The Mirabelle tree
by Daniel Dragomirescu
It is not only the acacia that deserves to be immortalized in literature, but also more modest trees. Like the Mirabelle plum tree, for instance.
On 23rd November 1963, when John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, I was a student in the 5th grade in the oil city of Videle, the residence of a county in the vaster administrative unit of the Bucharest region. Although I was of such a young age, what happened on the international political scene in the context of the Cold War did not leave me indifferent; on the contrary, it interested me to a greater extent that was the rule among my generation.
I think that I found out the news of Kennedy’s assassination, who was at the time the president of the world’s greatest power and the leader of the Western World, the mortal enemy of the Soviet Union, led then by the arrogant and unlikeable Khrushchev, in the office of the Single Accountant Service from the financial section of the county (where my father worked) in the first hours of the morning on the 23rd November. Since after I had completed the first four grades I used to go to school in the afternoon, and my mother had abandoned us not long ago, running away from home, my father used to wake me up early in the morning and took me with him to work, where I did my homework and spend half of my day. Thus I heard the news of the assassination of the American president from one of my father’s workmates, Iulică Bongioianu, a cheerful and talkative man, who uttered it loud and clear.
The news, I think, was already circulating among the clerks of the financial section, as it had been communicated on the first radio news bulletin, and I remember that my father, entering the single accounting service that morning, insisted on receiving confirmation from the lips of Iulică Bongioianu, who worked at the office directly in front of him. Reeking – as was his custom – of booze and cheap tobacco, unshaven and with bloodshot eyes, Iulică Bongioianu made some gestures in the air with his right hand, and standing up near his office told my father in a hoarse voice that yes, it was true, president Kennedy had been shot… He emphasized his words, looking with curiosity at my father in order to catch his reaction. My father remained speechless, as if such a horrid deed could not fit at once in his mind and staring at his workmate in disbelief, protested:
“It can’t be…Why?!...”
Then Iulică Bongioianu, who expected exactly this reaction on the part of my father, with a aly smile on his unshaven face, recounted the most far-fetched and grotesque explanation of the Dallas assasination which I have ever heard. He told my father that president Kennedy had died because he had climbed a neighbour’s mirabelle tree, and the neighbour caught him red-handed and shot him. My father smiled, seeming to appreciate this parable to a certain extent, but repeated that it was imposible, it could not have happened like this…, he, Iulică Bongioianu was not serious, he was joking!...
A strange silence fell in the office, after which both my father and Iulică Bongioianu sat down, took out their paperwork and started work without any comments regarding the attack in which the American president had been killed. I asked myself what on earth had made Iulică Bongioianu recount the mirabelle story to my father. Were there any mirabelle trees in Dallas?! Was Kennedy so fond of mirabelles?!...
(from the book in progress "Humans & Puppets")
Translation by Roxana Doncu
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