Musics And Tricks

excerpt AAAGH, WHAT A NIGHTMARE! I jumped up and forgot it was Sunday. I was just about to get dressed and go to school, to find out if Hari had come to any harm; I was like one of those old biddies who dream I don't know what, a black pond or something, and then think it's real... So there I was with Hari, we were coming back from a tea party, at eleven at night, and I had the Maiak spool-recorder in one hand, but do you know what...? We were up on Tzacalie Hill, bro, and how the hell could we be coming back from a tea party "up on Tzacalie"; shouldn't I have taken an 88 and seen her home, back to Salt Street...? I mean, in the dream we'd been going steady for I don't know how long, but, what on earth, here we were going to my house? Well, chance would have been a fine thing, but, even so, didn't I still have parents at home...? Anyway, so we were walking up Tzacalie, but the Maiak seemed really heavy, I kept passing it from one hand to the other; Hari was saying that her shoe was pinching, so we stopped to catch our breath for a little, but guess where we stopped!... In the middle of the park, of course! We sat down there, on my bench, Hari took her shoes off, to cool down; I lit a kent and it was nice, I don't know what else, there was a full moon, except that, obviously, at that point Cantzone, Bones and Nose turned up. Granted, there had been that scene yesterday, at the Parachute; so, it was to be expected, except that in the dream Bones and Nose were lugging Cantzone, who was dead drunk. I mean, I don't know if he was drunk or not, but he looked really drunk: he had nothing on except a sheet, as if they'd taken him out of the morgue, but Bones, on the other hand – brother! All dressed up, perfumed, smart as a tin tack, in one of those shiny suits, you'd have said he was from a Variety Show; it was him who looked like the big boss, not Cantzone... I got scared, naturally; I gave Hari a nudge, to stay calm, but instead of keeping my damned mouth shut, I come out with "Wotcha, Bones!" Apparently, so that he wouldn't see I was scared. The geezer turns round sharply and then I started feeling around in my pocket for the packet of Kent – it was that smartarse Daniel's ruse: you have to give the geezers good cigarettes if they're to let you pass on your way with a lass up on Tzacalie – but all that was in the packet were those two kents which Cipri had squashed… I put the packet back in my pocket and start quibbling about I don't know what, different stuff, "this is my girlfriend," but Bones goes: "And what are you doing here at this time of night; haven't you heard about what happens round here, with those hooligans...?" And then, in a trice, they plonk Cantzone down on the bench, with his head lolling on his chest, right next to Hari! Me: "Errr, look here, we were at a tea party...," at which that bastard says he pisses in our tea, and at that moment – whack! He swipes Hari's shoe and puts it on Cantzone's chest, right under his nose: "There you go, so you can dream of your missus!" Horrible, bro, but wait and see, because it's only here that the nightmare begins! The bastard spies the Maiak, and "Hey! Look at this; we've got music too!" Well, that was enough, come on everybody, let's have a tea party! "Hang about, mister," says I, "I only just bought it, and what 'music' anyway; it doesn't run on batteries!" At which, Bones: "Is that right!? And so what if it doesn't? Shall I be the first to dance with miss...?" That upset me the most: what the hell was I doing mixing the Maiak up in all this nonsense with Bones? What was wrong in all that? That now I had the Maiak and was wanting to copy music off Bodi...!? That we had stopped off in the middle of the park because the Maiak was heavy? But yesterday I had been thinking of mountain climbing at summer camp, not this shitty Tzacalie, where, as Bodi says, the kiddies go sledding! I mean, was Bones now coming after me high up in the mountains so he could invite Hari to dance…!? Anyway, so I was browning my pants for fear, but in the dream I was laughing like an ox and: "Alright then, bro, it's a deal!" Bones turned it on at the "Power" switch and nothing happened, but after a few seconds the light slowly started to come on, like that old Grundig of my dad's when I was little, it was becoming transparent; you could see everything inside, all the circuits and lamps, and at a given moment you could hear a strange, reedy music, as though it didn't have enough power and it was running, don't ask me how, on moonlight... Bones invited Hari to dance, and the limit was that nothing nasty happened, thinking of those incidents with Cantzone, nothing that could make you say that he wanted to rape her or anything. The geezer was dancing in a normal, civilised way, but as for me, it was as if I had gone off my nut. I wasn't angry, I wasn't doing anything, but I dragged myself off, a few metres away, into the bushes, and started digging a grave....For Hari, bro, not for that bastard Bones; do you know what I mean!? Anyway, I'm saying it was a "grave"; I was scratching out a little grave, a few centimetres deep, with a stick, it was as though I was one of those kiddies who want to bury a sparrow or a kitten, and – the limit! – that part was really cool: you could hear the music in the distance, as though it was everywhere at once, the moon was full, it smelled of freshly cut grass and soil... damn it all! ...Aaah, I don't know, really; so, it seems stupid, but I needed a good few minutes to come to my senses, to realise that, in fact, it was all just confusion, a jumble of all the things that happened yesterday. Because last night, after that mess with "Dark Side," I started all over again: I put on the Beatles from Hari, I smoked two kents and then I got down to writing up the school end-of-year album. I couldn't be bothered, as you can imagine, and at the beginning there were all those questions for the sake of form, but I say "Come on then, bro, let's at least see what we'll find!" I get it out of the bag, I open the first page and it goes: "Hello, brothers!" Come off it; Ina used to say "brothers" when she was trying to make out she was one of the gang, but I stuck in a "Hello, sisters" to confuse her. The second, of course, was "What is your name?" and I see that only three stupid girls had filled this bit in, Pintea, Chelaru and Arama, and of the lads only that hairy Secretary, Popeye's nephew, with his tiny handwriting, a nasty person's. He always had his tongue lolling out after Hari, he was always trying to get in with her, giving her little presents, but he didn't stand a chance, so I too wrote down my name and surname, but I altered the order with my biro; I put myself at number 3 and him at number 4. Alright, so I turned to the next page and it says: "How are you doing?" All the girls wrote: "Well." And as for the Secretary, he wrote: "Well enough," which is to say neither good nor bad. That's him for you. I wrote that I had just lit up a kent with a smashing lighter, that I was listening to Beatles ballads, we know who from, and that I was filling in this charming end-of-year book, and that kind of thing, all that embarrassing hogwash, but then I turn the page and… what have we here! "4. What is your opinion of this book's owner?" And – of course, that old chestnut – on the page next to it she had stuck a picture of herself as a baby; naked on a rug. The opinions were "good" and "very good," obviously, but that canny Secretary had written: "She's nice."...It's you who are telling me, matey, how nice she is? For the same question, last year, that filthy Scarlat had come out with "SHE'S GOOD FOR A F...!" in huge red letters; that's why all the trouble with the form tutor started. My Hari got terribly upset, she even cried a little, but I don't think that she wasn't flattered deep down... Anyway, I wrote that I had the best opinion in the world and went on to: "5. What qualities do you think she has?"...Well, yes, of course: those stupid girls had written that she's "pretty," "a good colleague," "a talented girl," but the Secretary – oh, Lordy! – he comes up with: "Her voice." I forgot to mention that my Hari is a big soprano in the Radio Choir and – eh, are you kidding! – her voice is the pride of the school! Maybe it is, bro, but, when we're in the classroom and she starts up with her folk songs, with Dana on guitar, and that lot all crack up laughing, clapping along, because she was giving it really fancy trills and tremolos; those idiots had nicknamed her "Cleopatra Melidoneanu." I tried to refrain; when I felt I couldn't hold in my laughter any longer, I went out of the classroom, but she threatened me all day that, if I didn't pander to her every whim and buy her nuts and ice cream, she would "scream." I mean, being a soprano, she can reach I don't know how many octaves high and, when she screams, you'd better watch out: she breaks windows, she bursts eardrums, a calamity. Rubbish; she doesn't even compare to Gillan on "Child in Time," but, anyway, I pretended to go pale and to fulfil all her wishes... I kept thinking about what the hell to write, but it all seemed so embarrassing; you can't just divide a person up like that, half and half, into qualities and defects, and so I turned the page, to see if there was anything under defects. Of course, there was, but she had written "defects" with small letters and in brackets: "Mind what you write, you idiots!" I looked further down, to see what came next, but then it started with the favourites: favourite "actor," and then "actress," and so on – colour, flower, animal, teacher, cigarettes, car – this one for the boys, of course: Ferrari, Masserati, Lamborghini! – jeans, perfume, deodorant, and all the rest. The favourite actors were, of course, Alain Delon, Giuliano Gemma, Robert Redford, and I thought of writing "Colea Rautu," but I turned the page quickly, to see what came next, because I was starting to feel sleepy, I was yawning enough to swallow the earth and then I arrived at... "17. Parents' occupation?" The Secretary puts down "Co-operative peasants," even though his dad was a bigwig in the Party; that's why he always got straight A's, and I say, thanks, so I write "Servants," but then my bulb lights up: CHIRU WAS IN THE SECRET POLICE, BRO! I mean, Cipri's dad; I knew what was what, but it was only then that the penny dropped about what Daniel had meant when he had had a go at me for bringing Cipri round to listen to all Cantzone's big talk. I'd taken it as meaning that I was in with a bunch of little kids, but that wasn't what it was all about at all! That grasser Cipri used to repeat everything at home and the question is: whether that Chiru from the secret police had picked up on the whole story about the rape…? Because that ox Batalu hadn't followed up on that phone call of his to the Militia, but even so they'd hauled off Cantzone, and Chiru, apart from being in the secret police, was also a big wheel in the tenants' committee. It's clear, that's what I say: Daniel was right! I closed the end-of-year book, so that I could think better, but straight away I jumped up as though scalded: THE HELL HE WAS RIGHT; DANNY AND BEING RIGHT! Chiru was in the secret police, but he was just a lowly copper, a sergeant major or I don't know what, while Danny's father was what...? He was a great big colonel in the Securitate, bro, because what I'd like to know is: where did Danny get hold of those Akai speakers? See what I mean...? Bodi twigged that Danny was reporting to his dad everything about Cantzone; Danny also twigged that Bodi had twigged; that's why he went as red as a lobster then, but the damned grasser put the blame on me, for bringing Cipri, so that he could get off scot-free. And I get the impression that that was what all that business with "my lot" was about, what Bones had said at the Parachute when he threatened to stab me, because Danny had been spreading lies about Bones; why was he sucking up to Cantzone so much…? And Bones, when he said that about "my lot," why didn't he look at Danny too; I mean, wasn't Danny one of "my lot"…? That's the way it is, bro: if he managed to tell Cantzone that business about Chiru, then it would be really bad; not "don't let me catch you in the Parachute again," but I would have to vanish completely, to get my face changed by plastic surgery! The geezer had only just got of prison, he was hopping mad, but… hmmm! – it was a bit weird; I mean, you got just two months for rape…? Or, you never know, maybe it had been one of those things, what the hell do you call it, when Ceausescu pardons all the crooks and lets them out of prison early… I don't know, bro; the more I thought about it the more it seemed like something stupid; he tells someone else and the other one tells the bugger knows who, you'd have thought it was wireless telephony, but I kept turning it over and over in my mind, and I went through each scene in turn, I tossed and turned in bed until one in the morning, and that's why I had the nightmare… Anyway, we live and learn, but do you know what really peeves me...? That bit with the Maiak and with the tea, bro, because in the dream I was coming back with Hari from a tea party, but there was no bit with any tea party, not a single familiar face, so that I could say "Aha! So it was at what's-his-face's"; but I was coming back up Tzacalie and apparently it had been cool: I'd danced until I could feel the sweat chilling my back, and it was as though I had the taste of whiskey in my mouth. But the last time I drank whiskey was on Bodi's birthday, which is to say in May, after my birthday, but the thing is that at Bodi's I wasn't with Hari and I didn't even have the Maiak at the time. Bodi had a Maiak, but Bodi lives on the floor below me, on the second floor; how the hell could I have been "coming back" from his house if I was outside, up on Tzacalie!? Because in that case I could have made a sortie out to Balta Alba, thank you very much! But seriously, to come back at night, up Tzacalie, I would have to have been visiting someone at the bottom of the hill, round where my granny lives, but the only people I know who live round there are my former mates from School 150, who I haven't talked to since way back in the first form! Here, at School 36, the last tea party I'd been to with Hari had been Ina's birthday party, two weeks ago, but Ina lives on Salt Road, so I came back along Panduri Street, and I didn't see Hari home because her mother came to pick her up in the car. What's more, between ourselves, that had been anything but a "tea" party. I presented myself at the door at seven o'clock, with the book in question and with a bunch of carnations – "Good evening, madam," I don't know what else – after that we all sat down on some chairs, in a circle, with saucers in our hands and her parents in attendance, it was as though we were in nursery school; and at around half past ten, after a piece of cake and a glass of champagne, hooray and off we went! I escorted Hari on my birthday, on 13 April, but only as far as Ina's; she took a taxi from there, because she lives at the back of beyond and I would have missed my 88 on the way back. And the girl quite annoyed me, bro; some of the things she did…! I'd gone out of my way to get hold of some Akai gear, from a work-mate of my mother, that Geli, who had been to Sweden; I had my old cassettes, from back when I used to have the Philips, and so I say to myself why don't I throw a party, because you only have a fifteenth birthday once in your life. I pasted on the door of my room a great big notice with NO ENTRY! for my parents; I called Hari over, I called Ina and Dana, because without them it was out of the question, but I didn't invite a single lad from my class; the only one I invited was Mimi and I told him: Laddy, you take personal care of Ina and Dana! Charm them, dance with them, it's your business what you do, because I'll be looking after Hari! So, everything was arranged down to the very last detail and I had taken a shower beforehand, I'd put on aftershave, I was all dressed up, but of course the whole thing turned out a shambles. The lasses showed up at around half past seven and then I don't know what, presentations, sandwiches, other stuff; Mimi began to charm them and I was looking after the gear, putting on cool stuff to dance to, but that cow Dana started telling jokes and, at half eight, even though Ina didn't want to, she wanted to watch her serial on the television. Can you believe it, bro, HER SERIAL! – as if she couldn't have watched the repeat at home. After the serial, me and Mimi: "Come on then, girls, let's dance!" But just as I was putting on the cassette from Bodi – bang! – a power cut. What the hell, says I…!? In the flats over the road, Block C, they had electricity, and when I look out of the window at the flat below, at Cornel's, I see that he has electricity too, thank you very much. I take Mimi and go out onto the landing, to have a look, maybe it was the fuse box or something, but when I open the door – there was Bodi, with a bottle of champagne in one hand and the fuse in the other. "What's all this, Tinutz; you should be ashamed of yourself! Throwing a party and you don't invite your mate Bodi?" I was gobsmacked, as you can imagine, because I would have invited him, but how the hell was I to know that he wanted to come, and Mimi told me afterwards that that was how he went about things: on Saturday evening, if he wasn't doing anything else, he would wander from block to block and wherever he heard loud music – ding-dong, at the door! Anyway, I invite him inside and make the introductions, the lasses started to nudge each other and the atmosphere livened up a bit; I moved the rug to one side and we started to dance, but after a bout of jiving, when I go to turn the lights down low so that we can undress to our shirts, that cow Dana wants to eat potato salad, and so Hari goes "Hooray!" she'll sing us something as we're stuffing our faces. I felt like I was going to blow my top, bro, but what the hell could I do: I couldn't clap my hand over her mouth and say "Don't sing!" I thought she'd sing one or two songs and that would be it, but she put on an entire performance: after the first song, we all clapped, after the second, Mimi offered her a glass of water, in jest, but during the third my mum and dad came in, because they didn't know what was going on, and then everything was completely ruined. Bodi was a scream, bro: he was pretending to gaze at Hari in rapture, but all the while he was gobbling salad like a madman, after which he cadged a slice of cake, he wolfed that down too, and then he says "It's late, kids! I'm off home!" Univers, 2000; Aula, 2003 Ovidiu VERDEŞ's novel, often compared to Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, was the target of a ridiculous witch-hunt on a TV channel: "What scandalized the most was the audacity to introduce into the official canon, embodied by the schoolbook, a quasi-unknown author who dealt with teenage issues from the perspective, and in the slang, of an adolescent of the 1970s-80s: the sometimes cynical, sometimes sentimental or self-ironic narrator with a passion for music and preoccupied with girls, who experiments, in various doses, all the 'forbidden fruits', in a conventional society enclosed in itself." (Carmen MUŞAT in Observator cultural, 13-19 June 2000).

by Ovidiu Verdeş