the short story project


Yoav Katz | from:Hebrew


Translated by : Maya Klein

I remember when my breasts developed. I would hold them in my hands, squeeze them in front of the mirror, examining them from every angle. I inspected the color of the nipple, checked for the first appearance of hair. They began to get small indentations and wrinkles on the outside and on the inside they became harder and harder. It would take me a half an hour to dress for school and I came up with different ways to hide them and all kinds of crazy tricks. At the time, jeans and beat-up t-shirts were fashionable, but there were no t-shirts for me, no field trips, parties, going to the pool or the beach, and no poking fun at girls.

I remember one time I undressed for a nurse’s examination. I stood there smiling and couldn’t concentrate on anything. I froze. I was sure she was dying to laugh. I looked past my breasts at the band-aids and the gauze in the glass medicine cabinet. I didn’t dare lower my head; I didn’t even look down to see what she was doing.

We finished and I got dressed. She was alright. She didn’t ask me if it bothered me, she just wanted to know if I had gotten the sex-ed brochure. I told her I had it and that everything was clear. I knew exactly what she meant. I really tried to accept them for what they were, but it wasn’t so simple. My body had failed me, my body was a traitor and a spy. We were out to get each other, waiting as life took its twists and turns. My body became my opponent in a game of chess. I tried to anticipate its every move, prepare five steps in advance. The only thing I was still spontaneous about was hiding.

At the time, my sister was quiet and kept to herself. She was in law school and everyone said she was going to be a real star and would even have a chair on the Supreme Court. She would come over on Saturdays. We would sit in front of the TV for hours, watching Jordanian and Lebanese broadcasting. I enjoyed sitting around with her like that. We would sink deep into the grey couch. I don’t know if she truly loved television, but when the part before they announced the verdict came on and the jury returned from their deliberation, she would straighten up on the couch, sit tall and wait.

Later in the afternoon, when the episode ended, we would go out to the backyard and hang laundry on the clothesline, or water the plants, whatever needed to be done. It was the only time I allowed myself to take off my shirt and it was a major event each time. She didn’t know it, but even if one of the neighbors had gone outside, or a friend had happened to drop by when I was shirtless, it wouldn’t have mattered because she was there.

One day, about the hundredth time we watched “Columbo” on Jordanian broadcasting, a guy that she worked with finally called. She needed a piece of paper to jot down his number and there wasn’t anything in the living room. She placed her hand over the receiver and motioned for me to give her one of the folded pieces of paper I had stuffed in my shirt pockets.

Come on, give it to me already, she said, he’s waiting.

I didn’t use those pieces of paper. They were there to hide my breasts. I undid the button above my left breast and removed the folded piece of paper, which was actually cardboard that I had put in my shirt pocket in order to flatten the area in front.

She wrote his number on the piece of cardboard and they kept talking for about fifteen minutes, about work, the arbitrariness of the decisions that their bosses made, the poor standards at the office and that she was dying for her contract to end so she could finally leave, even though she loved her job and loved helping the people who contacted their office. Their conversation was pretty distracting and I couldn’t keep my mind on what was happening on the screen.

They were still talking when the episode was over and I went outside to water the trees in the backyard. We have ten beautiful fruit trees that are planted in two rows. The neighbor’s dog ran back and forth along the fence, barking like an idiot, and I waited for her to come out.

I was pretty excited, but I was also sad, kind of like the way you feel before going abroad, when you suddenly lose all confidence and joy and you don’t want to do it while at the same time you do. Our trees started to change as summer approached, the pink buds blossomed and the leaves became very green. I put the hose in the mound of earth below the pear tree and looked down at the stream of water that was making froth and mud.

I was terribly curious and wanted to poke around and find out who this guy was and what was going on. My mother had no such qualms; she would’ve asked my sister straight away who she was talking to and then my sister either would’ve told her and even asked for her advice or she would’ve gotten mad and shut us all up, depending on the circumstance. Generally speaking, my parents respected my sister very much. They weren’t as sure about me. I know that in their eyes she was perfect, because of her academic achievements and the fact that she had a profession and because of what everyone always said about her. You just have to find someone, they would say to her, fix that one small thing and everything will turn out fine. But it didn’t. And instead of growing more beautiful as the years went by, as they promised her for some reason, my sister turned into a rather plain girl, looks wise. Overall, our family sometimes reminds me of potato sacks.

Finally, she came out into the yard and stood beside the pecan tree. My head was buzzing with the beauty of the trees and my depression over her, like two planes engaged in a dogfight. I had hoped that she would bring the piece of paper with her, at least one of them, so I could put it back into my shirt pocket, but she always preferred words to actions.

I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings, she said, I just didn’t notice what I had in my hand. I tried to keep a level head, but being tough is the only solution in these kinds of situations, so I took the opportunity to tell her what was really on my mind. You don’t care about other people, I told her, you just want them to see how right you are, and that you are doing the right thing.

I moved the hose to water the trench at the base of the fig tree, and put my foot over it, so it wouldn’t topple over from the water pressure. At first she tried smiling at me, that’s always the way she reacts whenever she gets accused of something. And then she just stood there looking around in all directions, and only after I had watered two more trees did she remember to speak. You’re a hundred percent right, she said, it’s my fault, but we’ll solve your little problem. We have to, first thing. 

We used to fight all the time when we were little. She would chase me, we’d race through all the rooms, I would escape to the backyard where the hunt continued, like Tom and Jerry. Most of her punches would land on my back. It hurt and it was insulting and it left red marks, but as a child I didn’t think badly of her. I knew it was damaging in some way, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

When I got older, I began to resist. There were many times I could’ve crumpled her up like tin foil and rolled her into an ugly, heavy compact ball, but I didn’t. The sensation that more than anything she wanted me removed from the world, would cause me to stop at the critical moment.

You would think this instilled ambition and motivation, that I wanted to show her once and for all, but every time we started fighting physically, it would hit me, as they say, stopping me in my tracks.

Instead of physical altercations, we would engage in cruel battles setting out to ruin each other’s most prized possessions. I remember ripping her Starsky and Hutch poster to shreds, because she trampled on my soda can collection, because I hid her used jeans behind the dirty oil tank, because she didn’t want to leave the TV room when I had friends over etc. etc. Our evildoing was so deep and creative that sometimes it got really weird and interesting. If someone asked whether I love my sister, I simply wouldn’t know how to answer.

Two or three weeks after the incident with the cardboard, the guy’s name started to come up. My sister was preparing the ground and our parents glowed with joy as if they suddenly had another child. They mentioned him at every opportunity. The close neighbors already knew his name was Mosseri and that my sister was on cloud nine.

I found the whole thing suspicious. The likelihood that my sister would find someone that would really be good to her, someone that would on one hand be protective of her and on the other hand would finally be a match for her and also possess all the qualities she wanted- be exciting and smart and sophisticated enough for her and on top of all that he had to be attracted to her and satisfied by her looks, I found all of that extremely hard to believe.

On Friday night I made plans with a few friends to meet at our coffee shop in town. We knew the place; we used to go there cruising in our parents’ cars at night. They were good guys, the kind that look exactly the way their lives will be in ten or twenty years. I don’t have anything negative to say about that, because at that age you still don’t know whether you find the idea attractive or not or if you’ll get sucked into it regardless. We all came from more or less good homes, we had above average grades, we were in love with more or less the same girls, and we preferred our Goldstar beer on tap. We didn’t take things too far, because there was also nowhere to take them. This was not a major metropolis, where everything is on a large scale.

We had our own table in the outdoor section of the cafe; it stood on the gravel in the corner by the plants and the waitresses wouldn’t even bother lighting the small candle sitting in the ashtray. We were like the regulars you always see on TV, the kind that are more like scenery than actual people, sometimes they let them have a line or two and maybe once in a hundred years they get half of an episode devoted specifically to their character.

But we did have a game that one of the guys had been introduced to by a relative from Belgium. We felt very unique about it too, but I think it’s fairly well-known. You need an empty beer glass, a napkin and a rubber band. You place the napkin over the glass, fit the rubber band over it and stretch the napkin out, like the skin on a drum. You place a coin on the napkin.

At this point we would take a break, order another round of beers and wait for the waitress. We were very pleased if it was Naomi, and we would ask her to get us a cigarette. The newer waitresses would make a face, but we were young, we came there often, and we took everything in stride. We didn’t give the waitresses a hard time and we didn’t try to interfere with their work or pick them up, although there was certainly plenty to look at.

We would pass the cigarette around and the object of the game was to burn holes in the napkin without dropping the coin into the glass. If you dropped the coin, you had to chug your beer and then you’d get another one and a fresh napkin would be fastened to the glass.

I wasn’t lucky that night. I dropped the coin in every round and I had already drunk three or four beers. No one got particularly worked up about it. Once in a while we had to drag someone out to the car and drop him off at home, and we all enjoyed it. I warned the guys that I was on edge and I signaled Naomi for another beer. She was very busy that night, undoubtedly, but she also had an amazing body, the best in her family. Naomi and her sisters were considered very special in our town and people even said that they were famous in the entire district.

Whenever she approached the table, I usually froze up. I would begin to breathe slowly and grow very quiet, like a detective hiding in an underground parking lot. Everyone cleared a path as she made her way between the crowded tables and chairs, and when she got to us, she stood close, bending down slightly so she could hear over the music and the noise. Her bust spread out sideways like a bright, wide sand dune, and her tanned breasts rang with a righteous tune in my twisted mind. They were a sympathetic ear, they were the right answer and they smelled of blood and flowers.

I knew exactly what a real man should want, it was all around us, everywhere, on TV at night, in the movies and in literary descriptions: a real man places his proud tired head on that chest, ignoring the fact that he hasn’t shaved for days, and then he purrs out a tune in the shower, singing like a thick, satisfied cat.

I was completely dizzy in that moment, it came as such a surprise, I didn’t have the chance to hide it. Yes, sweetie, she said, how can I help, are you by any chance drunk?

You want to know what I really want? I asked. And then she said, hey guys, what do you say? Do I? She smoothed her hair behind her ear revealing the nape of her neck but it kept escaping and flowing back.

Come on Naomi, I said, your breasts are killing me, you’re not being fair.

The guys all stared at me as if I had screamed “whore” at our teacher right in the middle of a school assembly and they fiddled with their glasses and were so embarrassed that I could practically feel myself lodged in their throats.

But Naomi, this wasn’t the first time she had seen one of us get wasted and talk shit. She wasn’t embarrassed, she didn’t cover herself up with an arm, she didn’t even look down to see how much was showing, like I always made sure to do. You’re right, she said, it’s really unfair of me, I’ll go take them off right away.

It was a brilliant line, as if she had lifted it from one of the clever TV shows that are always worth staying up late for. She knew how to deliver an answer, no wonder I felt the way I did about her. And her shiny sweet smile, stretching the entire width of her mouth, that too, seemed like it could be delivered on cue and any moment someone would yell “cut”. But as for me, I just didn’t know when to quit. I had to push myself past the limit, as they say.

Naomi was about to leave. Please, I said, just let me touch your breasts once. It may sound rude now, but the request really came from the heart and I absolutely get where I was coming from under the circumstances that night.

Naomi didn’t even come near me. She stood there with a tray of glasses in one hand and with her other hand she reached over and flicked the cardboard I had in my shirt pocket. I was positive that the sound it made could be heard all over town. No problem, she said, if you let me touch yours.

The guys, who had been waiting in suspense for the end of our exchange, burst into hysterical laughter, banging their fists and glasses on the table as if we had won the Eurovision Song Contest or the European Football Championship. The rest of the customers sitting in the courtyard turned to look at us and see what was so funny. The bartender came out behind the bar and the Arab busboys walked out of the kitchen in their aprons with dishrags on their shoulders.

I felt as if my face had been put under lock and key, as they say. Naomi took a little bow to the sound of their cheers and jokes were exchanged at my expense until we extracted ourselves from the conversation, exiting slowly, one by one, like a low murmur. A different waitress brought me a fresh beer and at about 2 a.m. my guys dropped me off at my doorstep.

I threw my wallet and keys on the dining room table and went into the bathroom to wash my face. My head pulled all of my weight towards my knees and the only thing I wanted was for the day to be over as soon as possible. My sister and Mosseri were in the TV room. I pictured them both sprawled out on the grey couch. I heard him giving her a long explanation about why athletes get disqualified at the starting line and how they are actually trained to start running a split second before the gun goes off. I had drank so much beer that it took me about a half an hour to piss and I heard the entire explanation, which I knew about anyhow, because it was on a show on public broadcasting that we had seen a hundred times, when I was eleven and we both had the measles, which meant that my sister knew it too, but I didn’t hear her mention anything.

Her newfound manners were strange to me. Had I been the one to lecture her on the topic, she would’ve cut me off to argue or prove that she knew just as much as I did, if not more. Sometimes I am amazed at the sheer volume of junkpile general knowledge that fills both of our heads. People think awfully highly of it. People turn it into businesses and use it to devise placement tests for all sorts of things and come up with pretentious quiz shows and game shows on the radio and TV. But I really couldn’t say if it has ever actually helped my life.

I took my wallet and my keys from the dining room table and went into the den. Sooner or later we would have to be introduced, whether I wanted to or not.

The first thing my sister asked me was if I was making that face because of the guys. I was so surprised by her interest and consideration of me, that I didn’t suspect a thing. We talked for at least two or three minutes, which offered me a chance to sneak looks at that Mosseri character and see what he was about.

He had a fair amount of bald on his head and round glasses with thick frames. My sister sat cross-legged on the couch, wearing a dress made of Indian fabric that she had either been hiding from me or saving for a special occasion, and even through the blurry waves of beer in my head, she looked fresh and cheerful.

Ok, excuse me for a moment, she said, Mosseri, let me introduce- and then she pointed at me and made a trumpet-like sound, ta da, like the sound the band makes when the star enters the fake show from Monte Carlo or Hollywood- meet my brother.

Mosseri rose, quickly smoothing his sweater over his light pants, and shook my hand briefly, formally. He was shorter than me and my sister too, but his body language exuded energy, like a basketball player getting off the bench at the last minute of the game, like the whole country was watching him and pinning their hopes on him.

Finally we meet, he said, you’re an interesting case. They both looked at me with sympathetic sweet smiles and seemed surprised that I didn’t understand what they meant. My sister soon volunteered to explain. Mosseri has a lead, she said, about your little problem. Mosseri stroked her thick knee and said, your sister’s a real professor, see how she has a way with words.

My instincts kicked in. They were ringing loud and clear like the alarms on a battleship about to be hit by a torpedo, but I had a system designed to ward off those kinds of warnings, preventing the real situation from reaching the command center.

It’s fairly simple business, Mosseri said, I studied medicine for three and a half years before switching to law school, so I do have some knowledge of the field. Take your clothes off for a moment please.

They both got up as if this was something I was going to do and they needed to be close by, because who knew what they would discover. What do you want? I asked, I can’t even tell time right now.

It doesn’t matter, said Mosseri, it’s even better this way.

I really had no intention of taking off my shirt, and the fact that there was someone there with my sister made it even less plausible. But Mosseri was sweet talking me, as they say, acting as if the whole thing was really uncomfortable for him and he was just doing what he had been asked. Don’t be difficult young man, he tried to encourage me, medicine and law are all about humanity, we aren’t going to laugh, your sister only wants to consider the possibilities.

I looked at her hard. She didn’t look bad in the Indian dress and the make-up that had suddenly appeared on her face, it improved her appearance significantly and gave her cheekbones, which she never had. But it was also something else that made me recognize her potential for beauty, it was because of the expectation that glowed in her face and it was all tied up in me. I could actually see that expectation projected on me, the way you see the film reflected on a person who enters the movie theater late. It was as if she knew that a large-scale, brave, positive act was about to take place and for the first time ever we were going to participate in it together and I would be involved in a real slice of life rather than confined to fragments of conversation about plotlines of TV shows.

Mosseri realized my state. You’re totally drunk, he said, so we’ll sum it up for you. A week ago there was an item on TV about a woman in the US who took out her breast implants by herself. The reporter joked that it was a shame that they went to waste but I immediately thought about your sister and your breasts.

We waited for him to continue, we wanted him to continue but I think we both had different reasons for that. Mosseri was constructing something right before our very eyes, and it was firm but also completely transparent, impossible and entirely necessary at the same time. What you need to do, he said, is just to agree, jump in the water, as they say.

I had to sit down. My sister wanted to make me some coffee, but Mosseri intervened and instructed her to bring a bottle of whiskey and three glasses and the Encyclopedia of Family Health from the bookshelf in our parents’ bedroom.

Mosseri poured us each the same amount of whiskey, opened the encyclopedia to the entry on “breasts” and began explaining the illustrations and motioning like a host on a cooking show. He was in a good mood, he could sense consent slowly starting to form. My sister returned his smiles, but she suspended them slightly, checking to see my reaction first.

All in all it’s pretty simple, said Mosseri, you need to make a small opening here, and empty out the breast tissue through it, the way you seed a tomato. Only instead of stuffing it with tuna salad, we’ll open it up, empty it out, seal it and then presto- we get a strapping, flat-chested young man. What do you say my friends?

I didn’t know what to say. I kept drinking. The whiskey numbed my lips and my eyelids were beginning to close. I felt Mosseri pacing back and forth behind my chair, rolling the ice in his glass. The house was dark and the streets were quiet because of shabbat.

I don’t know what they were waiting for. Alright, I said after about a hundred years, but on one condition. I looked at my sister and I was closer to losing consciousness and to death and to love- more than I had ever been my entire life. Whatever happens, I said to her, I want Naomi to come visit me.

My sister immediately went into her efficient mode, making calculations; first she considered what my request would entail and only later did she respond. Mosseri had already lost patience, you could tell he was eager to get started. No problem friends, he said, I don’t know who Naomi is, but I can guarantee, and put it in writing, that she will come. 

They took the glass out of my hand and laid me down on the round dining table. My sister went off to gather equipment from all around the house and the kitchen. Mosseri pulled the lamp as low and close as it could go, sat down beside me and started leafing through the encyclopedia. Try and get some sleep, he said, we’re in for a rough night. But sleep was as far away as my older brother, who was in Canada. I saw flashes of the life I’d lead after the operation lined up according to the possibilities they offered.

At that moment I had some fairly clear ideas about it. From a distance, I could see with complete lucidity, freedom, ease, the dissolution of all fear, Naomi falling in love with me, dating me and sleeping with me, the pride I would take in it, improving, being on par with people like my sister, I was completely satisfied with it. I suddenly discovered that happiness and courage went hand in hand and they both filled my chest with joy.

My sister returned and Mosseri closed the encyclopedia and placed it on the floor. There’s nothing in there, he said to her, the pictures aren’t that great either. He helped her with the million tools and apparatuses she was carrying: a queen sized bed sheet, two hanging bedside lights, rags, napkins, spoons, bandages and sterile gauze, candles and matches, plastic cups, a box cutter, an electric kettle, two flowery plastic aprons, two glass baking dishes, and two pairs of rubber gloves, brand new and still in their packages. She proceeded to cover the tea cart with a large napkin and place all of the items on it. Mosseri lit two candles and waved the utensils above the flame, then he threw them into a bowl of boiling water. I can still remember the sound of the neighbor’s dumb dog barking at every car on the street and someone who drove past yelling back at him, singing the theme song from The Muppet Show just to drive him crazy.

They came closer to me, taking their places at opposite sides of the table, and at that point I couldn’t lift a finger or move my mouth on account of all of the whiskey and beer. Lying on the table like that, it was hard to see my breasts because they were spread out to the sides, almost completely flat due to gravity. The funny thing is that I once dreamt that there was no gravity and people had the ability to move in all directions like astronauts, and I opted to move horizontally, parallel with the earth, on my back, so that my breasts wouldn’t stick out. 

Standing there in their shiny aprons, they looked like Quincey, the coroner from the TV show and his assistants, with a body covered in a sheet lying on the table before them, so you couldn’t see anything interesting but you knew that the terrible, violent death that this person endured also gave life to a new episode of suspense. My sister and I really loved that show and we had discussed having a friendly, mischievous detective handle our case, if and when.

When my sister came near me with the box cutter, I was prepared. I closed my eyes and I made a tight fist with my hand, the way I always do for a blood test, and I just asked her to let me know when she made the incision. Mosseri advised her not to make the cut wider than the nipple, so that the scar would be less visible against the darker colored skin.

You have such a great head on your shoulders sweetie, she told him, and blew him a kiss through the handkerchiefs that they had tied over their mouths in order to keep things sterile. A coil of fear began rolling up my feet towards my throat. She stretched the skin on my breast with one hand, and with the other one holding the cutter, drew the line that she was about to cut on my nipple.

The rubber gloves were tickling me and made a squeaking noise, leaving dust marks on my skin, traces of the talcum powder they add so the gloves keep their elasticity. The truth is that in terms of pain, I couldn’t even tell the difference between the line she drew and the deep gash that she made when she inserted the sharp part of the cutter and began working her way in. Both were equally, terribly painful. Just as an aside, I’d like to say that I have no words to describe how much and the manner in which this was painful, although I can certainly identify a few peaks.

I assume that because of the excitement or for some other reason, my sister forgot to let me know when she began. She didn’t look at me or say anything; she just started cutting when she was ready. She held the skin with both fingers and began separating it from the tissue and the glands and the capillaries and all the pieces inside.

It’s pretty hard to describe the mess going on inside the human body. In books and in science programs you get used to seeing all kinds of charts with blood vessels and muscles and nerves and bones all separate and marked in different colors, and if you never had the chance to see it in reality, you’d think that it looks as coordinated as that, and you’d have no idea that inside it’s all one big red mess more reminiscent of an old pizza than anything human.

They spoke to each other a lot while they were working, and it was pretty distracting. I was certain that in the operating room you only exchange looks or glance at the monitor with concern, silently holding out your hand for the nurse to pass you tongs or a clamp or a sponge.

But those two wouldn’t shut up. Mosseri pointed to all kinds of parts and tissue inside me and explained to my sister how they function and he also kept noting her approximate distance from my heart because she was pretty concerned about that. Mosseri reassured her and said that as long as she didn’t encounter resistance in the form of bone, she could continue to work without interruption, because the heart and lungs are protected by the rib cage, and you have to really try hard to get past that.

The truth is that he didn’t really remember everything, after all it had been a while since he dropped out of medical school, but he still managed to communicate the main points and also took on the job of stopping the bleeding.

They worked well together, I have to admit. After about twenty minutes my sister had finished the incisions and disengagements in the left breast and Mosseri handed her two spoons so that she could dig out whatever was inside.

It was so simple, the way you eat a grapefruit, just take the pulp out of the peel, only instead of a smooth yellow slice, I expelled a flat, floppy dripping red ball of meat.

Mosseri used one hand to block the opening with napkins and the other to hand her one of the bowls and my sister rolled what was once my breast into it and looked at me mesmerized, as they say.

Yalla, Ms. Doctor, move your ass, he yelled genially, just to get her to hurry up, because he saw the amount of blood I was losing and realized that it was starting to get dangerous. Your brother doesn’t have a spare tank, he said, every drop counts.

Even through the armored shield of alcohol that was covering my brain, even through the heavy rocks of pain that were pelting my nerves, I could see how attached she would be to him. And if you’ve ever seen a dumb dog or someone with no self-respect become nice and docile after they get smacked on the nose, you’ve seen my sister relish him shouting at her.

After a short break in which I was given more whiskey and half a valium with some water, Mosseri began working on the right breast. Their gloves were covered with a substantial amount of blood and my sister brought the Saturday edition and spread it beneath the table so the blood wouldn’t drip on the carpet.

Mosseri kept working at full steam. Now that he was the one doing the cutting, he had stopped chatting and didn’t let my sister drive him nuts. He was almost done separating the tissue, and all he needed was my sister to cooperate one last time and then finish everything up, but Mosseri stopped, shook his hands to the side and said, enough, I can’t go on like this.

He unfolded my arms, which were crossed tightly over my stomach so I could hold my breath through the pain, placed a Kleenex in each of my hands, and told me to put pressure on the openings and not to let go until they came back. After a minute or two I heard the opening notes of some concerto coming from the TV room. Minutes passed, as they say, and I began to get suspicious. They had excellent reason to run off and leave me like that. Despite the fact that it was four a.m., if anyone had suddenly walked in and seen me lying there on the table, all sliced and banged up like a piece of schnitzel ready to be fried, it’s highly unlikely that the pair would have been able to continue their legal apprenticeships.

I carefully got off the table and stood up as best as I could on the newspapers. I moved one step at a time while holding my chest, as if I had taken a direct hit and was evacuating myself. I found them rolling around on the sofa. Of course, it’s only natural. It’s hard to say that it looked romantic, with all of the blood that was gushing through my fingers and the stains on their aprons.

Mosseri had taken off his gloves and his hands were racing all over my sister’s body and were pushing in all directions like people in line at the movies, without an ounce of patience or affection. I could’ve interrupted them or made some remark like how could they have just left in the middle, maybe that’s what I should’ve done, but I preferred to shuffle back to the table, where I tried to lie down in the same direction I had been placed beforehand. I found a comfortable spot and waited.

By the time my sister returned, most of my body was shaking. My teeth were chattering at the speed of a blender and I felt like there was an electric line running from my brain to the wounds.

She gave me her concerned look. What’s going on, she asked me. Can you talk? I didn’t answer, but not because I didn’t want to. Mosseri will be right here, she said, don’t worry, he’s looking for something in Mom’s sewing kit. I tried to motion that I understood, but my fingers were stuck together with congealed blood and I didn’t have the energy to spread or move them.

When my sister finally noticed that I was in distress she became extremely agitated, but she didn’t know what to do. Are you in terrible pain? she asked. I didn’t want her to feel sorry for me, pity is the worst. I’m sorry I forgot to prepare the needle and thread, she said, we’ll get you sewed up in no time and everything will be alright.

But the truth was that everything was far from alright. Mosseri couldn’t find the sewing kit; he came back empty-handed, and my sister told him to watch my every move, that’s how she put it, as she went to rummage through the closets. Mosseri wanted to get back to business and finish what needed to be done on the right side. At first he tried to pull apart the congealed blood by using napkins soaked in water, but then he must’ve gathered that my condition was not good and that every minute counted.

I was shaking terribly, I could hardly breathe and I started to see black blotches before my eyes. I don’t exactly remember what happened next. I wonder why on TV whenever the patient wakes up in the hospital there’s this short part that is out of focus, and then the picture sharpens and you can see everything drenched in white and the doctor or nurse either smiles or looks concerned. It’s not like that at all. I momentarily came to in the ambulance, and later again for a few minutes in the ER and mostly I remember all kinds of tubes hanging around me and people talking to everyone except me.

I was in the hospital for about a week. The guys came to visit a lot, and Naomi also sent her regards and took an interest in what had happened. We needed to come up with a story to explain the mess. At first we were worried, but it was a breeze. We blamed the neighbor’s dog. We said that he had run amok and jumped the fence, attacking me and trying to bite my neck, but it had only managed to get my chest and a few minor repairs would fix the problem. The dog was quarantined, it underwent evaluation and was later brought back home. I had to get stitches and when I returned to remove them after two weeks, the doctor was impressed by the smoothness of the scars and said that overall, the surgical work was pretty much professionally done.

Despite Mosseri’s claims, I don’t think it has particularly helped with the way I see myself, or the way I feel about my surroundings and the girls in my life. I also think it’s not entirely related, or that at least the breasts that I had were not the only thing that matters.

My sister currently works in the District Attorney’s office and Mosseri is a partner in an insurance company in Eilat. Soon I will take a trip with my parents to Canada; we are going to console my brother, whose wife was killed in an airplane crash and he is now left to care for the kids. We invited my sister to come, she has wanted to take some time off for a while now, but her caseload is too heavy. If anyone ever asked why she did this for me, I simply wouldn’t know what to say.

Translator’s Note:

In the Hebrew language, the first person “I” is gendered as either male or female, therefore readers of the story in Hebrew grasp that the narrator is male in the very first line. Yet in English, the “I” remains neutral, a possibility that doesn’t exist in Hebrew.

*This story was published in Yoav Katz’s collection Multi-system, Yediot Aharonot Publishing, 2000.

arrow2right arrow2right Other readers liked

If you enjoyed this story, here are few more we think are an excellent pairing