Harms and the Man–“Necessary Stories” Column from The Jerusalem Report

Haim Watzman

    <em>Such fifid language,” Dr. Tchernikovsky observed.</em>
Such fifid language,” Dr. Tchernikovsky observed.

“I haf seen dis before,” the psychiatrist sighed, “und I know its name. ILSS – Inter-Literary Stress Syntrome.”

I’d sought out Dr. Tchernikovsky after a nearly sleepless week of a recurring nightmare in which I’d reverted to my army days. Except that instead of being dressed in my IDF fatigues, I had on a scratchy bronze helmet and a cuirass a size too big for me. Something heavy, large, and uncomfortable was strapped to my left arm, and my right hand gripped something long and hard.

Yes, that’s what I thought, too, but when, in the morning, I pieced together the other details of this nocturnal horror show it didn’t seem to fit the standard Freudian typology. It was very dark, I was thirsty and horribly cramped, and the meager air smelt of timber mixed with flatulence.

“Inter-Literary Stress Syndrome?” I asked. “This deathly panic and paranoia, the self-loathing that segues into macho elation and bloodlust? Are you sure a rugby-playing dybbuk hasn’t possessed my body?”

Dr. Tchernikovsky placed his elbow on the armrest of his overstuffed chair and stroked his soup-strainer mustache, staring hard at me, as I lay stiffly on his analyst’s couch.

“I haf encountered some rugby-playing tybbuks in my time,” he said after a long pause, “und dey haf more sense dan dat.”

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