By Mihãiþã Mihai-Loviºte


The cocks crow for the third time, heralding another late summer morning. Chasing the cold darkness and the evil spirits of the night, dawn pours gently over the drowsy village. Some last shades, still lingering by the valley Strambu’s forest skirts, fade away with the first sun beams.

Conned by a tricky auburn vixen, which had tried its luck at the hens’ coop, a large shepherd dog barks furiously in a yard from Doscioare. With a hoarse, sleepy growl, a mate from Vintila Balteanu’s yard in the Main Lane answers peevishly. Not to remain behind, the long-teethed fellows from Tarse start howling their                             just-seen-the-wolf-like chorus, arousing the dogs from Bumbuia too. The hubbub spreads like a mist over the whole village of Boisoara, while the highlanders go out of their homes hastily, getting ready for a new day’s work.

Near the old church, which is now, due to the passing of time, covered with rotten clapbord, raises a high-porch, large-roomed house. A small garden with all sorts of flowers and some lilac bushes separates the house from the front gate.

Neatly dressed, the mistress of the house appears on the threshold. She wears a short-sleeved, light-coloured blouse and a brown skirt, the highland women’s  usual Sunday suit. In her feet she has a pair of tatty blue shoes, which she carefully wipes with a wet piece of cloth. She then unties the embroidered knapsack, where, near a crust of bread, she had put some money. Counting it cautiously one more time, she puts it back. Reaching the deserted road, she makes the sign of the cross three times, mumbling a short prayer. After a moment’s thought, she heads towards Tica Nasture’s house, where the dusty road starts climbing the hunched back of the hill on which the Village Stables are perched.  

Hitting them with a thick, knotty club, Ion Bacanu ‘sets’ the bulls in order. He swears like a trooper when one of the animals doesn’t obey.

“Good day, bade[1] Ion!” greets the peasant. “Aren’t you afraid of spending so much time between these sharp-horned ogres?”

“Bless your heart, woman!” answers the village cowherd, hitting a bull, which looked on the point of making a stand against the man.

Under the weight of the blow, the animal becomes obedient, humbly entering the stable. Ion Bacanu breaths at ease, leaning against the fence and looking attentively at the woman that has just greeted him.

“But where are you going, Teodora, like an early birdie in the morning, or have you finished all the work home and are in the mood of takin’ a nice pleasure trip to town? See you’re dressed up and all, as for Sunday,” the man says ironically, without bothering to answer the woman’s question.

“Well, I felt like going! … I’ve had anyway too much work just for one summer,” the woman replies sharply.

“Feel like going? … Then go, Teodora, it’s not as if you paid to go,” the peasant smirks.

“May God give you such a kind of trip,” the highland woman says fiercely. I have a trialt[2] at Ramnic. It’s two years since I’ve started this trialt with Gogu lu’Culita al Nicului. It’s for the land that I inherited from my mother in Mesteceni. When the co-operative was broken, he took our place. He says it’s his, may God put it on his eyes, ‘cause I’ve still got so much hay ungathered under Fata Plaiului and I’m scared it might rain soon. Then all of it’ll be ruined and all my work’ll have been in vain,” adds the woman, leaving Bacanu and his bulls behind.

All in a hurry she climbs the well-worn uphill country road to Bumbuia. She stops on top of the hill to get her breath again and, with the back of her hand, wipes the sweat off her forehead. Then she looks pensively at the place she was born in. From these heights a breath of wind caresses her cheeks, cooling them down. Silence is broken now and then by the soft sound of some sheep bell coming from the other side of the village. As much as the eye can reach towards the west, the horizon is closed by the Lovistea Mountains, proudly raising their grey peaks over the wooden hills with soft backs and green pastures. A soothing sun pampers itself, throwing a whirling extravagance of mesmerizing colours and shades over Boisoara. In the sea-like forests of an uncertain yellow, frail flames burst in unbelievable contrasts. Tearing the deep clarity of a fiery sky, alighted with unreal ruby-red blazes, a gloomy cloud struggles helplessly under the gentle blow of some warm winds. Their transient, but somehow unearthly interweaving seems to breathe the immortal spirit of the other world.

For a while the woman lets her bewildered eyes contemplate the scenery. Ever since she was just a little girl, knee-high to a grasshoper, she has wandered through these places again and again. But everything seems so different from above and she feels overwhelmed by God’s power. Untying the knapsack, she tears a crunch of bread, chewing it slowly before swallowing. Though she has seen the spring coming in the valley already sixty times, her being is still pure and her face still keeps the traces of a gone beauty. The light and straight way of walking betrays a kind of youth and her auburn hair hasn’t changed its colour yet.

Teodora casts a final glance at Boisoara in farewell. Then she descends the Mlaca Hill towards the War Heroes Cemetery. From here she follows the car road to Titesti, a large and wealthy village, from where she takes a shortcut path through the empty field towards Bratovesti and Clocotici. Soon she reaches again the car road that loses itself through Copaceni towards Racovita. These settlements stitched to the valley’s thread look more like hamlets, let alone highlanders’ villages. Stunted houses with broken fences hide   down-at-heel people in them. They don’t resemble the men from Boisoara, the undisputed masters of the mountains. The valley gets larger near Racovita, turning into a somehow more pleasant and easy to pass meadow. Ever since the beginning of this world the place has suffered continuous changes, due to the presence of the Olt River, lizard with silver scales.

Arriving at the narrow path, the highland woman folds the knapsack round her arm, getting on the bridge that hangs over the foamy stream, which violently strikes the cliffs, eaten by the wild beast’s unseen fangs. There is nothing else in this world that frightens here more than this suspended bridge over the endless water. Gathering all her courage, she takes a firm grasp of the two         steel-hearted side cables. Slowly and hardly she puts one step in front of the other on the thick oak planks, which tremble ceaselessly and swing in all directions. The woman stops often her difficult task and looks terrified at the impetuous flow of waters before her feet. Roaring from one vortex to the other, the river foams and angrily sends blow after blow to the impassive big rocks. Then the rocky throat, dug by the fury of the waters, widens in a large silky meadow. Free from the grip, the exhausted river rests and pampers in when blue when green muddy waters. Teodora has almost reached the end of ‘The Devil’s bridge’, how the highlanders call it. Finally she gets to the other bank. Thanking God, she makes the sign of the cross, happy to have got out safe and sound from this hard trial. A bit dizzy, she sits on a patch of grass and, still scared, casts a glance at the restless stream that tosses and turns, winding angrily before the stone trap, in the hard battle from the narrow path. On the steep bank lies hung small and dull the Cornet train station.



The slow train enters noisily in the heat-tired Ramnic, grinding to a halt. The usual commuters and some occasional peasants descend on the platform from the empty train station and head hastily towards their business. Knapsack on her shoulder, Teodora proceeds on the avenue towards the County Court of Justice, clearly disturbed by the town’s hubbub, ear-splitting car horns and hurried passers-by that knock her from every direction, troubling her. Reaching the end of the avenue the peasant decides to cross the North-South Main Lane.

She fearfully climbs down the grey sidewalk. A car stops noisily very close, almost touching her, making the woman’s whole body perspire. The driver curses her heavily, but she seams not to hear. On the other side a white Oltcit[3] barely manages to stop. A new wave of shivers goes through her body. Totally confused she steps on the opposite side of the street, when a cab avoids her in the very last second. The taxi driver goes out of the car both nervously and threateningly.

“You idiot, didn’t you see it was red? Do you want to put me in jail? Stupid cow-butt peasant! Why the hell don’t you stay at home if you don’t know to cross a street, you ass!” yells the furious driver, shaking her by the arm.    

I didn’t see nothing, sir! Leave me alone! Don’t you see how bitter I am? I have a trialt with Gogu lu’Culita al Nicului. With all this sadness I didn’t see the colour at this… How do you call it, ‘cause I can’t remember…”

“Sure, you don’t remember now! But in the street how did you remembered to step?!” asks the man, now a bit cooled-down, almost ironically.

There isn’t these in my village, cause they frighten the cows. The dogs howl and spit the cats! But the oxen is good. You don’t know! They avoid the man! They can see him in the middle of the road. They avoid him! They don’t step over him,” adds the woman sardonically.

The taxi driver is speechless, staring foolishly at nothing and trying in vain to catch the meaning of her words. She is either damn crazy or she mocks at him. Behind, the row of cars starts honking. He spits disgusted towards the one that got him confused and gets hastily in the car, starting on the sticky asphalt. Teodora crosses the pavement, climbing stoutly the big stairs of the Court of Justice.



“All rise!” the bailiff announces solemnly, making the audience stand. The judge, a middle-aged harsh-looking woman, throws a cold glance at the people in the courtroom. Then, pulling quickly a chair, she sits. Two men, also dressed in robes, take a sit next to her. They look more like bodyguards than like the men of the law.

“Mihaila Teodora, place of residence Boisoara, versus Apostol Gogu and the Boisoara Local Commission for the Enforcement of Law 18/1991,” the bailiff announces the case and starts reading Teodora’s claim for the plot of land situated at the Mesteceni location in Boisoara.

Teodora sits in the first row, near her lawyer and, trustlessly, moves her eyes from the judge to Gogu lu’Culita al Nicului. Tired of so many hearings, she prays to God. Let God make justice. And get her out of this place once and for all.

The judge breaks both the silence and the woman’ s thoughts.

“The civil hearing no. 801/1995 of Valcea Court of Justice has decided that the Local Commission is to immediately put the claimant into the possession of the plot of land.”

“So help me God!” Teodora finds herself speaking. “May you live long, ma’am! May God give you health! You’ve done justice!”

“Shut up, woman! Who gave you permission to speak?” asks the judge severely.

 “Forgive me, I didn’t know it’s wrong… Forgive me!” adds the woman in a quiet and obedient voice.

“Your Honour,” lawyer Cordache, the defendant counsellor, bursts, “I ask for permission to talk.”

Signaled that permission is granted, he proceeds:

“Allow me to hand in a new piece of evidence: the no.2 certificate issued on the date of 20th September 1994 by the Local Council of Boisoara, which clearly states that the late Apostol Ion, the defendant’s father, had been registered in the O.C.O.T. books of 1950 with a 5500 square metres plot of arable land in the Mesteceni location.”

It’s fals! It’s fals, ma’am! He must have got it from Chioara. She’s the one who pulls the strings in our village,” the woman shouts out indignantly.

Staring fixedly at the peasant with a cold, mercilessly look, the judge admonishes her:

“Woman, listen once and for all! This is the last time I have warned you. If you don’t keep your mouth shut, I’ll fine you more than your pockets can bear. Moreover, I’ll have you thrown out of the courtroom.”

“Forgive me, ma’am! … I didn’t mean to… But you must know, it’s fals.

“Anything else, counsellor?” the judge asks.

“Your Honour, I consider that the previous putting into possession was a mistake as far as both parties are involved. I think it’s appropriate for this certificate, which entitles my client to become the owner of the plot of land, to be taken in consideration,” the counsellor makes his final remarks.

            “What is the claimant’s counsellor’s opinion?” the judge asks in a somehow bored voice.

            “We kindly ask for a thorough checking of the certificate’s authenticity. I have nothing else to add,” ends the other lawyer.

            The certificate is passed from one judge to another, who take their time to study it carefully, while the peasant is engaged in a vivid argument with Stanca, the lawyer she had paid to defend her.

                      After a short silence the judge announces with her usual coldness:

                      “The Court rules to render void the previous decision that was in favour of the claimant’s rights over the plot of land situated at the Mesteceni location. The claimant can put forward her appeal in 15 days after the receipt of the written decision of the court.”

                      Silence reigns again for a while. Teodora and her lawyer are the only ones left in the courtroom. The woman wipes her tears with the back of her hand.

                      “You’ve lied to me, Mr Stanca! You’ve told me this is the last hiaring. I’m tired of coming here again and again with no use at all. I’ve paid you as you’ve asked. In our places, in the mountains, money don’t grow in trees, as they do here. I’ve already wasted my two years’ savings.”

                      “Take it easy, woman, we will win the damn case in the end. But for the time being you must have patience. How was I supposed to know of that bloody certificate? They’ve taken me aback and I couldn’t do anything. But if it’s counterfeited, we’ll catch them     red-handed. Let’s be patient.”

                      “Be patient, you keep on telling me this for two years now. But how can I be patient, Mr Stanca, can’t you see that these ones are playing dirty just to steal my land? But God sees everything and will give everyone what they deserve, ‘cause he’s a good judge, not like here. And Gogu lu’ Culita al Nicului will get his punish for all his wrong deeds someday.”

                      Overwhelmed by too many sad thoughts and worries, Teodora slowly descends the stairs of the Country Court of Justice. She hasn’t eaten more than a crumb of bread all day, but she doesn’t feel the hunger. It’s past midday and the sun burns terribly on the overheated asphalt. Time itself seems to have stopped from it’s run. The woman gets near a soft drinks stall. Her mouth is dusty dry, so she asks the salesgirl if she happen to have a mug of water. But the girl smiles, all she’s got is juice, nothing else. The sun burns. This unbearable thirst! She opens her knapsack and counts her money. She had wanted to buy a loaf of bread, some tomatoes and a few cucumbers, but there is no money left now that she has paid the lawyer. Not to lose the trialt. All she’s got now barely covers the return fare. What if she stopped at her daughter in Brezoi? She’s an engineer there and she could borrow some money…Now she’d drink a soda. How much for a bottle? Three thousand?! What a lot of money!

                      She wants to leave, but the thirst doesn’t let her go. Looking at the coloured little bottles, she takes a rumpled five thousand bill out of her knapsack and straightens it. How cold is the water in her well at home! And how refreshing! She won’t die of thirst all the way to Brezoi… will she? Teodora slips the money back into her knapsack and sits down on the border of the sidewalk, waiting for somebody to give her a lift. She tries to forget about the thirst that torments her, but it’s so hot. The sun makes her dizzy and the cars don’t bother to stop. This feeling of unbearable thirst still doesn’t want to leave her alone.

                      Somebody stops at the stall and buys a bottle. He drinks greedily, gurgling satisfied. Not even a drop is left. This is no joke anymore. The thirst overwhelms her like a deep pain. She takes the five thousand bill from the knapsack, heading towards the salesgirl. After a few steps she changes her mind. Foul water. Much too expensive.

            A car appears and she waves her hand. The Dacia[4] stops.

            “Where to?” the driver asks.

            “To Brezoi, if you’d be so kind.”

            “Get in!”

            “I nearly died of thirst in Ramnic. Never before have I seen such a dog-day.”

            The man driving doesn’t answer. Smiling roguishly he lends her a half-full bottle of water. She can’t believe her eyes and drinks avidly, water dripping on her chin and neck. Little does she mind. It’s lukewarm, but it’s water. Now she is contented and takes a deep breath. It’s her first moment of joy today.

            “God bless you, Sir!” the woman thanks.

            “You’re welcome,” the man replies. “And where are you going in Brezoi?”

            “Eh, I’m going to the factory. I have a daughter there and I want to see her. How about you?”

            “Quite the same,” the man smirks.

            “Lucky me to find you. The sun and the thirst had almost got me.”

            They are both silent now. The car eats the road mile after mile. Near Gura Lotrului they turn left towards Voineasa. Then the car stops, parking in front of the factory in Brezoi. The woman takes the five thousand bill from her knapsack and hands it to the driver.

            “Take them all! You’re a good man and you stopped my thirst. May God give you health!”

            “Take what?” asks the driver, full of indignation.

            “The money, mister. Take them all.”

            “Are you joking?” he says in an upset voice.

            “God forbid! What do you mean, joke?” the woman wonders.

            “But you do! That’s not the right price!”

            “Come on, don’t be shy! You deserve them!” adds the woman propitiatory. “You can keep the change.”

            “What do I deserve, auntie, five thousand?”

            “Wait a minute, mister. Do you mean that they are not enough? The bus ticket is three thousand and I’ve given you five.”

            “It’s certainly not enough.”

            “And how much do you want?”

            “Well, if we take the mileage into account, twenty-five thousand.”

            “How much?”

            “Now listen auntie. I’m a taxi driver and you’ve asked me to take you to Brezoi. I did that. Now pay up! Don’t you dare play games with me!” the man warns.

            “Why didn’t you tell me from the beginning you were a taxi? I wouldn’t have got into your car.”

            “What? You say you didn’t know? Are you blind or what? Can’t you see where you go?”

            “Please believe me, I didn’t notice! But I have another five thousand bill. Take it and leave me alone! You city people could skin a poor woman’s neck for more money, couldn’t you?”

            The taxi driver turns and starts for Ramnicu-Valcea, cursing the bloody mongrel of peasants who pretend to be treated as city people these days.



            After it leaves the Targu Hill, the road keeps on climbing, meandering towards Bumbuia. An exhausted woman drags her feet through the thick dust. Now and then she stops to get her breath back and cast a glance at the tapering peaks of the mountains, which are spread everywhere. The sun is almost at dusk, blending its tawny colours. Night falls slowly over Boisoara. Scythes on their shoulders, the village people descend the hills towards their homes.

            Fighting to get the bulls into the stable, Ion Bacanu ‘spreads’ strokes with his knotty club all around the large yard. Satisfied with his work, he leans against the fence, looking at the passers-by. Reaching the Village Stable, Teodora greets, but the cowherd doesn’t answer; he lets her make a few steps and only then asks:

            “Have you won the trialt, Teodora, or this was just another one of those trips to Ramnic?”

            “Mind your own bussiness!” the woman thunders.

            “It was just a question. Why did you lose your marbles? I didn’t mean any harm. But I do know that those dandies in Ramnic makes justice to the one who greases their palm more.”

            “You spoke the truth, bade Ion! But God will give them each after their hearts. Those dandies have sold their souls to the devil. It will come Gogu lu’ Culita al Nicului’ s time to, ‘cause God doesn’t sleep. He sees us all,” adds the woman, heading home.

              The sun set a long time ago and darkness floats over the village. Oil-lamp lights come out through all windows now, but will very soon fade away, bringing a deep sleep over the men’ tired eyelashes. Silence reigns everywhere. Only the Boisoara brook’s whisper can be guessed over meadows laden with flowers, its waters hurrying towards the Earth’s rivers, seas and oceans.   


Translations by Mihaela Mihai


The shorts story Teodora is  included in the volume “Irretrievable”, Almarom Publishing House, Ramnicu Valcea 2003



[1] Bade-A polite way of addressing between peasants

[2] Trialt – a court trial, used here on purpose incorrectly

[3] Oltcit – a Romanian type of car

[4] Dacia – a Romanian type of car



respiro@2000-2004 All rights reserved