Liar, Meitar Hillel Kurman
Finalist Energheia Israel Award 2023
Joseph Greenbaum goes down from his shoe store to the basement. The moneybox has already closed, the store is locked. It is early evening. The day has not died yet but is no longer alive. Joseph puts the key in the lock on the heavy iron door and lets out a sigh. Markhav Mugan (Protected Space). Who needs them? What do they protect from? Missiles and bombs? After all, many more people are killed every year from road accidents, about 500 times and still Joseph and another 9 million residents get on the roads of our country every day, to conquer the next destination. They do wear seat belts but do not travel in Merkhav Mugan. Joseph laughs as he thinks of the Merkhav Mugan with an engine and whistles to himself the imaginary engine sound that struggles to drive 4 people weighing along with the 4-ton car.
Joseph is angry that the lock on the basement door does not turn smoothly. For two weeks he has wanted to bring oil here, but he forgets. When he is nervous, he whispers to himself “you are such a shoe”.
Sounds of sneezing are heard from the other side of the door. This is very strange to Joseph. “How can it be?” He wonders in a whisper that is obtained in a disproportionate echo from the rather opaque walls and the flickering neon light.
The girl smiles at him with calf eyes and blows her nose. He opens his mouth to say something but immediately she takes over the noise of the space as she sneezes again, this time louder.
“How can you be infected in the winter; you were not out in the winter? Right?” He asks her with a suspicious look. Maybe she squirted under his nose.
“Joseph, I haven’t seen winter in twelve years.” She looks at him with a tearful look. Only a cold-hearted person like Joseph can ignore and repress him at the same time. Joseph looks at her with a lingering look. “But you know I’m saving you. The world …” he says, pointing to the stairs, like a hitchhiker, “it’s cold out there.” With perfect timing he finishes talking and she sneezes for a third. “Joseph is cold here too. You promised to fix my air conditioner.”
“I will fix, soon I will fix” he sighs with a particularly tired face, trying to buy her faith.
“Liar, you’re lying” she shudders for a split second, perhaps because of the cold and perhaps because of the courage she had to say what was on her mind. Most of the time she prefers to be silent. Basically, most of the time she is alone, so she does not have many choices. “Liar” she shouts again. And he silences her with “Shhh!”, Firmly. He turns and closes the door. “Do you want them to find you?! Are you crazy?! They are crazy out there!” He opens his hands in an “obvious” motion and looks at her in shock. She bites the air and spits “Yes! You’re a liar I do not believe you”.
“I just got a letter today,” he says, pulling a short letter from Russian out of his pants pocket. “What is?” She snatches from his hand and sits back on the purple beanbags. She holds the paper and stares at it. She does not know Russian. “It’s a permit that lets me keep working. The party loves me. It’s my cousin arranged for me again.” He strokes his mustache and nods “without him they would have killed me.”
“You told me that the Americans would conquer Israel and liberate us! Why is this not happening?” She knocks the beanbag with the full force of her arm. “My darling, I only sell shoes, not a general. If I knew what would happen tomorrow, I would be a millionaire today.”
He places a bag of vegetables and a loaf of bread on a small table in the corner of the room and says, “Eat today, too bad it’s spoiled,” and in a cold tone declares, “I’m going, goodbye.” He expected gratitude and did not receive it. He turned, went out, and closed the door behind him.
“Liar” she whispers exhausted and a small tear glistens in her eye. What did she do today? nothing. And tomorrow what will you do? Nothing. Maybe Joseph will come, maybe he will bring delicious food. Maybe they will lie down. Either way it has been like this for too long.
Time is a nonsensical thing. How long does it take to conquer a small country like Israel? Certainly, when you are the American Empire. Ford, McDonalds, Madonna. The war is not supposed to be that hard.
If she only knew that in the parking lot above her, Joseph would get into his Ford Focus, turn on the radio and hear Madonna’s new song. In the space between the chairs remained a rolled-up bag with leftover fries he had eaten at lunch.