The Cover Says •
In the title novella, a chance meeting of two old school friends from Jerusalem in the Manila international airport leads to a racy and ferocious chain of events in the foreign capital, including falling desparately in love with a local prostitute and getting shot at by her bugs-bunny-pajama-wearing pimp.
The fourteen other short stories deal with everyday life and death of young Israelis, coming to terms with the world outside their doorstep, being away from home, love, sex and memory.
The Review Says •
“Gavron has a clear, full, masculine voice, scathing and rough. He is hardly ever off-key, not even when he describes violence or wild sex scenes, not even when he allows himself, rarely, to become poetic.” Yigal Schwartz, Yediot Achronot >>>
More Info •
The story “The Indifferent and the Calm” was adapted to the stage in the play “Zugiut”, at HaBima, Israel’s national theater, 2001.
The story “Shushan and Edri” was translated into Russian and published in the anthology “In His Own Eyes”, Muravei Publishing, Moscow, 2002.
The stories “The Indifferent and the Calm” and “The Passive and the Stressful” were translated into Russian and published in the anthology “Figs”, Aliya Publishing, Israel, 2002.
Four stories were published in four anthologies in Hebrew between 1999-2002.
Read Some •
A dot appears on the screen. And disappears. And reappears. During the first three times it appears it is accompanied by a thin squeak I chose for her. The title of the squeak is “a hungry fledgling” and I know this is the real sound of a hungry fledgling, as it was recorded in nature. I work with real sounds only.
The squeak accompanies the first three flashes and afterwards fades out and the dot remains, coming and going. This requires of me to press two buttons on the side of my handset in a certain combination. It brings up a screen in which the new message is displayed, the message for which the dot flashed and the fledgling squeaked. The message is written in red, warm letters: “I am here, within your zone. What RU wearing?” my head tilts up slowly from the screen, so she doesn’t notice me. In situations like these, I always prefer to be the first who sees the other. Not because I could then avoid her in case I don’t like her looks – the deep tint of the red letters tells me she is too close to avoid – but so I am more prepared than her for the moment our eyes first meet. So she can’t see my expression, at the moment I see her.
My head tilts up slowly from the screen and observes. It is the end of a long day. A man next to me lowers his glass firmly to the bar and I feel drops on my arm. I lower my eyes back to the screen and two drops are glowing on it. I wipe them with the sleeve. Three “hungry fledgling” squeaks announce a new message. I press the button and read: “Come on?? Who R U? U can’t chicken out now!”
I type: “Not chickening out. One minute.”
My head tilts up once more and observes. It’s crowded here today. The bald heads of the men look from above like egg laid in trays. The black wigs of the women. When this vision hits the eyes, the sounds hit the ears. Hums of conversations, message beeps, melodies of incoming calls, a pounding beat from the miniature speakers spread all over the ceiling. I hate it when men look at me when they are speaking to their mouthpieces.
I type: “I’m with the bald head and the silver tie”. Ha ha, like everyone else here. “And how do I recognize U?”
The name “Zloti” appears on my screen next to a flashing blue axe, and in my earphone I hear a locomotive I didn’t hear in a long time. This is not good. Zloti is in my zone, which means that he entered the bar right now. I can identify a pretty acoustic guitar in the background through the ceiling speakers – I live for moments like this. In the entrance, where my glance is directed, stands Zloti, looking for me. His baldness shines brighter than his tie. This is very bad.
Hungry fledgling screams. The letters are read, “U will identify me by my green earphone. I lift my head and look for her. There are too many people.
Locomotive. A light blue text, signifying a secondary distance. “Remember me, Nikanor?”
Lowering myself, pushing a way through the crowd, behind a corner there’s a corridor leading to the washrooms. In the corridor there are doors to the washrooms and opposite them there is another door, to a narrow closet, containing cleaning equipment.
I sit on top of a hoover that can also mop the floor if needed.
Next to me is a wiper, upside down, on its head a new hi-end synthetic cloth, with the no-hairs-stick-to-it formula.
When I close the door on myself, the bright light from the corridor breaks through the shutters on to my suit. For a moment, on my silver tie, it looks like sun breaking on water. My screen radiates an orange light onto my face. My earphone squeaks a fledgling. “Coward, coward, coward. Should I go home? Should I look 4 someone else?” her red text is paler now, I am not as close to her as I was. Zloti’s axe is still blue. It is still flashing.
It’s not as much as it sounds.
I work with Zloti. I mean I worked. I mean… we did a project together three weeks ago. We are free agent programmers, digital warriors for hire, to anyone who can afford us. We met on this project, a large company that was hysterical, as all of them are, as always, to meet a deadline. A two day job, $5000 each. I made friends with Zloti. At the end of the second day I told him, “Let me give them a receipt for the whole sum, this month I have a lot of expenses and I need it for tax. Next week I’ll give you 6000 instead of 5000.” This is what I always do, and programmers are naive. Then I disappear. For a week I walk about with the handset turned off. The second week I turn it on only for calls and disable all the functions of search and recognition. The third week I mark the other person, in this case Zloti, as an axe. This means I get messages regarding him in the highest degree of urgency. At the end of the third week, I collect the money and move to another city.
Tomorrow the third week ends. I have a ticket.
The blue of the axe turns deeper. A locomotive penetrates my brain. “U in the washroom? I thought U would be more creative than that”.
I don’t answer him. I type to her, “don’t go. Give me 5 minutes. I’m with U”.
Three weeks is the quickest way to receive the money in cash, in the offices of the company were we worked. I don’t have a bank account. I f I had, they would give me a cheque for sixty days ahead. If I had, they would be on me easily.
I said it’s not as much as it sounds. But still, it shouldn’t have ended in this cleaning closet, with the bright light breaking through the shutters, and the orange gleam from my handset. A fledgling squeaks, “don’t irritate. I give U 2 minutes”.
Life is made out of mistakes. Only today, one day before I’m out of this city for good, I opened my handset for full operation. Call me careless, but I had to find a red woman for tonight. And I found a red woman. And Zloti had to pass by my zone and recognize me.
A red woman is a woman who announces to handsets in her zone that she looks for sex.
I was looking for the same thing this evening. So I opened all systems of search and recognition in my handset and announced all my zone that I am red. She sent me a red text back. We shared profiles and a few messages. She looked good in the pictures she sent, if they were indeed pictures of her. We arranged to meet in this bar. Now I am shrunk in the chemical smell of floor shampoo and I can hear water flushing.
Heavy steps in the corridor. Water running in the sink. Someone passes in front of the closet and stops. A hand-drying hot air machine is being started. I peek through the shutters and breathe into myself in silence. Zloti’s gaze is in his screen. The door to the washroom opens. I see a green earphone.
My mother and father called me Nikanor. He was the minister of elephants in ancient Rome. They liked the name. Zloti puts his head through the door and sings in a high pitched voice, “Nikanor? Nokano-hor…”
The green earphone turns around and looks at Zloti’s back.
I type: “go away! Go back 2 the bar, I’m coming in a second.”
I press the button to send the message and a second later I can hear my sound coming out from the green earphone on the side of her head. She really is pretty, like in the pictures she sent me. The sound is so clear in the naked corridor, that I fear Zloti will hear it. It is my sound. A cry of a shofar, rising, descending, then breaking. She lowers her head to her handset and then lifts her eyes.
I can hardly breathe. I leaning backwards and close my eyes. I rub my temples and touch sweat.
The noise of her steps down the corridor. I can see behind her back that she is busy with her handset. Immediately after that a hungry fledgling squeaks on my side. The dot appears and disappears, coming and going. The orange screen tells me, “Bye bye… have fun… bastard…”
I have no control on things.
Her footsteps stop suddenly. And then I can hear them again. But are they getting closer now? They get stronger. And Zloti gets out of the washroom, he didn’t find anything in there, he stares at his handset. She stops in front of him. His eyes look up.
She pulls a white headed match from a thin box she took earlier on the bar, on a line of sulphur. “Tell Nikanor I was looking for him”, she tells Zloti. She breathes in the fumes from the flame.
Zloti rises both his hands confused, his smile troubled, his eyes don’t understand.
I see how everything is happening. But she can’t see his face, she turns back and walks down the corridor towards the bar, I can hear her steps on the white floor.
Zloti walks after her. He types into his handset. I wait for the locomotive and hear it a second later, trampling into my brain. I don’t want to look at my screen.
I stay in the closet another two minutes. Finally I turn off my handset.
My father and my mother told me, everything has a price.