Trafika Europe 6 - Arabesque

Sergei Lebedev

hitting nails; long streams of reddish sparks caused by the uneven blade edge on the whetstone flew in the air, illuminating nothing but merely sewing through the dark; the wheels turned and the dried belts creaked. The old man, the sharpening wheel—rougher than needed for fine sharpening—and the axe; I went farther along, not ready to call out to the man, when I saw a second one. He was on the porch steps, bent over a fishing net on his knees, and the same kind of thick, unkempt hair covered his face. The old man was mending the net, unwinding rough thread from a spool the size of his hand, making loops with a curved faceted needle and muttering to himself—his beard stirred as if a mouse had moved into it. A third old man, also on the porch, just as gray

and shaggy, was carving a boat frame; the wooden piece had a bend with an inconvenient elbow, and the old man clumsily moved his long knife along it. I greeted them. The three old men turned to me, dropping their work. I still couldn’t make out their faces: their hair fell over their eyes. Their fingernails belonged to animals or birds, and their hair grew so thickly it could have been moss or weeds. The old men were silent and uncomprehending. Telling them apart by their clothing was difficult: their padded jackets and trousers had not been washed in so long they had taken on the same indefinite color of grime, and new spots vanished among the old; the one with the axe had a scar across his palm, the one mending the net had


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