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The Cardboard Sea


Ovidiu Bufnila

I went to see Iris. She was chopping cardboard fish. The cardboard was stolen. It was clear as broad daylight.

“What do you want?” Iris shouted, watching me above her glasses.

“I am here.”

“I can see that. If you got no money you moved your butt in here for nothing !”

Poor Iris! She’s a hell of a businesswoman. She’s got that sea of hers from an office worker in a high position. As a reward for a sinful night! I handed a bundle of money to her. She counted it two or three times. She checked every banknote in the lamp’s light. For fear that I might cheat her.  She mumbled and then she said: “Did you steal it?”

Imagine what crossed her mind! By all means! I really worked hard for it in the harbor. I carried lots of sacks with coffee. I broke my back. I got lots of kicks in the butt from all my supervisors. I had been moving too slowly. But what did they want after all? To draw my last breathe?

A guy who was soiled from head to foot with painting rushed into us. He shouted at Iris:

“Listen to me, lady! If you don’t pay me some extra money for this gas then you must know I’m out of here right away!”

“I already gave it to you,” Iris said calmly.

She wasn’t scared too easily. She urged us to follow her. The guy wanted to tell me something, but I pretended not to hear him. It wasn’t my business.

We walked across a hall, where they were building a tinfoil whale on the scaffolding.

“You were supposed to finish it two days ago,” Iris said.

“These gases! I’ve got a headache. I got a lump in my throat. I want something more!” the guy yelled kicking angrily one of the empty boxes.

“I will, don’t worry about it!” Iris said. “Come on!” she told me.

I followed her. We entered a huge room. You couldn’t even see its bottom. A few paper seagulls were flying above us.

“Are you going to go fishing or you just want to have a bath?”

I didn’t quite know. I shrugged my shoulders.

“If you want to hunt you need a diver. And this will cost you!”

“I don’t know.”

“If you haven’t decided yet, look, there’s a boat. You may paddle until you fall flat. I don’t care. Mind the whirlpools! Others were in trouble, too!”

Did she mock at me? Oh, if I only could go to the real sea, yeah! An oil whirlpool or a methane gas bubble would have sucked me in, but in here? There’s nothing else but a cardboard sea!

“Can you see the lighthouse over there? You get oriented by its light, I’m not joking!” Iris warned me.

“I heard they were going to clean the real sea,” I told her wickedly.

“You’re a fool! Not in a thousand years will they manage to. And you know what? Until then I will get rich due to this cardboard sea and I will be able to buy the real one!”

I got in the boat almost crying with anger. I paddled for a while without looking to the shore. A mermaid appeared in front of me trying to attract me in the bottom of sea. She was a cardboard mermaid and above all, she was awfully painted in pale hues of red, yellow and blue.


Translated by Ioana Bostan

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