Deadline by Adina Rosetti
Published by Curtea Veche Publishing House, 2010, 2011
Translation excerpt from the First Chapter
It could have been a simple death. Every day thousands of people die and there’s no word written in the magazines about their death. But it was enough for some news in the most important newspapers or on TV about that young, blonde, 29 years old girl who was found dead on the sofa in her living room, in order to stir an online whirlwind of reactions on forums and blogs. Moreover, people from all over the country, hidden by their user nicknames, stuck together like a weird army that menaced to ignite a revolution. Only if, by God knows what miracle the words written on a screen and sent with a simple click somewhere very far, in a huge network where everything seems possible, would ever have the power to materialize, to become flesh and blood and engage a war. Sitting at the top of glass and steel towers, in front of some ultra flat screens with the fingers glued on a wireless mouse and breathing the air that was just recycled through the ventilation system, people thought that this surprising death of an anonymous girl could somehow change everything.
Meanwhile, the victim with whom everything began was resting carelessly (according to the confessions made later on by a slightly bizarre witness who was busy feeding a flight of pigeons) on the steeple of a church, swimming in the rays of a mild and pleasant spring sun. She was a girl with blonde hair, that’s for sure, not only according to the strange declarations of that witness but that was something one could easily spot when looking at her photo which was published in the magazines along with the articles that were sadly telling the story of her death. Her face – the same in all the newspapers, probably because they all had the same source – was quite a normal one, but during the last few days everyone kept talking about her, and her photo was so often shown on TV on the news, that you could think you saw her everywhere, mixing with the face of a colleague from your work, of a shop seller or of the waiter who worked at the restaurant where you’d have lunch. No one would have wondered if that blonde skinny and plain girl had appeared on a unipole sign, showing her perfectly white teeth and advertising some new and miraculous toothpaste, or smiling dumbly with a small spoon full of magic yogurt in her mouth, or sensually grinning from the hood of a grey luxury car.
Although the imagination of the public could not stop forging incredible plots, the newspapers and some television networks showed images that were pretty clear even for a child – there was a funeral: a varnished coffin, not too big, made out of red wood, weeping relatives, a mother who was ravaged by pain, a Mercedes hearse (the latest model) and a funeral procession of cars with pale colored towels hanged by the rear mirrors, a priest who was snuffling some holy words that no one seemed to understand very well, a bunch of beggars with noticeable injuries that were asking for some money or at least an extra ration of koliva, an aunt that was preoccupied with the candles, another one who was in charge with the alms, and a third one (probably a more distant relative) who was strolling the cemetery telling everyone not to miss the home requiem mass, and eventually a pack of reporters eager to get a declaration from the bereaved mother, or at least to persuade an old friend of the deceased to tell some spicy details, good enough to be headlines for the front page the next day as „extraordinary disclosure“. Besides, there blew a pleasant spring wind that waved the flowers on the tombs, played with the skirts of the women and raveled the beard of the priest, detail, which made a front row kid, a distant cousin who was attending the first funeral of his life laugh.
There was no extraordinary disclosure, the mother and relatives of the deceased refused with dignity any kind of comments, the candle aunt almost hit with her black and old -fashioned purse an annoying cameraman, and the childhood friends only told trifles, which couldn’t meet the expectations of any newspaper chief editor. Without any unexpected occurrences or divine intervention, the varnished coffin made out of red wood inside which rested Lord’s faithful – with pale blonde locks spread on the white satin and the shoes worn only twice at New Year Eve’s parties and with frozen feet –, was lowered into the grave under the flashlights of the photographers which almost covered the sad sobs of the three aunts. All the beggars who found refuge in the cemetery were mercifully given a ration of koliva and sarmas for fast, into plastic cups, two golden apples and a row of pretzels that their toothless gums couldn’t possibly chew. The priest received – discretely, as it was proper – the burial tax, while one of the aunts was trying to protect the mournful mother against the reporters who were trying to make a final attempt at finding a breaking piece of news.
When even the last childhood friend of the blonde girl had left the cemetery with tearful eyes, it was completely dusk, the grave diggers had finished their task and were heading towards the bar over the street called „At two crosses“, and the reporters and the photographers were getting into the cars owned by the press trusts, asking the drivers bored by too many smoked cigarettes on the alleys of the little town’s cemetery to take them back to Bucharest. Then, together with the dusk the peace covered everything, and nobody knew anything anymore about the pale golden locks and the shoes worn only twice at New Year Eve’s parties.
On the other hand, the online world exploded. Fierce discussions on messenger shook the servers of the companies, the web pages talking about that mysterious death reached an amazing traffic which was increasing by the hour, the forums of the newspapers and of the TV channels were inflamed almost as much as by the president’s resignation, while the bloggers were frenetically posting comments to which they received answers in no time. Even in the offices located in those glass and steel buildings, the managers’ secretaries exchanged meaningful glances and whispers, the colleagues were gossiping aloud smoking avidly their cigarettes in the patios, the managers were locking themselves in their offices pretending they had some urgent and unfinished business, but in fact throwing away their brand shoes, lighting cigars and anxiously browsing the pages of the newspapers, in search of clarifying details and ultimate verdicts.
But the verdict was on everybody’s lips and on everybody’s mind – like the menace of a terrible disease that soon was going to reach them. Despite some contradictory statements of the doctors and of the lame press releases, it was clear to everybody that Miruna Tomescu, a 29 year old blonde girl, resident of Bucharest but born in town X, graduate of an economic university and employee of a big multinational corporation had died because of a sole reason: she had worked too much.
Translation by Jean Harris, commissioned by Anca Fronescu
LA Book Review