Cotadi And Dragomir

Cotadi is short and big-bellied, brawny, his legs are curved twice outside and once inside, and he is eternally unshaven. His ebony dark hair is full of dandruff and studded with shiny little crystals and expensive tortoise shell combs. Hardly ever does Cotadi stand upright because of his timber clothes which make up a sort of armour and which, though this is most uncomfortable for him, he wears with admirable devotion, next to his skin, under his peasant's braided shirt he never parts from. Something peculiar to Cotadi is that, in spite of himself, he becomes twice as large and entirely transparent, but this only happens twice a year, namely when the sun reaches the solstice. Cotadi's greatest pleasure – except that of sticking with gum arabic various buttons and dead insects to the very delicate skin of his double chin – is to try, from behind the counter where he sits, to cunningly lure one of his customers into conversation, at first very pleasant, then gradually ever more heated, until he manages, speaking in a shriller voice, to get himself contradicted at least once. He then responds to his interlocutor by a number of violent blows onto the floor which he delivers with the edge of a piano lid that is screwed into his back, above his buttocks, and that he always sets in motion on such occasions, puzzling his customers and scaring the more feeble-minded ones. This lid also serves Cotadi as a wall on which he urinates, especially in winter, when it is cold outside and he cannot get out of his shop, though this must be pretty unpleasant to him, as the lid is attached to his back and not to his front. It serves, if needed, as a urinal to the other older customers of the shop, too, although, from the very beginning, on the occasion of the putting in place of the mechanism, Cotadi was not willing to make any concession, which is proved by the fact that he had a sign painter paint for him on that lid "No fouling." It is also known about Cotadi that he feeds only on ant eggs, that he takes in through a funnel, releasing soda in exchange, and that he is corked up six months a year with a champagne bottle cork : and every time he pulls out this cork, he makes all possible efforts to divide it into inalienable plots , thus hoping to solve in an utterly empirical and primitive way, the sensitive and intricate agrarian issue… Almost nothing is known for sure about Cotadi's origins and relatives. It is believed that he descends from a noble family, whose last representative is an old aunt of his, who lives in the outskirts of the town and who sends him daily letters full of spiritual epigrams written in the Macedonian dialect, as well as small parcels stuffed with bran, thus hoping to turn him into a moron and make him give up, of his own accord, his share of the estate that he should rightfully inherit after her death. She sends him all these by a very intelligent boy, with nickelled ears, wearing striped trousers, whose name is Tudose. Cotadi, who is, however, a sensible man, can bear all these eccentricities of the old woman and finds refuge from life's miseries in the sincere friendship shown to him by Dragomir, an old schoolmate of his and his best friend, too. Dragomr is very tall, snub-nosed, he has round, very mobile eyes, a thin, hot-chocolate-coloured neck, as if shaped on a lathe, and wears two polished and raven-black elegant tufts of hair, which hang down about four inches on his rounded nape of the neck, dripping each, at their pointed ends, two drops of clear French oil. Dragomir is very kind-hearted. When he sees that, in spite of all the blows he delivers onto the floor with the edge of the piano lid, his beloved Cotadi has still failed to amaze the simpleton that has committed the imprudence of contradicting him, Dragomir, suspecting that the artistic and refined sensation his friend is striving to achieve must indeed be delightful, extends his neck by an additional cardboard four feet, the latter being graciously climbed by ivy and other climbing plants, its far end displaying a machine that shows "the four cardinal points." For all these important services rendered to him, as well as for keeping the accounts of his shop, for feeding grains to the poultry every day and for representing him as a proxy in all his legal cases, Cotadi generously rewards Dragomir, the latter being allowed to have dinner with Cotadi any evening, a meal that is composed of octopus feet and bread; in addition to that, every Sunday and religious holiday, Dragomir gets a basinful of rowans, where a reel of dyed cotton thread is often hidden, to be used for mending stockings, which always comes as a most delightful surprise to Dragomir. Moreover, Dragomir has been granted the right that, any time it rains, he should be allowed to spend the night, together with his whole family, in the left half of a niche situated in the wall next to the entrance gate to Cotadi's abode; the other half is reserved for the police officer that keeps guard over the house during the day. Nothing has been heard of the two great heroes for a long while. The last that is known about them is that, being a practical man, and fully aware of what a valuable and exceptional friend he had laid hands on, Cotadi expressly mentioned in his will that he wanted to be buried in the same grave with Dragomir. He wanted thus to take possession for ever of the eternal source of the riches in Dragomir's head, as he hoped that, of the two drops of best quality French oil that would drip every second from Dragomir's tufts of hair, whole olive orchards will sprout in time on the ground above. The ground being legally the property of his family, the olive orchards would go with it too, and thus his family would have enough free oil to keep the icon lamp alight, according to the Christian custom. English version by Dan MATEESCU 

by Urmuz (Dem. Dumitrescu-Buzău) (1883-1923)