posted on Wanderlust.
Divers’ rock, Brela
We clop along in our jelly shoes, slick with sun cream and hair still spiky from the pool. Mum makes us wear caps pulled down against the glare. It is hot and still and a salamander pauses, perfectly still on the dusty concrete, then darts into a hairline crack in the wall. We’ve endured an enforced siesta – two hours of flicking through comics and watching Tom and Jerry in Serbo-Croat – while Dad’s snores drifted in from the balcony.
‘I want to swim,’ I moan.
I’ve buckled my shoes tight against the spiky black urchins clustered in the bay.
‘And you will. But there’s other entertainment first,’ Dad says.
We stop at his preferred café and Dad drags a chair from under a table. Its metal legs squeal on the marble. He orders a cold beer and Pepsi for us and sits in the shade waiting as bread arrives. The air is heavy with the scent of pine and wood-smoke. Nothing moves in the heat.
Dad shakes his head and hands me a folded napkin. From somewhere he finds a bookie’s pencil and rolls it across the table as our drinks arrive. I take a slug of pop straight from the bottle – ‘can’t take him anywhere’ Mum mutters – and I start to sketch.
Everyone knows the island. It’s just a bit of rock broken off from the coast, but it sprouts tufts of grass and its bending trees make it look like a desert island in a film. It’s become a motif for this stretch of coast and it crops up on posters and beer mats and even hotel uniforms.
The marble terrace is cordoned off from mopeds with a short length of chain. The owner is Dominic. We know because we’ve become regulars and he must fear us going home. He wears a spotless, starched white shirt, hands us a menu each and sets down a jug of cool water and powder-blue napkins. Dad points at a pizza and Dominic scribbles our order in a pad.
When he returns with our food he sees my sketch and raises a finger before dashing off. He returns with a marker pen, snatches a saucer from the tabletop and begins to draw with a squeal of felt nib. He nods and admires his work before blowing on the plate and handing it to me – my own saucer portrait of the island.
‘Hvala,’ I say, thanking him.
‘Here we go,’ Dad says, ‘perfect timing.’
A man in trunks swims from the pebbled shore and clambers up the rock face. He stretches his calves and back and makes his way to the highest point of the island. He gets into position, silhouetted against a cloudless sky. He milks it for one more moment and dives into the Adriatic. There are claps and whistles as another man climbs the rock, slicks back his hair and takes his place at the top of the island.