Justice — “Necessary Stories” from The Jerusalem Report

Haim Watzman

Ornan was staring at his locker and muttering under his breath when I tossed my backpack onto the bench and felt for my keys in my pocket. I’ve had a bottom locker for years at the Jerusalem Pool, hard to see into but easy to pull my gear out of. He first showed up maybe a year and a half ago, when he was assigned a box in the middle-row to my right. He was tall and bony, with shiny, straight, dark hair that smelled of Head and Shoulders. A student, maybe, or just out of the army, from the look of him. He wore baggy trunks and swam badly, at least as far as style goes, raising his head out of the water each time his left hand swung up, splashing the surface with his palms. But, despite all my care with my stroke, he was much faster than I was. In the end, length and leanness of body wins out.

 illustration by Avi Katz

It was hard for me to make out what he was muttering because I just then had a coughing fit. Some virus got me last week and whenever that happens I cough for two or three weeks after I get better. Even after I caught my breath I didn’t try to listen because Asher and Alfi, the two cab drivers who dress on the bench behind me, were joshing about a dispatcher. I like to listen to their banter. Ornan just stood there, not making a move to open his locker. Asher and Alfi went out to the sauna and by that time I was suited up and hanging my shirt up on one of the hooks on the wall. Over the heating system that filled the locker room with mildew air, I could make out Ornan’s voice: “I’ll kill him, I’ll murder him, I’ll stick a knife in his chest and slice down to his balls.” It seemed so out of character that I couldn’t help staring at him in surprise. He looked back and kept on muttering.

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Unstocking the Characters: Thoughts on Three New Works of Short Fiction

Haim Watzman

I almost stopped reading Aurelie Sheehan’s short story “Recognition” after the first sentence. Oh, God, another piece of fiction about a writer, written by a writer who only knows how to write about writing for an incestuous circle of other writers.

But I had a rare opportunity to dip into some short fiction on-line—I was at a bat mitzvah and the DJ’s bone-vibrating music had driven me outside—so I persisted in perusing “Recognition,” the latest short story published by the on-line journal Guernica . In fact, I had a chance to read two other stories as well: David Riordan’s “Mutts” at the Boston Review and ”The Waiting Room”, an excerpt from a novel by Leah Kaminsky at JewishFiction.net. It’s interesting to note that all three offer stock characters, ones we might feel, at the beginning of the story, that we’ve read about so often that we don’t care to read about them anymore. But the first two stories surprise us by using technique to give us a new take on old material. The third fails.

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