Translated by Miriam Shlesinger
When it comes to Mirons problem, there are, as they say, several schools of
thought. The doctors think its some trauma he suffered when he was in the army
that resurfaced all of a sudden in his brain, like a piece of shit you suddenly
see floating in the toilet long after youve flushed. His parents are convinced
its all because of the mushrooms he ate in the East, which turned his brain to
quiche. The guy who found him there and brought him back to Israel says its because of this Dutch chick he met in Dharamsala,
who broke his heart. And Miron himself says its God whos messing everything
up. Tapping into his brain like a bat, telling it one thing, then the opposite,
anything, just to pick a fight. According to Miron, after He created the world,
God stayed awfully complacent for a couple of million years. Until Miron came
along all of a sudden, and started asking questions, and God broke out in a
sweat. Because God could tell straight off that, unlike the rest of humanity, Miron
was no pushover. And soon as you gave him the smallest opening hed slam right
through it, and God—everyone knows—is really big on dishing it out,
but not on taking it. The last thing He can afford is a rebuttal, especially
from a guy like Miron. So from the minute He realized it, He just kept driving Miron
around the bend, hassling him whenever He could, with everything from bad
dreams to girls who wouldnt put out. Anything, just so the guy would fall
The doctors asked Uzi and me to
help them a little with Mirons case history, because the three of us have
known each other since day one. They asked us all kinds of questions about the
army, about what had happened with Nimrod. But most of it we couldnt remember,
and even the little bit that we did remember we didnt tell them, because the
truth was that they didnt look too nice and Miron had told us a couple of
things about them that bordered on 60 Minutes. After that, during
visiting hours, Miron begged us to bring him some hummus from the hunchback,
because more than anything else, it was the food here that was doing him in.
Its been three weeks since I got here, he figured, and if you add that to
the four months in the East, thats almost six months without hummus. I swear
to you, I wouldnt wish that on my worst enemies. So we went to get him some.
The hunchback said he didnt do take-aways. Only sit-downs, he snarled in his
half-menacing, half-indifferent tone. Im not running a snack bar, yknow. So
we ordered a plate of hummus and stuffed it in a pita ourselves. When we got
back, Mirons mother was there. She said hi to Uzi, but not to me. She hasnt
spoken to me for years, on account of my influencing her son to experiment with
drugs. We didnt give him the hummus while she was there, because we were
afraid shed tell the doctors. So we waited for her to leave. Meanwhile, the ful
was getting cold, but that didnt matter to Miron, who wolfed down the pita.
Three days later they discharged him. The doctors said his reaction to the
medications was remarkable. Miron still insists it was on account of the
In June, Miron and me went down to Sinai. Uzi was supposed
to come too, but he stood us up at the last second for some appointment with
this German guy from a high-tech company in Düsseldorf who could put up
millions for a project in Uzis company. It was supposed to be a kind of
celebration, in honor of the fact that Miron wasnt considered crazy anymore,
and Uzi felt a little uncomfortable with his childish attraction to money, so
he promised that as soon as his appointment was over hed join us there. Ill
bet you anything he doesnt show, Miron said. A double bet: first off, he
wont show, and second, give him three more months and hell marry the Turnip.
I didnt want to bet Miron about anything, because everything he said sounded
depressing but pretty true. Turnip was our code name for Uzis obnoxious
girlfriend, who also was deep into all those virtual high-tech deals that Uzi
loved to manage. I remember him asking us once why we called her the Turnip,
and Miron told him something about how it was because turnips are underrated:
some people dont realize how good they can be. Uzi didnt really buy it, but
he never asked again after that.
If life is one big party, Sinai
is definitely the chillout. And even Miron and me, who hardly did anything in
regular life anyway, could appreciate the ultimate veg-out nothingness of the
place. Everywhere you looked on our beach, there were these moonchild chicks,
and Miron kept trying to come on to them and to make like hed spent a lot of
time in the East. It even worked now and then. Me, I didnt have the energy for
that stuff, or the coordination either. So I just smoked bagfuls of grass,
stared at the sea, and debated whether to order a pineapple pancake for lunch
or to take my chances with the fish. I also kept an eye out for Miron, to see
if hed really straightened out. He still came up with some pretty weird stuff,
like for instance when he insisted on taking a shit right near our hut because
he was too lazy to walk all the way to the restaurant. But the truth is that he
used to do stuff like that before he went crazy. I have a hunch Im going to
luck out with that short one with the navel stud, he told me one night after
we came back from the restaurant on the beach. You gotta admit, shes cute,
isnt she? The two of us were sitting around zonked, just staring out at the
sea. Listen, I told him, about that whole business when they put you away, I
know that Uzi and me played it cool, but you scared the shit out of us. Miron
just shrugged. It was pretty freaky, like suddenly I started hearing voices—talking,
singing. Like some broken radio that you cant figure out how to turn off. It
drives you crazy. You cant think straight for a second. Im telling you, I
felt as if someone was trying to flip me out. And then it just stopped. Miron
took one more drag on the cigarette and put it out in the sand. And Ill tell
you something else, he said. I know this sounds a little whacked, but I think
it was Nimrod.
The next day, contrary to all
predictions, Uzi arrived. Too bad I didnt take Miron up on his bet. Soon as
Uzi put his bag down in the hut he dragged us straight to the restaurant,
chewed some squid, and told us all about how the German guy had turned out to
be even more of a pushover than hed expected, and that he was happy to the max
to be with us, with his best friends, in Sinai, his favorite place in the whole
world. After that, he went charging up and down the beach, calling Yo Bro at
anything that moved, and hugging every Bedouin or Egyptian who wasnt fast
enough to get away. When he got tired of that, Uzi made us play backgammon with
him, and after he beat both of us, he clobbered one of the Bedouins too, and
then he made the Bedouin traipse up and down the beach behind his bald
opponent, yelling, Watch out, girls, Abu Garas big. Miron tried to cool him
off with a puff, but that only made Uzi crazier. He tried coming on strong to a
forty-year-old American tourist, gave up in no time, ate three pancakes, told Miron
and me that he couldnt get over the peace and quiet of the place, ordered
kebab, and suggested that the three of us and his new Bedouin friend, who
turned out to be a taxi driver, go down to the casino at Taba. Miron was dead
set against it, because he figured he was just about to make the babe with the
navel stud, but Uzi was so worked up that Mirons horniness didnt stand a
chance. No kidding, Miron said, soon as we got into the taxi, the guys
completely lost it.
Abu Gara and the Bedouin made a
killing at Taba, swooping down on one table after the next, leaving behind
nothing but shattered croupiers and scorched earth. Between killings Uzi wolfed
down enormous slabs of apple pie and chocolate mousse cake. Miron and me just
sat there, watching patiently, waiting for him to wear himself out. But to tell
the truth, he just kept getting stronger and stronger. Once Uzi and the Bedouin
had finished humiliating the casino and divvying up their winnings, we took the
taxi to the border station. Miron and me reminded Uzi that we should be heading
back, but he wouldnt hear of it. As far as he was concerned, the night was
still young and there was no reason not to cash in at a couple of clubs in Eilat
before heading back. He made sure to give the Bedouin his business card, and
they kissed about eighty times. Miron tried to persuade the Bedouin to take us
back to the beach, leaving Uzi to continue his escapades on his own, but the
Bedouin told us off and insisted that leaving a wonderful friend like Abu Gara
in the middle of a celebration would be a disgrace. He said hed have loved to
continue with us himself, except he wasnt allowed to cross the border. Then he
kissed us too, got into the taxi, and disappeared. When Uzi got tired of The Spiral,
we went to the Yacht Pub and then to some hotel called the Blue Something, and
only then, after Miron and me had refused twice to let him get some call girls
sent up to our room, did Uzi turn over on his stomach and start to snore.
Ever since that time in Sinai,
Uzis company has been on a roll. After the German pushover, Uzi found two
other suckers, one an American and the other from India, and it looked like he
was going to knock the whole world on its ass. Miron said it only went to show
how crazy those businesspeople were. The truth was Uzid been getting bigger
and bigger ever since hed gone off the deep end. Sometimes wed try to drag
him to the beach or the pool hall, but even when he did come he kept telling
everyone how much he was enjoying it and what a great time we were having
together, while checking the voice mail on his mobile every thirty seconds.
After an hour with him youd simply lose the desire to live. Dont worry.
Hell outgrow it, Id try to tell Miron, as Uzi got caught up in another
transatlantic call just when it was his turn to shoot. Sure, Miron would say
in the tone of an ex-whacko whos got it all figured out, and if its doing
the rounds, youre next.
The next morning, I woke up in a complete panic. I had no
idea what was causing it. I lay there, pressing my back to the mattress, trying
not to move till I could figure out what had me so scared. But the more time
went by, the less I knew what had brought it on, and the more frightened I
became. I lay there in bed frozen, telling myself in the second person as
calmly as possible, Take it easy, man, take it easy. This isnt really happening,
its just in your head. But the thought that this thing, whatever it was,
was inside my head made it a thousand times more horrifying. I decided to tell
myself who I was, to say my name a few times in a row. That was bound to help
me get a grip on myself. Except that even my name was gone all of a sudden. At
least that got me up, though. I crawled around the house, searching for bills,
mail, anything with my name written on it. I opened the front door and looked
at the other side of it, where theres an orange sticker with the inscription
have a hell of a life! In the hallway
there was the loud laughter of kids and the sound of footsteps approaching. I
closed the door and leaned against it. Stay cool. In a minute youll
remember, or not . . . maybe you never had a name. Whatever happens, that isnt
why youre sweating so much or why your pulse is about to blow out your brains,
thats not it, its something else. Take it easy, I whispered to myself
again. Take it easy. Whatever your name is, this cant go on much longer.
Itll be over soon.
Soon as it eased up a little, I
phoned Uzi and Miron and arranged to meet them at the beach. It was only four
hundred meters from my place, and I had no problem remembering how to get
there, except that all the streets suddenly looked different and I had to keep
stopping to make sure the signs were really the right ones. Everything looked
different, not just the streets, even the sky was kind of squashed and low.
I told you your turn would
come, Miron said and sucked at the red tip of his Wave-on-a-Stick Popsicle.
First I lost it, then Uzi. I didnt lose it, Uzi protested. I was just a
little high, thats all. Whatever you call it, Miron went on. Its your
turn now. Ron isnt losing it either, Uzi was beginning to get worked up.
Why do you keep putting those ideas in his head? Ron? I asked, Is that my
name? Know what, Uzi gave in, maybe he has lost it a little. Give us a
bite. Miron handed him the Popsicle, knowing perfectly well hed never see it
again. Tell me, he asked, when it started, didnt you feel there was someone
in your head? I dont know, I hesitated. Maybe I did. Im telling you, Miron
whispered, as if it were a secret. I could feel him. He was saying things that
only he could know. Im sure it was Nimrod.
Until he turned twelve,
Nimrod was a shitty person. The kind of whiner that if he werent your best friend
youd have socked a long time ago. And then one day, just before his bar
mitzvah, they put insoles in his shoes, and suddenly the guy was a whole new
person. The truth is that Miron, Uzi, and me had been Nimrods friends even
before that, except that now with the change in Nimrod, being friends with him
Later, in high school, Uzi and me
were in the honors program and Miron and Nimrod went to vocational school and
mostly to the beach. Then came the army. Miron was drafted six months before
us, and by the time our turn came hed sucked up to enough people to make sure
wed all be in the same unit with cushy office jobs. Nimrod used to call it the
Most of the time we didnt do
anything except sit around in the canteen, threatening to file complaints
against our commanders, and go home every day at five. Other than that, Uzi
would surf at the Sheraton, I was forever jerking off, Miron took courses at
the Open University, and Nimrod had a girlfriend. Nimrods girlfriend was as good
as they get, and because all of us except him were virgins, that made her even
better. I remember I once asked Miron what he would do—hypothetically—if
she came to his house, say, and asked him to fuck her. And Miron said he didnt
know, but whatever he did, hed regret it the rest of his life. Which is a nice
answer, but knowing him hed be sure to take the fucking option first and the
regretting option second.
But with Nimrod it wasnt even
that he was horny, he was simply in love with her. Her name was Netta, which is
a name that I still love to this day, and she was a paramedic at the infirmary.
Nimrod told me once that he could lie next to her in bed for hours without
getting bored, and that the place he liked her to touch the most was the spot
on his foot where everyone had an arch but his was flat.
At the base we would do guard
duty twice a month, and once every two months we had to stay the weekend, which
Nimrod always managed to schedule when Netta had infirmary duty so that even on
guard duty they could be together. A year and a half later, she left him. It
was a strange kind of split, even she couldnt really explain why it happened,
and after that Nimrod didnt care when his guard duty took place. One Saturday,
Miron, Nimrod, and I were on duty together. Uzi had just managed to forge some
kind of a medical pass for himself. We all had the same patrol—Miron
first, Nimrod second, and me third. And even before I had a chance to replace
Nimrod, this hysterical officer rushed in and said that the guy on duty had put
a bullet through his head.
The second time Miron lost it, it was much more pleasant. We
didnt say a word to his parents. I simply moved in with him till it passed.
Most of the time, he was quiet, sitting in the corner and writing a kind of
book to himself, which was supposed to eventually replace the Bible. Sometimes,
when wed run out of beer or cigarettes, he would swear at me a little and say,
with conviction, that I was a demon disguised as a friend and that Id been
sent to torment him. But other than that, he was almost bearable. Uzi, on the
other hand, took his extended period of sanity very hard. He didnt admit it,
but hed really had it with that skyrocketing international company of his.
Somehow, whenever he was in a flip he had a lot more energy to write dreary
prospectuses and things and go to boring meetings. And now that he was a bit
more sane, the whole businessman thing was a lot more of a drag, even though it
seemed his company was about to go public and hed be raking in a couple of
million with no extra effort. Me, Id been fired from another job, and Miron,
in a lucid moment off beer and cheap fags, claimed he was responsible as a
result of his unearthly spiritual powers. I dont know, maybe all those jobs
just arent for me, and I simply need to sit it out till Uzi strikes it rich
and tosses me a little.
The second time Uzi went bonkers
proved once and for all that there was definitely a rotation thing going on,
and I started worrying because I knew I was next. Miron, whod chilled out by
then, kept insisting it had something to do with Nimrod. I dont know what he
wants exactly. Maybe he wants us to even the score or something. But one
things for sure, so long as we dont do it, whatever it is, I dont think its
going to stop. Even what score? I countered. Nimrod killed himself. How
do you know? Miron wouldnt let it pass just like that. Maybe it was murder?
Besides, maybe it isnt exactly vengeance. Maybe its just something he wants
us to do so he can rest in peace. You know, like in those horror films, where
they open up a beer joint on an ancient burial ground, and as long as it stays
there, the ghosts cant rest in peace. In the end, we decided that Miron and me
would go to the Kiryat Shaul Cemetery to make sure nobody had set up a
coke-and-mineral-water stand on Nimrods grave by mistake. The only reason I
agreed to go with him was because I was really freaked about it being my turn
soon. The truth was that of the three of us, my crack-up was the least enjoyable.
Nimrods grave had stayed exactly
the same. We hadnt been there in six years. At first, on the memorial day for
fallen soldiers, his mother would call us. But with all those military rabbis
and fainting aunts, we werent exactly keen on going. We kept telling ourselves
we would go some other day, on our own special memorial day, except we always
put it off. Last time we talked about it, Uzi said that actually every time we
went to shoot pool or took in a movie or a pub or whatever, it was a commemoration
of Nimrod, because when the three of us are together, even if were not exactly
thinking about him, hes there.
It took Miron and me maybe an
hour to find the grave, which actually looked well tended and clean, with a
couple of stones on top as proof that someone had been there not too long
before. I looked at the dates on the grave and thought about how I was just
about to turn thirty, and Nimrod wasnt even nineteen yet. It was kind of weird
because somehow whenever I thought about him he was sort of my age, when in
fact I hardly had any hair left and he was hardly more than a kid. On our way
out, we returned the cardboard yarmulkes to the box by the gate, and Miron said
he didnt have any more ideas, but that we could always have a séance. Outside
the cemetery, on the other side of the fence, there was a fat, shaggy cat
chewing a piece of meat. I looked at him and, as if he felt it, he looked up
from the chunk of meat and smiled at me. It was a mean and ruthless smile, and
he went back to chewing the meat without lowering his gaze. I felt the fear
running through my body, from the hard part of my brain to the soft part of my
bones. Miron didnt notice there was something wrong with me, and just
continued talking. Relax, Ron, I told myself. The fact that I remembered
my name made me so happy that tears came to my eyes. Take a deep breath,
dont fall apart. Whatever it is, itll be over soon. At that very moment,
in the stinking office of some attorney in Petah Tikva, Uzi was chickening out
of a deal that would transfer 33 percent of his companys shares to an
anonymous group of Polish investors for a million and a half bucks. Think about
it, if only hed stayed flipped out for another fifteen minutes, he could have
taken us and the Turnip on a Caribbean cruise. Instead he was making his way
home in a number 54 bus from Petah Tikva with a creep of a driver who wouldnt
even turn on the air conditioning.
When Uzi announced he was going to marry the Turnip, we
hardly even put up an argument. Somehow wed known it would happen. Uzi lied
and said it was his idea, that it was mainly so he could take out a mortgage
for an apartment hed planned to buy anyway some place near Netanya. How can
you marry her? Miron tried to reason with him, though without much conviction.
You dont even love her. How can you say I dont love her? Uzi protested.
Weve been together for three years. Dyou know Ive never cheated on her?
Thats not because you love her, Miron said. Its just because youre
uncoordinated. We were shooting pool, and Uzi had clobbered both of us with
the bulls-eye shots of someone whod made up his mind to squeeze every drop
out of the little bit of luck he still had left, quickly, before it had a
chance to run out. There was only the eight ball left, and it was Uzis turn.
Lets make a bet, I offered Uzi in an act of desperation. If you pocket the
eight ball, Miron and I will never call her Turnip again, ever. And if you
miss, then you drop the whole wedding thing for a year. When it comes to
feelings, I never make bets, Uzi said and pocketed the eight effortlessly.
Besides, he smiled, its too late, weve already printed up the
invitations. How could you make him such a bet? Miron told me off later.
That shot was a sure thing.
By the time the date rolled
around, Uzi had managed to lose it two more times, and on both occasions he
said he would call it all off but then immediately changed his mind. As for me,
I just crashed in Mirons apartment. Now that we were wigged out most of the
time, it was much nicer living together. And besides, I couldnt really afford
my own place. Miron had stolen a big pile of wedding invitations from Uzi, and
we used them to make filters for joints. How can you go and marry someone
whose mothers name is Yentl? he asked Uzi whenever we had smoked a joint
together, and Uzi would just stare at the ceiling and give that spaced-out
laugh of his. The truth was I felt it wasnt much of an argument, even though I
was on Mirons side.
Three days before the wedding we
held a séance. We bought a piece of blue construction paper, I drew all the
letters on it with a black marker, and Miron got a glass from the kitchen, one
of those cheap ones, and said hed had it for ages, from his parents house,
and that Nimrod must have used it. We turned out all the lights and placed the
glass in the middle of the board. Each of us put a finger on it, and we waited.
After five minutes, Uzi got tired and said he had to take a shit. He turned on
the lights in the living room, found a week-old sports section, and locked
himself in the bathroom. Meanwhile Miron and me rolled a joint. I asked Miron,
if it had succeeded and the glass had moved, what did he expect to happen. That
pissed Miron off, and he said it was too early to say it hadnt succeeded and
that just because Uzi gets bored with everything so quickly, it doesnt mean
that it wont work. Finally Uzi came out of the bathroom, Miron switched off
the lights again and asked all of us to concentrate. We put our fingers on the
glass again and waited. Nothing happened. Miron insisted that we try again, and
nobody could work up the energy to argue with him. A few minutes later, the
glass began to move. Slowly at first, but within seconds it was racing all over
the board. Miron wrote down each of the letters, keeping his finger on the
glass the whole time. T-r-i-l-i-l-i-l-i-l-a the glass hummed, and came to a
smooth stop on the exclamation mark in the right-hand corner of the paper. We
waited a while longer, and nothing happened. Uzi turned on the light. Tri-li-li-li-la,
eh? he said, annoyed. What are we, in kindergarten or something? You moved
it, Miron, so dont you go pulling an Agent Mulder on me now. Tri-li-li-li-la? Goddamnit,
okay. Im dead beat. Ive been up since seven. Im going to sleep at Lirazs. Liraz
was the Turnips name, and she lived close by. Miron kept staring at the page
with the letters, and I read a bit in the sports supplement Uzi had taken to
the bathroom, and when I had read it all I told Miron I was going to get some
shut-eye. Miron said okay, but that first he just wanted us to give one more
chance to the thing with the glass, because no matter how much he thought about
it, that tri-li-li-li-la thing didnt mean a thing to him. So we turned out the
light again and put the glass in place. This time it started moving straight
away, and Miron took down the letters. D-o-n-t-l-e-a-v-e-m-e-a-l-o-n-e, the
glass said, and then it stopped again.
The wedding itself was awful, with a rabbi who thought he
was a comedian and a DJ who played Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin. Miron
actually met a girl there with a squeaky voice but a bod to kill for. After the
ceremony, he even managed to get Uzi worried when he said that the glass hed
stepped on was the one wed used for Nimrods séance. While this was going on,
I got another one of my anxiety attacks and puked about two kilos of chopped
liver in the toilet.
That same night, Uzi and the
Turnip flew off for their honeymoon in the Seychelles Islands. Me and Miron sat
on the balcony drinking coffee. Miron had a new thing going now. Whenever hed
make us coffee, hed always make one instant for Nimrod too, in the séance
glass, and hed put it on the table, the way you leave out a glass of wine for
Elijah on Passover, and after we were through drinking, hed spill it in the
sink. Miron did a take-off of the DJ, and I laughed. The truth was that we were
sad in a big way. You could call it chauvinist, possessive, egocentric, lots of
names, but the whole wedding thing weighed down on us like a ton of bricks. I
asked Miron to read me a chapter from that book of his, the one he writes
whenever he flips and which is supposed to replace the Bible. The truth was Id
asked him a million times, and hed never do it. When hes flipped hes scared
someone will steal his ideas, and when hes sane hes simply embarrassed. Come
on, I said, just read me a chapter, like a kind of bedtime story. And Miron
was so depressed that he agreed. He pulled a bunch of scribbled pages out of
his shoe drawer. Before he started reading, he looked at me and said, You
realize its just the two of us left now, dont you? I mean, Uzi will still be
one of us, and all, but he wont be part of Nimrods rounds. How can you
tell? I protested, though in my heart Id thought of this before he said it.
Listen, Miron said. Even Nimrod knows it isnt right to pick on someone
whos already married. The way he flips us out isnt always the best idea
either, but the truth is that he wouldnt be doing it to us if he didnt feel
in his heart that we agree. Theres nothing we can do about it. Were screwed,
Ron. Theres just me and you, one week on and one week off, like kitchen duty.
Miron picked up the pile of pages
and cleared his throat, like a radio announcer who chokes in the middle of
reading the news.
And if one of us suddenly goes?
Goes? Miron looked up from his
pages, confused. Goes where?
I dont know, I smiled. Just
goes. Imagine what if the chick of my dreams comes onto me in the street tomorrow,
and we fall in love, and I marry her. Then youd be the only one left to flip
with Nimrod, full time, alone.
Right. Miron gulped down the
last drops of his coffee. Good thing youre so ugly.
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