The Last Loaf of Bread
...After this Pantagruelic feast in times of ration coupons, Virgil and Marieta went back into the house, in order to do a last check-up, while the driver lit a cigarette and sat on the wooden bench in the front of the summer kitchen, waiting benevolently and trying unsuccessfully to run the fingers of his left hand through his mane with a view to arrange it. Taking advantage of this respite, the children ran again to the ambulance, in order to play with the wheel and honk, while Stelian, taking advantage of the respite, too, rushed towards the fence, with his double Italian carpenter's tape measure, in order to measure a few wooden stakes, which Brumărel had damaged the other day. Since he could no longer repair them, he had decided to replace with some leftovers from the house he had never built – because of the categorical opposition that his now dead wife had put up. Unfortunately, he did not have much time for measurements, as after a short while Virgil, followed by Marieta, went out and gave the signal for departure in a stentorian voice. They took down Brumărel from the cabin, in spite of his protests, and in his place, next to Dorian, sat Marieta. In his turn, Virgil, holding a kicking Brumărel in his arms, got on in the back of the car, seating himself among the packages, between a broken side window and the window that opened onto the driver's cabin. Behind them, Nelu Chelu pushed the doors with the painted red cross closed, pressing them as strongly as he could, and then opened the door on the left of the cabin and sat at the wheel, ready to start.
When he was about to turn on the engine, as it was late, Iustina, Marieta's older sister, showed up at the last minute. As she had only found out about their departure a while ago, she had rushed to bring them a large homemade loaf of bread, covered in a white cloth, so that they had something to eat on the roads of Deliorman. That loaf looked like the last peasant's loaf in the world, the last be-fore the end of colectivization, an offering and a testamentary bequest; it's true that their old mother, Safta, was going to bake such loaves for another year, before she would ask them to bring dark potato bread from Mandravela, on the outskirts of Bucharest, in a vynil bag. Marieta took the homemade loaf as if it had been something holly and her eyes filled with tears, and Iustina wished everybody – since they had decided to leave – a good and prosperous life away from home, on the oil-soaked lands of Deliorman. On her suntanned forehead there were traces of sweat, as a result of her rushing to get to the Mavrodins in their old house before they left.
“Good-bye, sister, we'll see each other in spring!” Marieta shouted in a happy voice, sticking her head out of the cabin of the ambulance and looking at her from above, from where Iustina looked smaller and thicker than she was.
The driver twisted the key in the ignition immediately. The ambulance started slowly and carefully reversed on the narrow path, towards the wide open gates of the homestead, while Stelian, with his tape measure forgotten in the trousers pocket and Iustina, holding the empty cloth in one hand, standing next to each other, seemed overwhelmed by the regret that Virgil and his family, after so many years, still had to wander in the world, in order to find their spot under the sun.
The car drove slowly through the wide open gates and over the platform, which cracked under the heavy load, turned to reverse on the road that led to the valley, then up the lane, passing by the neighbouring houses in a cloud of dust. In a short while, the ambulance that was carrying the Ma-vrodins reached the edge of the village, turned to the left and drove down a broader yet bumpier lane. They passed Eforie and came closer to Wooden Leg's furrier shop, on the crossroads towards Vadul Vacilor; afterwards Nelu Chelu turned right and accelerated. From here until Bucharest, the recently tarmacked road saved them from jolts until Vidra, where, leaving the main road, they drove again on the dusty and bumpy country roads. Straight ahead, towards the promised land, Davida. Full of oil, grains and rationed bread.
(from the novel in progress
La apa Deliormanului. By the water of Deliorman by Daniel Dragomirescu)
Traducere de Roxana Doncu
Universitatea de Medicină şi Farmacie
“Carol Davila” din Bucureşti