Just a Job

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Corruption in the Communist Romania

Submitted: February 24, 2016

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Submitted: February 24, 2016







It was around noon when we arrived in Filipe?ti.

“I’m hungry,” I said.

“Didn’t you have breakfast?”

“I never do. Coffee and cigarettes. That’s all.”

As we stepped out of the car, the double oak doors of the summer mansion opened wide. A round man descended the stone steps sideways, rushing to welcome us. His shining black suit was too tight, and made him look as if he was a huge walking sausage.

“We’ll stop somewhere to eat when we’ll be done here. I’ll make it short,” Codreanu said.

“I want to eat now. I could skin a wolf alive.”

“What about a pig?” Codreanu asked, and his breath touched my ear.

“Welcome to Filipe?ti, comrades,” the walking sausage said when he had only a few steps left before he reached the gravel of the driveway. Pockets of fat were covering his small eyes when he smiled. “I’m Daniel Fornea, the president of the Agricultural Cooperative of Filipe?ti. It’s such a pleasure to have guests from Bucharest.” He extended a thick hand to Codreanu.

“I’m Ilie Codreanu, investigator from the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party.” He was stern, with a little crest between his eyebrows, and briefly shook the president’s hand. “She is Alina Dorescu, my secretary and assistant investigator.”  The president then squeezed my hand as if it had a special meaning. When he finally let go of my hand I had the impulse to rub it against his coat to get rid of the greasy film of sweat he left behind. My hand was halfway toward his sleeve when Codreanu’s disapproving look stopped me.

“Let’s go inside,” the president said, showing us the way toward the house in a theatrical welcoming gesture with opened arms, as if he was an overstuffed scarecrow. He was moving up the same way he came down, sideways, and the steps seemed too narrow for his feet. We followed him, and behind us Gheorghe, our driver, followed us. When we were in the hallway, our host turned around to close the doors, and faced Gheorghe.

“You go around the building. There is another door that will take you directly in the kitchen. You’ll love it there,” he said slamming the door in Gheorghe’s face. “Some people… I’m telling you. Nowadays they don’t know their place. People like him don’t have respect. I hope you don’t mind I sent him to the kitchen, do you?” Codreanu shrugged. “I didn’t think so. He has no business being with us.”

His office was a big room with large stained glass windows. The only furniture the room was blessed with were two comfortable armchairs set at an angle in front of a metal desk, and along the walls there were a few more cheap wooden chairs. From the high ceiling a crystal chandelier was hanging suffocated in dust. It look as if it had a lot of history that house, and I couldn’t stop wondering what old forgotten boyar had his receptions in that room, before the Communists took over, robbing him of all his properties.

“Here we are.” Our host rubbed his hands together, pleased with himself for reasons unknown to me. “Have a seat, comrades, have a seat. You had a long drive and I bet you are hungry. What do you say if we start the day with something to eat? Everything is ready for you. We have chicken roasted and fried and salad a la boeuf. Or maybe a few cheeses to start with. You’ll lick your fingers after you eat our piglet roasted on an open fire. What do you say?” His little eyes were running vividly from Codreanu to me, trying to evaluate our hunger. “I have some good cognac also.”

“We better start taking care of business,” Codreanu said shifting in his chair uncomfortably.

“Oh yeah, business.” His smile evaporated as he sat on the leather chair behind his desk. “I heard that someone in the village sent a complaint to Bucharest. Is that true? I’m telling you, these people don’t have any respect.” His voice was harsh and had lost all the previous desire to please. A few drops of sweat were rolling down his forehead.

“Yes, comrade. We received a serious complaint that you raped a young girl,” Codreanu said, keeping his eyes on the sweating president.

When we had left the office in the morning, I hadn’t asked why we were going to Filipe?ti. I had assumed that it was some normal abuse of power, like taking chickens from the agricultural cooperative. I fought the involuntary image that popped in my mind: the big guy’s humid fingers touching my skin.

“That’s bullshit. Totally bullshit. Excuse my expression, comrade, but I didn’t do anything like that. I’m telling you. Some people. You help them, you want to give them a better life, and how do they pay you back? I’m telling you how. They stick a knife in your back. That’s what I get for being good to them. It hurts to know that people I care for would betray me in this way. That’s a shame. Don’t they know that by betraying me they betray the Communist Party? Did you ever think about that, comrade? I am a representative of the Communist Party. They slander me – a loyal member of the party for twenty-five years now – they slander the Communist Party. Think about it. What a shame. They said that I raped someone, huh? Why would I do that? I’m a married man. I’m not going to fool around and destroy my career.” Little bubbles of white foam were collecting in the corners of his mouth as he was talking. He wiped his lips with the back of his hand.

I looked at Codreanu to see his reaction, but his profile didn’t show any emotion.

“We received a written complaint, and I have to investigate. Where’s smoke there has to be fire, so I need facts,” Codreanu said.

“Who complained?”

“Vasile Gaju.”

I was surprised that Codreanu knew the name. Usually he was asking me everything about any case. As if I just awoke from a deep sleep, I remembered that I never saw the Filipe?ti file.

“Vasile? You have to be kidding me.” The president lowered his eyes to the desk. “Let’s say that now and then I might skip my morals.” His voice was lowered, humble, as if he was in a church’s confessional. “I’m a man. I have needs, but I don’t have to rape a woman. I can have any woman I want.” He fidgeted on his chair. He grabbed a pen with which he doodled something on a piece of paper.

“I have to know exactly what happened,” Codreanu said.

“Why did Vasile complain? I didn’t fuck him. It didn’t come from the victim so couldn’t be legal, could it? Tell me if I am wrong here. If his daughter had something to say, she would’ve said so, but she didn’t. See how phony is everything?” The president looked at Codreanu for approval, but immediately his eyes went back to the pen, and rolled it back and forth on the desk.

“You still didn’t tell me what happened,” Codreanu said. “To complete my investigation, I have to hear your side of the story.”

“I understand. Sure. I understand. You have to do your job, in the same way I do mine. Oh, well, to tell you the truth, Vasile is not a man. He can’t take care of his family, and in my book someone like him that can’t provide for his family is not a man. Period. Every time you turn around, his family needs one thing or another. He is a loser. Trash. He is not a man.”

Codreanu stopped his rant. “Facts, comrade. I need facts.”

“I was getting there. Anyway, I tried to help him, thinking that he just had bad luck, so I let his daughter help my wife around the house. You know, my wife is a hardworking woman, and it’s hard for her to keep a house like ours in fine order. Two months ago, no, it was three months ago… or maybe it was two months ago… anyway, it was a while ago when I sent my woman with the children on a vacation to relax, because I told you, she is a hardworking woman and now and then she needs to relax. To tell you the truth, I myself wanted a vacation from her nagging. You know how women can be. Nagging about this, about that. Doesn’t matter what a man does, a woman always has something to nag about. So I was happy to see her go.”

“Facts, comrade. I don’t have all the time in the world,” Codreanu said.

“Sure, sure. I’m sorry, comrade. I keep forgetting that you come from Bucharest. I feel so good having you around that I even forgot that you are not from around here. I know how it’s in Bucharest. Go, go, go. No time for anything. Yes, I know, comrade, facts. Let me tell you what happened with Vasile’s daughter. One morning I woke up, excuse my expression, in three legs, and as a civilized man I went to take a shower. I had no idea that she was in there cleaning the bathroom. When she saw me she jumped me. You had to see her. She was hysterical. She wanted me bad. Now I have principles, but I am not a saint. What could I do? Could I say no? I couldn’t. The bitch was putty in my hands. That’s what happened. Now I can see it clear that they framed me. I should’ve known they were up to something. They want to destroy my reputation, and to discredit me in front of my Communist Party. Yes, my party. Did you know that Vasile is not even a communist? They framed me. Can’t you see that I am the victim here, comrade? They want to shame a communist.” He looked at Codreanu as if expecting a verdict on the spot.

“I need to talk to Vasile Gaju,” Codreanu said, picking imaginary lint from his trousers.

“Why even bother with him? He can’t put two words together. Besides that, he wasn’t there. He doesn’t know what happened.”

“I have to talk to him because he wrote the complaint,” Codreanu said.

“Well, if you have to, you have to. I am going to send someone to bring him here.”

The president slowly moved toward the door, and before stepped out he looked back to us as if hoping we would change our minds.

“Are you going to do something about this idiot?” I asked Codreanu when we were alone. “After all, we have something that resembles a confession.” He just looked at me and I thought that I saw panic. “Are you?” I wasn’t going to accept his silence.

“I can’t do anything. This idiot is General Armescu’s son,” he whispered back to me. “That’s why he talked. He knows that we can’t touch him.”

I sighed. Another one of those cases when our presence was just a formality. I didn’t know why they even bothered to send us in the field.

“Then let’s be done with it. And fast. I’m getting sick,” I said.

We didn’t have to wait long. The president entered the office followed by a peasant. I assumed he was Vasile Gaju, and he remained next to the door, mumbling something that sounded as a greeting but I couldn’t be sure. His eyes ran around the room, and, as if he had committed a crime, he lowered his eyes to the tips of his old shoes. He was holding a sun-bleached hat in his left hand, and the knuckles of his fingers were white.

“Say something. Don’t act so stupid. What these nice people from Bucharest are going to think about you?” the president said from behind the desk. Vasile looked at us with watery eyes, opened his mouth as to say something, but no sound came out. “Say something. You brought this trouble in the village; now you clear it up. Instead of taking care of your production quota, you wasted your time writing complaints. Now they are here. Talk.”

“Comrade, I am here in the name of the Communist Party to investigate what happened to your daughter. Please tell me what happened,” Codreanu said. “Are you Vasile Gaju?”

“Of course he is,” the president said.

“Let him talk. Are you Vasile Gaju, comrade?”

“Yes,” the peasant answered, staring at his shoes again and rolling his hat on his hands.

“Don’t you act like you are shy. I know you better than that,” the director yelled at him. “Tell them what happened, and while you are at it, why don’t you tell them how many days of work you missed? Tell them how missing work you sabotage the production of this agricultural cooperative. You are a saboteur, that’s what you are. Tell them.”

“I was sick, comrade president,” Vasile whispered. “I’m sorry, comrade. It won’t happen again.”

“I bet it won’t. Now tell the people from Bucharest that you made a mistake when you sent the complaint, and apologize to them,” the director said, with his eyes fixed on Codreanu.

“I made a mistake, comrades,” Vasile said, looking directly at us for the first time, and I saw a vein in his forehead squirming as if it was ready to break the skin. “I’m sorry.”

“See. What did I tell you? This scum bag just wasted your time,” the president said triumphantly, slamming both palms on the desk.

“Are you sure, comrade?” Codreanu asked Vasile.

Vasile didn’t answer. He just nodded his head and lowered it again.

“Get out from here. You make me sick,” the president said.

Vasile grabbed the doorknob, but before he opened the door he turned toward us, as if he was ready to say something, but his shoulders stooped. He slowly opened the door and left the room with small steps.

Codreanu jumped out of his chair, and I followed his example.

“I told you that nothing happened here. Nothing, I mean, absolutely nothing,” the president said while he was opening the door for us. “Thank you, comrades. And for your trouble, for coming all the way here, I took care of you, and I’ll take care of you every time you stop by.”

I was happy to be back in the driveway, and not having to shake his hand. A few peasants were carrying cardboard boxes, setting them down next to our car, and Gheorghe was arranging them in the trunk.

“Just a few things to make your visit to Filipe?ti more pleasant,” the president said. “A few cartons of American cigarettes, good coffee, eggs, some of the cognac that you didn’t have time to taste here. You know, a little bit. I even put in a few chickens, and a few good slabs of veal. You’ll see. You’ll not regret stopping by.”

“When do you want me to type the report?” I asked Codreanu when we were back in the car. He was leaning his head against the cushions of the seat with the eyes closed. He didn’t answer. “This fucking job,” I mumbled more for myself.

“If we don’t do it, someone else will do it,” Codreanu said.

I was hungry.

© Copyright 2019 Adriana Thompson. All rights reserved.

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