Hole in the Wall, Etgar Keret
On Bernadotte Avenue, right next to the
Central Bus Station, there's a hole in the wall.
There used to be an ATM there once, but it broke
or something, or else nobody ever used it, so the
people from the bank came in a pickup and took
it and never brought it back.
Somebody once told Udi that if you scream a
wish into this hole it comes true, but Udi didn't
really buy that. The truth is that once, on his way
home from the movies, he screamed into the hole
in the wall that he wanted Dafne Rimalt to fall in
love with him, and nothing happened. And once,
when he was feeling really lonely, he screamed
into the hole in the wall that he wanted to have an
angel for a friend, and an angel really did show
up right after that, but he was never much of a
friend, and he'd always disappear just when Udi
really needed him. This angel was skinny and all
stooped and he wore a trench coat the whole time
to hide his wings. People in the street were sure
he was a hunchback. Sometimes, when there were
just the two of them, he'd take the coat off. Once
he even let Udi touch the feathers on his wings.
But when there was anyone else in the room, he
always kept it on. Klein's kids asked him once
what he had under his coat, and he said it was a
backpack full of books that didn't belong to him
and that he didn't want them to get wet. Actually,
he lied all the time. He told Udi such stories you
could die: about places in heaven, about people
who when they go to bed at night leave the keys
in the ignition, about cats who aren't afraid of
anything and don't even know the meaning of
"scat." The stories he made up were something
else, and to top it all, he'd
Udi was nuts about him and always tried
hard to believe him. Even lent him some money a
couple of tunes when he was hard up. As for the
angel, he didn't do a thing to help Udi. He just
talked and talked and talked, rambling off his
harebrained stories. In the six years he knew him,
Udi never saw him so much as rinse a glass.
When Udi was in basic training and really
needed someone to talk to, the angel suddenly
disappeared on him for two solid months. Then
he came back with an unshaven,
don't-ask-what-happened face. So Udi didn't ask,
and on Saturday they sat around on the roof in
their underpants just taking in the sun and feeling
low. Udi looked at ithe other rooftops with the
cable hookups and the solar heaters and the sky.
It occurred to him suddenly that in all their years
together he'd never once seen the angel fly.
"How about flying around a little," he said to
the angel. "It would make you feel better."
And the angel said: "Forget it. What if
someone sees me?"
"Be a sport," Udi nagged. "Just a little. For my
sake." But the angel just made this disgusting
noise from the inside of his mouth and shot a gob
of spit and white phlegm at the tar-covered roof.
"Never mind," Udi sulked. "I bet you don't
know how to fly, anyway."
"Sure I do," the angel shot back. "I just don't
want people to see me, that's all."
On the roof across the way they saw some
kids throwing a water bomb. "You know," Udi
smiled. "Once, when I was little, before I met you,
I used to come up here a lot and throw water
bombs on people in the street below. I'd aim them
into the space between that awning and the other
one," he explained, bending over the railing and
pointing down at the narrow gap between the
awning over the grocery store and the one over
the shoe store. "People would look up, and all
they'd see was the awning. They wouldn't know
where it was coming from."
The angel got up too and looked down
into the street. He opened his mouth to say
something. Suddenly, Udi gave him a little shove
from behind, and the angel lost his balance. Udi
was just fooling around. He didn't really mean to
hurt the angel, just to make him fly a little, for
laughs. But the angel dropped the whole five
floors, like a sack of potatoes. Stunned, Udi
watched him lying there on the sidewalk below.
His whole body was completely still, except the
wings, which were still fluttering a little, like when
someone dies. That's when he finally understood
that of all the things the angel had told him,
nothing was true. That he wasn't even an angel,
just a liar with wings.
Translated by Miriam Shlesinger