Kidnappings, spectacular escapes, unexpected romance and harsh conflicts

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Kidnappings, spectacular escapes, unexpected romance and harsh conflicts
Kidnappings, spectacular escapes, unexpected romance and harsh conflicts

"The Miracle in Poskokova Draga" is a wildly witty and picturesque novel woven with a brilliant sense of humor.

Ante Tomić takes us to the bottom of the "snake" valley, where the village of the same name nestles, composed of a dozen collapsed and overgrown stone houses with broken tiles. It was there that the white two-story house of Yozo Poskok and his four sons, who set out to win their cherished spouse, was bubbling. This comedic travelogue, populated by kidnappings, spectacular escapes, unexpected romance and raw conflicts, so cleverly weaves together elements of the "Dalmatian Western", vaudeville and thriller that you cannot help but be captivated.


Ante Tomić began his literary career as a journalist in the Croatian daily newspaper Svobodna Dalmatia. His first collection of short stories, I Forgot Where I Parked (1997) and, above all, his debut novel, What Is a Man Without a Mustache (2000), made him one of the most loved, read and filmed authors. More collections of short stories and essays, books of reports and articles followed. "The Miracle in Poskokova Draga" is his most complex novel, which introduces the family of the legendary Poskotsi into the literary universe of Tomić, heroes in the next work of the writer.

This project is funded with the support of the Creative Europe program of the European Commission.



Chapter One

talks at length about the dozens of recipes for making kachamak, about the mistakes in washing colored clothes and about the soup in the ashtray. Two almost get killed and a third decides to get married and it's not known which one is more pitiful

High in the mountains is Poskokova Draga. You will hardly find it on your own, it is hidden, protected like a fortress, accessible only through the winding narrow, which widens unexpectedly behind one of the bends in a small karst field, and then, after only about two hundred meters, it ends in a high, almost sheer cliff. Here, on this stony, rarely sunlit land, there are a few fields sown with clover, a few rows of potatoes and chickpeas, two beds of onions, won with pains from the desert of gorse, ash and hornbeam. The orange blossoms of the pumpkins shine on a small clearing surrounded by an embankment.

At the bottom of the valley, just below the rock, the village is nestled - a dozen abandoned, collapsed and grass-covered stone houses and collapsed stilts with broken roof tiles, and in the middle of all this desolation rises the white two-story house of Yozo Poskok, the only one left to live here with his sons on the ancient property of his scattered tribe. The Poskoks had emigrated a long time ago, settled in distant cities, got to work there, educated their children, forgot both their homeland and their centuries-old rebellious history.

Once they were proud and rebellious people, robbers and smugglers, who jumped out of the herd, disguised in sheepskins, and with their short curved knives wheeled Turkish tax collectors, Austrian land surveyors, Yugoslav gendarmes, militiamen and postmen. In the church chronicles, a series of cases of this or that civil servant who overestimated his own authority and dared to come to Poskokova Draga, and then disappeared for a long time without a trace, are carefully described. After a long time, the shepherds found him in a ditch torn by the beasts. He was recognized only by the gold-embroidered uniform that the poor man wore during his lifetime.

But today that is a thing of the past. The people scattered, adopted the rules and customs of the city, and they completely obliterated the once wild and riotous temper, because of which in the past the name Poskok was mentioned fearfully and only in whispers, accompanied by the inevitable oath. Only Yozo remained, to the horror of his wife Zora, deceased since last year.

While she still believed that there was a point, Zora swore to her husband to escape with the children from the stone, from the mountain heaviness and loneliness, from the deep impenetrable darkness of the winter nights, when only by the distant howl of the wolf you know that you are still you're not dead and you're not lying in an icy grave. He asked him to move somewhere in the light, where human noise, laughter and music can be heard, perhaps somewhere by the sea, to live like the people near a shop, restaurant, post office, polyclinic and school, to have a telephone and running water.

– It will be easier for us, Yozo – the woman whispered imploringly in a deaf voice, pushing him with her foot into the bed.

– Have fun! – her husband cut her off and turned his back on her. – If he's coming down, I'll have to register the car.

– Well everyone registers them. That's the order, man of God.

– I won't! Who cares what I have and what I don't have.

Zora sighed heavily, tears rolling down her cheeks. She sobbed and sobbed like that for the first ten years of their marriage, and then her tears dried up. She fell silent at once and never spoke to her husband again. She quietly poured soup into his plate and straightened his shirt collar, they went to bed without a word in the matrimonial bed and got up without saying "good morning" to each other. Even that work was done in complete silence. And so for over thirty years. As if she had made a vow to the Mother of God, Zora remained silent until the hour of her death came, then she looked for the last time at her companion in life and barely audibly whispered: "Shit like that".

And then he died and left Yozo with their four grown-up but hostile sons: Kreshimir, Branimir, Zvonimir and Domagoy.

Old Jumper, a quarrelsome and perpetually grumpy man, had never spoken a kind word, caressed or kissed anyone in his life. And if someone tried to kiss him, he would probably kill him on the spot. Even if he loved someone, he didn't show it, and with his sons he also had this problem that they were all taller than him. Their stocky little father had kind of put up with them when they were younger, but as soon as one of them got into their thirteenth or fourteenth year and got taller than him, he just hated him and wouldn't see him again. All four of them had taken to their mother's jeans, grown into battle-hulled, broad-shouldered men, and their father glared at them from a froglike perspective, and over the years he had learned to think twice before hitting someone on the head. He was actually a little afraid of them. Even now, when the weather changed, he felt the effects of his fight with Kreshimir twenty years ago in his bones.

Kreshimir, hardly more than seventeen at the time, broke the handle of the ax, and without thinking, Yozo slapped him, and the little one, God kill him, grabbed him by the lapel of his coat and pig, pig, pig, pig, backhand, forehand, backhand, forehand, backhand, forehand… Cresso probably wouldn't have stopped to this day if his father hadn't kicked him unsportsmanlike with a knee in the groin. The boy twisted and fell, and Yozo stepped up to finish him off. He kicked him twice in the ribs, but when he lunged a third time, the little guy grabbed his leg. He knocked his father down, threw himself on top of him, grabbed him by the hair and began to push the back of his head into the ground. Almost unconscious, thankfully, Yozo somehow managed to unfasten one of his arms, stuck his fingers into Kresho's eyes, broke free from his grasp, and ran away.

All afternoon the two of them chased each other across the moors, ambushed each other with sopis and pelted each other with stones until the father lay half dead under a maple tree. Kreshimir had managed to break his nose, tibia and two ribs. At dusk Yozo dragged himself home on all fours, and there stood Zora in the doorway, smirking evilly and silently. The diabolical bastard rejoiced, such a monster, Satan's bride.

– Laugh, laugh…” Yozo muttered, spitting blood. – Just to see the other one.

Indeed the eldest son didn't fare any better either, his arm bone above the elbow was cracked, his eyebrow arched and two front teeth knocked out, but by all accounts Yozo had lost the fight. Since then, his career has gone downhill.

Despite numerous subsequent bouts with both Kreshimir and the lessers, he never regained his championship belt.

Since his wife died, he was forced to talk to his sons more than he wanted to. He didn't leave the house much, he took on the responsibility of preparing food for the family because he discovered that he liked cooking, experimenting with different products, inventing recipes. Let's say the kachamak. It's amazing how many ways it can be prepared. Yozo brings the water to a boil, then pours in cornmeal, and then, a minute before the mixture thickens, he adds with gentle stirring once grated cheese, another time fried bacon with onions, or liver pate, or tomato sauce, mashed carrot, ground walnuts, cinnamon, honey, apricot jam, fruit yogurt… The old man is always happy when he discovers a new flavor, even if his sons didn't particularly like it, as they once tried one of the cachamac with cocoa. Despite such incidents, the father does not give up. He could eat kachamak every day.

Let's face it, they eat this every day.

– Aman, what did you screw him up with again – one of the sons at the table is about to groan as he grudgingly stirs the sticky mass with an incredible brownish color with a spoon.

– With mustard.

– You, dad, are wrong.

– Please, please, whoever doesn't like it, here's the kitchen – replies Yozo and points resolutely to the stove.

This line ends any riot in the dining room because no one else wants to start cooking. Just as no one reproached Domagoy, the youngest of the brothers, who, after the death of the dear wife and mother, took care of the laundry. Everyone wears underwear in the not-too-masculine pink color without objection, since Domagoy didn't know at first that he should wash white and colored clothes separately.

Whoah! Woohoo! Goo!

The soft cooing echoed over the stony valley, over the trees with barely leafed little tender green branches in the sunny spring morning, while nature was still resting. Until that moment, everything seemed enveloped in a gentle harmony, no one meant any harm to anyone. The gray buzzard was perched meekly on the top of the oak, and the snakes basked lazily on the pebbles. Even the wind had died down, and the dew glistened on the cobwebs. And then a cuckoo sounded from somewhere, and suddenly Poskokova Draga was overcome by a vague tension.

“Whoah! Woohoo! Goo!” came again, and in the kitchen Yozo looked up from the newspaper and began to listen intently, just like Kreshimir was replacing the rusted muffler in the garage. Branimir and Domagoy were chopping wood in the yard and froze with axes in the air.

“Whoah! Woohoo! Goo!” called the invisible bird for the third time, and the youths dropped everything and rushed to the ground floor of the house, to the small closet under the stairs.

During that time, less than a kilometer from Poskokova Draga, on the bumpy road through the narrows, the white Lada Niva of the Croatian State Electric Company was bouncing.

– From nineteen eighty-four – remarked the wiry twenty-year-old guy in the driver's seat as he flipped through some papers.

– Don't think! – the chubby, slightly older driver exclaimed in amazement. - They haven't paid their electricity since the eighty-fourth?!

– He is here according to documents – emphasized his companion. – They may not have paid it before that, but the data for previous years is archived in the basement.

– Unbelievable. And did you ask so-and-so, did they send them warnings, did it occur to anyone to turn off their electricity?

– Nobody knows anything.

– Come on!

– No one in the company has even heard of Poskokova Draga. Maybe just old Nedelko. You know him, the lame one who will retire after the New Year. It seemed to me that he knew something. He looked at me a bit scared when I asked him, but he didn't say anything.

– Hm, weird…

– He only said, "If you have sense in your head, don't get involved in this business." "But why, Mr. Nedelko? – I ask. - What are you talking about? Don't we always disconnect the users in such cases?" "I already warned you, little one - he calls to me. - Leave Poskokova Draga alone. Forget you ever heard of her.”

– Everything here sounds like some kind of joke to me – decided the driver. - And did you check if there are any people there at all, if anyone still lives?

His companion was about to reply that no doubt, someone lives there, because a significant consumption of kilowatts of electricity is reported, but his words turned out to be completely unnecessary, because one of the proofs of the existence of life on Poskokova Draga was just appeared on the right side of the road, ten meters in front of them, with a semi-automatic rifle pointed menacingly at the windshield of the Lada Niva. Then, on the left, behind a bush, another man appeared with a gun.

– Who is this? - whispered the skinny companion in amazement, and the driver quickly dug in, cursed the Creator of heaven and earth, switched gears and backed up a few meters.

But then a third man jumped out onto the road behind them, a grenade launcher slung casually over his shoulder. There was no retreat for the Electric Company field team.

– Turn off the engine and put your hands on the wheel!

Hands in front, let me see them! Kreshimir ordered as he cautiously approached with his semi-automatic rifle still slung over his shoulder and held them at gunpoint.

The driver turned off the engine and hit the brakes. Then the two newcomers very slowly and timidly raised their hands, showing that they had come unarmed and with peaceful intentions. The three Poscocci quickly surrounded the car.

– E-lek-tro… – Branimir hissed with sorrow the inscription above the yellow lightning bolt on the door.

– Power Distribution – Domagoy came to his rescue.

– Get out! – ordered Kreshimir, knocking on the glass of the lada with the tip of the muzzle. - Both! Get out!

– We are for the electricity, the driver dared to say as he got away with his arms wide open.

– There is some confusion with the accounts, added his companion.

– There is no confusion – the driver corrected him, – we just came to see if there were any…

– Who is sending you? Kreshimir interrupted him.

– Ah, like that… – the driver was embarrassed. – We are for electricity.

– Do you hear what the man is asking you, cow?! - shouted Branimir angrily, pushing his brothers and resting the muzzle of his gun on the cheek of the employee from the Electric Company. - Who sent you, such rubbish?!

– N-n-we are for the current… – repeated the poor man once again with a trembling voice. "No one has s-s-sent us." We came to our head.

– Kresho, let me blow him up – Branimir begged his older brother. – Purifying one, the other will sing.

Kreshimir thought about the suggestion for a moment, but then shook his head.

– Take them home. Dad will say what to do with them.

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