The Red Scarf

excerpt  "Is that what it says?" dashed Redhead at Tindei, grabbing him by the jacket's lapels. "Does it say I've been to the vineyard?" "No... not that... you were just... mentioned as a... as an example!" Tindei answered frightened, almost chocking and with his mouth wide open. Redhead released him and crouched back next to the other two. "Well, if it's just like that... as an example, I mean, then it's OK." Tufanica, the tiny boy, pulled Redhead gently by his sleeve. "Does that mean you're a ruffian, mister?" Redhead looked sideways at the boys staring silently at him and, noticing their questioning looks, said to the boy: "Shut up, brat, are you speaking up front again?"The boys looked at him contemptuously."Why are you picking on him, Redhead?" asked one from the gang."I'm going to tell on you when my father gets home," Tufanica started whining again. "Shut up!" Redhead yelled at him, grabbing him by the collar and getting ready to throw him out in the rain. He saw the dark looks on the boys' faces, changed his mind and pulled Tufanica down, to sit next to him. The little man fell down. Redhead raised the hat from his eyes, slapped him friendly on the shoulder and added:"Tufanica, I promote you to become corporal!""Really, mister?" the kid asked, his eyes suddenly illuminated with tremendous joy. "Are you really making me a corporal?""Yes, I am!" confirmed Redhead once again. "Shhh!" said Tindei. "Ghinea is speaking."The boys jumped up and crowded at the windows. The next day, when Ionutz arrived at school, the entire class was very agitated. Groups of boys and girls from the fourth grade were talking ardently and shook their heads, passed from one group to another, scattered only to gather round again, in a new group of new people, just like the pieces of glass in a kaleidoscope. At first, Ionutz didn't understand what all the fuss was about, until Petrean Mihai, the president of the pioneer team, a short boy with round cheeks came up to him, flashing the team's newspaper under his nose."You're here just in time, Ionutz! There are important events on the agenda...""What happened?!" asked Ionutz, his heart up to his throat. Petrean gazed at him:"Something about the scarf... what, you don't know?""With... with the scarf?" stuttered Ionutz, feeling the concrete floor turning into a carpet of jelly and running under his feet... "I have the scarf. There it is!""I can see that without the telescope, even if I am in the astronautics study group," tried Petrean to joke, but he soon raised his voice and frowned: "To tell you the truth, I wouldn't have thought Ghinea capable of such a thing...""But what did Ghinea do?""He went to steal grapes from the vineyard belonging to the Agricultural Production Cooperative. And he lost his scarf there. Uncle Zaharia brought it back to school... you can imagine the shame on our pioneer team."Ionutz thought the whole school was tumbling down with a deafening noise into an endless pit. "What's wrong, Ionutz?" Petrean's scared voice brought him back to earth. "Look at you; you're pale as a ghost.""I'm alright. It's nothing," said Ionutz."I understand," added the other one, slapping him on the shoulder. "We were supposed to visit the Pioneers' Palace in Bucharest... How are we to show ourselves to the world after such a deed? Goodbye, Bucharest! Our reputation is ruined, as comrade commander said!""When are we going to discuss Ghinea's deed?" asked one of the pioneers passing by. "Today, after school," Petreanu answered. Ionutz entered the classroom. Ghinea was sitting at the third desk, by the window; he was a pale little boy, with soft, curly hair and small, black eyes looking like two scared little bugs. He sat alone and sad at his desk, wearing a white shirt unbuttoned at the collar. His scarf was missing. When Ionutz came near him, he felt the blood rushing to his face and pumping at his temples. Ionutz sat down at his place, behind Ghinea. He wiped his hand wet with rain on his pants, took out his notebooks from his satchel and then put it in the desk. Ghinea turned to him and grabbed his arm with a shivering hand:"I'm innocent, Ionutz, it wasn't me that went to the vineyard. Somebody stole my scarf. The boys won't believe me. Now you tell me... isn't it right that you..."Ionutz startled and, pulling his arm out of Ghinea's grip, shouted in an unusually sharp voice:"Me? Me what? Why do you put me into this? Leave me alone!... leave me alone, do you hear me?""You don't believe me either!" Ghinea said in a feeble voice. "Not even you..."The boys in the classroom turned their heads to look at them in surprise. The assembly of the pioneer team was in full swing. Ionutz had the impression it was never going to end. Ghinea sat motionless at the desk in front of him. From time to time, you could hear the screech of a fountain pen, the silky rustle of a notebook page as it was turned over, the long, dry crack of a desk, while the high-pitched voice of a short, plump pioneer, Cornel Pascu, sounded from the back of the classroom:"Why is Ghinea lying to us about not going to the cooperative vineyard? After ganging up with Redhead and doing a bad deed, thus staining his honour and esteem as a pioneer, he doesn't even have the courage to admit his fault...""But it wasn't me," groaned Ghinea, standing up halfway from the desk, his lips twisted by mute pain. "It wasn't me... why don't you listen to me?"Ionutz felt his heart beating faster in his chest, like a scared bird in a cage."Then where is your scarf?" bellowed Veta Mitan at him. "Let Ghinea tell us what he did with the scarf!" she said, turning her head towards comrade Ileana, the commander in charge of the pioneer team. Tineretului, 1968

by Petre Luscalov (b. 1927)