In the forty-fifth year of his life, Mr. Matache Pisălog noticed he could no longer button up the last three buttons of his brand-new waistcoat he had had made barely three years before. He also noticed then that his belly had started following the fashion of balloons - but a hardly dirigible balloon, for the damned paunch weighed heavily upon the rudder of two short legs, with the hinges of his joints weakened by rheumatism, although those legs had been under repair at the mud baths of Tekirghiol for three years running. Thick and stumpy, Uncle Matache now looked like a miniature portrait of... Terra, because, much alike to our planet, the man seemed flattened at the poles and swollen at the equator. Reaching these sad conclusions and in his innermost recesses of his heart drawing a comparison to the glorious times of his youth, when he was perfectly capable to carouse for two days and two nights in succession while on the third day he only experienced the dissatisfaction at the drinking bout having finished so soon, comparing those magnificent times with the decadence of the present-day, when he could hardly quart digest four dishes and take in a liter of wine and a soda bottle at lunch - uncle Matache sighed with heart-rending melancholy and adopted an heroic decision: he must see a doctor.When he imparted his decision to his consort, Aunt Frosa, the latter jumped up as if stung:"See a doctor? You of all people? Now really Matache, you must have lost your wits!""There's nothing doing, sister, nothing doing, the machine is badly out of order!" groaned poor Mr Pisălog. The truth is that Uncle Matache Pisălog had never gone to the doctor before. Moreover, he was instinct with majestic scorn for the medical profession: "Nonsense." "A bunch of quacks" - such epithets made up his deep convictions about the science of healing. Uncle Matache's general practitioner was himself one of them. Whenever he caught a cold, he had Aunt Frosa rub him over with spiced vinegar or drank a whole bottle of mulled red wine, with pepper, sugar and cinnamon. Whenever his stomach was upset, he cured himself with a few thimblefuls of brandy. When he had a headache or a heavy stomach, a mug of sour cabbage juice finished it at once. And so on and so forth. This time however, Uncle Matache's special therapy would no longer do. He had to see a doctor. Aunt Frosa who was waiting for him at the gate, with the throbbing heart of a fiancée expecting a soldier to return from the war, was thunderstruck when Uncle Matache let her know the physician's verdict:"D'you know what the doctor said, Frosa?""That you haven't got a thing!" "On the contrary, he says that I'm predisposed to the gout." "And, if you're well-disposed, does that mean you're ill? And what's that the gout? Thank God, I know my Romanian as well as anybody else but I haven't ever heard this word in anybody's mouth!" "Now, Frosa, don't take it too lightly, for it's something serious." "Now, shut up, Matache, don't be childish, for that cranky physician must have served you a specimen of his gibberish just to make you dizzy and to get his five lei from you!" "No, my dear Frosa, for he was talking to no fool: I had him give his word of honor that I was ill.""And did he give it?" "He did." "May the Lord never forgive him for a charlatan!… And what did he tell you to do, Matache?""Just imagine, Frosa my chickabiddy, that he puts me off meat, saying that otherwise I'll turn up my toes to the stars within the year.""Bravissimo! So, as he puts it, if you no longer eat a thing, you get rid of that disposition as the gas-bag called it and you'll die of starvation instead!" "Oh, no, Frosa, for he put me off meat, but not off any food: he prescribed a vegetarian diet for me.""What does that mean?""It means I'll have to feed only on vegetables, greens, weeds and never put a drop of alcohol in my mouth again." "And did you take the windbag seriously?" "Well, Frosa, since I'm an ill man...""What else did he say?" "He mocked me a little. Jokingly - for we are good friends he said: 'Hey, Uncle Matache, so far you've eaten and drunk like a hog, but from now on you'll have to eat like an ox if you care to be healed - that is to feed on grass alone...""And didn't you box his ears?" "No, I paid his fees." "Oh, God, Matache, but you seem to have gone silly because of this idea of your illness! Are you going to obey that doctor?" "Yes, sister, I've got no choice: a vegetarian diet. It'll be rather bad times for me, but I've got no choice. I'll begin my diet today. Oh, by the way, will you cook a good meatball soup for tomorrow, the wonderful one you're an expert at...""What about the physician?""Well, that's precisely it, for soups are part of the vegetarian diet.""Not all of them, Matache!""You are stupid indeed! Isn't cabbage a vegetal? So isn't sauerkraut juice vegetal? Isn't pepper vegetal? So the soup-""I don't think the doctor would agree.""Well, if this is forbidden food, how can he learn I've eaten it?"And so it happened every day after the appointment with the doctor. Uncle Matache makes a point of regularly cheating that windbag charlatan. He eats and drinks as he used to do. As for drinking, he seems to drink even harder, for he sometimes has a good laugh with Aunt Frosa: "Today I've had seven glasses of plum brandy and two bottles of wine with soda and look at me! I haven't kicked the bucket yet! Frosa darling, the vegetarian diet suits me wonderfully!" "Well, Matache, but this is no vegetarianism, it is alcoholism!" "Stop that nonsense, my soul! What's tzuica made of?" "Plums.""And wine?""Grapes." "You see? Let that quack and windbag tell me that plums and grapes are not vegetal!... He can hardly have the cheek to tell me they're animals or metals!"

by George Ranetti (1875-1928)