Bora Chiara
Jim Nichols

My sister drives us from Duino around to the eastern Adriatic and down the coasts of Slovenia and Croatia to Rovinj. She says it was her favorite trip before the war. Later we're on a small boat lugging slowly around the island with its old stone monastery. It's chilly because the bora chiara is blowing, but we wear thick woolen sweaters and drink pony glasses of Slivovitz to warm us. My sister grows quiet as we look at the island and the hilly pastel town and the rounded far mountains that are almost black against the sky. Then she speaks above the low gurgle of the motor, telling about some months before when refugees began to come to her door to ask for water and permission to camp in the cobbled alley that runs from the street to her garage. There were hundreds of refugees in Duino and soon no more room, and so she opened the garage. Still other families came by, and sometimes they stopped to visit with those at my sister's before filling their water-bottles and moving on. This continued for weeks but eventually the flow lessened and then the encamped refugees began to leave by twos and threes. When they were all gone it seemed quiet and even bit lonely without them, says my sister. Then it's quiet in the boat, too: the captain has pulled the throttle and locked the wheel and is holding the bottle of Slivovitz up to the darkening sky. He grunts affirmatively and, as we rock in the water, carefully pours another glass for each of us. We sip the plum grappa and it burns through the chill and for something to say I ask how long the bora might blow. My sister says, "Until God stops it," and at that the captain reaches out and takes her hand. It turns out he is Bosnian, but knows English from when he was young and working as a merchant seaman. He says, "I might have gone north," and then he kisses her hand and goes back to the wheel. He pushes the throttle in and the boat struggles forward and he takes us the rest of the way around the old monastery. For a little while we're out of the bora chiara. But then we come to the other side and it's full  and in our faces.