Short-Short Stories by Alex Epstein

Voyage (Alex Epstein)

Translated from the Hebrew: Becka Mara Mckay

from Lunar Savings Time, Clockroot Books, 2011:

The End of the Conflict, or the Miracle of the Analog Clocks

She is from here, he is not: on the evening they fell in love, only the analog clocks stood still (some irregularity in the cycle of the moon; the not-so-tasty body of Christ; the rain that falls but doesn’t hurry in any language; maybe it’s better that I don’t try to explain how this is possible). They can go fuck themselves, she said, they can go fuck themselves, he answered. (They can go fuck themselves, the politicians, the soldiers, the terrorists, the Jews, the Muslims, the Christians, those who lower canaries into coal mines, the taxi drivers, the gamblers, the travelers in time, in ships, in helicopters, the ghosts, the settlers, those asking for the right of return, those against the right of return, the living, the dead, the demonstrators for, the demonstrators against, those who remember everything, those who forget almost nothing. To hell with them all.) This will be the end of the legend: when they got married, instead of rings, they exchanged reading glasses.

On the Black Angel

The angel that was found shot in the head in a nameless alley in Northampton was black, much blacker than the President of the United States. Even his wings were as black as a raven’s nape. Only the soles of his feet were pinkish, and his girlfriend—as the tabloids discovered—was white. In the interview she gave in exchange for an undisclosed sum she said it wasn’t that easy to make love with such a winged creature.

On How the iPad Saved the Short Story

The truth of the matter is that the iPad did not save the short story, and in any case this was not the reason that one man, fed up with his life, jumped from the window of his apartment on a high enough floor. And then, in the middle of the journey to the sidewalk, he suddenly discovered he could actually fly. He began to hover above the city streets, and flew up and down and forgot that he had just jumped from the window to die, and even cautiously approached the utility lines (without which the world is demilitarized from sadness). After a few minutes, when he turned in the general direction of his window, he could no longer fly. He started to fall, managed only to think he should ascend one last time, but it was no use, he spun through the air, plummeting and crashing on the road just a few minutes’ walk from his home. What a brief and bizarre kind of grace this was. But grace nonetheless.

from Blue Has No South, Clockroot Books, 2010:

I’ll Be Right Back

for Charles Simic
Two years of writer’s block. The empty room is filled with stacks of books. On the window glass, in dust, is written, “untitled.doc.”

A Story About Rain, the Bible, and Esperanto

Out of all of our family legends my favorite is the one in which a door-to-door bookseller, soaked to the bone in the middle of July, made eyes at my great-grandmother, who had just finished mopping the floor, while convincing my grandfather to smell a Bible translated from Yiddish to Esperanto. My grandfather, who knew not a word of Esperanto, bought the Bible for an exorbitant price, in the
belief that within its pages would always be kept a smell of fresh rain.

The Anonymous Reader

This travel story will begin in a story. At the beginning of autumn the traveler finishes assembling the time machine. Aware of the fragility of time’s texture, the only journey he makes is brief (a few hundred kilometers east, one hundred years back). The destination—Alexandria. He materializes in the city late at night. A heavy heat of mid-September. Random echoes of muffled voices are drifting from the port. Apart from a few street cats dozing on wicker chairs at the
entrances of the white houses, the alleys and the boulevards—abundant with ficus trees—are empty. And the Greek poet is also asleep in his bed. The time traveler enters the house, puts on gloves, illuminates the desk with a narrow-beamed flashlight. He turns the pages carefully. He reads the last draft of the poem. Instantly he becomes the first reader of the poem, though he has read it many times in the past, which is now already the future. Once again he barely holds back his tears, and then returns to his home, a distance of one hundred years and one night from there. Before he goes up to his apartment he stands for a few moments in the street, exposed to the rain that began in his absence and now grows stronger and stronger, so fast it seems possible to recall everything that has passed vividly, at once. But apart from this nothing has changed. Nothing is changing. This is the essence of this voyage. This is the essence of Ithaca.

More stories can be found in Guernica, The Collagist and The Kenyon Review.


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