A Detail

END OF THE LAST TRIMESTER. Shortly before holidays, Radu and Dan are learning. To be precisely: they study. Even more precisely: they study zoology. With his head between his hands, balancing on the front feet of his chair, Radu reads aloud: "The camel is a vertebrate mammal, herbivore..." "Radu, get over this, they're details!" Dinu asks, swinging on the other chair, but on its back feet. "On recap, we're interested in the general aspects. So they told us at school: 'Don't get lost in details'." "The camel lives in warm areas, in the deserts of Africa, Central Asia and Turkestan..." "Details, details... cut it, brother, move on." "The camel has two humps…" "And four legs, and two eyes, and a tail and... please don't stop at every trifle. Search at the end of the chapter." "There are various types of camels..." "Get over the details, can't you understand? I've told you a hundred times, we're interested in the essential stuff!" Dinu patronizes him, angrily, while mumbling something about the multiples of 100. "The camel is useful to man especially in those deserts where…" Dinu, fed up, waving his hand, stops him: "Come on, Radu. You're stopping at every detail. Anything else?" "Nothing else. That's all." "See what it means not to stop at every trifle?" the boy exclaims triumphantly. "That is how you do a recap! Go on. Perhaps we'll still be able to watch the game." "The rabbit. The rabbit is a vertebrate animal…" "A known fact. Just like the camel." "Rabbits are useful to man…" "Just as the camel. Go on, go on." "They feed on…" "The main thing is that they feed. Go to the next page." "The whale. The whale is a vertebrate mammal…" "Just like rabbits. Move on." "It lives…" "Etcetera. Get to the essential." "The whale is up to twenty-five meters long and weighs up to 150,000 kilograms." "Details, Radu, trifles." "It breathes through…" "Just like the camel. Stop focusing on the trivia. Where do you see the important part? Where is the essential?" "Well, I don't see, it isn't…" "Very well, that's just a recap: no details!" Do I need to tell that in less than an hour the whole zoology was studied? Or, perhaps, you consider now, at the end of the story, that I should examine in class at least one of the two? Personally, I don't consider it an essential thing, but, if you insist, I will describe to you Dinu's answer the next day, at zoology: "The field mouse is, by and large, leaving aside all details and what is inessential, an animal that generally speaking, isn't very large… and the essential is… that he is smaller than other animals that are larger. So, as I said before, putting aside details and what is not important, the field mouse lives on the field." Perhaps it wasn't essential to tell you this detail. Still, there is an essential thing and a detail that I must share with you. The essential thing is that Dinu got a grade. And the detail? That the grade is F. from The Main Break, Tineretului, 1967

by Mircea Sîntimbreanu (1926-1999)