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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 15 | volume III | June-July, 2000



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 15June-July, 2000

The Drowned Man

p. 1
Slavko Janevski

    Never before, in the long chain of their years, had the twelve elders sitting in front of their houses seen a drowned man floating in the calm waters of the lake, gliding to the shore, coming to rest on the wet sand, and as is the case with the dead, prone, motionless, barefoot.
    Probably because of the heat with which even June is generous, the arrival of the corpse caused no great stir in the fishing village. Most men and women were behind the walls of their houses. There were no children. However, in a little while, a few young men, fearing some misfortune—an investigation, a hearing, suspicion—gathered around the drowned man and realized immediately that he was not a local, not from their side of the lake. His clothes of thin white linen seemed too big for him. The drowned man had fragile bones and was not swollen or blue. He seemed to be asleep in the rain—about to wake up.
    With some concern that what he was doing was illegal, one of the fishermen knelt beside the corpse and removed some weed or grass from his face. From the incomplete frame of the gently curved eyebrows two eyes gazed at the fishermen. But what eyes! As if alive! Saved from the layers of murky slime the pupils shrank. The man kneeling by the corpse straightened up. He took a step back but said nothing. The others were also silent. As if they had always known what to do in such situations, as if rituals were a part of their lives, they raised the drowned man from the wet sand. They laid him gently in a wooden boat. Two of them, paler than before, rowed out to the middle of the lake. The watchers on the shore remained silent. They waited in a huddle, indistinguishable one from another, with set white faces.
    A hundred paces from the shore, the twelve elders with dignified apostolic faces sat in what shade there was in front of their houses. They brushed away the flies and inhaled the rosy scent of the oleanders. Suddenly they began to sing with the nightingale voices of angels.
    Before the sun spilt blood over the reedbeds, the boat returned with the two rowers from the burial. The drowned white-clad man had been entrusted to the water where, the fishermen believed, his soul would rest on the soft bottom.
    Just as a water

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