Echinacea mustard

by Silviu Dachin
translation from Romanian by Camelia-Aura Barbu [MTTLC student]
click aici pentru versiunea română


We all experience big or small things in ordinary days. You cannot schedule your way out of the ordinary. Uncommon days are presents and it must be weird to give yourself presents.

I saw him right from the cemetery’s entrance. It’s probably the detail that writes itself most easily on my list of wonders. “What can an 80 years old man do in a cemetery? Alive at that…” He was paying attention to every move, every normal gesture preoccupied him, interested him, and he smiled, ready to burst into laughter at every word the passers-by said. I sat on a bench and started following him with my eyes. He was my man for that day. Maybe he was the philosopher, the man who had swallowed during his life all those huge things that made me nauseous and gave me a headache through the too little wisdom stretched for nothing on scribbled pages. Maybe he was the poet that had disappeared from the public life because of some conspiracy and now it was time to do justice for him! He obviously lives in that shattered house, with thousands of valuable books, carelessly thrown on the floor, with that old, grumpy cat that I am honestly going to like for his sake. And then the future! The man will take back the position he deserves, and I will disappear somewhere in the crowd, happy that he’s happy… Now all I have to do is make him like me, to get into his mind and rummage through it, to take the essence without too much work. After all, I belong to my generation: “big profit, without wasting time or a lot of sweat!”. Come on! It seems I haven’t gotten so drunk on a story for a long time now!

The old man had sat next to me. I knew he was studying me with that blue and amazed look which can equally amuse and annoy one.

“What could a young man like yourself be looking for here?”

“I don’t know. Boredom?

“Yes, it’s difficult going through autumn without boredom. I thought you came for the funeral as well.”

‘It must’ve been an important funeral’, I think.

“The professor is gone too”, he resumed. And he wasn’t that old. People like him should live at least a hundred years. But now look, he’s dead and I live.

“It can’t be too bad that you live”, I was suddenly in the mood to say that aloud.

“I’ve known him ever since he was a child. I can tell you all of his rogueries. I haven’t forgotten even one. I remember when he finished college and he took me out for a beer. Now he was already a man. I rarely got out of the house, but how could I refuse him? We went together at a coffeehouse that had just opened somewhere downtown. The joy caused by the graduation was amplified by the joy of the entire time we were to spend together. But the fact was that the waiter did not fit in the scene. He stood there, touching the table with his green pants and without saying anything, he waited for the order. The sharp pencil was resting its artful tip on the sheet of paper. All of this made us burst into a laughter that wasn’t going to end too well. “A big glass of water, please”, I start. “Blue, if it’s possible”, said the professor. “Two straws… Are two enough?” “We’d better take a pack! It can’t be too expensive”, he said. “How much does a straw cost?” Contrary to our expectations, our man kept writing on the blindingly white paper, without taking seriously my young friend’s question. ”Anything else?” “A ginger bar”, I continued the game. “And we absolutely need mustard!”, said the professor amused. “Echinacea mustard…”, I added. “Do you want some powder milk as well? They must have the expensive brand, like the one that the baby of the neighbour who lives on first floor has.” “Oh, yeah, the one that sticks out its tongue when he sees sparrows! How cute…” “Can I bring you anything else?”, the waiter went on, without any expression on his face. “No, I think that’s enough. Can we make reservations here?” Without answering the question, the guy disappeared behind a green curtain. We laughed for a while, curious what was going to happen next. After about five minutes, a lady, wearing the same “impeccable” attire, comes with two unopened beers, an orange cut into four parts and two toothpicks. She carefully put them in the centre of the table, and then she laid two napkins in front of us. Without a word she turned around and left. We resumed laughing, but all of a sudden the professor stopped, saying: “Wait! There’s something written on you napkin!” “Wow!”, I cry. If you put them next to each other, you could read this:


“Will you get out by yourselves, or will I have to do it?”

Ha, ha, ha!

“If you are still here though, pay attention:


to the coffee house ‘Our mother, the Craziness”

Ha, ha, ha!”


“You’re wondering if we looked for the manager of the coffeehouse. No, it had all become too sinister… We left everything on the table and disappeared. We never went back there.”


Maybe I should have laughed at the story. What the old man’s face expressed made me stop. He went on quietly, almost whispering:


“The professor is gone too… He was still young.”


On the cemetery’s alley, a sleazily dressed man appeared. ‘One of those who dig in the cemetery’, I thought to myself. He stopped in front of us, and after he greeted me he talked to the old man:


“They buried her too! Let’s go to the canteen, to Riţa. That’s where Valentina organized the funeral launcheon. She’ll give us something to take home, because if it wasn’t for us, she would have been alone at her mother‘s funeral. Let’s go!


The old man got up heavily and went towards the cemetery’s gate. After a few steps, as if he remembered me, he turned back smiling:


“You see, this is life! You might bury anyone, anytime. But you must have someone to tell the life of the deceased! Poor professor..“, he added smiling.


Echinacea mustard

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