by Bogdan Munteanu

Translation from Romanian by Dorothy McCarthy and Raisa Lambru, MTTLC student

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You might think that Marişca is an irresistible woman. That she’s damn pretty, that she’s got naturally curly hair, either blonde or dark, depends which you like, that she’s joyful, that she’s got something attractive about her. That she’s smart too. That she found an incomparable husband, a handsome man, strong, whom she loves with all her heart, whom she has a child with, who’s also pretty, whom they both shower with love. That Marişca is happy with her wonderful family. All this being said, we conclude that our Marişca is the ideal woman, having found her happily ever after. So the bridge was mended and my story’s ended.[1] God, help!


Well, she’s not a pretty woman, Marişca. She isn’t young any more, either. “Your time’s long gone, you damned woman, stop lusting after these kids, haven’t you done enough? Damn you to hell and back!”, that’s what people say to Marişca. The woman ignores them, she looks at us, the boys, and laughs. Teeth full of cavities can be seen inside Marişca’s mouth, there’s the huge gap between her front teeth, there’s the brown fang, like a rotten tree, there’s the strangely placed tooth too, like it’s coming from the roof of her mouth.


She’s not a pretty woman, Marişca, but she’s so agile, she springs out like an eel and tries to pinch us, to touch us, “Damn, so handsome!”, that’s what Marişca tells us. We, the boys, are scared of Marişca, of her bony, translucent hands, of her sneer, of her thin, bluish lips, of her dishevelled hair, of the dirty apron she wears every day, but we’re so naughty and spiteful, running around her, annoying her. As agile as she is, Marişca never manages to catch us, we scatter like partridges, left and right, since we’re young and quick, us boys.


She’s not a pretty woman, Marişca. Marişca stands at her gate, in front of her house, eating seeds and spitting husks on the ground and watching people. What’s going through her mind, she’s the only one who knows, because Marişca doesn’t speak much. She only watches, laughs, spits husks and waits for us, the boys.


She’s not a pretty woman, Marişca, because people don’t speak well of her. They curse her, call her all kinds of names, crone, hag, shrew, that’s what they call her, and the most furious ones spit at her and shove her. They all know her story, apparently the ugly damned woman’s only ever had eyes for the young ones. They all know how some years ago she lured one of the stupider guys, Ioji, inside her house. A few years older than us, Ioji the idiot barely had a trace of moustache on his face. For a whole week, Ioji refused to confess anything, but then his father beat him up and didn’t feed him any more till he fainted, that’s how the story goes. He kept slapping him with his belt, and Ioji had no choice in the end. He confessed everything, otherwise he was going to die. He said how he was walking down the street carelessly, wanting to go home, it was almost dark. How Marişca was leaning against her gate, eating seeds, how she stopped him and bluntly asked if he had ever seen “any of that”, he didn’t quite get what she meant with “that”, he got scared though, the woman was looking at him so strangely, he wanted to run off, it was too late, Marişca caught his hand and put it on, on . . . Ioji stopped here, he didn’t want to go on talking, he started crying, the old man beat him to a bloody pulp again, “Flesh of my flesh, so I can kill you”, he’d say. Actually, the story went on like this. What else could he have done? Poor Ioji resumed his story, on her tits, on her tits, since he couldn’t say it in a nicer way. She pulled him inside her house, because apparently he struggled, he tried to free himself, but who would believe him? “You gave in for a pair of tits, damn bastard, you thought you’d never ever get your hands on another pair. You’ve shamed me, idiot! And they weren’t even worth it!” His dad didn’t believe him, but neither did he slap him with his belt any more. He listened patiently, his head dropping into his palms, taking in shame after shame, his son threw shame at him with each and every word, as Ioji felt braver now that he saw his old man had calmed down, and the idiot told him in detail everything he had gone through. The man listened to it all, what could he have done, kill his own son? His mind was elsewhere, he was already planning how to hide from the gossipers. But when he heard how Marişca pulled the boy’s pants off, he couldn’t handle the humiliation any more. He bellowed like a bison, and the belt fell from his hands and he started crying. Like a child. He stumbled out of the house, went down to the basement and started drinking, he drank till he blacked out, they carried him out of the basement more dead than alive. His hair had gone unusually gray, he couldn’t even remember his own name, he only kept his hands tightly fisted and said: “She pulled his pants off, she pulled his pants off.” The man didn’t live long afterwards, not with this craziness, they buried him after less than a month, without them even knowing what had happened to him. They kept trying to make Ioji talk, first nicely, then with “Stop making your dad roll in his grave”, even a priest tried to scold him, but all in vain, the boy would shrug, he had already seen how his words had brought death once already. He left one night, shortly after his old man’s death, for another town or another country, nobody knew where, they suspected somewhere far away, because they couldn’t find him any more. That’s how the story goes.


She wasn’t a pretty woman, Marişca, because people didn’t speak well of her. This story, Marişca’s, which I’ve grown up with ever since I was still peeing my pants, and which I’m now telling to you all, after almost thirty years, was written by this guy who claimed he was a great writer, kept travelling in search of thrilling stories. He was round our street for a few days too—who knew how he’d ended up here with us?—he spoke with a few people, he noticed some stuff, and that’s what he thought was best, to write bad things about Marişca. Considering everything, Marişca really was ugly and kind of crazy too, how could you write differently about her?


The fact is that they all believed his story when, later, one guy brought us his book and showed us what was written in it. We believed it, what else could we have done, since he claimed he was a great writer, and three-quarters of us were idiots, if the other man was a writer and had published a book, then he was the best, why not believe him?


They went after Marişca at once to lynch her, but why am I saying they? We went, because I was there too, amongst them, a ten year old. My dad dragged me, “Come on, boy, let’s kill the witch”, he told me, and in his eyes there was a glint of hatred, and I think I had that glint in mine, too, because I was the dead spit of my dad. All united to raise hell, we broke her windows with stones, boo, we kicked down her door, boo, boo, we made a huge ruckus, she swore it wasn’t true, the wretch, and indifferent as she was towards others, she was scared to death, this wasn’t a joke, because we were all nuts and with that glint in our eyes, we threw her to the ground as if she were a rag and started kicking her and spitting at her and cursing her and I was so proud of myself when I kicked her in the ass and I heard her groan and my dad saying, “Just like that, boy, good job.”


Fortunately for the woman, somebody smarter interfered and started shouting at us: “Cut your cackle, you maniacs, why are you acting like animals, it’s not like that, Ioji didn’t leave like the story says, haven’t you seen him every day since then? What the hell! If that guy, the writer, says something, or the pope, or the mayor, you believe everything immediately, bloody hell! You fools and blockheads, I don’t even know what to call you any more, damn it!” That’s what this guy, the wise one, told us, and we looked back and forth between him and Marişca, we mumbled for a while and then we all left, disappointed that we hadn’t done the bitch in, since the smart one was right, Ioji hadn’t left anywhere after his old man’s death and we, the brawlers, hadn’t taken that into consideration.


Although we didn’t do Marişca in, the legend survived, and seeing as I managed to remember it, I told it to you all as well. But why am I even telling you this, no idea, since you’ve obviously realised it, better tell you how things are at present.



Ioji’s 44 years old. He’s as tough as a nail, he found a pretty stupid woman, just like him, married her, they had two kids, a boy and a girl. Both also stupid. I once asked him: “Ioji, in the end, did it happen or didn’t it?” He shrugged, mumbled something that sounded like a curse and turned away. Oh, and he still hasn’t left these lands.


The wise man’s 56 years old. He became a famous psychotherapist. He left for the States, where he’s still living now. That’s all I know about him.


The writer’s also 56 years old. He still writes, I bought his books like the loyal reader I am, eleven books. Honestly, they’re not worth the money. He writes all kinds of idiocies.


Marişca should’ve been 72 years old. She died at 70 in a home for the elderly, in the States. I think she hated it there, they all acted nice to her, no one swore at her, she had no one to look at, she only had happy old men around her, and Marişca definitely didn’t understand a word they said in their American language. What could she possibly have liked there? Apparently she asked for some seeds to break their husks between her teeth. And because they didn’t get what she wanted, they didn’t give her anything. That topped it all, because Marişca went to bed and died.


As for me, what can I say, I’m fine, in good health, you can take my word for it, who believes me, good, who doesn’t, I’m fine with that too.


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