In General Ionescu's garden, the April dusk brought a harsh wind and sprayed dust in the horizon like a bluish mist, spreading heaps of apricot tree flowers over the fresh vegetable beds.Ion, the general's first orderly, in charge of sweeping the flowers laid as white dead butterflies over the alleys stands still, broom in hand, and articulates with the genuine joy of a country boy who sees a squadron gliding over the village sky:"General, Sir, here is the sto'ks flyin' in a squadron one by one!"The General's eyes, concentrated on the newspapers and on the wicker chair which was taken out only this morning, look up and follow the direction indicated by the recruit's arm. They stay still, watching the horizon, like two sentinels…"Yes, indeed… Those are storks!…" and suddenly amused, the General breathes in deeply, turns to the open windows of the living room and yells in a tender voice:"Violeta, Violeta, dear!… come to the window to see the storks…"But he receives no answer, so he returns to his newspaper and his chair.Round the corner, the red sun watches Vasile, the general's other orderly, who waters the young pansies, planted a couples of days ago. The hose is short and wrecked. At the end of the hose, in the delayed sunrises, thin, elastic, trembling snakes of silvery water wind, twine and jumble together in a strange net of living liquid creatures. Vasile points his big wet eyes to the horizon:"General, Sir, this is no storks, this is crows…"General Ionescu mounts his glasses on his nose, stares at the horizon again, and gives the shadow of a superior and grammatical smile:"These are not crows, not even storks. This is pigeons, boy!…"Merry piano sounds burst through the living room windows, tumbling down a strong voice, harmonious and virgin.General Ionescu pauses for a moment, listens to the music, then decides to shout, harshly, as if he were at the barracks, on a parade day:"Violeta!… Violeta!…"A 16-year-old girl appears in the window frame, her dark hair scattered. Her red and tiny mouth looks like a small pepper, her young breasts bloom under the silky dress."What is it, papa?"General Ionescu makes his serious, yet friendly face:"Violeta, dear! Please, stop playing the piano. Today is Good Friday… You are not to play the piano on Good Friday… It's not nice, polite or decent, you know… When our dear Lord, Jesus Christ stays on the cross, we do not sing and dance as if we were attending some wedding… We have to show respect, morality and decency, my dearest…"The girl turns her back, bearing the signs of her youth. "You are such a funny character, papa. Wouldn't He resurrect tomorrow night, even if I played the piano today?… I must practice, you know…"General Ionescu realizes that any further argument would be useless, so he abandons the talk.Meanwhile, the piano gives away even stronger sounds. Suddenly, in a graphic faint, the newspaper leaves the General's knees only to rest on the sand. His active mind weaves many thoughts, they unfold and bump into each other just like the soldiers of a regiment during some maneuver. "This generation has lost respect for the holy laws!…They play happy music while our Lord, Jesus Christ suffers on Mount Ararat, or whatever they call it, like a martyr for us, sinful creatures." And grieved by his own remarks, General Ionescu feels sad and defeated like a commander after a lost battle.Tomiţă Paraschivescu shows up at the gate of the garden, leaning on his cane, looking like a humpbacked tree. He is an old friend of the General's, a retired major, and a partner in the army. "Feeling good in your garden, chief?…eh!… you can afford it…nice garden you have here…God bless you!…"General Ionescu stands up and blows a kiss to the major, just like old friends do."I went out for some fresh air, Tomiţă. Old rugs must be refreshed in the spring, you know. Why don't you come in for a while?""Thank you, dear, but I'm on my way home. We're having dinner earlier 'cause we're going to church tonight. It's Good Friday all right…""We'll come along, too. Me and my daughter, Violeta. Come on in, my friend, it's not even 7 o'clock… Ion, Vasile, quick, a chair for the major."Sitting close to each other, smoking a cigarette, they paused for a while…"Tomiţă, dear… I was just thinking about something… there's no more faith in this world… take my daughter, Violeta, for example!... I told her it is not becoming to play the piano on Good Friday… and just listen… listen to her playing the piano… these youngsters, this new generation of goofy bozos and girls do not preserve anything from the holy tradition of the church which we inherited even before Christ, for Easter.""Yes, you are perfectly right. Remember how pious we were at their age!… I still remember my mum thrashing me if I did not fast for Easter….No other food for me for seven whole weeks, but lent food… And I kept this habit for the rest of my life… I wouldn't eat meat during Passion Week for anything in the world… I did not eat anything today, because it is Good Friday… ""Me neither. I fasted all week. I always make my confessions for Easter and receive my Eucharist… My Violeta kept on feasting on salami and cozonac1 all day long…"Tomiţă Paraschivescu leans against the back of his chair with a dignified look in his eyes."That's what I said earlier at the bar… if it weren't for us, the elderly, all our good religious traditions would be lost… when we die, God knows what will happen…""Sad, but true…"Tomiţă pulls out a golden watch from his vest pocket. It looks like a golden onion, with a tiny key hanging on the chain."Ten past seven. I must be going…""Hold your horses…let's have a ţuica2… always good right before dinner… it's necessary when you fast, you know… it makes you stronger…""No, no… never on an empty stomach…""Plus a few olives with rye bread…""No olives for me, chief!… Oil is made of olives and I never taste oil on Good Friday… I don't say no to rye bread, though."The orderly fetched the bottle and two glasses in a hurry.Time went by like an Apache wearing socks, the bottle is now almost empty and the eyes of the two friends began to produce mark brandy, like two sick oysters."I'll be off, my friend. It's almost 8 o'clock. Listen to the bell calling us to church… My wife must be mad…""Why don't you stay a little bit longer, Tomiţă. Have another drink! Just one.""No can do, chief! Ţuica is poison all right on an empty stomach!…""Bring us some Brăila cheese!…""Hold on, chief! It's Good Friday today. I wouldn't eat cheese, not even if you hanged me!""Come on, Tomiţă!… Lent or no Lent, Good or bad Friday, do you think it's us who must take care of our traditions?… Look at us… two apostles, two pretentious men… You're making me laugh… even priests forget about Lent and you want us to be pious? Don't be such a baby, I feel sorry for you. You're an old bastard, what the hell!"And he turns towards the windows of the living room, music still tumbling down and shouts as if he were at some army parade:"Violetaa!… Violetaa…! Go, my dear, and slice some cheese and meat for us… and bring another bottle of fresh ţuica… hurry up, the service is starting. And if you still want to play the piano until we go to church, play that sârba3 that I like so much. Play for Tomiţă, too!…"from The Ways of Life, 1929
1 a traditional Romanian cake, baked for Easter and Christmas, made of dough, nuts, sugar and eggs 2 Romanian drink, made of plums, similar to brandy3 Romanian very lively folk dance

by Tudor Muşatescu (1903-1970)