Lying on the hot tile floor, Brave Leader was reaching back and scratching his ass with the Romanian people. What he lovingly called the "Romanian people" was in fact a tiny little bathroom brush with ivory engravings, which he never parted with, and liked to have at hand at all times. As soon as he returned from his divine service at the Central Committee, he would jump like a cricket out of the limo, dip his fingers into the alcohol flask and rush to the sauna to ask how things were going with the Romanian people. "How are things going with the Romanian people?" "Comrade Supreme Commander," would hiss the group of masseurs with trunks, stripes and all, "let us report: Things are fine with the Romanian people! They have washed, dried and now are eagerly awaiting your orders on a shelf!" "Fine, take good care of the Romanian people…" the President insisted, and then went to eat. At about 9 p.m., he returned to the swimming pool to see if anyone dared give him a massage. "Let me see, who ventures to rub against me?! Hey, you think you're in a bus or what?" the President would joke. The previous night, 23-24 May 1987, unknown hands had set fire to the Triumphal Arch guarding the entrance to the "Home of The Spark
"Exhibition Pavilion, and, as it was made of cardboard, the Triumphal Arch had gone to the pot, that is, it burnt beautifully to the ground. The problem was that the said Triumphal Arch was inscribed with the most enthusiastic slogans forcefully extracted from the soul of the Romanian people: The Nicolae Ceauşescu Epoch – Romania's Golden Age!
, as well as other absurdities "which you couldn't just set on fire when you fucking felt like it," as colonel Alexandru Gabrea said to his collaborators, "for they are sacred like our motherland." In the morning, a grinning crew from the landscape administration had been brought to clean the mess, while the forces of the Ministry of the Interior, in sackcloth and what was left of the ashes, were taking pictures of the asphalt. This was to no avail, because at about 8:30 p.m. they had to inform the President on the catastrophe anyway. They tried to quibble over it "for let us report: the target caught fire against everyone's will, due to a number of sympathizers"… Ceauşescu had therefore summoned colonel Alexandru Gabrea at his home that evening, to explain to him who wanted to inflame this issue, and if enemies weren't by any chance involved in this too. "Alexandru, what do you mean sympathizers?" the President asked sweetly. "And what were they doing there at 3 a.m., with torches and gasoline, to cause so much damage to our dear Triumphal Arch?" "Comrade Secretary General, allow me to tell you the whole truth!" the damned colonel retorted. Brave Leader turned precisely on one side, which sometimes used to signal the fulfillment of all wishes. "Tell me, Alexandru, tell me. Tell me the whole truth! May you drop dead if you don't." "May I drop dead…" the colonel calmly agreed. "Things happened more or less like this. Several young sympathizers were celebrating your birthday. They walked about the city happilly all night, and the Triumphal Arch caught fire from some fireworks." "From some fireworks… my birthday… yes… yes… very beautiful. But don't those dear comrades of ours know that my birthday is not in May?" "Of course they do, Comrade President," the guest said offended. "But I think you should let the working people celebrate you at all times! In fact, we couldn't control them if we didn't… Whenever one feels sort of happy, he starts celebrating you at once." "Yes… yes…" (And Brave Leader pushed his legs modestly, turning on his back again, and put a pile of towels on his eyes.) "But, Alexandru, have you ever heard of Lenin's statue?… How come they came by night again, heaped tractor tires up around it, set them on fire, and also celebrated the statue?!… What did they want with that statue, Alexandru? What had that statue done to them that they couldn't let it be?… That is bronze, man, and bronze cannot care less of your tires!" Hearing of the statue, Gabrea had a first series of contractions, cramps and pangs of remorse for having enlisted in the Securitate
. That year, there was no entrance exam at the Polytechnic School, so, as a poor boy, he had enlisted in the Securitate
and now he regretted it. He regretted, fainted and gradually became smaller. That is why he had brought his cap with him: if he felt he was fainting, he could hide at such moments in the cap like a little mouse. "Get out of there, Alexandru! Shoo!," the President of the country was kindly pulling him out by the tail. "Hey, slipper, get out from under the bed!," Beloved Leader was humming lovingly in his ear. "Get the fuck out of your cap when I tell you so, and report whether you've caught one of those sympathizers or not!" "We have, Comrade Commander," the fainted one mumbled. "Fuck them all if you're not going to be completely satisfied!" he came back to life and intentionally colored his discourse with accents of strong feeling. "Really? Then won't you do me the favor and show me how one of these toys works?" This was the second psychological moment of the evening. Had there been a third one, several beasts would have suddenly shown up making sure you do not have too many psychological moments with the country's President. They would have taken you and drowned you in the swimming pool. Gabrea, who had been rehearsing this one-act play every day together with the artistic ensemble of the respective ministry, sensed the danger, broke the encirclement and swelled out his chest. "Allow me to prove that our Securitate
has laid their hands on them, and that they do not permit the enemies to play the fool. Here is one of the most innocent and obedient… Ioanichie, Calistrat, fetch the offender!… Come, come, offender, and get nicely to your knees! Confess to Comrade President how you were playing with fireworks, how a pigeon flew by, and whir! snatched them from your hand and, without the slightest intention, flew with them on top of the target." "True," the newcomer admitted modestly. "On top of the target… It's just that it wasn't a pigeon, it was a turtledove." "And… if it was a turtledove," Ioanichie could not help asking, "why didn't you keep clear of it?" "Indeed," Calistrat also remarked. "Do you like turtledoves?" The president's guards turned up suddenly and slashed the two chatterboxes with Gillette razor blades. "Take them away! Before they breed snails," said the prisoner imperturbably and extremely Swedish. As if he were not a prisoner. They had arrested him from home only in a T-shirt and flip-flops. After 2 hours of cross-examination in the Securitate
detention center, they escorted him to the lavatory and gave him a towel and a piece of soap. "Wash your pussy," Gabrea whispered passionately, "for this might be the most beautiful night in your life." Marco did not even know if he would have the chance to see the Great Man. He began to suspect it only when, after having washed with water, they also washed him with alcohol. They curled his hair, dried it, squeezed his blackheads and whiteheads, but left him in his flip-flops nonetheless. The design experts of the Securitate
had established that flip-flops give the country's young soccer players an irresponsible look. Marco was a soccer player. He looked like Marco van Basten. He was 24, his real name was Iulian Grigore, and when he was playing in the second junior team, he scored four goals against the Universitatea Craiova
. Then he stopped. He scored no more goals, and when he met Universitatea Craiova
, he did not even say hello. No one knew what he did for a living, for he did not have a job, he was fed up with training camps, he did not give a fuck in general, because he cared for more than one woman. He cared for almost all of them. Hardly a woman would pass by that Marco was not ready to love. With a couple of them, who were rather sexed-up, he tried harder and placed the ball right in the center, that is, he got them pregnant. Women had been so pleased that when they decided for an abortion and the male nurse was fondling them on the inside with his illegal instruments, they could not help screaming more from pleasure than pain, and this only because whatever Marco touched was filled for a long time with good spirits, warmth and liveliness. You simply could not get cross with him. "Oh, Great Head of State," the lad said casually, "we, the revolutionary youth, wear flip-flops only to make the others, the non-revolutionary, take after us, and then show them that they were wrong! "A thinking rascal…" the colonel was suddenly seized with fear. "How dare you speak like that to the Head of State? Watch your mouth or we'll unearth you grandparents' bones, castrate them, and then who will give fucking birth to you?!" "It's all right," the soccer player went on as if in answer to some inner thoughts, "for this is how one should speak to Heroes! For I, dear Comrade President, upon my word, consider you the greatest hero! That is why I accepted to call round to consult with you what are we to do with the Securitate
?" Gabrea froze. Ceauşescu was sweating motionless, the only moving extremities being his Ceauşist sweat drops trickling down onto the bench. Soon enough, however, he breathed in and inquired lazily from under the same pile of towels: "And what would you want to do with the Securitate
?…" "Well, isn't it the people's armed hand?! Who has even seen anywhere in the course of history a people with just one armed hand, while the other fondles his dick or unwraps caramels and puts them into his mouth? What did these kind-hearted people do to their Leader, that the Leader got so angry and lost his trust in the poor people? … They were too kind-hearted, that's what they did! You are trying hard to teach us because you love us, and we were pulling backwards because we shilly-shally and side with the kind-hearted! … You should enroll us all in the Securitate
, and you'll see what beasts we turn into overnight. I once dreamt I had tortured my mother only because a major who had come to lecture in our school had noticed me during the break and asked me to turn in my classmates. … I was so happy and so proud that I went home that afternoon and I confessed I had informed on my parents and the Securitate
would now take care of their future. And haven't they done well? They have! Ask them, for I really want to know what they will answer…" People would generally go overboard when faced with the Beloved Leader. They would become overenthusiastic, lose their heads, get confused and kneel on the wrong knee. He understood everyone's uneasiness, but he was sort of tired of dogs howling, eager to play the violin, of the Securitate,
concerned as it was with promoting culture, of the comrade generals, winners of harvesting campaigns, who maintained they would clear the sky with their anti-aircraft beans batteries, and pretended that garlic leaves unforgettable burns in the heart of any conqueror. "Bravo, young man," the Great Builder of Modern Romania finally broke in conciliating. I should've given you hell, you deserved hell, and then I would have seen if you could set more shit on fire, if you were up to it, but you're not stupid… Go, fulfill your quota conscientiously, study, work hard and we'll talk again in 15 years…" The punishment seemed mild. The presidential guards, shamming decorations, mosaic and towels, stopped simulating and started applauding as one. "And don't you dare celebrate me in prison too, 'cause I'm not gonna give you money for another prison." Laughter, squeaks and comradely ovations followed again. Gabrea took up a position, strained all his adipose tissues and saluted. Then he took the prisoner under his arm and they both bowed.
 The Spark
= the official newspaper of the Romanian Communist Party; "Home of The Spark
" = a huge, Soviet-looking building hosting the offices of The Spark
and of various other journals and publishing houses. Universitatea Craiova
= a onetime major league soccer team.
by Daniel Bănulescu (b. 1960)